So there I was, ready to wax rhapsodic as spring returned, but winter threw a hissy fit.
+The Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society
Flashback Friday Rides Again! Russian Tiger Catchers, A Story Not About Fishing, and Then I Get to the Point!
It’s easy to get distracted while thumbing through my old magazines, looking for something in particular. Mixed in with the mundane and everyday aspects of the outdoor life are exciting stories filled with danger and daring, told by those who survived them, offering a glimpse of rugged days gone by. Like these 1950’s Russian tiger catchers, restraining a wild beast with not much more than stout wooden poles!
Brought to bay by dogs, this tiger was destined for a zoo or a circus and had to be taken alive. One man has a line around a paw and, according to the article, the tiger was in a bag and headed for the truck within minutes. I hope these guys made good money, because I can’t imagine grabbing tigers for fun, although I guess you never know. Continue reading
Seemingly endless months of partisan bickering, accusations and denials, half-truths, gossip, innuendo, and lies have finally come to an end. The mud that was slung has barely dried to dust, and some are already hatching schemes for the next time around. Some are angry, some are too stunned to speak, and others would like a chance to catch their breath and clear their head before tackling the hard work ahead. A few small voices have even been heard crying out for a time of healing.
That’s right, folks, another season at Fish in a Barrel Pond is in the past. (Surely you didn’t expect political commentary from Quill Gordon, did you?)
A fly fishing magazine left behind in one of the camps this summer had a section titled “Fly Fishing Dream Jobs” or somesuch nonsense. Since I hear so often how dreamy my job must be, I flipped through the pages in search of myself. At first, I thought there must be some mistake but a second perusal convinced me there was no mistake about it. Nothing but a deliberate editorial decision could explain the absense of Fishing Camp Caretaker from that dream job list and for a while I was a tad more than miffed.
I like to imagine there is more than one Fishing Camp Caretaker in the world and I believe he, she, or they would have been miffed, too, but then I gave it some thought and not only understood the omission, but was also glad for it. I am sure my imaginary comrades would agree, it would just jerk our tears from their little ducts, against their will, to see the looks on the faces of some people who think it sounds like an easy gig, after they’ve done it a few days. Continue reading
The Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society has 100 members and 1 employee, which in itself could explain my desire for an occasional snootful. Sometimes, though, it seems the issue is not as much that I partake of volatile spirits from time to time but rather the company in which I do so. Why, just the other day, someone asked me, “Gil, why the heck do you hang out with that bunch of drunken ruffians?”
My interrogator was Dr. Calvin Butz, and the drunken ruffians in question were my friends Milt, Wally and Stinky, whose combined age is 274.
“Because I like old-timers, I guess. Why do you ask, Calvin?”
“Call me Cal. I think they are rude, offensive, and downright dangerous, that’s why.”
“They’re not so bad, Calvin. Come on, they’re old, give ’em a break. Besides, Wally’s pretty upset.”
“That may be, but he doesn’t have to take it out on me! What’s he so upset about, anyway?”
“Well, for starters, some Nazi shot a tank out from under him once. Need more?” Continue reading
A strange sort of crazy settles in as winter comes to an end and spring begins. It is never a smooth transition, weatherwise or otherwise, and sometimes I think I’ve made it through the dark time without succumbing to a bad case of the Shack Nasties when it turns out I only repressed them.
The thaw came on early and strong this year, turning lake ice to slush and frozen dirt roads to pudding. The string of calm, sunny days felt like it would never end. Winter was done, or so I thought when, as I watched the ice disappear a month ago, a mosquito bit me hard, just below the right eyebrow. Being the first bite of the year, it promptly swelled to the size of a plum in celebration. Continue reading
Chef Gordon Ramsay evidently knows what is good for him and stayed away from here during his recent visit to Vermont. All things considered, it’s probably a good thing, but we were still a little disappointed he didn’t show, especially after
taunting mentioning him in a post. It was actually a crass and cynical move on my part, to take advantage of an internet search trend like that, but it worked. The post I link to above, and the post I link to from it (Eugene, Purly and Chef Gordon Ramsay), diverted quite a bit of search traffic (gordon ramsay in vermont) my way and the hits just keep coming —two of them today alone!
I know some people are a bit taken aback when their innocent searches direct them to these pages but, unlike some practitioners of tenkara, at least a few foodies displayed a sense of humor upon their arrival. Some of them even became new subscribers to this blog. One in particular stands out, for a couple of reasons, and that is John-Bryan Hopkins, who has created the blog Foodimentary — A Food Lover’s Notebook.
Because of Mr. Hopkins, I know that yesterday was National P B and J Day. I celebrated National Peppermint Patties Day the day before, and National Have a Brownie Day the day before that, thanks to him. As long as he stays away from organ meats, lima beans and beet juice, I think me and John-Bryan Hopkins can have a groovy thing going on. But it is more than his pimping of sweet treats that makes me happy to make his acquaintance; John-Bryan Hopkins not only has a hyphenated first name, he also sports an ascot, making him the third person I know to do so. Before my outdoorsy-type friends chime in with their feelings regarding neckwear, and before my new foodie friends figure out what really goes on around here, I thought it would be nice to spend a little time standing together on common ground, celebrating both food and the great outdoors.
Some members of the Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society seem to spend more time grumbling about the conditions than they do fishing (see It’s Not Over ‘Til It’s Over, for example). I do not mean to imply that guys like Dr. Marcus Feely are the norm, or even a majority, but sometimes it seems that way, so it always does my heart good when folks show up ready for anything, even cooking paella outdoors, in a snow storm (See Pictures from a Fishing Camp: Season’s End).
The camps have been closed for nearly a month but members may fish from the main dock, if they wish, until the lake is covered with ice. Not many of them do, and after more than a foot of heavy, wet snow fell on Wednesday, I figured fishing was done for the year. The lake remains free of ice, so casting is still possible, but after struggling to get chains on the tractor, clearing the dooryard and digging paths to the barn and the chicken coop, digging out a spot for some yo-yo to fish from was not high on my agenda.
Imagine my surprise then, when I returned from a walk in the woods yesterday and found that not only was someone fishing, said angler had brought along his own snow shovel and cleared the dock (well, most of it).
When he turned to me and said, “Grab your rod, Quill, I cleared you some space, too!” there was only one appropriate response.
I am thankful for anglers who are willing to shovel a foot of snow, warm gloves, and the little brook trout who took a tiny pheasant tail nymph on such a lovely day.
I have heard it said that the fin of a brook trout is the best bait to use to catch another brook trout. Pre-spawn, they stack up where the feeder streams come in, the males jostling for position and posturing for status, waiting for whatever signal it is that sends them streaking uphill to the spawning beds. In their finest fall colors, fins flick like flags and are nipped at in response, hence the logic of fluttering a disembodied fin through the pod.
The issue of obtaining said trout fin in the first place was addressed — in a Gordian Knot sort of way — by those who tie flies, a
notorious bunch of fussbudgets fine community of problem solvers. A few casts with a feathery fin fly were usually all it took to collect as many real fins as an angler could wish for. Continue reading
It is my great honor and a privilege to be surrounded by the anglers and outdoors people of the Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society, on call 24/7, for six months of the year. Many of them approach their time here with high standards and certain expectations but, unfortunately, some of them were disappointed with the foliage this fall.
“Quill, we’re disappointed with the foliage this fall,” they said, as if I had something to do with it.
Nature can’t do anything right, in some people’s eyes, and I just don’t know what to say to people like them when the universe lets them down like this. It seems to happen a lot so I figure they must be used to it by now. Many of them are often disappointed with the fishing, too.
It was a dark and stormy night. Some say my friend, Eugene, was riding a door strapped to a couple of compressed gas cylinders; others say it was some kind of jet-propelled ironing board. What he was riding is not important now but all accounts agree that at about the time the river was cresting Eugene shot downstream in a long, horizontal spiral like a bottle rocket.
Over dams and under bridges — in some cases over bridges — Eugene rode the raging floodwaters of Irene through the night and into the next day. And the next and the next, eventually drifting into Long Island Sound, where he was sighted aboard what appeared to be a horse trough, using his trousers for a sail. Plucked from the water by a passing pleasure craft, Eugene was then taken ashore, where he was tended to by a group of lovely women who, it turns out, were the stars of a television show about themselves. It also turns out they were drinking quite a lot and things became, as Eugene put it, “a tad competitive.”
The general consensus, once everyone was sober and Eugene found his trousers, was that it would be best if no one ever spoke again about what had just taken place, so the next time you happen to find yourself searching the internet for the truth behind this September’s firings among the cast of Real Housewives of New York, read those articles twice. Notice how carefully all parties avoid any mention whatsoever of my friend Eugene. Continue reading