If Only I Had Carried a Fly Rod By Mark Usyk
Years ago a friend and my two younger brothers and I arranged to be dropped off in Tupper Lake up in the Adirondacks. Our plan was to hike 50 some odd miles south to Twitchell Lake over 4 days. On my back was a small pack containing the minimum essentials and of course, a fishing rod. In those days I was fishing an ultra-light spinning rod and marabou jigs.
It was a spectacular 4 days that I think of often. We camped alongside an abandoned beaver pond the first night fed by a stream no more than 2’ wide in some places, and caught wild Brook Trout with colors so dark you could hardly believe them. Fish I guarantee had never seen any kind of artificial lure before. Waking up that next morning and watching the fog wisp away off the pond’s surface as Brookies slashed at something on the surface was simply an amazing sight I will never forget.
We caught Smallmouth Bass out of the Bog River Flow, a gorgeous Adirondack piece of water holding Smallmouths ready to devour anything foolish enough to show itself in the open. We casted to Horseshoe Lake, Lake Lila, countless small streams, the Beaver River, Stillwater Reservoir, and remote ponds tucked in the Adirondacks where only those willing to get off the beaten path, those willing to brave the black flies, the heavy underbrush, and the soggy swamps are privileged to fish. In the Adirondacks, those willing to take a chance and explore are rewarded with great adventures to tell when they are old.
Following the old Adirondack Rail Road tracks south for our journey and bushwhacking off to the east or west to explore on a whim was truly a memorable experience. We encountered long ago abandoned logging and hunting camps along the tracks in only a couple places, the rotting remnants of a train station of some kind in another. Antique cast iron wood stoves poked through collapsed roofs in a couple of the old structures we found, the only items not hauled out at the end of Adirondack logging era. The Adirondacks are doing their best to decompose and take back the wood of the cabins that had been once cut from trees that grew in the very dirt where the cabins now rotted.
Every tiny stream, every pond, every lake beckoned to us to stop and fish it. To explore a while. How many waters we hiked right by because of a four day time limit is unknown, but I will tell you it was more than I could count on all my fingers and toes. And they were all beautiful scenes that were heart breaking to have to pass by without wetting a line. The sky at night was filled with billions of stars, and not until the last 7 miles of the hike did we ever cross paths or even hear the voice of another human being besides our own.
We camped on the shore of Stillwater Reservoir our final night and only here did we see and hear other people. The remnants of the original first growth Adirondacks served as our final camp. We slept among the stumps left behind by the great trees that were cut down and floated away in the days of our great grandparents. These stumps were the size of the family car, the trees must have been giants among giants. Such cedars will probably never be seen again. Deer, ducks, and bears (the latter only evidenced by the tracks that passed only feet away from our sleeping heads) were our only company on an epic hike, the likes of which we say every year we should do again but never have. Life has a way of getting in the way.
I’d like to do that hike all over again with my 3wt fly rod and one a little bigger…just in case. It would be like doing it all over again for the first time! Perhaps I’d have a better chance at the Brookies I watched from my tiny pup tent in the fog that first morning. I could catch the vicious, hungry little Smallmouths out of the Bog River Flow on a streamer I tied just for the trip. To stand in the same places as before with a fly rod doubled over and dancing left and right would be awesome. And just maybe I could cast a line on a few more waters that were passed by the first time.
Since learning to fly fish, every time I revisit old waters which I used to fish with my spinning rod, fly fishing it is like being there again for the first time. Likewise every new species of fish caught on the fly rod is like catching it for the first time all over again also. I don’t believe that one form of fishing is better than another, but it’s now my time to fly. It’s like learning to fish all over again, and for whatever reason, the Adirondacks and a fly rod just seem to go together, in the words of Forest Gump… ”Like peas and carrots.” Yes, I see the same 50+ mile hike through the middle of the Adirondacks in my future once again, with a couple fly rod tubes strapped to my pack.