Requiem for the Mill Pond

Fish grow on trees ... W.A. MacDonald

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Broadcast on CBC national radio October 8 1998
Rebroadcast on October 16

I am quite upset. And very sad.

Every year, on the very last evening of trout season, I go to the Mill Pond. I go to give my thanks to the river, and to the fish, for keeping me sane.

To get to the Mill Pond I leave the main road at a point where the river enters the sea. A dirt road follows the river for a very short distance and then narrows to a rocky trail. I pass Dolly's Pond on my right and an old clearcut on my left. I do not look to my left. The old timer that sold the stumpage on that lot once declared, at a public meeting, that it brought tears to his eyes when he first saw what the loggers had done to his land. I continue past the cutting and enter a canopy of maples, spruce, and pine, weaving my way between the rocks. I keep my eyes on the trail so as not to tread on an old toad who lives in the moss amongst the roots of a maple. One dark evening a firefly danced me home.

It is where I learnt to flyfish. It is where I was teaching my children to flyfish and where they'd take large buckets and harvest frog spawn for their fish tank. It is where a beaver crossed my line and where I have watched ducks raise their families. And when I hear the call of the Osprey I know exactly which tree and even which branch he will be sitting on. And I know where the Blue Heron will drop his long legs when he comes gliding in for his feed of perch.

I know where the fish lie. Right there, ahead of that rock, in the run, where the river enters the pond. And over there, ahead of the lily pads, there is a deep hole. And to my right, where the current is slow and the bottom is shallow, close to the bank, where insects fall from the reeds.

I have found fish above and below the pond while I waded the river, beneath the trees. At the Stone Bridge and the old logging dam.

Yesterday, when I turned the corner on the rocky trail, I was confronted by my nightmare. A six wheel drive, monster tired tractor and a flat bed trailer.

The clearcutters are here.

The trail, which is a public trail, was gouged out by the tires to a depth of two and three feet. The mud came up to mid-calf on my waders. A twenty foot wide swath of trees had been cut or mashed flat on the left hand side. The shaded walk beneath the overhanging trees is gone. The openness is overbearing.

It is normally about a fifteen minute walk from where I met the tractor to the Mill Pond. I pulled my way through the mud and, with each step, felt greater despair as I viewed the destruction ahead of me. I slithered down the short hill where I make my turn through the woods to the pond. And there they were, shearing the hillside like wool from a sheeps back.

I cannot fully describe how I felt. It was like a part of me had been taken away. Like I had lost something. This place that had given me such joyous memories. Gone.

All done in the name of money.

I don't think I can ever go back there.
March 2004


Got a call from a feller up the road that the loggers were back at the Mill Pond again. He said he couldn't walk up there cos he had a triple bypass five weeks ago, so he asked me to go.

Well now, I didn't want to go up there. It brought tears to my eyes that first time when I saw what the loggers had done. Anyway, I thought I'd better go so's I could report back.

I gets up there and the first thing I see is that they've widened the road even more. And I could hear a bulldozer in the distance. So I slogged my way through the mud and along the way walked by two fellers with chainsaws. The closer I got to the Mill Pond the louder the noise got from the bulldozer. I came round the bend, just at the point where I leave the main trail to get to the Pond, and there was a dozer and a large backhoe gouging at the mud.

I just stood there. I think my mind couldn't comprehend, or didn't want to believe, what I was seeing. I slowly turned around and then I heard the dozer stop and then heard this feller shouting at me. I went over to the dozer.

"Going after the big ones?" he asked.
"I doubt that there'll be any left after you've finished," I replied.
"What d'ya mean?" he asked.
"I'm stuck for words. I don't know what to say," I replied
"You don't like clearcutting then?" he asked

He really lost me at that point. I mean, how can anybody like clearcutting? I turned away and walked to the Mill Pond, determined to cast one last fly in the Pond that had given me some of my most precious memories. I caught a lovely little brookie (mind you, they're all lovely in my eyes) and then proceeded back the way I came. I stopped and walked along the river below the Mill Pond, flicking a fly in pools that have seen the soles of my waders literally hundreds of times. I left the river at the Salmon Hole and walked through the woods to my truck.

I think that really might be my last trip.

November 29 2005

Well, they're at it again. The following photos were taken by Jamie Steeves approximately .9 of a kilometre upstream from the Mill Pond.
Woodens is the only true catch-and-release river in the whole of mainland Nova Scotia (there are sections of Keji that are catch-and-release but Keji is a Federal park).
I am at a loss for words but my feelings would fill a grave.

Silt in stream entering Little Brine Lake and silt under Albert's Bridge Lake bridge.

Stream crossing plugged with silt and gravel. Water running down logging wheel ruts carrying silt into stream

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Pat Donoghue, Canada, ©1997