As the days shorten and the temperatures drop, I vacillate between the trout stream and woodpile. Catbirds no longer chatter from the tangles of streamside brambles. Redstarts have ceased to sing from the branches of hardwood trees. The birds of field and forest that accompanied me along the banks of Bonnie Brook will not return until next spring.

For the next week or so, the stream’s wild trout will continue to look toward the surface for their food. A wet fly with a soft-hackled collar twitched at the right time or a big, bushy fly, perhaps a Hornberg or Stimulator, bounced off a far bank may trigger a surprising response.


Back home, the pair of phoebes that raise their broods under the eave of Trish’s potting shed and the little wrens that make their nest in an old watering can that hangs from the wall of our porch have also gone.

The last flocks of robins have fattened up on the dusty blue berries of our cedar trees. As they have done for many years, waves of blackbirds recently darkened the sky. The black horde descended upon our dogwood trees, only leaving after they devoured nearly every blood-red berry.

Between our barn and house is a mountain of stove wood that I raised last season. Across from this pile of billets is a row of logs that will supply heat for next winter. They can’t be split until I stack the mountain in neat rows under the eave of a nearby lean-to.

Eventually, ice will encase the little stream. Its trout will fall into a semi torpor until the skunk cabbage once again erupt from their moist beds and the trilliums add color to the shadows cast along the forest trail. At about this time, little chickadees will return to the feeders Trish and I keep filled. By then, the mountain of wood will be stacked in the lean-to and our home will once again fall under the warm embrace cast by the woodstove.

This is when I set my fly rod aside and pick up my maul. I can rent a log splitter, but that seems like cheating to me, not much different than using worms to fool trout rather than flies.

For many years, I swung a six-pound maul that was light enough to handle with relative ease, but strong enough to split all but the most recalcitrant log. I’d wrap layers of duck tape around the base of the maul to reduce the damage caused to its wooden handle each time I missed my mark.

No so long ago, a friend presented me with a maul constructed with a metal arm that was shorter than the one I’d been swinging. It took a while to become accustomed to the shorter arc, but eventually I found it to be quite satisfactory. Nevertheless, for someone who prefers bamboo fly rods to those constructed of graphite, the idea of an arm made of metal irked me.

Last winter, I may have found the perfect implement while perusing a Garrett Wade catalogue—a four-pound maul, with a hickory handle measuring only thirty-one inches. As a bonus, a steel collar is fastened to the base to avoid damage while raised “cheeks” on either side of the head provide additional power when splitting wood with difficult grains.


Aesthetically pleasing, wonderfully balanced, and lightweight, I’ll spend the next few months raising another mountain of stove wood while swinging what to a log splitter is the equivalent of a bamboo fly rod built by the late George Mauer.






4 Responses to “CHANGE OF SEASON”

  1. Leighton Wass Says:

    I hear you, Bob. My Fiskars replaces the fly rods here in VT, but talk about cheating…I had three cords delivered already split this year. First time. Man, did I love the extra time it rewarded me, and fished right through October.

  2. Ronald Lasko Says:

    Happy Holidays! I too fish only bamboo and use only a wood axe to split 4 to 6 cords of wood a year for use in my fireplace. There is a special pleasure in using both and allows one to stand for their values and proof of accomplishment whether splitting firewood or fly casting for trout! Merry Christmas-Ron & Donna Lasko

  3. forgottentrout Says:

    As usual, well said, Ron. Best to you and Donna. Have a warm and peaceful Christmas!

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