news from the waterfront by Tim Matson
THE PONDKEEPER’S SEASONS: FALL
Fall is busy on land, but on the water life quiets down. In fact there’s little to do, unless you count catching trout. When trout reach ten to twelve inches it’s time to make room for next year’s crop. Otherwise you might see your big fish eat your next
stock. I never catch all the trout at once. Instead, the pond is a live cooler from September through November, and I harvest when the pan is hot. No fancy tackle involved, only an old spinning reel, a sharp hook with the barb filed off, worms or grasshoppers or bacon, and a bucket.
Laying down the pond for winter does mean keeping out leaves. Decaying leaves eat up oxygen under the ice and then come back to haunt you as slimy algae in summer. Here it’s easy to rake submerged leaves from shore. In cool weather the water clears up, and sunken debris is in plain sight. Thankfully, there’s not much. This is a largely self-cleaning pond. High up on a windy slope, the pond is swept by westerlies that shepherd leaves to the east side where the spillway current draws them in. Leaves from some birches, maples, and one old apple tree are then trapped against the spillway fish fence. It’s simple
to occasionally rake them out. On a breezy site the pond with a downwind spillway helps groom itself.
A final seasonal ritual comes with the first skating ice. My shadow glides beneath the transparent ice, skates carving powdery white calligraphy on the frozen pond. A brush pile stands
on the dam, collected throughout the summer and fall. Twilight settles in. I fire the brush. A deep orange reflection lights on the ice: the pond keeper’s harvest moon.
Excerpted from Earth Ponds: The Country Pond Maker’s Guide to Building, Maintenance, and Restoration.