North American Nature Photography Association

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Ethics Committee

... or not to disclose
By Bill Silliker

The dream of trout fishing enthusiasts is to find a "lost pond". If they do, they might talk about it, but they'll never tell where it is. Wilderness photographers likewise dream of making photographs of such places. Should we tell the world where they are?

Consider this story before answering:

There's at least one place in the north woods that humans rarely visit. It's a special trout pond, protected by an impenetrable forest. It's a place so few know about that to be there makes you feel you've trekked back in time. You half expect to see Ernest Hemingway step out of the woods, tie a McGinty on a number eight hook, and cast into the pond.

Defy wilderness to navigate a maze of four miles of game trails, alder swamps and mud bogs; plunge into unyielding fir clusters and flush stream beds; work up hills and climb over blow down and you can still pass within five hundred feet and not find a way to this pond. A GPS works great, but not if you can't get through the thickest of spruce fir forests imaginable. No, you need more than woods skills to find this place. You also need luck.

To be that lucky puts you on a very short list. A friend I'll call "Jack" for reasons that will become clear, looked for the place without success. Two forest rangers I know tried getting in one winter and, even without leaves on the trees, couldn't find it.

My publisher friend Dick had searched in vain for the place once before. So by one o'clock on the day of our quest, he was discouraged. Then I made one final attempt down an unpromising stretch of game trail and found "Legendary Pond". Dick soon caught and released trout after trout, fulfilling a dream while I photographed under a soft overcast sky.

Two days later I ran into "Jack" and told him about getting into "Legendary Pond". The look on his face said he'd been there. He asked if I planned to publish the photographs.

"Yeah, I've got photographs of my friend fishing with the mountain in the background. They're absolutely priceless."

Jack then told me how he'd searched for the pond, and finally asked a fishing buddy about it. "Dave's a real woodsman. I'd guessed he knew about it." He paused and looked around. Then he said softly, "Dave and I have fished Mecca a number of times."


"Once when I mentioned the place, Dave slammed both hands down on the table." Jack demonstrated. "He made me swear that I'd never call it by its real name again."

"I could label my photos 'catch and release in the Maine woods,'" I said.

Jack nodded. "I took a picture of Dave fishing with the mountain in the background, and wrote Mecca on it. He loves it, but he won't show it to anyone."

"It's really a special place, isn't it?"

"There's more. Dave found a cigarette there one day and gave me hell. Asked if I'd brought someone to Mecca. He knows others get there. We've seen prints on the trail. But he was checking."

And then Jack said: "There's still more. Dave had a son that loved to hunt and fish. They worked at the same place. One day there was an accident. Dave watched his son die."

"Oh damn."

"Dave's son had a canoe, one Dave gave him. Dave bought it from his son's widow and somehow, he got it into Mecca. It took him three years."

I thought about the difficulty of getting a tripod there.

"I've kept my oath to Dave until tonight. And from now on, I'll only call it Mecca."

Mecca: a place whose real name you'll never hear from this photographer.

Bill Silliker maintains a website at

To disclose...
by Jim Erhardt

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