There is one sound that speaks to the wilderness more than any other and that is the call of a loon at sundown. The first time, I ever heard a loon call was on a canoe trip in the Allagash in Maine. Our campfire had died down to just the embers and we had crawled into our sleeping bags for the night.
Out on the lake, a lone loon decided to give his own version of taps. As the call echoed across the lake another loon answered him; “From the hills, from the lake, from the skies, all is well, safely rest.” Since that first time, I have heard loons call many times, and it never fails to make the hair on my neck stand up. At the same time, I get the sense that all is right with the world.
To me, when I am fishing, I love nothing more than to find myself accompanied by a loon. I love watching them and have more than once missed a strike because I was paying more attention to the loon then my fly. Loons for the most part can by wary of humans. They tend to stay away, but can be quite curious and come very close.
One afternoon, fishing from my float tube at Mountain Pond, I suddenly noticed I was not alone and was surprised to find five loons had come to within a rods length of me. I think that may have thought, for a moment, that I was one of them.
Not all fishermen share my enthusiasm for loons and in fact despise them. “Fish killers,” they say. There was a time when loons were shot on sight by sportsman for this very reason. Loons are protected now, but the attitude remains, and I have heard fisherman threaten to kill them. These folks are wrong and loons are native and just part of nature’s plan.
Loons, do of course, kill fish and, in some cases, are bold enough to take a fish from a fisherman’s line while they are playing it. My theory is that loons fish for a living and sports fishermen do not. Who can blame them for not scoffing up a free meal when opportunity strikes?
Recently, a loon turned up dead on a local pond that I am rather found of. The folks that own the home on the pond were, of course, very concerned. The loon had been a regular visitor to the pond for a good many years. The loon started showing up on the pond shortly after their father had passed away, and the family took the loons appearance as a “sign” and looked forward to its return each year.
The family called Fish and Game and an officer came out to look at the bird. The officer determined that the loon had succumb to natural causes and had just died of old age. The Loon Preservation Society was called as well and the bird was taken back to their headquarters and x-rayed and given a necropsy.
Their findings were that the bird was a female and had died from lead poisoning after ingesting a lead sinker. The pond where the loon was found is a fly-fishing only pond. For the record, the sinker was not fly gear. This loon traveled between two different bodies of water on a daily basis, and the other pond is general law.
Lead tackle is illegal in New Hampshire, however it is still being used with little regard to the law. A great many fishermen continue to use lead sinkers not knowing the law or the consequences of using it. It is unlawful to sell lead sinkers, however they can be found in cheap imported kits found in many discount stores. There is a lead buyback program good through Sept. 2 of this year at participating tackle dealers. You can get a $10 certificate toward the purchase of non-lead products for free. Ossipee Bait and Tackle was listed as one of the participating shops.
It is very important that all anglers know the law and do their level best to follow it to the letter. All of us should strive to do more to protect our dwindling wilderness.
See you on the river.