What do you get when you cross turkey hunting, spring fishing, and fiddleheads? A busy day!
I woke up early on Thursday, which was already shaping up to be a spectacular spring day, and escaped to a spot in the woods I’ve been itching to try for turkeys. A field of last year’s medium-length grass lay off to one side of the path, bordered by thin hardwoods. As I clucked with my box call, I strained to hear any replies. I couldn’t locate any, so I continued on with calling, acting like I knew what I was doing. An aerial view probably would have shown turkeys all around me running outward, like an expanding ring as they fled the unnatural disturbance.
As the morning progressed, I decided to switch my prey to fiddleheads; at least I knew where they might be hiding.
A nearby stream that I knew about was a good place for fiddleheads, particularly a section that tends to flood every year. Here, the flooding causes a network of smaller streams to wind across the surface of the land, leaving small channels in their wake. When I reached the stream, I noticed the water was low and walking around was much easier than in previous years, when venturing too far from high ground could lead to a shocking aquatic experience. I began to investigate around me for the valuable little clusters of budding ferns we know as fiddleheads.
I found them quite quickly, though I realized at once I was a few days early for “good picking.” The clumps were just starting to poke through the ground and only a fraction of them were mature enough to pluck. I made do with what was available and slowly began filling my plastic bag, making sure not to take any ferns that had unfurled too far. Though this location was only good for a small supply of fiddleheads, it wasn’t too far from civilization and I’ve never noticed anyone else in the area picking: a double-bonus.
After collecting a couple dinners-worth of fiddleheads, I decided to explore upstream, a spot that I had been unable to reach in previous years due to the typical high water. In order to get there, I found that I could walk directly up a major streambed that had been created by the annual flooding.
Grass was slicked down flat against the bottom, and a white, clay-like substance coated soft-ball sized rocks that were left behind by surging waters but now served as cobblestones for my wandering feet. The distinct, somewhat putrid smell of seaweed and low tide presented itself momentarily, just as if I had been walking along the ocean. As I reached the junction where the dried-up stream originally split from the main body of water, I couldn’t help but notice the superb fly-fishing opportunities that presented itself. Due to the rare water level, I was able to gaze upstream and trace a sequence of glimmering pools that no doubt housed some brook trout. Mesmerized, my mission for fiddleheads ended abruptly, and fly fishing assumed its place on the agenda for the evening. I raced home to grab my pole and a box of flies.
As I made my way back from fishing that evening, I saw an old man pop out of the woods a distance in front of me onto the path back to my truck. To my surprise, he had just come from the same spot I had harvested earlier for fiddleheads. In one hand swung a shopping bag nearly full of fiddleheads. He walked along without seeing me until he got to his truck, which was parked next to mine, then offered a friendly wave in my direction before pulling away. It goes to show, when you think you’re the only person who enjoys a particular area in the woods and the wonderful natural resources available there, you might not be, so be considerate of others and harvest modestly! Happy fiddleheading, folks!