It is difficult to capture the allure of a small stream, wild brook trout and complete solitude.
The blackflies are back, and so are the tourists, just as the fishing season has finally hit full stride. Whether fishing on the river or stream, or on a lake or a pond, all anglers should be aware of the necessary common courtesies inherent to the pursuit.
Despite our focus on angling, we must recognize that we all share a common natural resource with a variety of other users. Whether visiting the waters to fish, swim, paddle, bird watch or to simply enjoy the show, safety should always be the ultimate object of any outing. The fun and the fish are simply byproducts. In this regard, a lot of anglers and other river travelers are likely to be in for a surprise this season, when they first return to their old, familiar fishing hole.
In many cases, the deep, dark pools and productive riffles that many have enjoyed on local rivers, will have changed dramatically. The familiar ‘honey hole’ may have silted in, and the shallow runs could be mucky, or thick with debris. In many cases, the riverbanks may have collapsed, log jams have formed and even the course of a river may have shifted.
As the weather continues to heat up and the waters begin to warm, swimmers in particular should exercise caution, especially before diving or jumping into the rivers and streams. Scout the pools with a mask and snorkel, and be sure to look before you leap. The old familiar swimming hole may no longer be as deep.
Rivers and streams are a very dynamic medium. They operate on an unabated continuum, which is ever changing, ever flowing. Experienced anglers and veteran paddlers understand this process, but very few of these veteran ‘river mongers’ have ever experienced the type of high water incidents that occurred during last year’s high water events.
The floods, which were considered to be both 100 year and 500 year events, served to reshape not only the river corridors, but in some cases, entire communities. The repercussions of these back to back natural disasters are still being felt.
Such is the yin and yang of flowing waters. They soothe us, entertains us, and provides us with unlimited entertainment and intangible health benefits.
And yet behind their obvious beauty, embracing depths and caressing currents, there lurks a savage heart and a relentless power. Try though we may to arrest the flow, or harness it for our use, the flowing waters will continue to prove they have a mind of their own.
While some may believe we own the waters, it was quite obvious, that man is not in charge last summer. Nature rules, as it always has and always will. We are simply visitors that are graced with a splendid opportunity to enjoy the waters while we can.
...and off to the brook
Over the past month, I have focused the majority of my angling adventures on a search for brook trout in the ponds. Increasingly, it appears that more and more anglers have had a similar attraction to the ponds, likely for the same reason. As a result, it has become increasingly difficult to find a lonesome pond, that is truly lonesome anymore.
When I encountered nearly a dozen vehicles at the canoe launch of a popular local pond recently, it proved just too much traffic for my taste.
Although I truly enjoy catching big brook trout on remote waters, I prefer to do it alone, or at least with very little company and no audience.
As a result of the apparent overpopulated human population, I decided to retreat tfrom the ponds to the less traveled recesses of a much smaller fishery, on a nearby trout stream.
Although the stream’s channel has been severely reduced by ever encroaching alder beds, it’s flow has sprouted a productive trout fishery in recent years, and the sinous channel has been altered by a long series of multitiered pools.
These new pools are a naturally occurring phenomena. They are the result of a beaver’s never-ending quest for fresh food and new dams. Tireless workers, the beavers have ravaged the alders in order to construct new dams, and in the process, they have created ideal habitat for brook trout. Fortunately, they’ve also cleared lanes that are just wide enough to pass a canoe, and barely long enough to permit a cast.
After launching my canoe, I quickly managed to make my way downstream to the location of a series of recently constructed beaver dams. The main dam was formed in three tiers, and the waters cascading over them provided natural oxygenation. The cold water was rich in oxygen, and insect life. Alder spiders dangled from the tree branches, and mayfly shucks littered the banks.
The pool at the base of the dam was barely four feet deep, and it was hardly three times as wide. It was about 20 feet long, and full of fish with nowhere else to go.
In an hour’s time, I had caught and released dozens of small brookies. Some were barely the length of a finger, and not one of them topped a foot. But there is something to be said for the old adage, “If you want more, desire less.” Maybe it can be found in the special charm of spending a desolate day casting a small fly to small brook trout on a small, quiet stream. There were no trophy trout to be had, no long carries, and nobody to share in the excitement.
But there were speckled jewels that proved to be eager for the fly, and I spent the afternoon catching them by skittering a dry fly across the surface. Like finned missiles, they would explode out of the dam’s deep waters to attack my offerings on almost every cast.
Best of all, there wasn’t another soul in sight, or sound the whole time. I had the magnificent natural playground all to myself, with the exception of one irritated osprey, and a few does that snorted from the banks.
I was lost in the pool, and I lost count of both the trout and the time.
The outing did not put any dinner on my table, and there were no bragging rights associated with landing a finger-length fingerling. Yet, I returned home wearing a wide grin, an empty creel and with the unparalleled satisfaction of knowing I could do it all over again. And, I expect I will!
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.