Big Water Part 3: Delta Lake By Mark Usyk

Staying close to home, I decided to make my third big lake a local I’d fished plenty in the past, but never all at once. Lake Delta was good for bass, pike, pickerel, walleye, pan fish, carp, it had a big mixed bag. I’d just never paddled a canoe very far on it because of its size. I’d drop in over a guard rail on the side of Rt 46 sometimes and fish the back sets with a popper in summer, or drive around to the back side and give a public fishing access site a shot, and one of my favorites was to put in on the Mohawk River and bring it into the lake where river transitioned into still water. I’d never spent anytime at all really at the opposite end of the lake where the damn was that had stopped the river and raised the water levels to swallow the town of delta before I was ever born. This seemed like as good a time as any to start at one end and fish my way across it.

It was hot when I carried the Kayak down to the river. There wasn’t much water moving either. There was a good fifteen feet of bare, white, sun bleached dry river bottom where there should have been water. And the water that was flowing was pretty shallow. I rigged up my 7wt and started down the river towards the first bend knowing at any moment I’d be pulling the pedal drive out, laying it on the deck, and paddling like any other kayak. I was right, after making a couple casts under the trees along the shaded bank I felt the pedal drive fins kick up as they bumped the bottom and so I removed them and picked up the paddle, the fly rod taking it’s place bungeed to the side. It wasn’t much farther before I had to get out and pull the Hobie over rocks in about three inches of water, the first good scratches now finally christening the bottom of the boat. I actually felt a relief hearing the river bottom signing it’s name to the plastic hull. Like a new car, the first scratch is always the worst, and then the pressure seems to melt away. Kayaks gets scratched and beat up. I didn’t buy it to keep it show room condition. Just like all the fly rods JP has built me. None of them stay perfect forever, as beautiful as they all are. It actually adds a genuine feeling of belonging to you to them once you start seeing traces of adventures left on them.

The fishing wasn’t great that day, but I managed to make it from one end to the other and back again, something I’d never done before except for once with JP in his jet boat on a late fall day. I would have never attempted it in a canoe, but the Hobie pedal drive made it much less intimidating. I fished while I was on the move making casts to the edge of islands of reeds and in the cloudy water still came up with a couple small bass. As I came to the end of the lake where it widened out and gained depth and clarity, I cut across a huge shoal and sat to eat my lunch and just hang out for a little bit. A boat on the lake might go by and depending on how far out it was I might get a gentle rock from the wake finally making it to me, or it might fade to almost nothing before I ever noticed it.

I fished the cascades, shear rock cliff walls leading to the dam, and after adding a weighted bugger I was able to get a couple bass beneath them as well. A ski boat full of people made two passes seemingly either ignorant or uncaring to the fact that there was someone fishing in a small craft and I ignored it, dealt with the wake with a couple kicks to the pedals and an adjustment to the rudder to face the tail end of the kayak into it. I switched the drive to reverse and when the wake reached me and tried to push me towards the cliff wall I simply backed into it and stayed stationary. But on their third pass by the family all waved and smiled, now either ignorant or uncaring to the fact that they were too close to a small craft they actually knew was there and I decided to start back across the lake and leave them to their joy ride.

By the time I got back to my car up the river on the other end of the lake I was beat. The heat was just too much that day, in the mid-nineties, and no amount of water was making me feel any better about it. As I was carrying gear up to the parking lot a young guy with a spinning rod was walking down to the river and spotted my fly rod. We ended up in a conversation about fly fishing, he had a rod but was still in the uncomfortable stage where he left it home sometimes because he just wanted to catch fish. I told him some people catch fish right away, but that it had taken me a good long while to figure it out and once I did I hadn’t touched a spinning rod since. He asked me if I caught more fish with the fly rod and I chuckled. On some days yes, on some days no. I was happy to pass on some advice and see it registering on his face, and even happier when he offered to help me carry the kayak up to the car. I don’t know if I could’ve gotten it up there that afternoon without adding more scars to it… and me. I was beat.  

Mark Usyk is the Author of Reflections of a Fly Rod and Carp Are Jerks, both books full of stories about life where fishing happens. You can pick them up on Amazon in both paperback and e-book, and signed paperbacks are available right here on this website…

While you’re looking around for your next fly rod check out our selection of UV rated light weight t-shirts that help you tell the world you unplug to reconnect, and also the new JP Ross hats… Including a fly fishing Sasquatch edition!