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It’s an exciting time to be in the Great North Woods

May 9, 2009
By Joe Hackett

It certainly is an exciting time to be in the Great North Woods; with a whirlwind of opportunity, ranging from rafting the mighty Hudson River, squirt boating swollen creeks, hunting turkey, angling for trout or walleye or witnessing the abundance of bird life.

Spring greens have come to the deep woods as carpets of yellow violets, trout lilies, trilliums and other wild flowers have begun sprouting from the forest floor.

Snowcaps have disappeared from all but the tallest peaks and water levels are diminishing on the streams. In the marshes, an amazing spectrum of distinct colors offers a unique dimension to the lushness of the season. It is an exciting time and evidence of rebirth is everywhere.

May 1 signaled the season opener for pike and walleye across the state and anglers flocked to the Saranacs, Tupper Lake, Franklin Falls and other productive haunts with a passion.

Northern pike, aka Waterwolves due to their toothy grin, are a fantastic sport fish. For many years, I have fished them with a flyrod in the early season, trolling streamer flies just below the surface. With vicious strikes and cartwheeling leaps, Northern pike provide some of the most heart-pounding angling opportunities available on freshwater.

Walleyes, on the other hand, offer some of the most frustrating fishing known to man. Walleye anglers are in a class by themselves due to the patience and persistence required to catch these finicky feeders. However, after enjoying a meal of fresh walleye fillets, it is easy to understand their willingness to be persistent. Walleye earned the "poor man's salmon" monicker for a reason.

The spring turkey season also opened on May 1, with pleasant weather and a generous supply of birds greeting the turkey talkers. Hunters report many successful outings, with toms responding well to their calls.

Hunting turkey in the spring season is a very exciting proposition, as the birds readily respond to calls. This unique interaction between hunter and quarry is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the sport. The prospect of 20 pounds of fresh turkey in the freezer is simply an added bonus.

Hunters can take two bearded turkeys during the spring season, which continues through Sunday, May 31.

North Country drivers should be aware that during the spring, tom turkeys exhibit behavior that mocks bucks in the middle of the rut. In their fervor, males of both species throw caution to the wind when seeking a receptive mate and often end up as road kill in the process.

Drivers are advised to slow down whenever approaching birds or any other animals along the roadside at this time of year. Motorcyclists should also take note, as a turkey over the handlebars is unsafe at any speed.

While snow still caps the High Peaks, the season has been accelerated in lower elevations by above average temperatures. While area rivers remain a bit high, the water clarity has been excellent.

Flyfishing has been picking up, with sporadic hatches of caddis bringing fish to the surface on the rivers and Hendrickson mayflies are already in the air. State stocking trucks have already made their rounds, while the Essex County Hatchery is on schedule to deposit a load of two-year-old trout in local rivers this week.

On the ponds, brook trout fishing is in full swing, with many fine specimens recently reported. Mothers Day weekend traditionally provides some of the finest opportunities of the trout season, as insect hatches are quite abundant.

Currently, water temperatures on the ponds are already in the low 50's, while Lake Placid and other local lakes still hover in the mid to upper 40's.

Prior to mid-May, most Adirondack waters typically remain too cold for any consistent action, since fish are lethargic and insects aren't quite ready to hatch. However, even with this year's early ice-out, water temperatures and insect hatches are just about on schedule.

Old timers used to tell me that, "Trout fishing isn't worth the bother until the leaves of the witchhobble are the size of a mouse's ear." Others have explained that spring trout fishing isn't worth the bother until "Trout lilies begin to bloom",

"The first black fly draws blood." or "Poplar fronds litter the ground." It seems that everyone has a best time to get out.

Despite such admonishments, I've never found a bad time to go fishing - it's just that some are better than others. Any day I have the opportunity to put my butt in a boat, a rod in my hand and a line on the water is considered a good day by my standards.

So get out and enjoy the woods and waters, and be sure to bring a kid along for the ride. You'll both be glad you did!

AuSable Two-Fly Challenge: The first decade

On Saturday, May 16, the AuSable Two-Fly Challenge will celebrate its 10th anniversary, as anglers from across the country again flock to the banks of the fabled West Branch of the AuSable to test their angling prowess under the limitations of utilizing just two flies.

If an angler's pair of flies are lost to a big brown trout, an overhanging tree limb or midstream boulders, their AuSable River challenge is over for the year.

The unique tournament offers a test of fly tying, fly selection, flycasting and angling skills. It also promotes a unique camaraderie among the ranks of the assembled enthusiasts, who willingly pay for the privilege of donating funds toward river stocking and preservation. Proceeds go to the AuSable River Association.

The popular catch and release tournament requires anglers to utilize just two flies with barbless hooks which makes fly selection crucial. So too is the tying of these selected flies, since an unraveled fly can spell the end of the event after just a few casts.

The competition is an honor based event, with anglers paired up as partners to verify each catch. Only trout handled by the angler and successfully released can be considered a caught fish.

The Two Fly competition is scored on the total number of trout caught, the length of each fish and the cumulative number of inches of all trout landed and released.

The event will kick off with a gathering of anglers and a fly tying demonstration at 7 p.m. on Friday evening, May 15 at R.F. McDougall's Pub at the Hungry Trout in Wilmington.

Anglers will gather early Saturday morning, at the Whiteface Mountain Regional Visitors Bureau in Wilmington at 6:30 a.m. to pair up with their partners. The Challenge begins at 7 a.m., as anglers scatter to the stream and the fun begins.

Although the Ausable River Two-Fly Challenge is not a professional contest, it does feature a pro-division - which applies to anyone who gets paid to fly-fish, including guides and anyone who professionally competes for money.

Prizes are awarded to winning anglers in both the amateur and pro divisions during a closing banquet dinner on Saturday evening, which also features a guest speaker, raffles and auctions.

Registration is open to the public and for more information, call the Whiteface Mountain Regional Visitors Bureau at 946-2255, or

e-mail at



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