Maybe it's because I was born and raised in 1980s New York City, but were it not for Water Matthau and Jack Lemon I would have thought there was only one kind of fishing and it involved a stick, some string and a cooler on a party boat. Thanks to my Grumpy Old education I knew fishing was serious business but until my first fishing trip last spring I didn't think I'd ever develop a taste for the sport, regardless of what boat I was traveling. I'm a comic book person. My fiancé is a comic book person. We've got a long and wide family history, on both sides, of being comic book people. When we're not inside being comic book people, we're inside being video game people. But if there is one thing I've learned since that first Adirondack adventure it is that when it comes to anything I've never done before I reserve judgment until I do.
If you've ever planned a vacation before, you know that finding something everyone likes is an anxiety-ridden challenge. Add to that the pressure of impressing your future brother-in-law from England (and brilliant video game designer) whom you've never met and is visiting the East Coast for the first time ever and you know where my head was last month. I am not really sure what I was worried about; the Adirondacks have been impressing would-be adventurers (or never-should-be adventurers, like our little tribe) for more than 200 years. Since the early 19th Century, the siren call of adventure and freedom has drifted down the Hudson River from its highest source at Lake Tear of the Clouds in Keene, NY.
Not only does Lake Tear of the Clouds have the distinction of being the highest source of the Hudson River, it has a place in American history of far more importance. It was at Lake Tear of the Clouds that a man named Harrison Hall met Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt with a message informing him that President William McKinley's condition had taken a turn for the worse. Later he would begin his historic 35-mile midnight stagecoach ride from Tahawus, NY to North Creek, NY where he would learn of the death of President McKinley.
With over 100 mountains (the 46 over 4,000 feet called the 46 High Peaks) the Adirondack Mountains are both alluring and deadly and the early visitors to the area quickly learned that the best way to explore the wilderness was with a guide - local woodsmen who made their home in the wilderness. They knew what to catch and where, what to eat and what to avoid, where to step and where to sleep all peppered with what would famously become infamous, Adirondack character. The Adirondack guide tradition continues today and licensed guides like Terry Watson, owner and operator of Stillwaters Guide Service, can enhance your experience exponentially with their knowledge of the land and lakes, local history and north woods folklore and first aid and water safety.
It was a cool, windy and partly cloudy day on Lake Flower's - so ideal for fishing northern pike (which take advantage of camouflage furnished by the sun's reflection on the choppy water) you might think Terry could control the weather. It's one of the many reasons an Adirondack guide is an invaluable addition to your fishing expedition that cannot be understated - your guide has an up to the moment understanding of where to fish and for what. Not simply what time of year fish are most active but how those fish behave in the particular atmosphere; taking into consideration the climate, weather, seasonality and also the ripple effects any of these have had throughout the season - all of which gives you the best opportunity for a successful fishing trip. After a brief lesson on casting for pike (very different than the trolling for brook trout I'd learned the year before) the game was afoot. There was no round table of equity here; it was brother against brother, husband against wife (or, soon to be) in a competition for the best haul. Of us three fish out of water casting lines and lures, it was our guest that would set the tone wrestling the first pike from the lake, followed by myself with a respectable perch, followed by Si with the longest pike of the day.
If you were to fly over the Adirondack Mountains, you would realize that for all its old growth forest and high mountain peaks, the landscape is much bluer than it is green. It's not something you realize driving through our scenic byways with the tree line obscuring over 10,000 lakes and over 30,000 miles of river and streams. And as focused as we were on one-upping each other in our Catch of the Day competition, the spectacular vistas and fascinating history of the lakes were as much a part of our trip as the fish were. It's not uncommon, reported Terry, who was only too happy to assume his role of storyteller, pointing to a family of loons or a great blue heron circling above as he relayed the history of various lakeside camps and families.
Few things are more precious than the memories you share with the people you love. Stretching out my legs on the deck of Terry's pontoon boat, feeling the wind on my face and watching the brothers laughing together for the first time in years, I couldn't help but give myself a mental high-five. Mission accomplished, with the help of Adirondack Guide Terry Watson.