It was a little after 6am as I was cinching down the kayak onto the cart. We only had three tenths of a mile of trail to get to the river, but that was the issue in my head. We had an entire three tenths of a mile to get to the river, and this kayak cart was a cheap piece of crap. I knew it. The kayak knew it. Every rock on the trail knew it. Mike and Cori were loading their canoe with their fishing rods and gear for the day, but their cart was wider, had bigger inflatable tires, looked a lot more stable in general, and their canoe didn’t weigh as much as my Hobie. In my mind I was telling myself it’s only three tenths of a mile. It only took several yards and the first big rock to fold the cart up under the kayak as it came to a halt. Mike and I had to re set it and re-strap it twice on the way to the river. It would’ve been more times if we hadn’t just picked up the whole thing over a few rock patches. A twenty-five-hundred-dollar kayak on a forty-nine-dollar cart. The joke was made, we all laughed. But in my mind I knew what my next purchase would be.
After we carried the canoe and the kayak over the train tracks and down the steep foot trail to the river the cart got stowed on the back of the kayak and forgotten about. Its job was done until I had to count on it to get back to the car. A worry for the end of the day. We put in just below a stretch of riffles and boulders where the river slowed down and not much farther downstream almost seemed still, without a current. It was tough not to fish the entire stretch of the river hard, but the river wasn’t where we were headed, it was only a means to get there.
About a mile down river was the marsh. Water plants with tall green stems and spear shaped leaves reached high above the water for the sun, and we found the channel that connected the river and the lake no wider than our boats. I pulled the pedal drive and laid it in the front of the kayak and clicked together my paddle. The channel snaked back and forth, so crowded and narrow that our paddles didn’t even paddle water. The paddles pulled on water plants and sometimes pushed into the mucky bottom only inches underneath my kayak. Standing and using a push pole would have moved us just as well, perhaps even better. A couple times the channel disappeared, and to find it you had to stand up and look for it. At the far end of the marsh an old blown out beaver dam was the last obstacle that the bottom of the boats brushed over, and then we were on the lake.
The fish weren’t biting all that great the first half of the day, so it was as much a sight seeing adventure as it was a fishing trip in the beginning. A couple small bass, largemouths, but nothing very memorable. At some point a little before noon things began to pick up. Mike and Cori were doing well, Mike caught a real lunker on a lure he said was called the Whopper Plopper. I thought it sounded like the ill effects of a fast food meal. They were both catching fish, and Cori liked to keep track and rub it in Mike's face when she was ahead. It was pretty funny. I’d removed my heavy mono and steel leader meant for pike and started fishing a Clouser to a shoreline with a bunch of submerged boulders and finally started to catch fish. About the same time the fish started to turn on there were a lot of clouds moving in, darker than the friendly billowing clouds that create the backdrop for a beautiful summer day. But they never dropped any rain and moved out. I guessed that there was some type of pressure change that turned the fish on, shortly before having finally caught a small pike. Science or something that other good anglers would be able to explain. When I thought of barometers dropping, I always pictured the weatherman on The Muppet Show getting pummeled by falling barometers. But I knew it affected the fish somehow so I just figured the clouds moving through should take the credit.
We eventually fished the river on our way back and did pretty well on it, catching smallmouths instead of the largemouths we’d caught in the lake. The cart got the kayak back to the car, but it was uphill most of the way and I was definitely feeling it as I cruised the highway home, the windows down, the AC on full blast, and Tom Petty cranking through the speakers. I thought about camping again. There was a chance no one had taken my camp site from the night before, but then I realized how tired I was, how much I probably stunk, and in all honesty the idea of a shower and a couch seemed like a swell thing at that moment.
On Sunday I went to the complete opposite of a remote Adirondack lake and pedaled the kayak out onto Oneida Lake where I caught a Smallmouth out along the jetties out at Sylvan Beach. But then I lost the want to fish. I Stowed the flyrod and cruised up into Fish Creek for a couple hours. With boats everywhere out on the lake and on the river I felt like I was back down in Florida. Oneida Lake is only sixty some odd square miles, but the numbers of yachts and cigar boats and house boats is astounding. I was out for an easy float rather than fishing any more. I finished the weekend off by going up to the 16 Stone to get something to eat, and a Margarita just seemed appropriate. There’s something about all the miles on the kayak and bigger waters this year, the hot summer, and casting the 9wt so much that have made Margaritas seem like the only logical drink to end a day on. Jimmy Buffet knew what he was singing about. I should have listened closer earlier.
Mark Usyk is the author of Reflections of a Fly Rod and Carp Are Jerks, stories about life, where fishing happens. They can be found on Amazon and Barnes And Noble, and signed copies are available on this website, JPRossflyrods.com
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