Rebirth, renewal and a few ‘woodsisms’

Winter continues to keep a tenuous grip on the landscape as signs of spring are everywhere (including in the weather forecast). (Provided photo — Joe Hackett)

While winter weather will remain in command of the local landscape, there has been a slow but sure warming trend in the forecast. Although winter conditions will likely remain intact in the upper elevations, spring will burst first in the valleys as mud season gives way to the annual migrations of birds of all sorts.

Unlike the the fall migration season, which signals a mass exodus of creatures that participate in migration or hibernation, the spring season provides a renewal of both the land and the creatures that inhabit it.

April 1 will usher in the new trout season, as spawning suckers, smelt and similar seasonal bait fish will serve to attract trout, salmon and pike into the tributaries. This may be the year that launches a new era of salmon fishing on Lake Champlain. With the removal of old dams up and down the lake, the salmon fishery is set to take off.

The new season brings new life to the land, as the spawning of suckers, smelt, salamanders, leeches and similar prey species provide the first “hatches” before the actual insect hatches take to the air. Early season anglers have learned how to gauge the progression of the spring season by taking note of returning wildlife such as loons. It is a cycle of life that’s as regular as a Swiss clock for those who know how to read it.

For many years now, I have made a habit of collecting what I like to call “woodsisms.” I generally scribble them on whatever piece of paper I can find, then crumple them up in a pocket where they may linger for years. The notes know no season, and topics range from, “tuning a Lake Clear Wabbler” to cooking an egg over an open fire without using a frying pan or other utensils.

While most of the woodsisms detail various tricks of the trade, others deal with useful tips and well-placed, unique phrases — some naughty and some nice. I can’t remember the orgins of most of the quotes, but I always enjoy recovering them when I happen to come across an old fly vest, notepad or match book.

In deference to the recently reclaimed lands in the Boreas Ponds country, I offer up a few notes that have been in my vest for far too long:

“To travel alone in the wild is risky business. Equally dangerous is to hear the call and fail to answer it.”

“Wilderness is the Lord’s way of getting our attention.”

“Wilderness is the combination of many lives and the spirit of risk.”

“There is a silent voice in the wilderness that we hear when no one else is around. It comes from the land of our youth.”

“The outside is the only place we can truly be inside the world.”

“Raw, wild lands are the art of God.”

“Time spent in the wild awakens our senses, slows us down and decreases blood pressure, unless you’re running away from a bear or after a pack of raccoons that made off with the food bag!”

“Truly wild places have the capability to take a life or restore it.”

“We don’t own those mountains, they own us.”

“Wilderness has the taste of freedom, the smell of danger and the smell of fear.”

And lastly, I will end with a quote from Justice John Volker, of the Michigan Supreme Court. Justice Volker was a brook trout fanatic, who was fond of chasing wild brookies from the beaver ponds of his youth. Whenever we participate in such familiar activities, the experience serves to return us to our youth.

In the late 1940s, Volker listed his reasons for taking up the rod and the reel as follows.

“I like to fish because because mercifully, there are no telephones on trout waters. Because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness. I love the environs where I can find solitude without loneliness. Because trout do not lie or cheat or be bought or bribed, or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude, humility and endless patience. Because bourbon tastes better out of an old tin cup, and finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important, but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant and not nearly so much fun. And finally, because I suspect that men are going this way for the last time, and I for one, don’t want to waste the trip.”


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