Jay McGrath of Burlington, Vt. hefts a nice brook trout into the net, while fishing on a remote Adirondack pond.
In 1624, a Jesuit priest traveling through the Dismal Wilderness of the Adirondack region claimed his experience with the demons of the north was, “The worst martyrdom I have ever suffered in this country.”
Although customs have certainly changed over the past 350 years, blackflies continue to haunt the vast howling wilderness of the North Woods. In many locations the blackflies have been particularly troublesome this season, and yet in other areas they have been seemingly non-existant. The little black devils have not been as charming as usual, but nobody seems to be complaining.
While the bad bugs have not proven to be as troublesome as usual, the usual mayfly hatches have been prolific this season, and trout have been responsive, particularly on the West Branch of the Ausable River, where a host of anglers recently enjoyed a friendly and gentlemanly competition while participating in the 13th Annual Two Fly Contest this past weekend.
This popular annual event matches anglers from across the northeast with a fishing partner and they work the river in tandem. Awards are based on the total length of all fish taken over the course of two days of fishing. The anglers measure and account for their own catch on an honor system. It is a gentleman's agreement in a gentlemanly pursuit, and no victory is without honor.
Their total catch is unlimited of course, as there is a requirement that all fish must be released unharmed after being measured. However, the angler's flies are not unlimited, which makes their knots all the more important.
Each angler begins the event with just two chosen flies in their possession, which they can fish wherever and whenever they like, from sunrise to sunset. If the two flies are lost on a fish, or a snag or even to a poor knot, the angler is out of the competition.
This year, competitors enjoyed nearly ideal river conditions, which were far removed from the flood-level waters they encountered last year on the Ausable. The river was in great shape, and although a bright sun chased them downriver all day, the total take was impressive, with several anglers topping over 300 combined inches of fish. That computes to landing more than 30, 10-inch fish or more than 15, 20-inch trout in just two days of fishing. The top angler claimed he was using a Montana nymph fly throughout the event.
While it is obvious that the streams and rivers have been producing quite well, the reports coming in from the ponds and lakes have likewise been promising, with stories of anglers taking numerous big lake trout, large splake and even a potential new state record brook trout.
The brook trout, which was presented to NTSDEC biologists at the Region 5 Warrensburg Office, was a 21 1/4-inch fish which weighed 5.85 pounds.
Reportedly, the catch was taken from a pond in the West Canada Lake Wilderness Area in early May. It has already been certified as a brook trout by the Warrensburg Office, which forwarded it along to the DEC's Central Office in Albany for verification as a state record.
If the big fish is certified in Albany, at a weight of 5.85 pounds, it will eclipse the current state record brook trout record of 5.8 pounds by just about an ounce. The current record was set by Daniel Germain in South Lake, Herkimer County in June of 2011.
The previous state record was taken by Tom Yacovella from Racquette Lake on June 7, 2009. It weighed 5 pounds, 4-1/2 ounces.
It appears a new brook trout state record has been established on a regular basis in recent years. Ever since the historic state record brookie of 7-pounds 4-ounces from Punchbowl Pond in Sullivan County was expunged from the record book in 2000.
A new, modern day brook trout record was finally set in 2004, with a 4-pound-2 ounce specimen, and a new standard has been established almost every season since that time.
With the size increasingly bumping up the record every season, I expect the new record will eventually settle in the range of 6 pounds or better. I believe there are a lot of big fish out there, and the eventual state record brookie is more likely to come from a big lake,rather than a small pond. Brook trout can be found in many of the large Adriondack lakes including Cranberry, Raquette, Blue Mountain, and Lake Placid. These bigger lakes provide a greater forage base, especially for bait fish such as smelt, and in such places where trout have a greater potential to grow.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.