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Bad weather delivers good fishing

June 7, 2008
Joe Hackett

Last weekend, I spent a miserable day while angling for trout in a variety of local, roadside ponds. The fishing was fine but the weather was horrible.

The ponds were far from remote, and in fact, most of them were located less than a few hundred feet off the road. Although the weather brought high winds, rain and chilling temperatures, the trout were surprisingly cooperative. The lack of competition from other anglers was an added bonus, as we didn't see another boat all day.

Late in the day, as I breathed into my hands to warm them up, I came to realize that nobody in their right mind would be out fishing in this type of weather.

The brookies we took were feasting on dragonfly nymphs as well as smaller larvae. But, as we later discovered, most of the fish were also full of Eastern newts, the small, olive ones with orange spots that are often found suspended a few feet below the surface in most shallow, weedy ponds.

The cool weather kept blackflies at bay for most of the day, and the few bugs that remained active had difficulty remaining airborne due to the steady breeze.

Some of the more productive "drive to" roadside waters would have to include Panther, Mountain, Chapel, Cascade, Benz, Echo, Follensby, Gordon, Moose, Black, Hoel, Whey and Green.

Fishing a fly

like a living insect

On the ponds, surface water temperatures are still in the mid to low 50's and remain considerably colder in the depths; however, temperatures on the streams and rivers are running a bit warmer.

As a result, flyfishermen seeking surface action will find more activity on the rivers, while a sinking or sink tip line is best suited for anglers on the ponds.

Easily accessible underwater meals such as nymphs, larvae, emergers or leeches, salamanders, crayfish and minnows will provide fish with high protein food sources and they can be obtained safely below the surface.

However, if you are one of those anglers that simply must fish a dry fly, try tying a nymph or emerger pattern directly to the hook shank of the dry. Often, a nymph or wet fly will take fish that refuse to rise to a dry.

With this method, an angler can satisfy the need to see their fly and increase the odds with a subsurface offering. Additionally, when fish take the nymph or emerger, the dry fly provides a strike indicator.

If fish are slow to take, it often helps to impart action to your offering. A successful angler will skitter, skate or pop a dry fly to entice a fish to strike. Success comes by making the offering look as natural as possible. Usually this is an attempt to escape. Flies know they are in danger on the water's surface, and as a result, they struggle to dry their wings and fly to safety.

I remember watching the late Rev. John Hatt of Elizabethtown casting to a school of finicky trout along the Boquet River one afternoon. He was using an elk wing caddis dry fly which floats extremely well. He solved the mystery of raising the hesitant fish by presenting the fly with a series of roll casts.

The Reverend dragged the fly along the water's surface with his repeated roll casts, an act that would be considered blasphemy by traditional, "dead drift" dry fly purists.

Yet, this method so closely imitated the natural bounce and bumble of an emerging caddis fly that the trout couldn't resist it. Although trout may be hesitant to feed on the surface, the urge to pursue an escaping insect often overrides this instinct.

The flyfishing season is now moving ahead full throttle. Recent rains have supplemented the oxygen levels and cooled the waters a bit, but water clarity remains excellent.

Water levels are quickly returning to normal and continued warmer weather will bring the usual hatches.

Anglers can expect to see a few March browns, sulfurs, stoneflies, tan- and olive-bodied caddis and possibly even a few green drakes in the downriver sections early in the week. The drakes will begin hatching out upriver as water temperatures go up and are usually in the air by mid June.

The green drake hatch is one of the most productive of the year on the Ausable and it accounts for some of the largest fish of the season. It can be especially productive for anglers willing to stay on the water after dark, when the spinners fall to the water.

Ausable bombers, a favorite of Fran Betters, is one of the best patterns to use during this period.

Fly colors have shifted, with productive flies moving from the darker colors of Hendricksons, March browns and grey fox toward the lighter colored cahills, yellow sallies, light stones and tan caddis.

On bright, sunny days, anglers are advised to head to waters holding rainbows such as Lake Placid, Mirror Lake, Moose Pond, Chapel Pond and Whey Pond. Rainbows can be found in the upper levels of the water column and are particularly susceptible to offerings trolled near the surface.

National Get

Outdoors Day

June 14, 2008 is the date of the inaugural National Get Outdoors Day, a new annual event to encourage healthy, outdoor fun.

The effort was developed by a coalition of federal agencies and nonprofit organizations to offer sites for American families to experience traditional and nontraditional types of outdoor activities.

The US Forest Service and the American Recreation Coalition will head up the program with the goal of reaching first time visitors to public lands and reconnecting youth to the great outdoors.

Take the advice of Robert Louis Stevenson, author and one-time Saranac Lake resident, who once said, "It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit."

On a local level, efforts to reconnect youth are being fostered this coming weekend at the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center, where families and children will be offered a special program as an effort of the Great Adirondack Birding Festival.

Naturalist and guide Ed Kanze will lead two family-friendly birding trips on Saturday, June 7 at the Paul Smiths VIC. With two small children of his own, Kanze has a wealth of experience in introducing children to the outdoor world. The "Getting Started in Birding" trip is designed for families and beginner birders. It will run from 8 to 11:30 a.m.

Kanze will also guide a "Birds and Everything Else" nature walk on the VIC trails from 2 to 3 p.m. This event will be similar to the very popular nature walks that Kanze offered for many years at the historic Wawbeek Resort property. All events are free and open to the public. Please note that registration is required.

Additionally, families may be interested in helping Dr. Jorie Favreau, of Paul Smith's College, as she bands birds from 7 to 11:30 a.m. at the VIC or when VIC Environmental Educator Rynda McCray presents a live Adirondack raptor program "Who Gives a Hoot! Meet the Educational Owls of the VICs" from 1 to 2 p.m in the VIC theater. McCray will show owls from the Paul Smiths and Newcomb VICs, including a barred owl, northern saw-whet owl, eastern screech owl and great horned owl.



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