Last week, I spent a day traveling around some old familiar grounds up and down the Pleasant Valley of the Boquet River.
Initially, I had intended to spend most of my time fishing on the Boquet’s smaller tributaries such as Barton’s Brook, The Branch, Black River, Spruce Mill Brook, Roaring Brook and the North Branch.
Unfortunately, by the time I made it over the hill to Elizabethtown, the Boquet was already at flood stage, and even the smaller streams were swollen and fast.
I took a few casts, just for old times sake, but the canoe remained strapped to the top of my vehicle all day.
I did manage to find a few deep holes, where some brookies were active and my line wasn’t swept downstream immediately. Fortunately, the heavy rains had not disturbed a series of small beaver dams that I decided to visit, and I was rewarded with a couple of hours worth of productive fishing.
However, by the time I finally left, I was far wetter than the fish I was catching. My hands looked like a pair of pale prunes, and I was soaked through to the bone.
Over the course of the day’s outing, I was astounded to discover the extent of the spread of invasive species, most notably the Japanese Knotweed.
Although I knew the problem existed along the Boquet River, especially from the Elizabethtown Fish and Game Club downstream to Willsboro, I was shocked to discover large swaths of knotweed upstream of Elizabethtown, especially on The Branch which has always been one of my favorite streams.
The Branch always runs cold, even during the heat of the summer. From its headwaters high on the shoulders of Hurricane Mountain, the tumbling, babbling little brook has long provided outstanding angling opportunities, even when the trout become slow and sluggish in the wider rivers below.
According to DEC fisheries reports, The Branch remains one of the most productive waters in the state for wild rainbow trout.
The naturally spawned rainbows have always been a joy to catch as they readily display the acrobatic maneuvers of fish many times their size. And the beauty of their vermillion side panels are worth every bit of energy that is expended in the rock-hopping obstacle course that provides a route up the creek to access their hiding holes.
Of course, the stream also provides a wealth of swimming holes as well, of which US Falls is by far the most popular. It seems like it was only a few years ago that I first discovered knotweed along the banks of the small stream, well below the Footbridge Park in Elizabethtown.
It seemed odd to see knotweed just below US Falls just a year later. It’s easy to understand how knotweek could be washed downstream with the high-water events of recent years. However, I couldn’t understand how the weed was able to advance up the stream, when the water flows down the stream.
However, over the last few years, the stalky, bamboo like weed has managed to spread far above US Falls, and it has now advanced well upstream of the Hurricane Mountain Bridge on Route 9N.
It is an ugly sight to behold, with large patches of the plant straddling and strangling the stream in some places. Often, it is difficult to find a decent hole in which to cast a fly.
Unlike tag alders, which have long been the bane of many small creek anglers; knotweed can actually choke off the entire channel of smaller streams. When it does so, it is nearly impossible to find enough open water to land a fly.
The pervasive invasive has also supplanted many of the native ferns that once grew think along the Boquet’s riverbanks. In one particular section of the Boquet near where the outlet of Barbers Pond joins the flow, the riverbanks were once thick with tall ferns that grew to impressive height.
It may be that in my diminutive years as a youth, the ferns just seemed larger than they actually were. But even as an adult, the fields of ferns stood tall enough to be at eye level.
Today, those vast fields of tall ferns are all but gone. The old floodplains now resemble what I imagine the South Pacific jungles all look like. It is sad to discover my old familiar stomping grounds no longer familiar.
And still with each passing year, the nasty knotweed continues to climb higher up the streams, and into the pristine valleys where it will weigh heavy on the shoulders of the mountains I once knew so well.
I sometimes wonder if the wrath of the wicked weed will eventually supplant our native white pines, or the majestic maples? Wouldn’t it be horrible, to have to hack out a fresh route in order to return to Hurricane’s old tower?
It was a sad occasion for me to return home, and to realize it’s no longer the old familiar place where I once could roam at will.
I guess my time would be better spent chasing after warm water species such as largemouth bass or northern pike, as the negative impacts of climate change and invasive species begin to affect even the small stream fisheries.
But as most of the small stream, wild fish aficionados know all too well, it isn’t the size of the prize that matters. It’s a matter of its beauty!
Invasives in the Park
It is only fitting that this week kicks off events surrounding The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) training sessions for terrestrial invasive plant management.
Over the course of the week, experts will be providing a series of workshops on how to manage troublesome invasive plants, such as Japanese knotweed and garlic mustard.
Participants will learn how to identify common invasive terrestrial plants and how to apply effective management techniques on their own lands. The training will include presentations and in-field demonstrations. Landowners, landscapers, gardeners, resource managers and highway department staff are encouraged to attend.
The sessions are free and will be held July 25 at the Bolton Town Hall in Bolton from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., RSVP by July 18; and, Tuesday, Aug. 13 at the North Elba Town Hall in Lake Placid from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m., RSVP by Aug. 6. Walk-ins are welcome, but RSVP is requested to Billy Martin at 518-576-2082 x 120 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Currently, there are more than 40 varieties of invasive plants invading the local woods, wetlands and waters of the Adirondacks. These infestations will continue to affect both public and private lands, and the landowners and land users who will continue to struggle with how to manage them.
APIPP’s terrestrial invasive plant management training sessions will inform participants about appropriate and effective management techniques.
The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program is a partnership program whose mission is to protect the Adirondack region from the negative impacts of non-native invasive species. Find out more information about APIPP online at www.adkinvasives.com or call Billy Martin, APIPP Summer Educator at 518-576-2082 x 120.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at email@example.com.