Posts Tagged With: outdoors

Of Polar Bears, Elephants, and a Place to Put Your Stuff

Us outdoorsy types, especially we who fish, sure do like our stuff.

When Johnny Morris started Bass Pro Shops in his father’s Brown Derby Liquor Store I doubt he had any idea how much stuff we would buy, but by the time he was selling fully outfitted bass boats he was certainly getting the picture. As we bought more stuff, so did Mr. Morris, including that other outdoor catalog behemoth, Cabela’s, in a 2017 deal valued at a cool five billion dollars.

True

While Bass Pro may dominate an industry, it is much more than a business juggernaut. Johnny Morris has always supported research and education about conservation issues, partnering with groups like the Bass Research Foundation as far back as the 1970s and, more recently, the Audubon Society, which just awarded him one of Conservation’s highest awards, the Audubon Medal.

One can only imagine the stuff cluttering up the garage of a man like Johnny Morris. Actually, I doubt there’s much clutter in his garage at all but, while some people collect stamps or hand-tatted antimacassars, Morris comes home with race cars and taxidermy collections, and he is not the sort of person who is satisfied watching a tank full of guppies.

The Alligator on the Way from Boats to Menswear

I remember when Bass Pro wasn’t much more than an end cap in a liquor store and I remember when they built their huge (at the time) flagship Outdoor World store, but hadn’t been to Springfield, MO, in many years. On a visit last summer, I got to see how far Brown Derby and Bass Pro have both come. I also got to see where Johnny Morris keeps a lot of his stuff.

One of several.

Bass Pro and racing have gone hand in hand for years and Mr. Morris’ collection of cars, trucks, motorcycles, and trophies is impressively displayed at the Bass Pro Shop on Sunshine Street. I was more than happy to spend time admiring this particular slice of American motor sports, and I mean no disrespect to the memory of Dale Earnhardt, but I wasn’t there for the cars.

As one might imagine, taxidermy collections and fish tanks take up a lot of space and, as far as I’m concerned, the ultimate storage solution for such things is Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium, a place that must be seen to be believed and it’s going to take you the better part of a day to see it all. A place where you can stand in front of a polar bear on a hot Ozarks day.

One of these men is not me.

Bass fishing nerds and trivia buffs might recognize the man on the right as the winner of the 1978 Bass Pro Shops Lunker Hunt Fishing Tounament. His name is Uncle Dwight.

That, friends, is how you rock a trucker hat!

(The tournament ran from March 25 through July 11 that year and he wasn’t sure he even wanted to fool with it, but he finally signed up on his way home from work the night before it started and hooked his 9lb, 3oz largemouth bass around noon on opening day.)

As you step on the escalator to the main floor of Wonders of Wildlife, there is no doubt that this is not an ordinary museum.

Please, No Roller Skates!

The Boone and Crockett Club has advocated for “fair chase hunting in support of habitat conservation” since it was founded in 1887 by Theodore Roosevelt. They have also been scoring, recording, and collecting trophy animals for nearly that long. If their collection just happened to be available and happened to come into your possession, what would you do with it?

You’d put it in your museum, of course.

Antlers. Lots of antlers.

 

There’s an old saying that, if you had as many bucks in your wallet as you have on the wall, you’d have, well, six bucks. There’s a few more than that here. There’s also a lot more than deer mounts here.

 

Covering several of Earth’s major ecosystems, the displays are carefully crafted. The murals alone must have taken several years to complete. Right down to the trees, grasses, and rocks, this place sets the bar for museum sciences and art. In the Arctic area, for example the air was conspicuously cooler and the sound of wind was piped in through hidden speakers. The only reminder of the manner by which these animals had reached their present state was a sign at the feet of one polar bear, and that was only because he had been the largest one ever taken. Wolves menaced musk ox, a walrus stood at its full height, and around the next corner was a group of real, live penguins, the cold glass of their display sweating like a tumbler of iced tea.

 

According to their site, Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium contains “more than 1.5 miles of immersive exhibits and experiences” and we were just getting started! The penguins were just a prelude to the live animals ahead. After winding through caves with bats and blind salamanders, across bridges spanning jungle pools with anacondas and pirhanas, and through the “Underwater Tunnels of Awe” we entered the aquarium proper, including the Great Oceans Hall, encircled by a 300,000-gallon “open ocean” habitat, and the Shipwreck Room, with its free-standing, 30-ft tall tank around a ship’s mast.

A shipwreck decoration that did not come from the pet store.

 

For some of us, one boat in the driveway gives our neighbors pause. Not content with just his own boats (he does own Ranger, after all), Johnny Morris’ collection also includes boats owned by or associated with such luminaries as Zane Grey, Ernest Hemingway, and Jimmy Buffet, which hang from the ceiling or become part of impressive, life-size dioramas.

Tuna!

Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium is located at 500 W. Sunshine St. in Springfield, MO. Click that link to see their web site. My pictures don’t do the place justice, unfortunately, but if you find yourself in the Ozarks on a day you just can’t or don’t want to be outside, there aren’t many better places to spend a few hours.

Maybe you can take a nephew. Thanks, Uncle Dwight!

 

 

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From the Mixed Up Bookshelves (and Beer ‘Fridge) of Quill Gordon: Pamola

Moosehead Breweries Limited, in Saint John, New Brunswick, keeps a close eye on other brewers who might think of putting a moose on their label. They own multiple U.S. trademark registrations for the words “Moose” and “Moosehead” and for “moose-based” images. Their legal department carried on a long discussion about such images with the Hop’n Moose Brewing Company of Rutland, Vermont, in 2017, before voluntarily abandoning an infringement suit in 2018.

Baxter Brewing Company, of Lewiston, Maine, also features a moose of sorts on its cans but I imagine any conversation with the folks at Moosehead would have been short, due to the fact that Baxter Brewing’s moose has the body of a man, claws, and wings.

Wicked tasty, by the way.

A moose, with claws and wings?

That’s no ordinary moose. That is Pamola, a legendary spirit believed by the Algonquin people to inhabit Mt. Katahdin, the tallest mountain in Maine. Pamola is the spirit of thunder and cold weather, and he is the protector of the mountain, always doing his level best to keep people from its summit. Even Henry David Thoreau wrote of Pamola’s determination, and I once found myself approaching Katahdin’s base, dog paddling through the flooded woods lining the rain-swollen Penobscot River, towing my backpack, which was lashed to my air mattress. The mountain was completely hidden by clouds, the rangers closed the trail, and I’ve still never been to the top of Katahdin.

Mark Leroy Dudley, known to all as Roy, was a guide on Katahdin from the 1890s until his death in 1942. Guiding during the summers and trapping in winter, Roy worked mainly north and east of Katahdin, roaming into the mountain’s Great Basin and camping at Chimney Pond. It was there he had his first of many encounters with Pamola and began sharing the tales with guests around his fire, including many prominent personalities of the times, distinguished scientists, and even Governor Percival Baxter, who bought the mountain and created Baxter Park for the people of Maine.

Roy Dudley

Roy Dudley wrote his stories in his head and told them out loud, something not many people do these days. Year after year he told his tales, not always the same way as the time before, and he entertained hundreds if not thousands of visitors with his wild yarns. In 1937 a man named Clayton Hall lugged an Edison dictation machine seven miles in to Chimney Pond, where he recorded Roy’s tales on wax cylinders, intending to turn them into a book. They would not be the same, transcribed and printed, but they would be preserved.

That book never came about but Clayton Hall’s old manuscript was found in an attic by his niece, Beth Harmon and, with help from her friend, Jane Thomas — who had heard Roy Dudley’s stories when she was a child — Chimney Pond Tales, Yarns Told by Leroy Dudley was published in 1991 (Pamola Press, ISBN 0-9631718-0-1).

Chimney Pond Tales

Characters like Roy Dudley are few and far between. He cared for anyone who found themselves on Katahdin, fixing tea and keeping them comfortable while giving advice that could save their lives should the benign spirit of the mountain give way to its moody and dangerous side. Pamola was that moody and dangerous spirt of Katahdin and Roy got to know him well in his years at Chimney Pond.

Pamola’s first attempts to evict Roy from his shelter at Chimney Pond were violent, with thunder and winds that scattered his belongings far and wide. The stones from Roy’s fire pit were stacked in his lean to so he had to excavate sleeping room, and Pamola even downed a pot of boiling tea in a single gulp while screaming at him to leave. Roy held his ground and the two of them eventually reached an uneasy truce that gradually grew into true friendship.

Roy smoked a pipe and enjoyed blowing smoke rings, which fascinated Pamola, who decided he’d like to give it a go himself and asked Roy if he could have a pipe, too. Unwilling to deny the twenty foot tall Pamola’s request, the next time he was in Millinocket, Roy searched for an empty beer barrel to use as a bowl. For some strange reason, every beer barrel in town was full so Roy procured an old tar keg and found a ten-foot length of three-inch pipe for the stem. Pamola was pleased.

Roy did not have enough tobacco to fill Pamola’s bowl so he gathered balsam boughs and birch bark, along with some tarred paper with which he’d been repairing his roof. While Pamola puffed he built a small fire in the barrel and after a while Pamola was enjoying a good smoke and blowing rings that filled the basin. He declared it to be “delightful.”

With the smell of balsam, birch bark, and tar filling the evening air, Pamola puffed harder and harder until a “mean little piece of birch bark, no bigger’n your hand” caught ablaze and Pamola’s head was engulfed in flame! Off he shot, from the peak of the mountain to Chimney Pond, followed by a trail of fire a hundred feet long.

Pamola Has A Smoke, Illustration by Jane Thomas

The water in the pond boiled as Pamola plunged in, and was undrinkable for quite some time afterward. Worse, Pamola’s tremendous beard had been burned and he was so embarrassed that he retreated to his cave in shame. The flames, as it turns out, had been spotted from miles away and a crew of men came into camp the next morning looking for a fire to fight. Roy convinced them it must have just been a group of college boys building a bonfire and, after a cup of tea, the men left, none the wiser.

Of Roy’s tea, it was said you could pour a yard of it and stand it in the corner.

Tall tales and fantastic yarns like the ones told by Leroy Dudley were part of an oral tradition that goes back as far as language itself. Without a book like Chimney Pond Tales, these stories would have died out with their teller. While Pamola figures prominently, this collection includes other pieces about porcupines, prune whip, and more, including why fifteen frying pans hung on Roy’s wall.

Fifteen Frying Pans, Illustration by Jane Thomas

Chimney Pond Tales has a special spot in my collection of folklore and tales of the outdoors. The hunting, trapping, and fishing abilities of Maine guides are legendary, as are their story-telling skills, and Leroy Dudley was one of the best.

Categories: Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Visit to Mossy Creek Fly Fishing

One of the most important things to remember when booking a guide for a fishing trip is to make your reservation early, especially for popular guides on popular water at popular times of year. Still, it never hurts to ask, and the folks at Mossy Creek Fly Fishing couldn’t have been nicer while explaining to me, in mid-April, why a guided float down the Shenandoah for smallmouth bass in early May was out of the question, though they still had spots open for May of 2019.

A self-guided float down a nearby stretch of the Shenandoah, however, was more within the realm of possibility so, when rain chased us off the lake on Saturday afternoon, five damp-ish, possibly smelly, smart alecs mounted an expedition to Mossy Creek’s shop in Harrisonburg, VA, for advice and flies to use on Monday’s river run. Continue reading

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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

Harder Than Counting the Stars

 

 

“The only thing harder to count than the stars is baby spiders.” — Natty Bumppo in “The Pathfinder” by James Fenimore Cooper, 1840

 

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

Even More Macro Mayflies and Musical Mayhem (But Is It Art?)

Some say a well-cast fly line is art. The graceful flex of a rod and a tight loop unfurling is exquisite unless, of course, someone is using their “art” to poach your hole while you’re still fishing it; then those 80-ft casts are something else entirely.

Some say a well-tied fly is art. There is certainly skill involved, getting everything just-so but, from personal experience, I say the fish don’t give a fig about thread wraps or the number of tails an imitation has. There is also the question of “imitation of what?” but even so, you have to hand it to folks who can wrap some feathers, tinsel, and what-not onto a hook and create a marvelous thing of beauty.

I, myself, tend to rely on rough deer hair, bunched-up dubbing, and tufts of Antron® to achieve my results, choosing representation and function over beauty. Some people go the other way, creating as close to an exact copy of a food item as they can produce. Still, even the fussiest among them probably leave out little details in their replicas.

Details like the moustaches of mayflies.

Mayfly with a Moustache

They are actually antennae but their position, in front of those compound eyes and above that (non-functioning) mouth, makes them look like a moustache to me.

Another Mayfly with a Moustache

As adults, mayflies don’t generally live more than a day. There are some exceptions (not by much) but, by golly, you’ve got to admit that they spend the time they have looking good. There might just be some art in that.

Not Around for Long, but Looking Good While I’m Here

There might even be some art in these photos but who am I to say? They do, however bring art to mind, especially when I realize what those mayfly moustaches resemble.

Salvador Dali

Say what you will about his paintings, that moustache is art.

A surrealist in life, in death Salvador Dali has become the subject of a nearly surreal court battle in Spain, with Madrid’s Supreme Court recently ordering his remains to be exhumed in order to settle the paternity claims of a woman born 61 years ago.

Unlike Salvador Dali’s tightly waxed lip hair or the antennae of mayflies, my own archaically spelled moustache is bushy and a bit droopy but, in my own special way, I consider it art.

Not everyone agrees what is and what isn’t art. Some people think The Who were artists. Others believe Johnny Cash to be an artist unsurpassed. Heck, some people even find clowns and clowning to be high art, although I think we can all agree that paintings of clowns are, to say the least, a little creepy.

If only there were a way to combine The Who, Johnny Cash, and a clown. Now, that would be art, even if it didn’t include moustaches. Fortunately, just such a thing has occurred, thanks to Big Mike Geier and Puddles Pity Party:

Again, you’re welcome.

Categories: Humor, nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

More Macro Mayflies and Musical Mayhem

As if making the transition from aquatic nymph to airborne adult (imago) wasn’t enough, mayflies do so without passing through a pupal stage. Instead, they emerge from their nymphal shuck with fully formed wings as a subimago, somewhat drab and not yet sexually mature. After a short rest with nothing to eat, they shed their skin one more time, spread their clear wings and join others of their kind for the first and only sexual experience of their lives.

Long Arms for Grabbin’ the Ladies

Random handing-off of sperm packets is probably more like it and there’s no regretting one’s choice, for they all soon will be dead. Such is the life of a mayfly. Continue reading

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

Macro Mayflies and Musical Mayhem for Your Monday

People come to these pages for many reasons. Some actually subscribe and come on purpose but others simply stumble in as the result of tragic search engine accidents. Either way, many go away confused, some even leaving before they get to the good stuff.

Short-form posts are not our forte here at Fish in a Barrel Pond. A thousand words is never out of the question, meaning someone could spend four or five whole minutes reading these ramblings. We do our best to reward intrepid readers and most posts end with a treat, whether it finally be the punchline or an interesting photo or video.

No guarantees as to word count, since we’re just getting going, but the plan for this post includes multiple treats. We’ll let you decide for yourselves which are the treats and we’ll also drop the pretense of referring to myself in the third person.

An Unblinking Stare

The so-called “major” hatches of mayflies have begun for the season. Some are sporadic but others come off like clockwork, albeit a different clock than we puny humans watch. Intricate, delicate and very nearly absurd, they exchange the drab coloration and digestive tracts of their nymphal stages for the reproductive organs and gaudy apparel of adults. I find them in boats, on porch screens, clapboard walls, and in spider webs. When someone asks “What’s hatchin’?” I know, and not because I’m fishing all the time. Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor, nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

An Idea That Will Revolutionize Fly Fishing

Having at least a rudimentary command of fly fishing skills and knowledge, I have spent the last ten years in close observation and study of anglers and their ilk. One conclusion I have reached is that a vital segment of the fly fishing community remains chronically under-served. I aim to correct that situation and I do not want you to miss out on this Important Investment Opportunity!

According to this article by Kirk Deeter on Field & Stream‘s Fly Talk blog, the American Fly Fishing Trade Association estimates that, in the U.S. alone, close to 4.5 million of us fly fish at least once a year. As Kirk points out, some sources put the number higher, some lower, and some prefer to look at only those who are regular consumers of fly fishing products. With estimates as high as 10 million and as low as 1.5 million, we’ll stick with 4.5 million as a conservative average.

Obviously, a certain percentage of us fish more than just once or twice a season, in a wide range of weather and other conditions, and manage to have a fine time doing so. We find the time we spend outside, doing something we love, to be an invigorating balm for our souls.

But what about those others, the ones who don’t fish much at all because to do so would mean actually getting outside? The ones who constantly find it too hot, too cold, too rainy, or too windy. The ones who say they’d like to feel they were part of something larger than themselves, if only it weren’t made up of so many things smaller than themselves, like black flies and mosquitoes, spiders and mice. The ones who react with anger at otters and loons, and at the end of the day knock baby birds from their nests for pooping on the porch.

I have seen far too many fly fishing experiences absolutely, completely ruined by the great outdoors. Making allowances for, among other things, the fact that some anglers will struggle on their own for a week, or that an entire camp can be demoralized in a weekend, my observations lead me to believe that at least 25% of all fly fishers would fish a lot more if they didn’t have to do it outdoors.

Over a million anglers, for whom the traditional fly fishing experience holds little charm? Sounds to me like Oppotunity knocking and that’s why, working closely with the same folks who brought you Vermont Hand Crafted Tenkara Rods and our famous gear-for-guides Angler Management Device, I am pleased and proud to invite you in on the ground floor of our latest concept, Gordon’s Getaway Club®, the ultimate fly fishing destination for anglers who “expect less from Nature”™. Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

An Unpredictable Hatch

There is comfort in knowing that, just before dusk of a mid-June evening, mayflies will emerge above the silt flats off Exile Island. For twenty minutes, it’s the closest to a sure thing we’ve got around here, at least when it comes to fishing. Hatches come off, not quite like clockwork, but with enough reliability that some anglers are confident enough to head over early to sit and wait for the show to start.

Once the heat of summer sets in and the “major” hatches end, it gets trickier, but one can still find certain places at certain times to pick up a few fish rising to one thing or another (as in “you’ve got one thing and they want another“).

The majority of flies flung upon and into Fish in a Barrel Pond represent life forms that originate or live in its water. The places they live are places where fish congregate. Find those places and another part of the puzzle falls into place.

My favorite hatch is not really a hatch at all. It involves insects that are desperately trying to avoid the water in the first place, and conditions must be perfect, so it happens only as the result of tragic accidents.

Winged Ant

Winged Ant

Continue reading

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

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