Posts Tagged With: brook trout

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.

No matter how one perceives the passage of time, whether an event is over in an instant or seems interminable, time is but an illusion, according to Einstein. To some it is like a chunk of amber, while to others it is like a river. Sometimes it is like both.

Somewhere between Buena Vista and Salida

I caught my first Arkansas River brown trout just upstream from there, many years ago. Standing there this summer, both feet planted firmly in the here and now, I was, for more than an instant, most certainly there and then.

Shenandoah River

Somehow, floating a stretch of the Shenandoah for the first time felt familiar, but there was also a sense the river was timeless and no one had ever been there before.

After a few more miles.

Other than a few forays further afield, across ancient hills I wandered this summer, close to home, poking around the upper reaches of two small watersheds folded into the Green Mountains, somewhere in Vermont. Dry spells and high temperatures meant finding secret places only brook trout know, knowing myself that when I found them it was probably best to leave them alone. Finding them would have to be enough.

Worth the walk.

But that was then and this is now. The whisper of a breeze has become the moan of the wind through bare branches as a raw October rain brings down the leaves. Maples, birches, and ash stand naked, their wet bark a dark backdrop for beeches and oak, still hanging chartreuse and mahogany with all shades in between. That brown leaves can glow still astounds me.

Beech

Leaves change color when they stop producing chlorophyl and cease to function and it is Vermont’s non-functioning leaves that draw people from all over the world each fall. Trees stop taking up water when their leaves cease to function and, as a result, runoff increases and seasonal rains get rills and brooks flowing as full as in spring. The brook trout begin to stir and gather, waiting for the signal it’s time to spawn.

I like to think that signal has something to do with tannins in the water, from all those non-functioning leaves finally giving up and letting go. There’s not much better for making leaves give up and let go than chilly rain so, while it may not be such a good day for group tours on buses, with palms and faces pressed against fogged-up, rain-streaked windows, a rainy October day is a darn good day for brook trout as far as I’m concerned.

Village Gazebo

So, why have I spent several hours in an effort to take up five minutes of your busy day with a ramble about fruit flies, Einstein, brook trout and trees?

After nearly five months, I figured it was about time.

 

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*THE ASTERISK

Regular readers of these irregular posts know that sometimes there are little treats at the end, inserted as a sort of reward for having slogged all the way through.

First up, Red Ingle and the boys with a little ditty about the dangers of John Barleycorn, Nicotine, and Women (wild, wild ones), a song my mother taught me:

Now, a time lapse video I made this summer of a datura bloom opening on the deck one evening (I also have lake ice and syrup making videos on YouTube):

Show’s over. Move along.

That’s all, folks!

 

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Categories: Humor, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 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.

Then a mid-winter message arrived, an invitation to fish somewhere other than what had become his home water. Suddenly it made sense again to have all those books about bass on his shelves. Henshaw and Whitlock and Murray displaced Proper and Brooks and Wulff on the table; skinny hackle and tiny hooks gave way to buck tail and an old box of #6 Stingers at the bench; lines designed for delicate presentations were stripped from their reels, replaced by heavy-headed rigs meant for slinging big flies into places where a little commotion can be a good thing.

Places like western Virginia.

The morning plane to Boston flew 150 mph at 5,000 ft. Fortunately, the afternoon plane from Boston to Richmond did 600 mph at 34,000 ft and Quill Gordon soon found himself drinking bourbon, listening to whippoorwills in the Appalachian twilight. Having shipped a gallon of syrup ahead, the bourbon tasted of maple.

Appalachian Twilight

It was Thursday night, and plans were made to fish for bass on Saturday and Monday, which makes this a good place in the story to inform readers that Quill Gordon didn’t really mean it when he thought to himself, “F*ck trout,” although the jury is still out on the anglers.

On Friday morning, Quill rigged up his 6′ 2-wt while the morning mist rose from the folds of the hills and, after a healthy breakfast, he was off to wade small streams in pursuit of Virginia’s famed brook trout. Having shipped a gallon of syrup ahead, the bacon and grits tasted of maple.

Morning Mist

Brook trout may not be trout (they are char) but they are enthusiastic, and it was almost anticlimactic to hook the first “away” fish in a decade on the first cast.

Almost.

Standing knee deep in an unfamiliar stream on the side of an unfamiliar mountain, there was still something familiar about the whole thing. The glint of sunlight on the riffle and the spray of diamonds at its tail when the little fish struck the #14 Adams felt remembered, not as anything in particular that had happened before, but in a vague, vestigial way. Kind of like deja-vu. Kind of like finding home in a place you’ve never been before.

Regular readers know not to expect pictures of fish (unless it’s an old picture of someone else holding them) but that small brook trout was significant. Castwell’s Curse had been lifted.

A Very Heavy Fish

It was a heavy little fish.

Some more photos of small streams fished last week in the George Washington National Forest in western Virginia:

To Mark, Gary, Todd, Mike, and Doc, I say thank you for inviting me down and accepting me into the group. Our times in Vermont were always special and I am fortunate to have been included in your spring ritual.

To all seven of my loyal readers, I say thanks for hanging in there with me while I worked on removing the curse that had been placed upon my head. This little jaunt gave me plenty to write about and I look forward to sitting down to share more.

Tight lines, wubbas.

~QG

 

 

 

 

Categories: Fly Fishing, nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 10 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

Halcyon, Revisited

hillside afire

It wasn’t long ago that the hillsides seemed afire and I missed fish after fish, standing slack-jawed in awe, bathed in radiant light. Continue reading

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

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