I spent most of the past weekend in Elizabethtown, in order to visit with family and friends, and to check out a few of the local rivers and streams.
While the weekend weather supplied ideal conditions to be outside, I was surprised to find very little open water on the Boquet River, The Branch, Barton’s Brook, Spruce Mill Brook or any of the other local waters.
For almost twenty years, I’ve kicked off the new season with a leisurely canoe trip down the Boquet River in early April. It has become a rite of Spring.
Usually, I put in near New Russia, and float all the way to the Elizabethtown Fish and Game Club on the Wadhams Road, just outside the village.
It’s always interesting to note the changes that occur from year to year, with riverbanks collapsing, log jams forming, and the ever-ongoing rerouting efforts that have changed the course of the river channel in many places.
For the past dozen years, I’ve been able to paddle the entire route without much hindrance from either ice or snow.
Despite the usual lack of winter’s white, there’s often been plenty of evidence left over from the One Hundred Year Storms that have wreaked havoc on the local landscape. Primarily, the debris is in the form of just old junk such as the hull of a fiberglass motorboat, a sailboard, washing machines, tires, kids toys, mattresses, plastic milk bottles and of course, a whole lot of glass.
I suspect much of the glass is a result of the river scouring away at roadside riverbanks that were once used as local garbage dumps.
Last weekend, I traveled to Elizabethtown with the intention of again undertaking my annual river run. I first scouted the lower reaches of the river near Boquet and Wadhams, where snow and ice remained along the riverbanks, but the main channel was partly open.
However, as I headed upriver, winter’s wrath was still obvious. It was still possible to walk along the riverbanks, supported by the thick crusty snow.
But, by the time I reached Elizabethtown, the only apparent open water was a small channel snaking down the center current. In various stretches above the village, there were a few pockets of open water, but it appeared an extensive downriver excursion would result in more portaging than paddling.
At Split Rock Falls, several miles south of the village, I had to trudge through two feet of wet, heavy snow just to reach the riverbank.
The falls were still fully wrapped in blue ice and covered in white powder, with only a few hints of the black waters that flowed below.
As always, I traveled with a fishing rod and a camera, as well as snowshoes and ski poles. Eventually, I discovered pretty much what I had expected. It appears the winter is still hanging on.
Although a few of the signature signs of spring were around, the sighs of spring were more apparent. Anglers are frustrated by the lack of access to the cold, ice encapsulated waters.
The Trout Season has been open for over a week, and I have yet to receive a fish photo.
This is a timeframe when skiers get to enjoy a crust and dust surface for a fast morning trip into the backcountry, but they usually have to suffer through the slush and slop on the return. Backcountry ski trails are still in pretty good shape in the upper elevations, but with the recent warm weather, the base is getting quite soft.
Local sugar shacks report that it has been a very poor year for production. The annual sap run has been more like a slow crawl this season, and as a result, prices are sure to soar.
After two days, there was less than an inch of sap in the sap buckets hanging from the old maples on parent’s property in Elizabethtown.
But, there has been evidence of steam coming from a few local sugar shacks.
The trout where-about
The recent warm weather, and bright sunshine has prompted many local anglers to step away from their usual spring chores, and slip away to the trout whereabouts.
That type of behavior can cause a few problems at this time of year. In addition to the ever-present accumulations of ice and snow, water temperatures are still numbing.
Access is still a major problem, as well, with over two feet of both snow pack, and ice cover in most backcountry areas.
The most productive opportunities will likely be found at the base of waterfalls, where air temperature will have the greatest effect on water temperatures.
There will also be a few ponds opening up, in areas near inlets and outlets. It is important to be careful not to disturb the scene. Watch for evidence of natural predators, such as mergansers, blue heron and eagles.
While scouting a local flow early in the week, I watched a heron pull out a half dozen trout from the middle of a small pond.
A number of local waters will open up soon with just a few days of warm weather or hard rain. However, it will be at least a few weeks before backwoods pond waters begin to go back to black. During the intervening weeks, it may be a good time to revisit all of the tangled tackle and twisted rods that were so hurriedly tucked away last fall, when the Big Game Season arrived so soon.
If you do decide to get out on the cold waters of the Adirondacks, remember to buckle up your Life Vest. It’s not just common sense, it is now the law!
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.