Fly Fishing Therapy Part 4 (The End) By Mark Usyk
The third day found Mike and I up on the tower in the bright sun under beautiful blue Adirondack skies, wearing rain jackets, wishing we had ski jackets and face masks. The rain jackets were a feeble attempt to break the wind and hold in what little body heat we had, the sun and blue sky a cruel joke which started when we parked the trucks and saw what the morning news told us we would see…sun and no clouds. The punch line came when we climbed the tower and harnessed off, leaning back and looking out over the sprawling green that spread in every direction to the horizon. As we waited for our tools and materials to make their way up to us on the rope, we began to realize that although the day appeared to be a warm late summer day down on the ground, it was much cooler, even more so today than in the previous two days, up here on the tower. The longer we shivered we began to question whether we would actually want to go walk a river in shorts and get our feet wet. But reaching the bottom of the mountain path once more at the end of the day there was no question. It was warmer down here. We pointed the truck to the Saranac River.
Just like the second day, we casted to all the places we had lingered and fished the days before, only moving upstream faster, with a purpose. We were on a mission to fish the large pool at the base of the waterfall. Small Brown Trout, Fall Fish, and Smallmouth Bass greeted us as we made our way. On our third day I felt as if we knew this short stretch as we knew old friends.
Finally we stood on jagged and uneven boulders, protruding from the river at uncomfortable and extremely steep angles as they did their best to stop the tail waters of the pool while it flowed around them and downstream. As we took in the picture perfect scene we did our best to stand on slippery and steep rock that wanted nothing more than to send us off flailing in the current. We studied our surroundings, thinking that to move around and fish the pool we would have to cross to the other side by jumping large gaps of open water with landing zones of pointy and flat, wet stone. I tried to make the first jump several times, my mind was willing, but my feet refused to let go of the rock they stood on.
I don’t know which one of us found it first, but the most amazing path cut out of the shear rock ledge led us above and around the pool on the left side. Climbing some collapsed rock face we followed a path on the ledge which was in turn covered overhead by yet another shear rock face. I could picture myself camped here, a small fire burning, the heat reflecting off the stone and the fire reflecting on the water.
We fished from the ledge for quite a while, catching a couple small Browns and Smallmouths. But we needed to go farther. It looked as though we could carefully hike and climb our way up the side of the waterfall feeding the pool, and we both agreed, we needed to know what was farther. It was painful leaving the ledge and the pool, but new excitement filled me as we ascended the left side of the falls, slowly making our way up wet and slippery flat rock with white water only feet away waiting to pummel us off stone and wash us into the pool below.
Above the falls was white water. Above the white water was another smaller pool with a strong eddy separating the shallow far side from the deep water in the middle. Here I let my fly line drift and a black Wollybugger do its thing. Smallmouth of the 8”-10” range were more than happy to attack our offerings and after fishing out this pool we moved up stream once again. After handing rods back and forth and some fairly hairy rock climbing with nothing but water below us we found the final pool on our short excursion. One below an extremely tall dam. Here the Smallmouth were no bigger, possibly even smaller, but seemed more vicious. How many times I laughed at the jump and thrash to find a bass that would fit in the palm of my hand I don’t know, but both my 3wt fly rod and I had forgotten the hard day on the tower. Life was good once again.
Such a beautiful stretch of river. Such a secluded stretch of diverse runs no more than an enjoyable hike from a parking spot next to a noisy power station. Being so close to the road and to an obvious fishing spot at a parking area you would think it would be fished out, littered with drink bottles and tangled fishing line. But it wasn’t. The fact is, we would have never found any of it if we weren’t willing to go farther than everyone else. Sandwiched between a power station and the dam upriver which fed it was the most amazing landscape we ever fished while working and fishing on the road in 4 years. It took wading, hiking, rock hopping, and some rock climbing to find it, and it was ours for two weeks because we were the only ones willing to search for it.
Later in the first week Mike ended up catching a really nice Brown Trout from the pool below the falls that was around 17” give or take. I caught yet another great Smallmouth there too. I often think back to that pool and picture myself standing on a flat rock table at the immediate bottom of the falls. A place that was not reachable until the water levels dropped during the following week. I see myself standing there with water crashing down to my left and pouring off a flat ledge to my right, and my fly line looping overhead. It lands in the white water and the current carries the Stonefly Nymph to the tail out, and I strip it back, casting again. Perfect cast after perfect cast, in a perfect place. Grab your fly rod and go a little farther than everyone else. Go find your perfect place.