David A. Van Wie
Inspiration at Walden Pond
As I drove through Minute Man National Park on Friday afternoon, the apple blossoms were set off against a backdrop of subtle greens from the spring leafout. A couple mile farther and I turned onto Walden Street. Pulling into the parking lot at the Walden Pond State Reservation, I saw some lilacs basking in the first sunshine we had seen in days.
Norm Richter met me at the car with a smile and a handshake. His rod was already rigged, so he helped string my line as I put on my waders.
The sky had cleared and we were looking down to the placid pond with fisherman dotting the sandy shoreline all around the circumference like numerals on a clock.
As Norm and I got to the swimming beach, we saw trout rising within casting distance of shore. We had looked around and decided “why not?” No need to watch the backcast, except for the occasional walker on an evening stroll around the pond.
Within minutes, Norm had a strike on his dry fly, but his response was both too slow and too quick, and he missed the take. And that was the only chance we had for the evening despite steady rises of very large trout to midges all across the east end of the pond.
Even if Thoreau had never made it famous, Walden Pond would be a remarkable landmark because of its amazing geology. It is a “kettle pond” created during the last Ice Age when a huge chunk of the melting glacier remained while the retreating ice left deep deposits of sand and gravel. Only 61 acres in size, it is over 100 feet deep.
Thoreau remarked how clear and cool the water is. The pond is well stocked with trout and has some huge smallmouth and largemouth bass. I would find the bass the next morning.
Norm and I circumambulated the pond, chatting with other bait fishermen sitting patiently for a strike. We didn’t see anyone else having much luck, maybe one or two fish caught now and then. You can pretty much see everyone around the pond.
As the sun set, we were back on the swimming beach casting to rises, still with no luck. At 7:45 the park ranger announced that the parking lot gate would close us in if we didn’t leave by 8:00. Prime fishing time, but also prime beer drinking time, so we headed to get some dinner and a cold brew.
Saturday morning I awoke at 4:45 and was out of the house before sunrise. With a full family schedule on Saturday, Norm opted to pass on the early morning excursion. When I walked down the stairs to the pond at 6 am, there were already a dozen fisherman around the perimeter and two boats sliding through the mist: a green canoe and a red fishing platform rig with an electric motor. Busy place!
The trout were only rising occasionally and again not luck, so after 40 minutes or so, I moved over to another area where I could wade out from shore. When I did, I saw several large fish cruising in the clear shallow water… smallmouth bass on their nests.
I switched my floating line rod over to a tiny bass popper the threw it out about 20 yards. On the second cast, WHAM!, one of the biggest bass I have ever caught slammed it and leaped into a tail walk, coming down with a flop. I realized it was well hooked (they tend to do that when they slam it that hard), so I was able to get my iphone out of my pocket and record some video of the first fish caught on the Storied Waters tour!
What a start!
A little later, I was getting a bit chilled, so decided to walk down to the site of Thoreau's cabin. On the way back, I caught another smaller male smallmouth, just as the triathlon swimmers starting doing laps in the pond in their wetsuits. Some of them swam along shore, making it tough to cast, so I decided it was time for coffee, and for planning the next let over to Vermont.
Back at the car, I ran into Peter Hoffman, the park supervisor. We had a nice chat about his experience managing the various users at Walden Pond. He has been fishing there since he was a kid, so it was fun to hear his stories of how the park visitor patterns have changed over the years.
Then, I pointed my car, the RogueTraveler, west to Vermont hoping to get to Manchester before the heavy rain in the forecast.
As I headed down Route 2, I felt an odd sensation, and heard the voice of Henry David Thoreau clearly in my mind. I suddenly realized I had company!
HDT’s ghost decided he wants to see the Great Lakes and the Adirondacks. Never one to turn down an excursion, Henry hopped in and is riding shotgun with me on the Storied Waters Tour.
You can't see him in the picture below because he is a ghost, right? But he is coming along for the ride! As HDT says, "We need only travel enough to give our intellects an airing."
C'mon, Henry, let's go!