The next morning as we unloaded the John Deer ATV from a trailer at the base of Lyon Mountain Mike and I talked about the great section of river we’d found the day before. We wanted to get through the work day as fast as we could so we could get back to the Saranac and find out what was around the next bend, and the next after that. There was no helicopter getting us to the top today. For the rest of the week it would be up to us, a four man crew clawing its way up the mountain on a two man ATV. Two front seats and a small bed.
As we started up the goat path, left behind by the installation of the power poles that carried electricity to the tower site at the top. Mike and I sat on top of our climbing harnesses in the tiny utility bed and I read the warning sticker next to my feet where they braced me against the front. “Warning. No passengers in bed. May result in serious injury or death.” I pointed to it and we both laughed. Then we hit the first washout full of boulders and the ATV jolted and pointed skyward as it tilted sideways. What was a couple minute trip to the top by helicopter ended up being an hour and a half trip one way by ATV. This week the challenge wasn’t just working on a remote communications tower on an Adirondack mountain top, it was getting there, and getting back.
Three hours of clawing up and down a “path” that would have had rock crawling Jeep guys envious made our day even longer. After working up there all day, even taking in the beautiful views of the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains of Vermont to our east didn’t take away from the fact that when the day was done at 3:30, we still had an hour and a half of white knuckle sliding, tipping, jolting, bumping, and scraping back down the mountain before we could begin our half hour truck ride back to the Saranac River to end our day the right way.
When we finally pulled the truck up next to the power station and the rumbling of the water discharging back into the river we were in a hurried state of stringing up rods and changing into shorts as fast as we could. We casted to the waters we had already fished only as we passed by them. A Walleye from the shallow waters just above the power house was my first unexpected surprise. It was only about thirteen inches, but the last thing I expected to find on the end of my fly rod. Apparently Walleye can be taken on the fly rod with a black Wollybugger. “Learn something every day” I said to myself.
We passed by the water I had caught the tiger striped Smallmouth from the day before, and on our way through Mike caught a small Brown Trout of about nine inches and I caught another Smallmouth of about the same size. We kept going, moving at a hurried pace upstream. We had lost an hour and a half off our fishing time by the ATV ride down and we meant to make some of that up.
As we passed the last place we fished the day before we rounded a bend we had not reached previously and I think we both felt like we had just hit the lottery. There was no more easy going from this point. There was no more stepping from rock to rock, no more walking through a foot of water to get where you wanted to go. The sides of the river were now huge boulders, ledges, and rock faces. To get to the other side where the travel looked easier would mean a possible swim. The river narrowed here substantially, but where it lost width it gained depth and speed. After handing fishing rods back and forth as we took turns climbing a few large rock outcroppings that time had beaten and Mother Nature had cast down onto the river’s edge, we found ourselves looking down on the river from about eight feet above it.
Below us we had a bird’s eye view of a small pool, surrounded by boulders. The water came fast from above it, crashing past rocks that had refused to be moved, only shaped over time by the power of the water. Above this stretch there was a huge pool at the bottom of a good sized waterfall. Now the game was set. The question was to cast to this pool that most definitely held a couple fish, or to pass it and make a run for the giant pool below the waterfalls? I looked at Mike, he was eyeing the waterfalls too. But it was early enough. I removed the black Wollybugger from the hook keeper on my 3wt and stripped line. Mike readied a small soft plastic minnow on his spinning rod. I made the first cast.
A fish shape shot out from under a deep boulder as I stripped the bugger past it, making it jerk and twitch in the current. A quick tug and the fish was gone. As I stripped the line back in Mike made his first cast, the minnow lure taking almost the same route as my bugger. The same fish shot out once again and this time it was caught. A nice Brown about eight or nine inches once again. I moved up to some water not so fast just below the pool where the water sped up some but hadn’t narrowed and picked up white water speed yet. I cast to some churning water created by some rocks just below the surface and as it washed out of the turbulence and into the calm the line pulled hard and the rod bent. “Yea!” The fish went for stronger current once it realized something wasn’t quite right. The rod stayed bent for the better part of five minutes as I cautiously kept tension but tried to meter my enthusiasm as to not break off the light tippet at the end of my line.
There is something about that short 6’ 6” 3wt fly rod, JP’s Beaver Meadow model, which just makes about any fish on the line no matter how big or small seem to be one of the greatest stories ever to me, before I even catch a glimpse of the fish. The rod was bent, the line tight and slicing through the water like a knife through butter. The jump and the thrash of the fish above the crystal clear Adirondack current. Another great, dark colored Smallmouth. At the same time I was working on bringing the Bass in, Mike caught yet another small Brown.
We decided this was most likely the greatest stretch of river we had found while working on the road thus far. Not because of the quality or size of the fish, but because of the setting. The fact that we were no more than a mile perhaps from our parking spot, and we had run out of beaten path early on. The landscape was one National Geographic quality photo opportunity after another, and there was no trace of people. No beer cans. No fishing line tangled in the trees. Not even a foot print. And we found fish. We spent a couple hours fishing below the giant pool before making our way back down stream to the truck just before dark. The pool and the falls would be tomorrow’s mission.
To Be Concluded next week…