I admit it. I didn't get it. For as long as I have lived in the Adirondacks I have never understood it. What is the big deal? Sit in a boat all day with a stick and a piece of string waiting for some stroke of random luck, when, perhaps, some dumb fish takes a mouthful of what it ought not to? Who wants to do that?
Me. I want to do that. Right over here. I volunteer. You going? I'm coming with. When? You know what? Doesn't matter. I'll make it work.
I know the experienced anglers out there may roll their eyes when they read this, but if I didn't know, others might not. So take it from me, avowed gamer-girl and social media professional, fishing is so much more than floating around in a boat with nothing to do but wait. That is exactly what it would have been if I had been left to my own devices; me, floating out on a large body of water, wearing inappropriate shoes for any outdoor activity, wondering what I was being punished for, texting someone, anyone, asking if I can come back in yet but my friend Terry Watson of Stillwaters Guide Service made me an offer I couldn't refuse. After a few phone calls, on the most perfect Adirondack spring day, I found myself sitting at the bough of a canoe (still in inappropriate shoes), wondering how I had no idea there was this other world 100 yards from a road I'd driven every day for seven years and kicking myself for not having tried it sooner.
The moment we set off I was reminded of how much I love being on the water. When I was young, my family would travel annually to Florida and one of my earliest ever memories is the mystery and excitement and the tiniest bit of fear that accompanies staring at an alligator through the floor of a glass-bottom boat. As Terry guided the canoe with 40 years of experience, I peered down into the glassy water at the floor of Follensby Clear Pond (which you can go through to get to Horseshoe Pond). While there are no large toothy reptiles (with the exception of northern pike), I felt that same sense of childlike awe at the enormity of our planet; an awareness of how small I am, how large it is, and how vital we are to each other. There is more to this sport than catching fish. I could have stayed on the canoe all day, enjoying the sunshine, enjoying the quiet and the company, and not caught a single one.
But I did. I caught all the fish.
Okay, I caught one fish. But look at it. Isn't it a beaut?
Photo © Anne Reilly
If you're thinking about adding fishing to your must-do list (and you really should) there are a few things to keep in mind:
Hire an Adirondack Guide
Adirondack Guides have been the celebrities of the Adirondacks since 1807. Their knowledge and expertise in recreation and location have made them indispensable for over 200 years. Even today, with the ever-changing mountain landscape, they remain a vital component of an Adirondack fishing trip. I greatly benefited from Terry's 40 years of experience. Like a high school tutor (but infinitely better company), an Adirondack Guide is watching how you are holding the rod, how you hook a fish, and offering constructive criticism on techniques to give you the best opportunity to snag that landlocked salmon (tasty), brook trout (very tasty) or walleye (the tastiest of them all). Additionally, there are hundreds of bodies of water in the Adirondacks, each with its own characteristics. An experienced Adirondack Guide not only knows season and location but has a strong knowledge of the ecobiology, or, the relationship between the fish and its environment. For example, it is currently trout season so you'll have a nice chance of catching trout as I did. But I wouldn't have known when ice-out was on that body of water or when the midges started hatching.
Visit a Fly Shop
If you'd rather go it alone, fear not! Most fly and fishing shops boast a team of avid fishing enthusiasts that make it their business to know where to fish at the time for what you want to catch and what would best be used to catch your prize. Their expertise cannot be underestimated!
Find Your Center
If you're going out in a canoe keep in mind that it is a balancing act - in every sense of the word. Where you sit, how, and what order you get in depends largely on your weight, what you are bringing, and balancing everything to make sure your trip is a safe and stable one. Once you are in place relax and enjoy the ride; sudden movements may lead to an unexpected dip!
Wear Appropriate Shoes
It is easy to overlook this. While I learned that I can carry a canoe on three-inch espadrille wedges, I would have probably been better served by a pair of something more comfortable, practical, and requiring a little less drying time. But it's not just shoes, it's vital to dress every part of your body for safety. Paddling.com has some great advice on how to dress for kayak fishing that would be very appropriate for canoe fishing as well.
Stillwaters Guide Service
With hundreds of bodies of water in the Adirondacks and a huge variety of fish including landlocked salmon, brook trout, walleye, and northern pike, it is little wonder that fishing is one of the most popular recreational activities in the Adirondacks. Terry Watson is an Adirondack guide with over 40 years of experience in Adirondack waters spin-fishing, fly fishing, ice fishing, and cross country skiing in the High Peaks region. Call Terry Watson at (518) 637-5551.