Posts Tagged With: 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

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

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

Fishing Hurts, Again (Still?)

Winter’s approach means less time on the water for most anglers in the northern hemisphere, and more time in front of the fire, contemplating this and all other seasons past. It also means more time in front of the computer, discussing our “sport”.  Erin Block has kicked off our more philosophical time of year with a very interesting conversation on her blog about ethics, specifically casting to spawning fish.

Every angler has his or her own justifications for fishing (or not) the way they do (or do not) and I am glad to see Erin’s post take off the way it has, even if I prefer to save such heaviness for the dark cold blue of deep winter. Her words, and the comments they have spawned (pun intended) are definitely worth a read.

The fact that anglers are willing to discuss their fishing ethics is encouraging to me. It is certainly better and more productive than some of the stuff non-anglers throw at us, as pointed out by Marc Fauvet of The Limp Cobra in his post, My rod’s bigger than yours. PETA has adopted a strategy to eliminate fishing by relating the torturing of fish to penis size, referring to the penises of the anglers, not the fish. Never mind the fact that many of the world’s finest anglers have no penis at all. Check it out and see if you have something to add to the conversation over there, before it turns completely to goats.

Personally, I still sometimes wonder why I feel the need to drive a hook into a fish’s mouth and reel him/her in, just to let him/her go. Or why I set traps for beaver, muskrat and mink. Or swat flies, kill wasps and poison mice. I do, however, know why I do not fish for dogs and I wrote about it once. You can read my story here: Fishing Hurts.

Meanwhile, I’ll be blowing out water lines in the camps and trying to get stuff picked up before it freezes to the ground. It’s going to be a long winter.

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

The Return of Quill Gordon

It was a dark and stormy night. Some say my friend, Eugene, was riding a door strapped to a couple of compressed gas cylinders; others say it was some kind of jet-propelled ironing board. What he was riding is not important now but all accounts agree that at about the time the river was cresting Eugene shot downstream in a long, horizontal spiral like a bottle rocket.

Over dams and under bridges — in some cases over bridges — Eugene rode the raging floodwaters of Irene through the night and into the next day. And the next and the next, eventually drifting into Long Island Sound, where he was sighted aboard what appeared to be a horse trough, using his trousers for a sail. Plucked from the water by a passing pleasure craft, Eugene was then taken ashore, where he was tended to by a group of lovely women who, it turns out, were the stars of a television show about themselves. It also turns out they were drinking quite a lot and things became, as Eugene put it, “a tad competitive.”

The general consensus, once everyone was sober and Eugene found his trousers, was that it would be best if no one ever spoke again about what had just taken place, so the next time you happen to find yourself searching the internet for the truth behind this September’s firings among the cast of Real Housewives of New York, read those articles twice. Notice how carefully all parties avoid any mention whatsoever of my friend Eugene. Continue reading

Categories: +The Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society, Humor, Stories About My Good Friend, Eugene | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments

A Toast to the Unknown Guide

My old friend, Dr. Marcus Feely, recently spent four days here at Fish in a Barrel Pond. He will be back in August, with his wife and family, and again in September, with some lucky young receptionist from his office. Last week, however, he was here by himself.

I hate to say it, but when he is alone he gets lonely and if I stopped to chat every time he wanted to talk I would never get anything done.

I don’t exactly hide, but I can be difficult to find and I don’t exactly skulk, but when Doc Feely is here I do tend to skirt the edges a bit more than usual. My stealthiness is tested during his visits, especially when he stays in the Cahill camp, which I must pass on my way to inspect our overflow spillway. I got out there just fine on Tuesday, crawling on my belly beneath the kitchen window while Doc sat on the front porch, listening to the Red Sox game, but coming back, as I drew near I heard ice in a glass and froze.

Doc Feely was making a drink in the kitchen and I had to think fast. I could stay right where I was and wait, sauntering past after he toddled back out to the porch or I could find an alternate route and be on my merry way. Instead, I panicked when I heard the kitchen screen door squeak open and slap shut, followed by the approaching tinkle of ice in a drink.

I don’t remember the lie I must have told when Doc Feely asked what I was doing 35 feet up a pine tree, but I remember a few of the lies I tried when he insisted I come sit on the porch with him. They weren’t very good ones and I finally climbed down, figuring that if I was going to spend the next part of the afternoon listening to Doc prattle on I might as well do it on the porch with a drink in my hand instead of halfway up a pine, getting covered with sap. Continue reading

Categories: +The Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society, Fly Fishing, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Of Mayflies and Trout

It’s not often I am the only person on the pond.

When someone complains about the fishing and I say, “You should have been here on Tuesday!” they think I’m kidding or don’t believe me. Hatches of mayflies can come off as a mere trickle of bugs being chased by a couple of trout or the water can erupt with fish as a blizzard of faeries fills the air. Then, as if someone flipped a switch, the hatch will end and an angler passing by five minutes later won’t know it even happened.

This evening, I was right on time. Continue reading

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

First Trout of the Season

It is a bit of a gamble, declaring the last Saturday in April to be Opening Day at Fish in a Barrel Pond. Not only is it possible that the pond could still be covered with ice, there is also the chance that the cottages will not be accessible or have no running water due to frozen water lines. It is a mad scramble to get things up and running once the thaw sets in.

Some members of the Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society clear their calendars months in advance, flat-out lying if necessary, to be here for the first day of fishing and the celebration that comes with it. They all know that Mother Nature has the final say but the possibility of postponement is not an option for me. I must plug away as if nothing could possibly go wrong even if it means I am still patching pipes as the last of the lake ice disappears with mere hours to spare. Continue reading

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

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