This football shaped, brook trout measured only 6 1/2 inches in length, but it weighed nearly the same as the much longer fish above it.
In last week’s column, I purposely raised the alarm to be on the lookout for ticks. I was once a Lyme Disease naysayer myself, and I believed the claim that ticks were not a problem in the North Country.
However, in recent years, I have become uncomfortably aware of just how bad the tick problem really is in the North Country. The bite of a tick is the least of the problem, although it may cause some swelling, irritation and discoloration in a bulls-eye pattern. The real problem begins when the after affects of a tick bite kick in, which can make it “the injury that keeps on giving.”
Although Lyme disease can now be combated by antibiotics, and even prevented with a vaccine, the long term affects of the disease can produce chronic flu like ailments such as swollen joints, severe head aches, balance problems, and dizziness. These neurological effects indicate that Lyme disease has spread to the brain, where it can affect memory, and cause swelling, disorientation, confusion and clumsiness.
The accelerating affects of climate change will likely increase the steady flow of vacationers traveling north to escape the heat and seek relief among the cooler waters and shaded woods of the North Country.
These travelers often bring along vectors of Lyme Disease, such as dogs, cats and sometimes even a mouse or two, that has unwittingly hidden under the hood or in the trunk of a car. There are a million routes available to travel north, and many ticks have already hitched a ride.
Fortunately, I have not yet experienced any recent problems with the Adirondack’s most notorious bug, the black fly. However, there is no doubt I soon will. Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, the black flies will soon be back in the Adirondacks, and it would only be a miracle, if they didn’t!
Fishing a fly like a living insect
On the ponds, surface water temperatures are already in the high 40’s to low 50’s and they remain considerably colder in the depths, however the water temperature on the streams and rivers is currently running a bit warmer.
As a result, flyfishermen seeking surface action will find more activity on the streams and rivers while a sinking or sink tip line is best suited for anglers on the ponds.
Easily accessible underwater meals such as nymphs, larvae, or leeches, salamanders, crayfish and minnows will provide fish with high protein food sources that they can obtain safely below the surface, and out of the reach of predators.
However, for those anglers that simply must fish a dry fly, I recommend attaching a nymph or emerger pattern directly to the hook shank of the dry fly. This tandem combination of a wet and a dry fly can produce fish when nothing else will do.
In low, clear water conditions, trout can become very cautious and nervous. Often, they will simply refuse to feed on the surface. In such conditions, I have discovered a small nymph or a wet fly will often provoke fish to feed, even when they refuse to rise to a dry.
With the dropper pattern method, anglers can satisfy their desire to watch a surface fly, while increasing their odds with a subsurface offering. In addition, when a fish takes the nymph or an emerger below the surface; the dry fly can serve as a visible strike indicator.
On several occasions, I have witnessed anglers land two fish on one line. It has been proven that a fish in distress will often attract other fish, which will also feed aggressively.
If fish are slow to take, it often helps to impart action to the offering. The successful angler will often skitter or skate a dry fly in order to entice a fish to strike.
Success is often achieved by making an artificial offering look as natural as possible. Often, this means attempting to make the insect look like it is trying to escape. Instinctively, insects recognize they are in danger while struggling to get off the water’s surface. As a result, they will attempt to dry their wings and fly to safety.
I remember watching the late Rev. John Hatt of Elizabethtown, while he cast to a pod of finicky trout along the Boquet River, many years ago. Casting a large, elk wing caddis fly, the Reverend solved the mystery of raising the hesitant fish by presenting his fly with a series of repeated roll casts.
The consecutive roll casts caused the fly to drag along the still surface waters, in a manner that would have been considered blasphemy among the dedicated ‘dead drift’ dry fly fanatics. However, the action of his retrieve neatly duplicated the natural emergence of a caddis fly, which rises to the surface on a small bubble of air that it produces after eating the organic materials used in constructing its case.
Caddis flies, also known as “nature’s masons,” are the bug of choice for teenage boys. A caddis worm morphs from the pupa stage into an adult caddis fly by consuming its protective case, which it constructs from bark, wood, sand and small stones. Caddis eat the organic matter from the case surrounding the pupa, and they do what all big eaters do; they experience some flatulence. In a word, they ‘fart,’ and they use the tiny bubble of air to rise to the water’s surface where they flutter and bumble along in efforts to dry their wings and escape. A teenage boy that doesn’t laugh at flatulence isn’t really a teenager.
The Reverend's roll casting method assimilated the natural bounce and bumble of an emerging caddis fly so closely, the trout simply couldn’t resist it. Although trout may be hesitant to feed on the surface, the urge to pursue an escaping insect will often override such instincts.
Years later, I uncovered an article published by Rev. Hatt in Flyfishermen magazine. Appropriately, the article was titled “Naturally fishing an artificial fly.”
“Look deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better,” explained Albert Einstein, a frequent Adirondack traveler.
Currently the trout season is moving ahead at full throttle. Recent rains have supplemented the oxygen levels a bit and cooled the waters, and water clarity remains excellent. Water levels on the streams and rivers are about normal and the continuing warm weather patterns will likely provoke the typical hatches a bit earlier than usual.
I spent a good portion of the past week fishing on the ponds, where the action just seems to be getting better and better.
On a particular backwoods pond, I landed a very peculiar brook trout. While most of the brookies we took were in the 14 to 16 inch range and weighed almost two pounds, this little freak of nature was nearly the same weight as the rest, but it was less that half as long.
The midget measured only 6.5 inches in length, but it had a 6-inch girth. It appeared to be a speckled football, with fins.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.