Skirting Issues

Another week, new impetus, birds still at the fore. That time of year, I guess: nesting season.

What crossed my daily path this time, on a bright, sunny, Wednesday morning, a cool, gentle, westerly breeze keeping my brow dry, was a pair of Canada geese and eight or 10 tiny, day-or-two-old, golden fuzzy goslings paddling up the Green River, the little ones — which I didn’t bother to count — vulnerable indeed. For all I know, they could have been eggs earlier that morning. That small.

I was first alerted to their presence from afar by distinctive, intermittent adult goose honks that to me suggested distress or warning as Chubby stood statuesque, straight and rigid, ears perked, head and nose high and alert. He barked. Not crazy, threatening barking. More like, “I see you over there t’other side the river, and if you don’t quit teasing me by honking and nervously swimming away, then I may just take chase.”

I was perhaps 80 yards away, just passing the beaver dam along the southern perimeter of the field, heading for the tall riverside apple tree in blossom that may someday slide into the river along with the escarpment lip on which it stands. That undercut bank where trout are known to lurk is slowly eroding during annual violent high-water acts and will in my lifetime likely topple into a raging river.

When Chubby’s barking began, I picked up the pace as Lily trotted out of the swamp below the beaver dam to join me. She stood momentarily in the lane along the woods and trotted enthusiastically toward her unruly son, joining him under the apple tree before circling left and threatening to drop down over the bank to further investigate the mouthy geese, still honking to keep the little ones on high alert and ready to kick it into high gear. On the scene looking down at the situation, I figured that the little ones weren’t yet nimble enough to escape, and I didn’t want to test my theory.

It’s during precarious situations precisely like that, when things can happen fast, that my Tri-Tronics collars are most useful. When I can see the dogs are ready to make a move I’m not comfortable with, I give them a soft, friendly, vocal “No,” then an audible buzz on their collars. That sound is a warning that can, when necessary, be backed up by a mild electric tickle, the strength of which is controlled by the remote dangling from a lanyard around my neck. The remote-control collars are invisible half-mile leashes, for my money, much better than any leash on the market, including those popular extendable/retractable contraptions with the sporty handles. My collars give the dogs far more freedom to roam, promoting free-wheeling exercise minus emergency trips to the vet for traumas of the road, porcupine dens or other misfortunes capable of striking suddenly and costing dearly during active daily rambles off the beaten path.

Anyway, we got through the situation without a glitch, I’ve described it the best I can and now, here I sit, pondering where to go next. Better still, where do I dare go because, regarding a familiar old subject that drew more response from an interested readership than any subject I have ever tackled over parts of four decades of filling this space, the damning evidence just keeps coming at me like the dam-break that unleashed Lake Hitchcock some 14,000 years ago. It’s incredible. No wonder there are those out there who want to silence me.

All I can say is that that kind of control usually only works temporarily. I’ll find a way to get the news out. So, to those of you out there supplying info, inquiring how things are going or where I’m headed next, I ask you to please be patient. I’m searching for a weakness in the paddock fence and am confident I’ll soon again be liberated to run unrestrained and uninhibited as we all should be allowed to ramble.

 Fish finder: On that same morning walk with the dogs that spawned my above segue about geese and beyond and now brings us to tired old nuts-and-bolt outdoor-column fodder, a river image leading down into Sunken Meadow sent my imagination awhirl with thoughts of years passed. Yes, it harkened back to the days of early awakenings, double-hauls and roll-casts, tight loops into difficult crosswinds and mending line on the water to create a proper dead-drift capable of attracting large, wary Deerfield River browns feeding in riffles before the birds sang.

The Green River was running freely but had receded some and cleared, a lot like my backyard brook that feeds it, and I must say it looked ripe for fishing where a long section of flat water dropped into a riffle and swung around a gentle bend to a deeper run where I knew trout were lurking. I can’t say it was impetus for going home, digging out one of my bamboo fly rods and catching a few sky pilots, just that when I look at a river this time of the year, or anytime for that matter, I still think like an angler, reading water and understanding how to catch fish that are surely there after several Valley District stockings that’ll end this week.

Anyway, no matter where you go, you’re going to find trout from the local hatcheries. So, if that’s what turns you on and proves your manhood, get out there and have a ball. The trucks are making their final “official” spring runs this week.

Meanwhile, the shad are running strong with Connecticut River temperatures at 60 degrees and climbing. By Wednesday morning, 161,000 shad had passed Holyoke and are now swimming somewhere between here and there. Those, too, I understand how to catch on fly tackle, and I even know how to make the willow-leaf lures that’ll out-produce any shad dart money can buy. Not only that, but I have hundreds of them piled on shelves in a big old Plano tackle box in the attic. The attraction is for me dull at this time in my life. Been there, done that. More pressing are two books that arrived in the same load of mail this morning — one a scholarly report on the Nipmuck Indians that was costly, the other a biography of French novelist Jean Giono, an artist first published in this country by the late, irascible Jimmy Cooney of Poplar Hill.

Lastly, three lonely Atlantic salmon have thus far been counted in the Connecticut River system. State and federal authorities warn that these fish are being tagged and monitored, and demand that any shad anglers who by accident catch them must promptly release them. So, even though salmon-restoration is over, salmon protection is not. Don’t worry fellas, it won’t be long before all salmon temptations in our rivers are gone forever.

Off I go … undaunted, still reading and hiking and talking and meeting new people, not hesitant to poke my nose into topics some officials think strongly should be hidden from public attention. Forget it, fellas. You’re barking up the wrong tree. In my soul, I’m still the same incorrigible teen that many remember from decades back. Yes, in fact I’m just warming up, and ain’t going away anytime soon; just observing, listening, learning and storing up mountains of material for a fair and furious crescendo that will spare no one.

That, friends, is a promise.

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