Vermont

Say It With Me

Go ahead.

Say it.

You know you want to.

Tufted Titmouse

Titmouse.

Some people can’t help but titter when they hear it or say it themselves, expressing child-like delight at making something so cute and delicate sound so nasty. A single Titmouse shows up at the feeders once or twice a season, events so few and far between as to be worth noting on the calendar. The other day they appeared in droves.

Well, maybe not droves. Probably not even a full drove, if you get right down to it, but the definition of drove is decidedly ambiguous so who’s to know? The point is, there was a dozen of them, which may not seem like many, but they were menacing.

It had only been an hour since I published my post about beard balm, where I wrote that the birds would have to wait if they wanted my winter whiskers for nesting material. The Titmouses came closer and closer and I began to think that maybe they didn’t want to wait, but how could they have known?

After a few photos (for identification purposes later, if needed) I struck what seemed, to me, a reasonable bargain with the Titmouses: In exchange for two cups of sunflower seeds a day in the meantime, I am allowed to keep my beard until the ice is off the lake.

Tough Titmouse

It was 78°F outside (25.5°C) that afternoon and I started thinking my negotiating skills could use a little work.

A Warm April Afternoon

The threat of a vicious plucking doesn’t have me thinking about toting a shotgun when I cross the dooryard (maybe a tennis racquet)  but that ice was looking kind of feeble and I wondered how binding a promise is when that promise is to a Titmouse.

Other bird names sound just as made-up as Titmouse. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is one of my favorite silly names. It sounds funny, except when it doesn’t.

There are Coots and Boobies and Stints, Wandering Tattlers and Greater Yellowlegs (Lesser ones, too). Then there is the quadruple-entendre Bushtit and the (boom)Chachalaca. Throw in some Greenshanks, a few Beardless Tyrannulets, Cuckoos, Noddies and Snipe and there are hours of immature fun to be had with the bird-watching crowd. Don’t even get me started about Woodcocks.

Alas, new species of birds don’t come along very often (and the old ones have a way of disappearing) so the need for creative new bird names is quite limited.

A glance through fly fishing catalogs and magazines will convince anyone that those who tie flies are bound by no such constraints.

New patterns appear each year, whether created from scratch or as significant variations on a theme, and each of those new flies has a name. The need for names for new flies is virtually unlimited, but coming up with a catchy name no one has thought of requires creativity and deep thought. After all, once someone names a fly Rat Faced McDougal, what could be left?

Quack Doctor might have gotten a few chuckles, back in 1892, along with Cow Dung, when they were included in Mary Orvis Marbury’s “Favorite Flies and Their Histories”. Green Butt Skunk must have a story but I’ve never looked for it and I don’t know how the aforementioned Mr. or Mrs. McDougal felt about the whole thing.

Fly fishing has Boobies, too, along with other flies that lend themselves to innuendo, such as Stimulators, and Green Weenies. Others, like Bitch Creek Nymph are named by virtue of birthplace but are still fun to say.

I can only imagine what those who don’t fly fish think of those who do when they hear the names of some of our flies (or go poking through these pages). I learned early on that not everything I hear is quite as it sounds and I no longer faint like I used to when snippets of fishing camp conversations reach my ears.

Opening Day is the Saturday after next and I brace myself for eagerly anticipate the annual onslaught return of the anglers to Fish in a Barrel Pond. After six months of quiet, it takes some time to adjust to so many voices outside my head but it won’t be long before I can walk by a camp and not give it a second thought when someone yells, “What did you do to my Montreal Whore?” or, “Hey! Check out the size of my Meat Whistle!” or, “Where’s my Butt Monkey?”

To the ignorant or uninitiated, hearing such things might be shocking but somehow, to me, words like those are as much a sound of spring as peepers and song sparrows. Some of the men talk that way, too.

With less than two weeks to go before opening, me and the titmouses have not been the only ones watching the ice on the lake. Most haven’t been actually watching the ice; they’ve been calling and emailing to ask about it but it changes from day to day, even hour to hour, and I don’t get paid to stand around watching ice melt. The ice has been deteriorating — of that there is no doubt — but the changes can be subtle, at least when observed over the course of the average human attention span.

A camera on a tripod, however, can stand around all day.

And now, for something more dear to an anglers heart than Boobies or Butt Monkeys.

Say it with me:

Ice-out.

 

 

Categories: Humor, nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vermont Tenkara Finally Mainstream

We at The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond are not above tooting our own horn, especially when it comes to spotting important fly fishing trends, six years in advance. It may take longer for folks to recognize the genius of the Portable Long-Range Angler Management and Training System™ or the practicality of concepts like Gordon’s Getaway Club® (“for anglers who expect less from Nature”™) but we saw this Tenkara thing coming a long time ago.

Stalking wild brook trout in Vermont’s small streams is a delightful way to spend time on (and in) the water. Stealth and a delicate presentation are essential to success. Tight quarters and tiny pools add to the challenge, but there is no denying the beauty of native brookies or the pleasure of a few hours spent following a small, shady stream as it winds beneath a leafy green canopy on a warm summer day. For some, Tenkara provides a perfect set of fishing techniques and equipment to meet these circumstances.

And now, a little more than six years after we first wrote about it in these pages, Tenkara in Vermont has finally gone mainstream, if mainstream can be defined as being featured on Vermont Public Television’s long-running series, “Outdoor Journal”.

The segment below, recently posted on their You Tube page, follows host Lawrence Pyne as he fishes with angler and guide Bill Whitehair, using Tenkara rods to catch lovely little fish on a lovely little stretch of a lovely little stream.

The folks at Tenkara USA should be pleased.

The folks at The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond are pleased for them, I can tell you that much, especially after the fuss in their forum when we first wrote about Tenkara six years ago(!). Confusion was also reflected in a forum on a Tenkara site in Russia but the translation was poor, I have lost the link and, given the current political climate, I hesitate to search for things ending in “.ru”.

From November of 2006, here is our original post:

Vermont Hand Crafted Tenkara Rods

And, while they have not quite come around to our way of thinking, here is the fine piece from the Vermont PBS show “Outdoor Journal,” a very acceptable way to spend the next ten minutes:

(My favorite quote: “Cast it exactly like you would a fly rod. No trick to it at all.”)

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Balmy Days

Last week’s cold snap was forecast to end on Monday, maybe, but it didn’t happen. Tuesday, maybe, was a possibility but became a definite not. On Wednesday, however, the temperature climbed enough for the sap to run again, the tank filled, and the arch was fired up one more time at Bobo’s (boil #8).

Steam and Snowflakes

The stuff in the front pan, left behind from the last batch to “sweeten” the next, had frozen to slush due to its high sugar content, but the weaker stuff in the back pan was decidedly more solid and, according to the forecast, it’s going to happen again.

Not Exactly Sugaring Weather

Despite the snow and sleet, sap ran into the night and, in order to leave behind as little as possible to freeze, the fire in the arch was stoked until almost midnight. The shed has a lot of wood left in it, but prodigious quantities have already been burned. Opening the doors to feed the fire, especially when they are pulsating like angry cuttlefish, can be like flying into the sun, and closing them quickly — before one’s clothes burst into flames — can become a matter of some importance. Continue reading

Categories: Humor, Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Steamy Video

The recent record-setting warm spell could not possibly last. It is March and this is Vermont, after all. Sap was still trickling down the hill as last evening’s boil ended at Bobo’s Mountain Sugar and, while the collection tank didn’t fill all the way, it had enough sap in it this morning to justify firing up the arch again.

Another justification for processing a not full tank is the fact that temperatures are predicted to drop to well below 0°F over the next few days. Anyone who has ever dealt with a thousand gallons of solidly frozen sap knows how that can slow down an operation. Everyone else can probably imagine.

As dependent on weather as sap runs are, boiling that sap into syrup can be affected, too. Barometric pressure has an effect on the boiling point of liquids and wind gusts to 50 mph have a strange way of preventing steam from leaving the building. Even with doors open.

Fogged-In

Fogged-In

It didn’t help that the outside air that did get in was cold and getting colder, and that it, too, turned to fog when it met the warm air rising from the arch.

Sitting down once in a while is allowed.

Sitting down once in a while is allowed.

The edge of a cold metal barrel is not really a comfortable seat but it will do. Lest readers get the impression I sit a lot, I don’t. Sometimes I stand and stare at the ceiling.

Looking up, into the steam coming down.

Looking up, at the steam coming down.

Mostly, my role in Bobo’s sugarhouse is stoking the fire and drinking beer acting as a role model for children. Mostly, it’s stoking the fire.

Heat

Heat

The sap tank is empty, the arch is quiet and the plumbing is drained. There won’t be another run of sweet sap until this bitter cold blast has moved through, maybe by Monday they say. It was freaky foggy in the sugarhouse today, but not constantly. The fog came and went, as you will see below.

The four foggy photos above are part of a series, a series of 299 images which, when stitched together, form a time-lapse, boiling down two and half hours to thirty seconds. The big hairy guy even does a little dance.

 

Categories: Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

A Big Hot Metal Box

Snowshoes were appropriate footwear on Bobo’s Mountain last Tuesday as the last taps went in, racing against a warm-up that promised a run of sap (see “Something is Running and It’s not Me“). The race was won, the sap was caught, and by Friday children were seen running barefoot.

Three feet of snow disappeared. Some simply sublimated but most of it melted, running noisily down the hill as runnels met rivulets and rills became brooks, braiding their way toward the river.

Melt-Down

Melt-Down

It turns out that this year’s first boil took place on the same date as last year’s but whether or not that means anything is still open to conjecture. By the time this first run was over, somewhere in the neighborhood of 7,000 gallons of sap had been processed. Continue reading

Categories: Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A New Gallery and Tips for Photographing Snowflakes

One in a Gazillion

One in a Gazillion

Embrace, endure, or leave. Those are pretty much the choices when it comes to winter in Vermont. It is not uncommon for those who stay to find themselves wavering between the first two choices, while those who left are content to look at the pictures.

Drifting Among the Drifts

Drifting Among the Drifts

That’s a lot of snowflakes and, like my daddy always said, “When life gives you lemons, shut up and eat your lemons,” although in this case it’s snowflakes, not lemons.

Group shots of snowflakes can be tricky, especially on a sunny afternoon, but individual portraits are more interesting. The most famous snowflake photographer of all has to be Wilson A. “Snowflake” Bentley, a resourceful farmer from Jericho, VT, who became the first person to photograph a single snow crystal in 1885.

Photography has come a long way since Snowflake Bentley hooked up a microscope to his big bellows camera and exposed individual glass plates. Gear was just part of the equation, though. Snowflakes are small, fragile, and temporary, so conditions and technique were also important. They still are, no matter what kind of rig you use. With almost as many camera variations as there are snowflakes in my dooryard, I’ll leave that part up to you. Getting those snowflakes in front of your lens, keeping them there, and having a chance at a decent photo is what this post is about. Continue reading

Categories: Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Hoar Frost

Sometimes, even winter holds its breath and, in the cold stillness of a winter night, water vapor changes from gas to solid on contact with chilled surfaces, constructing crystal matrices resembling feathers that last until the sun hits them or somebody coughs.

The adjective “hoary” is sometimes defined as “gray or white, as with age, and in some cases worthy of veneration”. It can also mean “old, overused and trite” but with frost it supposedly refers to the appearance of an old man’s beard.

Old and overused, maybe, but trite?

Old and overused, maybe, but trite?

Tomorrow will have one minute more light than today, and when tomorrow becomes yesterday there will be one minute more as we begin tilting slowly back toward the sun. Meanwhile, it is winter, and even winter can hold its breath.

Yukon Jack, “The Black Sheep of Canadian Liquors” and purported to be the regimental liqueur of the South Alberta Light Horse regiment of the Canadian Army, claims a “taste born of hoary nights…” which probably means it was too dang cold out to go find some better whiskey, so someone mixed what they had with some honey in an old turpentine barrel and hoped for the best.

Something else born of hoary nights is the poetry of Robert Service. There are worse ways to spend the next nine minutes of your life than watching this video recitation of “The Cremation of Sam McGee”:

Categories: nature, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Little Snowflakes

Months of quarrels and quandaries, intrigue and innuendo, distractions, misdirection and outright prevarication finally came to an end and I found myself, one November morning, strangely relieved it was over yet wondering what the heck had just happened. It seemed surreal and nearly beyond belief, but once sober enough for thoughtful reflection, I knew it was very real, indeed, believe it or not.

The adrenaline wore off, shock set in, and I had to sit in order to contemplate the new, horrible, sad reality.

That’s right, friends, another season had come and gone here at Fish in a Barrel Pond.

Fish in a Barrel Pond

Fish in a Barrel Pond

The banshees of winter wail outside the door, the lake froze-over three weeks ago, and anything stuck to the ground now is stuck until spring. The camps are again empty and quiet, smelling only of cold air and anti-freeze in the drain traps. A little happy dance has been done, a nap has been took, and as I catch up on my reading I can’t help but notice that this job, once more, failed to make any major publication’s list of “Best Fly Fishing Jobs!” Continue reading

Categories: Humor, nature, politics, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

From Other Places, Taking American Jobs!

The following item is the result of recent conversations with local activists. Some did not wish to be identified, fearing reprisals for not being “politically correct enough.” A few, however, agreed to be photographed in order to illustrate their plight. We ask that their privacy be respected and remind readers that, while the statements made and opinions expressed by these brave workers do not necessarily reflect the views of the management here at Fish in a Barrel Pond, their patriotism can’t be denied.

“I don’t want to sound racist or nothin’,” said an activist we’ll call ‘Roy’, “but they all look the same to me! It ain’t right.”

“Yeah,” added ‘Myra’, “especially when they’re all in a big group outside the store, practically begging to go home with people. It’s creepy.”

“Just look at ’em!” said Roy. “I think they’re into drugs, too!”

We Know Why They're Smiling

Why Are They All Smiling Like That?

Continue reading

Categories: Humor, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Same Old Thing

There is a lightning-scarred hemlock on a “corner,” where a small cove projects from the main body of Fish in a Barrel Pond. I know that casting a red humpy into the shade of that tree will often bring a trout rocketing to the surface from six feet down, up the face of a submerged ledge. If a humpy doesn’t do it, a fluttering stimulator usually will.

Down the shore a bit, that same ledge is more exposed, and it’s always worth skating an elk hair caddis over the drop-off on a warm afternoon. Adding a pupa imitation, about 18″ down, can add to the excitement, creating the potential for double hook-ups.

In the gloaming of a late spring evening, yellow drakes can come off so thick that it’s tempting to catch one fish, to show I can, and spend the next fifteen minutes just watching the orgy. Anglers lucky enough to hit the Hexagenia hatch will talk about it for years and if they never hit it again they’ll say things aren’t like they were in the old days.

I am always ready for the ant falls of August, carrying imitations as early as Opening Day, and I like going out on gloomy days because drizzly afternoons bring hatches of blue-winged olives.

blue-winged olive

Stylishly Fringed Wings

It’s possible to scare up a trout or two more often than not and, after ten years of fishing this one small lake and nowhere else, things are sometimes so dialed-in that it almost appears I know what I’m doing. Dark visions fill my head of ending up some earth-bound Mr. Castwell, doomed for all eternity to catch those same fish at the same corner “for ever and ever.” Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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