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Seeking open water, a spring ritual

April 25, 2008
By Joe Hackett,
In the Adirondacks, ‘ice out’ is an annual event that generates as much anticipation among brook trout anglers as Christmas morning does among young children.

While searching for open water, an old familiar tingle returns to the pit of your stomach, just as it did when you first eyed a huge pile of presents under the Christmas tree.

Thus, it was no surprise to find numerous fellow sportsmen traveling the North Country roads last weekend, seeking open water opportunities brought on by string of spectacular spring days that served to accelerate the process. By Sunday afternoon, winter’s hard cover had finally departed from a few select ponds.

Sage advice for finding open water is to ‘listen for the loons’ before tramping overland. Rare is the angler who arrives on an open trout pond before the loons. Or the mergansers, kingfishers, blue heron or other assorted winged anglers.

While we were successful in finding open water on the weekend, many other anglers turned homeward earlier in the day, dejected by the prospects.

However, anglers will certainly be out in force this weekend, as most ponds will have shed their ice. Travelers should note that many access roads are muddy and a considerable snowpack remains intact, especially in evergreen forests around the Paul Smiths region.

Winter’s storms have also left most trails littered with debris and crisscrossed with downed limbs or bowed saplings. I expect that it will be a while before DEC trail crews attend to these matters.

The recent warm spell also served to expedite the season’s fly hatches. Already I’ve seen black flies, mosquitos and even a dragonfly in the air. Last Saturday, on Ray Brook, I witnessed a hatch of tent-wing caddis bumbling along the water’s surface.

Following my feeble attempts to take a brook trout on the fly, a nearby osprey soon revealed its angling prowess. In a series of consecutive swoops, the bird scooped up a fish with each pass.

Humbled by the display, I returned to shore to wait for another day.

Women in the woods

In recent years, women have made tremendous strides in the outdoor industry, often taking positions that were traditionally dominated by men.

Currently, the Regional Directors of DEC Regions 5 and 6 (basically the entire Adirondack Park) are women.

And although Pete Grannis is the department’s executive director, he reports to Judith Enck, who oversees all environmental matters as New York’s Deputy Secretary for the Environment.

Such appointments are a result of a growing awareness of woman’s rightful place in the woods.

In fact, women were the original campers. Native peoples relied on women to choose camp locations, establish the lodges, gather the wood, cook the food and clothe the people. Men spent their time hunting, preparing for battle or boasting of their exploits.

Over the years, numerous female guides have worked and traveled the Adirondack backcountry including Julia Preston of Piseco Lake and Edith Tuttle of Old Forge.

Today, a growing number of female guides continue to lead trips for hunting, fishing, ice climbing, whitewater rafting, backcountry skiing and canoe camping throughout the park.

Currently, an estimated 15 percent of the state’s 2,200 licensed guides are female and their services are much in demand as interest in women led, “women only” tours continues to increase.

DEC recognized this need more than a decade ago, when it first began hosting Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) programs, designed to teach women outdoor skills.

Beyond BOW workshops are another opportunity for women to learn outdoor skills beyond those provided in the traditional three-day BOW workshop. They are the “next step” for women who have completed a beginner class at a BOW workshop and usually involve an actual hunt, canoe trip or camp-out.

Beyond BOW workshops are now being offered in the Adirondacks. Over the weekend of May 2-4, Beyond BOW workshops will be hosted at Hohmeyers Lake Clear Lodge.

The ‘On Water in the Adirondacks’ program will feature courses in kayaking, canoe camping, freshwater fishing and map and compass. All instructors are licensed guides.

Classes will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis and all are welcome with priority given to previous participants of Becoming an Outdoors Woman programs.

Registration begins at 12:30 on Friday, May 2 and the program ends with lunch and farewells at noon on Sunday, May 4.

Courses include:

Freshwater fishing with licensed guide Sonny Young. Participants will learn about fishing for cold and warm water species, from trout and salmon to bass and pike.

Anglers will use both spin casting and bait casting equipment while fishing Adirondack lakes and ponds from canoes or motorized boats. All related equipment is provided and a valid New York State fishing license is required.

Canoe camping with licensed guides: Craig and Mary Tyron. Participants will learn a process to ensure that their first or next canoe camping trip will be safe and rewarding, with a minimum of unexpected surprises. Topics will include trip planning, packing and paddling techniques and a discussion of equipment. The class will include both classroom and on-water sessions.

Map and compass training with licensed guide Sheila Young. This is a boots-to the-ground map and compass class. The group will explore new territory to practice and reinforce skills at a pace that will accommodate everyone. Participants will review outdoor planning and preparedness and learn about Adirondack natural history as well. On-water xanoe/kayak interpretive paddle with licensed guides Carol Drury and Angie Berchielli. Participants will spend the weekend paddling in the St. Regis watershed among a variety of wildlife from bald eagles and ospreys to otters, beavers and other native wildlife.

The course will cover canoe/ kayak paddling, trip planning, outdoor photography and wildlife identification. Participants should be in good physical condition and bring their own canoes or kayaks, although arrangements can also be made for rentals.

For reservations please contact Hohmeyers Lake Clear Lodge: 518-891-1489 or 877-6ADKALPS *Space is limited to 50 people.

For information on individual courses please contact the instructors: Carol Drury (518-524-2036) or at or Angie Berchielli (518-797-3747) or Sonny and Sheila Young (518-359-8194) or or Craig and Mary Tyron (315– 636-8891) or



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