To date, the summer of '09 has featured a series of unsettled weather systems that have delivered thunderstorms, high winds, heavy downpours and in some cases, serious hail.
While paddlers and hikers prepare alike with expectations of unexpected conditions, it has become increasingly difficult to fully gauge the day's likely weather. Storm cells driven by high winds have moved through the area in rapid fashion with cold fronts that can cause a rapid drop in temperatures.
The persistent, steady rains have raised levels on rivers and lakes. Fly hatches have been prolific with caddis and stoneflies in the air, as well as the regular arrival of Blue Wing Olives that typically appear after a morning's drizzle.
Nothing causes an angler's adrenline to flow so swiftly as the sighting of the first hexegenia mayfly on the lakes.
(Enterprise photo — Joe Hackett)
Rains have served to refresh the streams and cool the brooks while pumping in a steady supply of oxygen. The precipitation has kept surface temperatures on most area lakes and ponds in the low 70's, pushing the brook trout and lakers down to the depths.
They can still be found on the feed in depths of 20-30 feet. Rainbows however, have responded well on sunny days to offerings presented in the upper reaches of the water column.
In recent days, the appearance of the first few hexegenia mayflies have prompted many flyfishers to action. The hex hatch is one of the most anticipated events of the fishing season.
These large, pale green mayflies typically come off the water in the late afternoon through the evening hours for the first few weeks of July. They are one of our largest mayflies and can usually be found on the screens of lakeside homes on an early July morning.
They resemble a small, pale green sailboat as they drift on the water's surface with upright wings, until cruising rainbows sip one down. However, it isn't only trout that favor them, as smallmouth bass are also known to shatter the surface to pursue these winged delicacies.
Though the hex hatch typically brings fish to the surface, the real action occurs underwater as fish gorge on the emerging insect before it reaches the adult stage.
Experienced lake anglers will troll a hex nymph a few feet behind a small Lake Clear wabbler. It's a technique that brings vicious strikes and can be accomplished with either a spin or flyrod.
NYS brook trout
Despite the efforts of numerous anglers, it's been three years since anyone has produced a record NY state, brook trout. Although potential candidates have been considered, most recently this past spring, no one has been able to best the fish produced by Jessie Yousey of Croghan in May of 2006.
Yousey's 4lb. 5 oz. fish was the second of two NYS record brookie he managed over a two-year span.
His first record, set in May of 2005, weighed in at 4 pounds 5 ounces. His catch eclipsed a record that I had previously set with a 4lb. 2oz. brookie taken the fall of 2004.
Yousey lost the record a few week's later when Richard H. O'Brien netted a 4 lb. 11oz. trophy in May of 2005. The fish was taken in Herkimer County's Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness Area.
Not to be outdone, Yousey reclaimed the NYS brook trout record the following season with an impressive 4 lb. 15 oz. specimen taken in May of 2006 in the Five Ponds Wilderness of St. Lawrence County. That record held up to all challenges until June of this year.
It took three years, but now it's certified as the official state record. On June 7, 2009, Tom Yacovella of Utica set the new standard with an impressive 5 lb. 4.5 oz. brook trout taken from Raquette Lake. According to reports, it was his only strike during a long day of fishing the big lake. The brookie looked more like a speckled football than a trout, measuring a mere 21 inches in length and a whopping 15 inches in girth.
Yacovella, known in outdoor circles as an award winning wildlife artist, previously set a record for the largest NYS turkey; but brook trout have long been a passion.
The fish took a floating, shad finish Rapala, trolled on a sinking rig that brought it down to a depth of about 24 feet, above the lakers but below the bass.
His catch lends credence to the notion that remote ponds are not the sole provence of trophy brook trout. Experienced anglers know that big brookies can be found in most of the large lakes in the Adirondacks.
Typically, waters that hold lakers are also receptive to populations of brook trout. Lakes with a forage base of bait fish such as smelt, suckers and shiners will certainly support large trout.
Raquette is one of many lakes, others such as Lake Placid, Blue Mountain Lake and Cranberry Lake will surely offer similar opportunities. I firmly believe that the larger lakes have the potential to produce brook trout in the 6 to 7 pound range.
I've seen the photos, but the anglers steadfastly refuse to enter such catches for fear of exposing their home waters to the pressures a record catch can bring.
However, an angler has to devote the time and must have the patience to persist through all sorts of conditions.
Reportedly, Yacovella set out on his fishing adventure at 5:30 a.m. and had his first and only strike of the day at 3:30 p.m. Obviously, it was worth the wait! Photos of his catch are available at his website www.tomyacovella.com.
Guideboats and Runabouts return
to Saranac Lake
The big news in the world of outdoor recreation is the return of the 47th Annual Willard Hanmer Races and the introduction of the Ralph Morrow Canoe Races.
Sunday morning, July 5 signals the return of the 47th annual Willard Hanmer Guideboat Races to Saranac Lake. First hosted in 1962, The Hanmer is recognized as the grandaddy of all guideboat races in the Adirondacks. It is hosted annually on Lake Flower.
Historically, the race has featured a healthy and heated competition between some of the area's finest oarsmen, and women, in one- and two-person races.
Competitors hail from throughout the Tri-Lakes Region and from Keene Valley, Long Lake and Old Forge
The races begin at 11 a.m., with the start and finish at the Riverside Park in Saranac Lake. The race course along Lake Flower permits excellent opportunities for spectators to view the competition.
New events this season include competitions in the newly minted, Ralph Morrow Canoe and Kayak Races. The canoe races are named in honor of the late, Ralph Morrow of Saranac Lake. Mr. Morrow was one of a number of master builders of traditional guideboats in the Saranac Lake area.
Organizers have revamped the events in an effort to restore the prestigious guideboat competitions and to involve more local families in the canoe races.
"The Hanmer Races used to be the local's Fourth of July picnic", explained Chris Woodward, another well known, local guideboat builder. "Somehow the canoe event changed over the years into a serious competition, it became commercialized for tourism purposes and it sort of lost its local support."
Tim Doyle, also a Saranac Lake boatbuilder, has spearheaded the effort to bring back the friendly, local flavor that once was a key component of the original event.
"We want families to return to the event," Doyle said. "For that to happen, it's got to be fun. We're hoping for a good turnout. Traditionally, it's been a great community event and we want to bring that aspect back."
The region's boating heritage will again be on display the following weekend when Lake Flower hosts the second annual Runabout Rendezvous.
Sponsored by Spencer Boatworks, the Rendezvous is expected to attract a wide range of modern and classic wooden motor boats, including models from Fay & Bowen, GarWood, Dodge, Century, ELCO, Riva and Chris-Craft as well as a collection of original Adirondack guideboats.
The Rendezvous is a non-judged event hosted from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Lake Flower. The event is open to the viewing public and is free. Anyone with an interest in wooden boats is encouraged to attend.