Last weekend, I traveled to Schroon Lake for the Adirondack Sportsmans Dinner. The annual event, which is organized by over a dozen local ministries, draws an enthusiastic crowd of sportsmen and women from across the entire region. Best of all, there is no admission fee! It's no wonder that the tickets are scooped up within a day of release, but you can try to find tickets online a www.adirondacksportsmansdimmer.com.
The food is rivaled only by the friendships, although this year's selection of home made desserts was a huge hit. It is interesting to witness neighbors from Chazy meet up with neighbors from Thurman as folks from Thendara mix easily with others from Dresden. While they may not be actual neighbors in a physical sense, at this gathering, they share common ground through their obvious passion for the outdoor life.
By the time I arrived, all of the available parking lots were packed and overflow lined the shoulder of the road. Vehicles ranged from a fancy, new Hummer to a collection of the oldest, most rusted pickups I had witnessed at one time. There was actually a pickup with a side door sealed with duct tape and the windshield, nearly obscured behind a pile of discarded chew tins.
In all my years of traveling to sporting events, I've never seen so many kids and toddlers dressed in camo. I often joke that the event represents the largest redneck reunion in the state, but there were simply too many full sets of teeth to verify such a claim.
As always, the event offered a number of guest speakers and sporting seminars covering topics ranging from hunting to angling to wilderness survival and more. Old friends like Gary Hodgson, a retired Forest Ranger from Lake Placid, presented a workshop on building a birch bark canoe, while former DEC Wildlife Biologist, Mark Brown from Warrensburg gave a talk on ice fishing and Moriah's famous Salerno boys dazzled the crowd with an impressive display of big racked, Adirondack whitetails.
Other presenters included Wilmington's Paul Tremblay with Come Fly The AuSable, Bill Kozel on Deep Woods Deer and Bear Hunting, Marty Simons and Bobby Plude's popular survival lecture, Turkey Hunting with Steve Cuzzacrea, Women gone wild...for the outdoors! with Melanie Houck and a host of others.
Joey Hancock, a southern gentleman, outdoor writer, hunting guide and TV celebrity, delivered the keynote address. He had the crowd roaring with a standup routine that would have made Jeff Foxworthy proud.
However, what impressed me most about the event is not the collective knowledge of the assembled outdoor experts, nor the fabulous Sportsman Show with its many displays and regular equipment give-aways. I am consistently impressed with the friendliness of the participants and the enthusiasm of the many youngsters in attendance.
It is a truly family affair and the children represent the future of our hallowed outdoor traditions. It is encouraging to know that not all of the kids in this country are saddled by cell phones and strapped with iPods.
I offered a seminar on bass fishing, (I know what you're thinking... bass? Well, it is the other white meat and it remains the most popular game fish in North America), and the kids kept me on my toes with solid questions and excellent feedback. After the experience, I am now more convinced than ever that bass fishermen are actually just snowmobilers, enjoying the off season.
The New Season
Speaking of seasons, there is a new one looming on the near horizon as April 1 approaches with the opener of trout season. And with the new season, comes many old promises which I hope will be honored.
I hear about these promises when the frantic phone calls begin, usually in the early part of August. The frequency tends to accelerate as the end of the summer nears. By the time September arrives, there is a noticeable quivering in their voice.
On the opposite end of the line, the story usually goes something like this, "Hello, you don't know me, but I was wondering if you can help me. I'm looking for a guide to take me and my kid(s) out on a fishing trip. For the last couple of years, I've promised 'em that we'd go fishing in the Adirondacks, and now they're almost too old. I know you're probably pretty busy right now but...we can come up almost anytime you're available....and school starts in about a week....uum, is there any possibility you could squeeze us in....please?"
I often feel a twinge of sadness as I explain I am already booked solid through the end of September, and that it's likely most of the other guides are booked as well.
As always, I tell them I'm sorry and offer my suggestions and regrets. Often, the panic in their voice is palpable, because Little Johnny is now almost 16 years old and he'd much rather chase girls than fish for speckled trout with his Dad.
There are few activities that parents and children can share that provide for such lasting memories as a family fishing adventure. Although studies consistently rank childhood memories of camping trips as the single most indelible childhood experience, memories of catching that first fish usually rank close behind.
Most anglers that I know, can easily recite the tale of their first catch, often in startling detail, as if it had occurred yesterday.
I often explain to guests that the quality of their catch should not be gauged by the size of the fish, but rather, by the length of its tale. I can recall more than a few instances where a father has actually jumped into the water with a net, to assure that his kid's first fish was landed.
After spending a full day at the Sportsmans Dinner in Schroon Lake, I returned to Lake Placid in time join a large contingent of flimsy flyrodders watching the Flyfishing Film Tour at the Center for the Arts.
The event, which was a benefit for the Tri-Lakes Chapter of Trout Unlimited, featured a collection of short films that were filmed in settings ranging from Patagonia to Alaska and from the waters of the Arctic to the Carribean.
By the end of the program, my casting hand was twitching like a gunfighter's getting ready to slap leather. When I finally got home and emptied the bass fishing gear from the back of my truck, I was so full of energy and enthusiasm that I spent the next hour spooling new flyline on three of my reels.
I sometimes wonder why people claim fishing is so relaxing. By the time the trout season finally rolls around, I have usually stored up so much energy and accumulated tension; that I could probably dive in and catch trout in my teeth. Relaxing hell, unleash me let me at 'em!
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org