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The Timing Couldn't Have been Better -

Trout and the Adirondacks
By Bill Rogers
 


It was the end of September, only one week after hurricane Jeanne swept across Florida with her destructive winds and drenching rains. The temperatures were still reaching the low 90's in the Tampa Bay area. The humidity was oppressive and residents were mentally and physically recovering from what had so far been a very active hurricane season. After spending the better part of the last six weeks preparing for hurricanes that were forecast to make land fall uncomfortably close to my Bradenton home, the timing could not have been better for a fall trip to the Lake Champlain, NY region for a little rest and relaxation.

Manchester, New Hampshire was the starting point of my retreat. The first few days I would be attending a technical conference at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Manchester while my wife Shaun played tourist. The later part of the trip would take us on a road trip through the Green Mountains of Vermont to the eastern shore of Lake Champlain We’d then proceed northward along the lake's eastern shore and across the St. Lawrence Seaway to Montreal Canada. The return would take us back down the west side of Champlain to the Adirondack mountains and Lake Placid, New York . Finally we would ferry across Lake Champlain from Port Kent to Burlington, Vermont and ultimately back to where we started in Manchester.

The temperatures were noticeably cooler upon our arrival. It was a refreshing change from what we left behind at the Tampa airport. It had gotten down into the upper 40's the first night and that was the warmest overnight temperature we would see. The drive from Manchester to Burlington through the Green Mountains was spectacular. The cool overnight temperatures had turned the mountainsides ablaze with colorful leaves of red, orange, purple, gold and yellow. It was very breathtaking and a treat for the senses and soul. As we approached the greater Burlington area, The Winooski River was occasionally visible from the interstate. Between the brilliant colors and the sunlight glaring off the moving river waters it created a picture postcard image that was unforgettable. The Winooski River was to be the second stop of the fly fishing trips that I had scheduled.

As I drove past I wondered if any of the visible waters would be where I would be fishing when I returned. It made me think of something Henry David Thoreau wrote. "Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after." As I imagined myself casting a fly on the waters of the Winooski River, I realized that even though I would be fly fishing, it wouldn’t necessarily be fish I was after.

My first fishing trip was scheduled for the middle of the 2nd week on the legendary West Branch of the Au Sable River located in the Adirondack's majestic High Peaks area near the historic Olympic village of Lake Placid New York. I pulled into one of the available parking spots in front of the Lake Placid Visitors Bureau adjacent to the Olympic Arena where the USA hockey team's "Miracle on Ice" took place during the 1980 winter Olympics. I was here to meet my fishing partner for the next day. Steve Piatt, the Communications Director for the Visitors Bureau who graciously agreed to guide me on the Au Sable river was waiting for me.

After chatting for a little while we decided since it was going to be cold in the morning that there was no need to get an early start. We agreed to meet at the office at 10:00 AM. It was pretty cool when I arrived in the morning. Steve informed me that there was a hard overnight frost and the temperatures had dipped down to the upper 20's. On the drive to the River I could see evidence of snow in the high peaks. Steve said that we were near the end of the season and there were no active hatches occurring at the time. He suggested we tie on a White Zonker to imitate the small minnows that inhabit the river. He also cautioned to fish slow and deep because of the cooler water temperatures.

With a 5-weight outfit I cast for hours working this section of the river. The fishing was so close that I never actually cast any of the fly line and never loaded the rod. It was quite a bit different than the flats fishing that I am used to where long casts of 70 feet or more are normal. It was an absolutely beautiful “Chamber of Commerce” day, but the fish didn’t appreciate it as much as I did. They didn’t cooperate. I recalled again the words of Thoreau and I was entirely satisfied just to be surrounded by the Adirondack Mountains during peak foliage season. The gurgling waters of the famous Au Sable River sang me a song. When I returned to Lake Placid, Shaun had spent the day browsing all of the quaint gift and specialty shops along main street and didn't miss me a bit! The next day we’d pack it up and make the trip to Vermont. And I’d check in for the next fishing trip!

When I arrived in Colchester, just outside Burlington, I called Mike Dessormeau.  Mike, born and raised in Vermont, was to be my fishing partner. After a brief chat we decided that head to Montpelier to fish a stretch of the Winooski River. Then, if the fishing dictated, we’d head up towards Stowe to fish in Sterling Brook not far from Mount Mansfield. It was cool but not quite as cold as it was in Lake Placid. Mike checked the water temperature at the Winooski. At 50° Mike was a happy angler. The temperature hadn’t changed since he was there only a week previously. He had been successful then and was confident that the fish would cooperate this time as well.

 

We started out casting into runs and drifting nymphs past the pockets that were likely to hold fish. I caught the first fish, a beautiful rainbow, on a size 14 Bead-Head Prince. Mike quickly caught his first for the day and, as far as I was concerned, the day was already a huge success! We caught a few more before deciding to hit the second phase of the days adventure.  After lunch we arrived at a remote section of Sterling Brook where it was no wider than my fly rod was long. We had switched to #16 Royal Wulff and Ausable Wulff dry flies with 2 weight outfits and it wasn't long before we found some cooperative brookies. We worked numerous runs and pockets as we made our way upstream and managed at least a couple of
rises from the brookies at almost every stop along the way. We finished the day off at a picturesque water fall where Mike landed the biggest rainbow trout of the day on a size 14 Royal Humpy dry fly.

 

We'd managed several rainbows up to around 17-inches and brook trout to around 9-inches. A few days later we were back in Tampa. The weather had cooled off considerably since we left and there were no hurricanes in sight. The timing could not have been better for an early October get away!

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