Friday, July 20, 2012

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Swimming Hole Rainbow

It’s hard to believe that he didn’t hear me enter the deep swimming hole carved in the rock cliffs of the old river. I hadn’t been particularly careful to be stealthy. Maybe it was the roar of the falls overhead or the way the shadows of the ancient maples dappled the light, filtering through to the surface. I must have been quiet and unknowingly camouflaged as I approached the foaming bubbles under the falls. The sensation of cold clear water over my body was invigorating, just what I needed after the long downward traverse into the ravine.

Serendipitously, I opened my eyes underwater in the cold, gin-clear stream and saw him. A large old trout, tail swishing gently back and forth behind the large rock embedded in the sediment to the side of the falls. Without, turning around, I back peddled like a sea turtle, slowly backing away from him, being careful not to attract his attention. For all he knew, I was never there.

I tip-toed out of the tail of the pool cautiously, trying to not stir up the gravel bed or make a sound. I walked up the wooded path to my truck and retrieved my fly rod. Returning to the hole I had dried off enough to concentrate on the approach. I assembled the old Diamondback rod and reel, tied an extra 12” length of 5x tippet on, and crawled up on the side of the far shore where the shadows obscured me from his view.

Over and over again I roll cast the red flannel tipped Zug Bug into the falls and waited for the current to draw it downward toward the submerged rock on the side. I cast eleven times and nothing had happened.

I took a deep breath and looked up at the cascading water. The sun poked through the canopy and there in the mist, a rainbow was formed hanging over the roaring falls. At that moment I felt blessed to be there.

I breathed in deeply and said “Thank You” out loud. I cast my nymph, once again, into the deluge. As I stripped the 6 weight sinking tip line back in, I got a sudden tug. The rod bent downward in my right hand and began to throb viciously. I took another deep breath and raised the rod above me head. He was hooked, and good! The dance began.

He leapt into the rushing water, and shaking his head in defiance, turned back to the deep pool. Suddenly, the line went slack and I reeled like a mad man. He was swimming straight at me, planning a reverse run into the downstream current. The line tightened again as he headed toward the boulders. I kept the line tight and tentatively stepped off of the shore into the clear water. It was cold and clean.

After what seemed like an eternity, the big trout began to tire. I gently towed him into the center of the powerful current, using its force to gain an advantage over his powerful thrusts. Reeling him in slowly and delicately, I reached down to tail him and saw that he was indeed a nice 20 inch rainbow.

As I cradled him out of the water, a beam of sunlight shone through the canopy above and caught his flanks glistening in effervescent crimson and green, like a rainbow suspended above the rushing water. Releasing the fly from the corner of his mouth, I said out loud, “Thank you, my friend” and set him gently back in the water.  Holding his tail with my right hand, I cradled his round belly with my left hand and pulled him back and forth to let fresh oxygenated water wash over his gills.

With a quick flick of his tail, he hunched his muscular shoulders and pulled out of my hands, headed downward to the deep hole of the falls.

As I looked up I saw the sun reflecting once again over the mist of the falls. The stream of light cast an ethereal crimson and green rainbow over the wooded falls.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bad News, Bear?

If you’ve been hanging around Spears Store in East Charlotte or have been online at the Front Porch Forum, no doubt you’ve heard about Charlotte’s newest furry resident, our resident black bear. Numerous people have reported spying Ursus americanus, the common black bear wandering around East Charlotte.

As yet it has not been determined to be male or female (no one has had the courage or stamina to get close enough to verify this) although it is likely to be a young male in search of establishing his own territory. If it were female and over 150 lbs, she would be capable of reproducing and have cubs with her, but all reports have been that of a lone specimen. After 16 months of imprinting on their mother, males will wander in an effort to claim their own territory.

“Our” bear seems to have taken up residence somewhere on Pease Mountain based on sightings. Residents of Charlotte have noted him/her crossing Church Hill and Route 7, as well as the numerous reports of him/her raiding bird feeders that were still being used on the South and East side of the mountain.

If we look at the habitat provided and the food sources available within these sightings we can hypothesize that he/she is making it’s home range centered around Pease Mountain, based on the following factors; denning habitat available on the Southeast side of the mountain where there are numerous cliffs with an abandoned apple orchard at the base, water available at the pond on the West side of Route 7, thick stands of fallen conifers (from the Ice Storm of 1998) on the North side, plentiful oak and beech trees, berries, and of course, the bird feeders still being used.

A fact that is taken all too lightly is that most of us are not aware that the bird feeders we love so much are the bane of the black bear’s existence. They become habituated to available food sources and once they have learned that a source can provide sustenance without danger, they will return and eventually, the inevitable occurs; human/bear interaction. This usually evolves into an unfortunate scenario where the bear has to be “removed.”

On March 22 of this year the VT Fish & Wildlife Department sent out a press release that, in our community, has gone largely unheeded. "We are receiving reports of bears getting into bird feeders," said Fish and Wildlife’s Col. David LeCours. "People can help now by removing any food sources that may tempt the bears. That includes taking down bird feeders and not feeding birds until December 1." “Also, don't leave pet food outside, wash down your barbecues after using them, and secure your garbage containers,” he added. “And above all, never purposely leave food out for bears. Feeding bears may seem kind, but it is almost a sure death sentence for them."

Persons suffering bear damage should contact the nearest Vermont Fish & Wildlife office or local game warden prior to taking any control action on their own. Fish & Wildlife personnel will recommend appropriate measures or control strategies that can lessen the problem. Producers of bees/honey, corn, fruit orchards, and livestock interested in learning more about black bear damage, its identification, what to do if damage occurs, and where to go for assistance should contact our Game Warden, Chris Clark or Tom Cook, through the State Police barracks at 878-7111.

Bradley Carleton is Executive Director of Sacred, a non-profit that seeks to educate the public on the spiritual connection of man to nature and raises funds for Traditions Outdoor, which mentors at-risk young men in outdoor pursuits.