Posts Tagged With: brook trout

In Need of Improvement

If people want to do yoga with goats, or in hot rooms, or even on paddle boards, they should. If they want to put on kimonos and sit awkwardly in the woods, that is fine by me, too. At this point, anything that puts us closer to the better angels of our nature would be welcome. Peace and justice were the dreams of our ancestors and terrible divisions among us are the dreams of those who wish us harm.

Of an Evening

As has been implied multiple times in these pages, fishing is my goat yoga on a paddle board. I spent a decade fishing a private lake where, for some guys, fishing meant trolling in the morning, a nap in the afternoon, and then a quick toddy or two before motoring out to fish the evening rise with white Wulffs and cream-colored duns. For me, it meant finding odd seams of time when nothing else was going on, my work was done, and no one on the water would object to my presence. I fished a lot of hot Sunday afternoons and rainy Wednesdays (which were when the blue-winged olives came off.)

A BWO Day.

Booming long casts over still water while surrounded by trout is quite a thing, but I have always been fond of small streams and brook trout. The aforementioned lake is fed by just such a stream, full of rocks, shaded by hemlocks, with brush tight to the banks, and one day the chair of the committee in charge of improving the fishing by “improving” the ecology asked me, “Quill, how do you think we could improve that stream?”

“What’s wrong with it?” I asked in return.

“Well, you can’t fish it, for one thing,” she replied.

“But I fish up there and it’s full of little native brookies,” I said.

“That’s the other thing,” she said. “They’re so small!”

I tried to make the case for cold, clear water and tiny char, but to no avail. She ended the conversation, saying I obviously understood nothing about habitat improvement and her committee set out to see about opening things up back there by taking out the hemlocks and maybe dredging some pools large enough to hold proper fish.

Analysis Paralysis set in and that plan died on the vine. Benign neglect is still the best thing to ever happen to that stream.

Lately, I’ve been fishing nothing but streams like that, exploring a nearby drainage that was rearranged nine years ago by Tropical Storm Irene. A friend recently asked where I was headed and when I told him he said, “You can’t fish that, can you?”

“No, probably not,” I lied.

You can’t fish that!

It’s a little more tactical than sitting in a boat, waiting for mayflies, but it is fishing none the less. It is also more strenuous than sitting in a boat, waiting for mayflies, and this week I managed to explore less than half a mile of stream in just under three hours. Sure, I sat on a rock and smoked and I took a few pictures, but there were so many pools to sneak up on and so many runs to drift flies through that it took longer than expected. Also, skipping from stone to stone is not an option for hauling my no-longer-inconsiderable bulk through the jumble of boulders that distinguish this stream.

Trying to be sneaky.

Quill Gordon does not take many pictures of fish and posts even fewer. Pulling dinks out of their holes might be debatable sport and anything that can vibrate on the end of a line like a brook trout deserves to be returned as quickly as possible. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t keep count of how many fish were caught but I can’t tell you how many fish were caught because you would think I was lying. Three measured longer than six inches.

Millions of small, green, moth larvae are eating their way through the forest right now. Some cartoonishly chew leaves out from under themselves, falling to the ground or into the stream, while others descend on silken threads and still others simply fall. No matter how they got there, the brookies were eating them, and the savvy summertime small stream specialist always carries a supply of caterpillar patterns. I squinted at a #16 light green hare’s ear nymph and declared it close enough.

Left to right, through the sunlight…

Fifteen minutes and a world away, cold water flows through a narrow slash on the side of a very old mountain. Periodically churned to the point humans might consider it ruined, this stream has been through a lot, as have the fish and everything else living in and around it. Always changing yet somehow remaining the same, and not needing improvement.

Occasionally Rowdy

With my head somewhat cleared, I clambered out of this little mini-canyon and back to the car. Rod stowed, boots in the back and bag on the seat, I drove along a Forest Service road, trailing a cloud of dry dust despite my lack of speed. Windows down despite the dust, I turned left where I normally turn right. A stretch of stream I hadn’t noticed before emerged from a long heap of boulders, beyond a dozen downed trees. Putting it in my pocket for later, I turned around and slowly headed home, listening to the crunch of gravel beneath tires and the warbles of warblers in the understory.

A few hours in the woods did not change the world, certainly not in a way I would like — in fact, it had gotten worse, but the change of perspective did me good. Thinking of these small, headwater streams and their fish of appropriate size as I returned to the world as it is, I was not so sure it’s the land, water, and fish that need “improvement”.

I think it’s us.

Goat Yoga on a Paddle Board

 

 

 

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor, politics, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

In Extremis

I worry about us people sometimes. In fact, way back in January, I started a post for these pages in which I expressed some of that worry. As keeping up with the news became like drinking from a fire hose, my worry did not decrease, and you don’t need me to tell you we live in interesting times. So interesting, in fact, that the aforementioned post was abandoned as a draft and it was only recently that I, myself, mustered up the courage to come back and make it look like someone lives here.

Pardon the dust. Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Lapse

Time flies whether you’re having fun or not but, for a frog, time’s fun when you’re having flies. And never forget that, while time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

The subject of time attracts hyperbole, as when things take “forever” or when someone is “always” doing something, which you and I both know is impossible (reflexive, unconscious activities like breathing excluded).

I spent more hours fishing this year than in any of the past several, which is interesting, having spent those years living less than 200 feet from a lovely lake stocked with trout. No matter how much I did or did not fish, I could never have spent as much time fishing as the legends suggest (all of it), especially considering how much time some tellers of tales spent on the same lake themselves (hardly any).

It has been said that the time one spends fishing is not deducted from the time one is allotted on this earthly plane so, if the legends are true, some of us must be nearly immortal. Time spent in the company of cigarettes and whisky and wild, wild women* may be another matter entirely, so some of us will probably have to just call it a wash. Continue reading

Categories: Humor, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Castwell’s Curse is Lifted

In the short story “Mr. Theodore Castwell”, by G.E.M. Skues, the aforementioned and deceased Mr. Castwell approaches the Pearly Gates and presents himself as a fly fisher. Escorted to a perfectly lovely cottage next to a perfectly lovely piece of water, he catches fish after fish from the same spot, over and over again. When he decides to move along to another spot, he is told he may not, and it slowly dawns on him that he won’t, after all, be spending eternity in the place he thought he’d be spending it.

Halcyon Days

After eleven years fishing the same small watershed and lake in Vermont, Quill Gordon could relate. Same water, same fish, same “fellow” anglers — not all of whom treated him well — year after year. It was a classic case of Castwell’s Curse, exacerbated by the fact that there is some stuff up with which he will not put, and so it came to pass that Quill Gordon broke down his rods, packed up his gear and, unlike Castwell, got the hell out of there, making his way to a cozy hibernaculum at the top of the hill in which to pass the winter while waiting for the sap runs of spring.

“F*ck trout, those dainty, speckled beauties, always delicately sipping in their cold, limpid pools,” he thought to himself. “And f*ck those who are obsessed with them, too.”

Quill Gordon was in a serious f*nk. Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing, nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

How Are Things in Glocca Morra?

Every now and then I am struck by something that gives me pause, that makes me stop for a moment and think. It might be the serenity of a fine fall day, or it could be the top fifteen feet of a tree that was deader than it looked and folded back in exactly the opposite direction intended, but two weeks ago I was struck by the news that Larry and Ruth Daley had drowned in a pond, one apparently trying to save the other, while going about their duties as caretakers of a property in Peru, Vermont.

Both still working in their eighties, they were probably doing things they’d done for years, the same way they’d always done them, and no one will ever know for sure what happened. It was a few days before anyone knew anything happened at all.

The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond remains dedicated to those who somehow find a way to get away from it all, but most especially to those who take care of them when they get there — the caretakers, attendants, guides, outfitters, rangers, managers, support staff and others who not only make sure everyone has plenty of toilet paper and gets back home intact, but also do everything they can to be sure the places we love are still there when we come back.

boots

Just About Wore Out

The skinny jeans of spring are now the fat pants of fall, held up by suspenders until I’m back to my winter weight, which doesn’t take nearly as long as it used to.

Another season has come and gone at Fish in a Barrel Pond, six full months of Life Among the Anglers, a fly fishing dream. They’re all back in what they call the “real world” but their presence is still felt, if only in stark contrast to their absence.

squall

I Don’t Care if it Rains or Freezes …

Oak leaves skitter and crab across the dooryard, maple and birch molder in the woods, and now when it rains no one complains. The wind is not cursed and the sun and the clouds are not judged. The trout take their proper place in the overall scheme of things and Nature goes on, doing the things it does whether the anglers are here or not. So do I, but with a lot less wiping of whiskers and sweeping up toenails now that the camps are closed down. Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor, nature, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

179 Down

Five days remain in the season at Fish in a Barrel Pond. Just one more round of making beds and folding washcloths and soon it will be six months before I again wipe the Sunday whiskers from the sinks after a bunch of fly fishers clean up for their return to what they call the “real world.” Please note the gender neutrality of that sentence.

After half a year of all anglers, all the time, my wagon is draggin’ and the purposeful stride of spring has become a shuffling autumnal amble, interrupted by the occasional hop as I hitch up my pants. Long summer twilights and the splashy rises of trout taking mayflies seem distant memories as I walk the shore this morning in cold rain, seeing only desultory slurps here and there as a few late-season midges emerge. An entire mountainside disappears as fog works its way down-slope and soon the whole valley fills in, creating for a moment the illusion of being lost in time and that the lake, the camps, and all other things in my own “real world” are nothing more than memories themselves.

That, of course, is nothing more than hogwash its own self as at that moment a terrible noise shredded the foggy mountain silence. Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing, Loons, nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Someplace Cool and Green and Shady

In High Summer, when the temperature climbs and southerly breezes blow sultry and moist, one can easily slip into delirium, taking solace in the fact that there will be a day six months from now exactly the opposite of today. Next winter’s white freshness and quietude are romantic visions in this time of muggy oppression, but one regains one’s perspective when one remembers a day six months past.

Capture

That day was booger-freezing cold and there is no need for that just yet (as if there ever really is). Remembering it pisses me off for some reason and has me wondering where I stashed the snow shovels so, as cooling-off methods go, perhaps memories of frostbite are not the best.

Some search for relief at beaches and swimming holes while others drive around in air-conditioned cars and marvel at the crowds. Some head for the nearest creemee stand, while others go for a cup of the hard stuff. I, however, have never been one for crowds and I am not particularly fond of standing around, dripping sweetened butterfat and attracting wasps. Staying close to home, I have found other ways to bear the unbearably muggy dog days of summer, but have no fear, Dear Reader, this post does not involve sitting in front of a fan with a big bowl of ice cubes perched upon my bare belly.

IMG_0379

Continue reading

Categories: nature, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

When Art Imitates Art, Good Fish Die

Before color photography (and the ability to print it cheaply), outdoor catalog and magazine covers featured the work of illustrators. Never receiving the same attention as their contemporaries who did “fine” art, and certainly never able to command the same prices for their works, those illustrators created lasting images of our sport, using paint, crayons and pastels.

Their age alone evokes nostalgia, but there is a rich quality to the illustrator’s art — like the cover above, by Lynn Bogue Hunt — that other media just can’t match. Of course, if a similar image were to appear today, not only would it be a photo instead of a painting, but someone would probably be wearing a bikini.

Any image imaginable is possible today, with modern digital photography and editing software. Advertisements have become more absurd than ever, with talking reptiles and flying trucks; pixel by pixel manipulation of photos has become the norm. Where photography once provided an interpretation of what the artist saw, it is now used to create what the artist wishes us to see and, to me, much of what passes for “photography” these days should more properly be called “digital art”. By the time some of these “photos” are published, not much of the original image remains, and we seem to take for granted the inclusion or complete fabrication of elements that may not have existed before. It takes skill and a keen eye to produce such false images that look so nearly real, but what happens when a modern, 21st Century photographer uses his chosen medium to reproduce one of those iconic images from the past?

Photographer Randal Ford took on just such a task when he signed on with L.L. Bean to recreate the cover of their Spring 1933 catalog as part of L.L. Bean’s 100th anniversary celebration. Continue reading

Categories: +Uncategorized, Fly Fishing, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Wets

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.

Wet Flies, Tied by Don Bastian

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

Categories: +The Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society, Fly Fishing, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Fall Rituals

Certain events mark the passing of the seasons here at Fish in a Barrel Pond, taking place year after year, but they are not dependent on calendars and clocks. Sure, I can tell you with some certainty that my annual ritual of draining and blowing out water lines in the camps will be done shortly before dark, on the last Sunday of October but after that all bets are off. Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing, nature, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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