Photo courtesy of NY Sportsman magazine
Pictured is the cartoon that appeared two decades ago in New York Sportsman magazine.
Adirondackers have again begun practicing that old, familiar wave. It’s not really due to the fact everyone in the region is a happy sort. Rather, it means they’ve already begun swatting away the black flies, as a last resort.
Fortunately the flies have been a bit slow to bite so far, however I expect they’ll have their teeth into fresh flesh within a few days.
Headnets or bug dope will soon be in great demand, as wave after wave of cursing and cussing Adirondackers begin to wage a battle against the usual spring plague.
For those brave souls who disdain either the wave or a headnet, there is still hope. I recently discovered a newly minted supply of the best bug dope elixir to be found. It may soon be available at an outdoor shop near you.
I found my little, green bottle of “Ol Woodsman Fly Dope” at The Mountaineer in Keene Valley. Vinnie McClelland, the store’s proprietor explained the dope’s manufacturer had just released a fresh batch.
With just one whiff, I knew it was true. That stuff will keep away everything and anything that bothers your, whether it is bugs, small children, in-laws or even the law.
I know of one fellow who was picked up by the troopers for hitchhiking. After being told to get in the troop car, he applied a bit of dope to his ears. The cops promptly tossed him back on the street, as there was no need to have that vile stink in the car!
During the Adirondack spring, there are few viable options for bug protection. It’s sink or swim, stink or itch, or just keep on swatting.
“Look Marvin, those friendly Adirondack folks are waving goodbye, again!”
“Those rascalous, scoundrely, guides.”
Many have claimed that you can only believe about half the tales an Adirondack guide tells you, which is almost true.
The difficult part of the equation is trying to figure out which is the true half, or the half truth.
It was years ago, when I first began packing in pack rafts to fish the remote ponds of the park. Pack rafts were much more portable than even the smallest, pack canoes, which often proved unwieldy on steep climbs or difficult to navigate through the thick spruce and balsam forests.
Most of the rafts were compact enough to fit inside a backpack, and yet they easily inflated to full size with just a foot pump.
I am still using my original Sea Eagle brand inflatable rafts that I purchased over 30 years ago. Sure, there are a few patches, but the little boats have stood up well to many long days on the water.
I’ve also used them for an air mattress. I find they fit snugly inside a two man Timberline tent, with room to spare.
In the early 1980’s, I introduced Paul Keesler to the joys and ease of pack raft angling. Paul was the editor and publisher of the popular NY Sportsman magazine at the time.
I explained the rafts were much quieter, efficient and portable than the heavy old, Grumann, aluminum canoe he was using at the time.
Over the years, we shared many fine days fishing for brook trout on the ponds, and we accessed several waters located on the mountain summits.
We often joked about filling our rafts with helium, which would allow for an easy descent from the mountaintops.
It was always fun and games, jokes and junkets, with plenty of fine fishing to fill the day.
I don’t recall what issue of the magazine it was, but Paul sent me several copies in addition to my regular monthly subscription.
On page 6, there was a cartoon with a caricature of Paul and a guy with a baseball hat, hovering over a pond in a raft, casting lines. A tank of helium rested against the tent, and the joke was on me.
Years later, as I was busy pumping up a raft while atop a small summit, I was surprised by a group from a Japanese hiking club.
Since there was no apparent water, from their vantage point atop the rocky knoll; they were obviously very curious to learn what I was up to.
One fellow asked rather sheepishly, “What are your doing?”
“Going fishing,” I replied.
“Where?” he remarked.
“Why, down there, of course.” I explained, pointing to a small pond located nearly a mile below the ledge.
“How do you get there?” was his next line.
“Helium,” I answered. “I pump it into the raft.”
“Can we watch?” he asked excitedly, as the group began moving to the edge of the cliff for a better view.
“Sure,” I offered, “Just stay right there.”
With their backs to me, I promptly shouldered the raft and set off down the trail. They didn’t even notice. They sat there staring down at the pond below, as if expecting me to make an entrance at any moment.
Minutes had passed before they followed me down the trail to a nearby pond. When the got there, I was already in the raft, landing a fish.
“Aren’t you going to fly?” asked one of the younger hikers.
“No,” I replied, “The fishing is too good right here.”
Then he mumbled something, pointed at me and they all burst into laughter, “Crazy American!”
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.