This is the time of year when we Adirondackers – after 16 years up here I'll take theliberty of counting myself as one – wonder where in the hell the summer has gone, why we haven't done enough fishing, why the boat hasn't been out on Lake Champlain nearly enough, and whether we have enough wood stockpiled for the winter, which could arrive anytime between now and mid-October.
It's a North Country paranoia of sorts, one that usually spawns a flurry of late-summer goofing off, offset by incredible surges of work, both the kind you're paid for and that which is necessary to survive up here until the next summer.
So I was pretty happy when my sister and brother-in-law visited from Florida earlier this month, escaping the oppressive Gulf Coast blast furnace for a week, in this case, of soggy weather accompanied, at least, by pleasant temperatures.
Don, my brother-in-law, had one thing on his mind: trout. Born and raised in western Pennsylvania but just a few miles across the border from Olean, N.Y., he was weaned on stream fishing for trout, on the Allegheny River and various other waters. He's also a guy who played a major role in my early sporting expeditions, notably in the field, where he exercised incredible patience when I missed squirrels with my single-shot Harrington & Richardson Topper Junior 20 gauge and even managed to bite his lip when I was paralyzed by a cackling cockbird and never even fired a shot.
So it's always been a pleasure when I've had the chance to sort of return the favor and serve as a guide up here, showing off some – but maybe not all – of my trout hot spots and, this year, getting him out on the Bass Tracker for some smallmouth action on Champlain.
It's a great excuse to do some serious shirking of work duties for a few days, although the evenings were used to catch up on much of that. In past visits, our routine consisted of nightly road trips around the neighborhood, with advice like, "fish here," "park here and fish upstream" or even, in some cases, "there's a nice brown in that pocket water I caught last week."
This time,however, I took a look at the calendar and decided summer was quickly fleeting,the wood pile could wait, and I needed to show off the fine fishing in the LakeChamplain region as well as my Sage 5-weight – as much as a fly-fisher of myabilities could show off a nice rod, anyway.
The game plan made for several nice days on the water, albeit somewhat high water. The trout cooperated, Don quickly got back on the bike and wielded his fly rod with the dexterity brought by decades of practice, and we even kept five fish for dinner one evening and didn't feel a bit guilty about it.
We spent one afternoon fishing a pair of stretches on the Boquet River. At the first stop,we picked up a few browns despite some challenging wading brought on by overnight torrents. Don took his biggest trout of the trip, a 14-incher that gave him a brief workout in the current before being released to fish another day – hopefully to fight me.
At the second,we chuckled as we picked up several yearling landlocked salmon, feisty fish apparently just stocked by DEC and ready to make any fly-rodder look like a pro.
The only sourmoment came when Don confessed that he's pretty much always been a trout guy and didn't care much for bass.
Not even smallmouth.
Looking back, it wasn't Don who introduced me to bronzebacks back in my youth: I did that myself during solo outings or fishing trips to the nearby Chemung River with several buddies, the kind of daylong events that had our mothers frenzied with worry, convinced by dark we had washed into Chesapeake Bay. Shoot, we were just busy catching smallmouth and the occasional walleye and cooking them on a stick. Why would anybody worry about us? We were only gone from sunup to sundown.
Anyway, the game plan – finally, on the final day of their visit when the showers departed –was to get Don and Lois out onto the big lake and tie into some serious smallies.
It happened,sort of. Don was actually distracted by a pretty fair-sized school of perch,and I couldn't blame him. These fish were larger than anything Paula and I had encountered during the ice fishing season, and we actually tossed a dozen of them into the livewell to restock a freezer that had some room given that I sent a box of venison home with Don and Lois.
Finally,though, the bass cooperated. I lost a pair of good ones: a smallmouth of atleast 3 pounds and then a real bruiser of a largemouth which, I'll say withboth confidence and dismay, probably topped 5 pounds.
Don eventually tied into a pair of post-spawn bronzebacks, one of about 14 inches and the other at least 16, the kind of fish that are acrobatic enough to make you wonder if you're going to land them.
He did, and for a trout guy, I noticed he was smiling pretty wide.