There is nothing quite like the line pulling tight and the jerk of the rod tip on your very first cast. I immediately laugh out loud. I’ve forgotten the day with one cast. The line darts left and right but I can feel that the fish is small. No matter, it’s a fish, and I’ve caught it. It ends up being a Rock Bass about the size of my hand, a mix of bronze and black, with the typical large red eyes. They eat everything, little pigs with gills I call them. I return it to the water, and within two casts I have another.
Off to my right is the power house we parked the truck next to, the rumble of the water discharging back into the river almost drowns out the voice of my climbing and fishing companion for the week. Mike yells to me something undiscernible, but I know that it means he has a fish. He’s pulled two small Bass from the eddy where the river flows into the crushing discharge with his spinning rod. Nothing very big, but fish are fish when we are out like this. I suggest we get away from here, we need to make our way upstream and explore a bit. Off we go.
Our path to travel up river is unique to say the least. Where the power station stands there are hints that something stood here long before it was built. An old cobblestone wall stands parallel to the river, and instead of jumping from rock to rock, I find myself stepping across huge round, flat sided mill stones. A clue to some earlier Adirondack history, they give us an easy start to our upstream travels, until I step on one that is submerged under a few inches of water. This one is like walking on ice, its unleveled resting place sending me off into the water, but I land on my feet. I look back to see Mike laughing. “I meant to do that, I was getting hot, the water’s better.” We both laugh now, we both know I fall in. I fall in a lot.
Around a bend the rumble from the power plant discharge is now all but gone. The mill stones are gone. We find ourselves stepping from rock to rock, I leave the rocks and just walk through the small pools on our side of the river. It’s maybe thirty feet across here, but very shallow for most of it. The side we stand on is jagged broken up rock, their corners and edges only dulled by the erosion and weathering of the north. Clumps of tall grass grow here and there mixed in with the water and rock.
The bulk of the river in front of us looks to be perhaps three feet deep or less, but crystal clear, every feature of the bottom visible. Crevices, rocks scattered everywhere and what looks to be an underwater ledge half buried in rock that has collapsed into the river side. Mike goes another forty yards or so upstream. I remain here. I look out at the painting in front of me, I wish I could take it home.
I pull line from the reel and it lays on itself at my feet, half in the water and half on top the rocks I stand on. I make a cast upstream and to the far side, the loop of the line flowing effortlessly over the river as it unrolls and the fly lands. I strip twice to pull it away from the rocky edge and into the current running the narrow channel of the deepest water. A dark shape lets loose its ambush, and a take. This time I do not laugh, but I know I am smiling. The rod dances, the line races cutting the water like a knife. A roll and bend of a fish shape and the jump of the fish. The hook stays and I strip line in bringing the fish closer.
The fish pulls hard and takes line off the tiny small stream reel, it’s heading for some jagged rocks downstream where the water gets skinny to the bottom and the current turns to rolling and foam. I am afraid of a break off on my light 6x tippet by either the rocks it’s about to reach or just merely pulling back to hard, but I want to avoid the rocks more. In the end I have the fish in hand. A Smallmouth Bass something unlike another I have never seen. Dark, perfect for waiting in ambush in dark shadows, the bronze almost bordering on becoming a dark orange, with warrior like vertical markings, like the stripes making me think of a huge cat waiting for its prey in the tall grasses of India. Earlier I had caught a pig with gills, now I had a tiger with gills. I took a couple pictures and released Shere Khan back to hunt once more. We fish this stretch for the next hour and move up a little farther, until we decide as the sun is dropping into the trees that we had better pick our way back while we can still see. Tomorrow after working on the mountain we will return again and go farther. We have four days. Four days to keep going farther, to find what is around the next bend.
To Be Continued…