Posts Tagged With: outdoors

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

11 Best Holiday Gifts of the Year for Outdoorsy Types on Your List

(Before someone gets in a snit because they expected something else, I would like to point out that the year in the title of this post is 1958 and the images are from the issue of Sports Afield magazine published in December of that year. Also, I apologize to the anglers out there for the lack of fishing-related gift items but, I’m sure you’ll agree, these are gifts that everyone can use! ~QG)

Who among us hasn’t awakened feeling certain urges, knowing that the nearest bush/outhouse/privy is just too cold/far away/full of splinters and/or spiders to consider? Or that we’d feel better about ourselves if only we had a good old-fashioned status symbol to show off?

“You’ll have to go some to beat this gift!”

There is no indication as to just what kind of fur this pot to piss in is lined with but, of course, it’s real. Personally, it looks a little small, not much larger than a decent coffee mug, but what do you want for $3.95? Continue reading

Categories: Humor, Product and Gear Reviews | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

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

Continue reading

Categories: +Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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. Continue reading

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

Categories: Fly Fishing, Product and Gear Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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 AntronĀ® 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

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