Friday, October 17, 2008
Today I wrote my trout-fishing column for The Maine Sportsman Magazine. The piece centered on natural baits. Several of the insects that I suggested using as bait are easily gathered with a hard tooth rake.
The method is simple. Go to a shallow, weedy pond and stand at water’s edge. Then, extend the rake as far as possible and let the head sink to bottom. Next, draw the rake back, bringing with it as much leaves, sticks, weeds and muck as possible. The aquatic insects and so on will then head back to the pond as soon as they can free themselves from the accumulated debris.
I found only one of the critters that I sought, but one was enough to take pictures to illustrate my column. But the exercise had more rewards than just a few photos for a column. I found all kinds of critters, things I hadn’t expected.
The first pull of the rake produced a half-dozen tadpoles. In late fall, frogs, toads and their tadpoles become pretty much out of sight and out of mind. But this exercise reminded me that tadpoles, or pollywogs, remain active all winter and are frequently seen moving about under the ice.
Next, I found a number of leeches. This surprised me. After all, I was working in my trout pond and didn’t expect to find any of these here. It would seem that the trout would have eaten them all. But they are present in numbers, telling me that swimming in my pond may result in getting attacked by bloodsuckers, a morose thought.
One haul produced only one critter, but an interesting one. A newt struggled with the wet leaves and sticks and finally freed itself. I watched as it clumsily padded its way back to the pond.
My last item of interest came with the final pull of the rake. A giant water bug, it was. The thought came to mind that if I’d had someone with me who was not familiar with giant water bugs, they probably would ask if these things could bite. I spoke the answer out loud. “Yes, they bite. They have a wicked beak and can inflict a nasty wound.” Nobody heard me, of course, but I really didn’t care.
So my project for this afternoon was a roaring success. I have a few photos for my column but more important, I learned that just because fall is here, with winter close behind, life goes on under the water. Inspirational stuff, to be sure.