After waiting and watching for the backwoods ponds to shed winter’s hard cap, I couldn’t take it anymore. Two full weeks had passed since the Opening Day of trout season and I’d finally had enough.
So, I loaded up a boat, packed the usual gear including rods, net, PFD, and a fishing vest bulging with a pile of my finest flies, lies and lures.
I also tossed in a pair of snowshoes in for good measure, before setting off to find open water. As I traveled north from home, I noticed that Lake Flower in the village of Saranac Lake had shed most of its ice cover.
However, I also knew that the shallow lake has a steady current, as it is formed by an impoundment on the Saranac River.
On the opposite side of the village, I stopped to check Lake Colby which holds a generous population of browns and rainbows, as well as landlocked salmon. To my dismay, the lake was nearly completely covered with ice that was firm enough to support skaters.
There was however, one small opening where a small stream enters from a nearby marsh. There was hardly enough open water to float a boat, so it remained on the cartop racks.
Following a few futile casts, it was obvious nothing was interested in what I had to offer. So, I packed up the gear and headed further north toward Lake Clear.
Lake Clear has an expansive western exposure, which often provides the strong winds necessary to break up the ice pack. But, as I strolled to the lakeshore from the parking lot, it was obvious the winds weren’t working so well this year.
Although there was enough of an opening near the inlet to float a boat, I knew the depth of the open water was more conducive to wading than boating. There was no evidence of any smelt in the brook, and no tracks of predators on the sandy shore.
If smelt were around, they would attract salmon and browns, as well as heron, gulls, eagles and osprey. However, there were no three-toed tracks in the mud or the sand.
However, I still took a couple of dozen compulsory casts, and I even tossed out a bobber with a worm dangling below in an effort to attract any type of finned creature. It was to no avail.
My next stop was a short distance further north, to the St. Regis Lakes. As I had expected, the large lakes were sealed tighter than a drum with ice that offered evidence of recent snowmobile traffic. I hit a few of the inlets just for the sake of practicing my casting abilities, and to ensure the due diligence of my scouting mission.
The region’s significant snowpack discouraged me from bothering to journey into any of the ponds in the locale, although I did make a brief stop at Black Pond on Keese Mill Road, where I discovered that even the small outlet pond was as of yet, firmly covered.
I did get to wet a line in the St. Regis River, which is directly across the road from Black Pond’s parking area. In year’s past, I’ve taken a few small brookies below the outlet dam, but not this year. After losing one good lure to a tree branch, and another to a snag, I decided the location was just too expensive for my meager tacklebox and I moved on.
Similar stops continued as I headed west towards Tupper Lake, to visit Bog River Falls. Along the way I checked out a few waters, including Lake Clear outlet, Follensby Clear Pond outlet, and a few others around the Fish Creek Ponds. Firm ice was all I found, except for a few of the inlets, outlets and the resulting streams.
Winter is really holding its own this year. However, it was nice to take my boat out for a drive. I also had quite a few folks stop to ask if I’d managed to catch anything beyond a cold. Most of the inquisitors were old friends who had actually stopped to check on my sanity, which was certainly a viable question at that point in the day.
I skipped out on checking any of the usual fishing holes on the way to Tupper, and headed directly to Bog River Falls. The location is a beautiful sight, and in the early season it attracts a variety of fish species including pike, bass, lake trout, salmon and the occasional brook trout.
Due to the shallow waters and the turbulence of the frothing falls, the south end of the lake warms up sooner than the rest of the flow; which often results in active fish. It doesn’t hurt matters much that there is also an annual run of smelt at the falls.
So, I took a couple dozen casts, and a lot of photos before leaving. However, I didn’t go home empty handed this time.
As I climbed the steep bank away from the falls, I was nearly clobbered by a large branch from a birch tree that was blown down by the stiff winds. The branch landed nearby and it was dangling with ornaments like a redneck Christmas tree. I discovered nearly a dozen lures and spoons tangled up in the mess, including several, brand new jointed Rapalas, a few spinner baits and several Daredevils. I’ve lost my share of flies and lures to the trees over the years, so it was nice to get a few back.
In the future, I’ll pay more attention to the surrounding canopy before I set off. I’m more likely to replenish my tackle box than catch fish.
After a long day of searching for fish, I finally turned toward home. It was late in the afternoon when I got back, and I was still anxious to land the fist trout of the season. So, I skidded the canoe over the snow in my backyard and plopped it in the stream.
With a paddle in one hand and a flyrod in the other, I set off in search of brookies. I tossed everything at them, short of a stick of dynamite, and I never raised a single fish.
However, I did manage to greet an angry beaver at the entrance to his lodge, and I jumped several pairs of mallards that were resting in the cover of the shallows.
Even though the trout failed to cooperate, it was good to be out on the stream. It was a chance to be reacquainted with the spring woods and waters. I expect the tables will soon turn in favor of the angler, and for now I’m willing to take my licks, nicks and kicks. That’s the way I figure it.
Woman’s Fly Fishing Seminar
Over the years’ I’ve had the pleasure of fishing with many competent flyfishemen. However, there have also been many women among the flyfisher ‘men’, I’ve accompanied.
I’ve always believed women pick up the sport more easily than men, and I far prefer to instruct them. Women are better listeners, and they tend to accomplish tasks like casts, by learning the proper techniques rather than ‘bulling’ their way through it.
Women are also better listeners and are willing to ask questions when they don’t understand. Most importantly, they usually haven’t developed the bad habit of attempting to accomplish a cast by ‘throwing the football’. Women are more willing to allow the rod to do the work for them, whereas men often attempt to ‘throw the long bomb” with a flyrod, which is a recipe for failure.
There is now an opportunity for women interested in learning the sport, to get some solid hands-on training. The Lake Champlain Chapter of Trout Unlimited will be sponsoring a two-day fly- fishing seminar for women June 22nd and 23rd on the Saranac River in Plattsburgh.
Program Coordinator Janice Opal explained, “This seminar is geared exclusively for women looking to begin or improve their fly-fishing skills. It will cover instruction from beginner to advanced stages of fly-fishing, fly fishing tips and tactics, and hands-on instruction pertaining to Lake Champlain tributary-style fishing, which can also be applied to many other streams, creeks and rivers.”
Opal said the seminar will take place in a relaxed atmosphere where participants will learn how stream entomology applies to tying flies that fish species eat, beginner fly-tying, and how to rig and make casts using traditional fly rods and reels.
The deadline to register is June 8. Registration is $50. Participants must be age 18 or older and must have a current New York State fishing license. The seminar is limited to 12 participants. The seminar will be held rain or shine. Participants should dress for the weather and bring bug repellant and sun block as needed.
Some equipment will be available at the seminar, including rods and reels, but those who have a good, working fly rod set-up should bring it.
Trout Unlimited is reaching out to women anglers this year offering a one year introductory membership. As part of this seminar, all participants will become members of TU. More information will be available at the seminar.
Classes will be at 8 a.m. Saturday, June 22, at the Conservation Building on the Clinton County Fairgrounds in Plattsburgh, and at 8 a.m. Sunday June 23
For more information or to pre-register contact Janice Opal at: email@example.com .
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.