Following the brilliant sunshine, blue skies and warming temperatures of the past week, spring has firmly taken hold. Ponds will soon be opening up and the water levels on the streams will remain manageable.
The seasonal transition has been expedited by the recent warm weather and the distinct freshness of new life is omnipresent in the woods.
Sadly, the rapidly receding snowbanks now reveal the buried discards of people who have no regard for the land. A recent paddle along the Saranac River offered further proof that not all of the roadside trash remains along the side of the road.
Adam Storino fly fishes in the catch-and-release section of the West Branch of the AuSable River Sunday afternoon in Wilmington. That section of the river is open year round. Trout season in most waters opened Wednesday, April 1.
Enterprise photo by Mike Lynch
It's a season for four-wheel- drive vehicles and dusty roads, pocked with frost heaves that can loosen the fillings in your molars.
Winter sports such as skiing, skating, ice climbing and snowshoeing are rapidly becoming activities of the past.
South-facing slopes and open fields have lost their cover while the snowpack is rapidly diminishing in the higher elevations. Backcountry skiers will now have to hike to find snow.
Rising melt waters will swell the streams to offer a series of hurdles on most area trails. Between the rivulets, the soft, muddy trail conditions beg for a break and hikers are advised to avoid climbing the High Peaks.
The runoff waters that hinder hikers will eventually result in a cascading white froth that will provide entertainment for kayakers and rafters alike.
The seasonal transition is most evident in the daily return of bird species. As flocks of Canada geese gather along Lake Flower, migratory species such as American woodcock, red wing blackbirds and peregrine falcons can be found respectively in the fields, marshes or along the cliffs.
Evidence of the region's burgeoning population of wild turkeys can be found in Bloomingdale, Wilmington, Gabriels, Jay and Paul Smiths.Although the opening day of the spring turkey season is two months distant, turkey hunters anxiously await the date.
For many outdoor travelers, this transitional timeframe is a difficult period of waiting and wondering what the next weather front is going to bring in.
Anglers hope for lower levels and warmer water temperatures, bikers and hikers seek dry ground and climbers want ice-free rock. Yet, for the birders, this remains a most exciting season as returning species permit daily opportunities for additions to their count lists.
Trout season begins
In a revealing bit of irony,the trout season officially began on April Fools Day, an appropriate date, for anyone expecting to fill a creel with trout from Adirondack waters.The combination of warm weather and bright sun has hastened the removal of the hardwater cover currently shielding area ponds. Possibilities include the Lower Cascade Lake and Chapel Pond south of Keene Valley. Courtney Pond in North Hudson is also an early favorite.
Anglers should seek ponds with ledges or large rocks along their shores. These areas, especially those with southern exposures, will often open up well before the rest of the ice cover, providing ideal locations for bait fishermen.
Likewise, check inlets at Lake Clear, Tupper Lake at Bog River Falls and the rapids at the Upper and Lower Locks on the Saranac Chain.
Lake trout, landlocked salmon and brown trout are known to concentrate near lake inlets in anticipation of smelt, suckers and other runs of spawning bait fish. Anglers will also find brook trout around debris such as downed trees, rocks or other cover near the inlets or outlets. This cover provides ideal environs for insect life, which becomes active sooner in the warmer waters near an inlet.
Rivers and streams may have lower than expected levels as this region lost it's snow cover early. The usual high waters of spring thaw won't be so high nor will they last as long.
"Low, slow and cold!" is the advise offered to early season anglers for trout fishing the streams. Fish slow, deep and be patient. Trout are not as active in the early season as they are later in the year when insect life is most prolific.
The cold water temperatures make fish sluggish and slow to respond. Stream fishing should be pursued in deep pockets and pools, with retrieves very slow and erratic.
On the rivers and streams, look for pools at the base of waterfalls or dams. These will often attract large, hold-over brown trout, still in the area from their fall spawn. Rainbow trout will be seeking similar holding pools, as they move upstream to spawn in the spring.
Anglers should expect to find some good stream-fishing early on this year. There are lots of healthy, holdover fish from last season and the streams won't be running too high or discolored.
As water tumbles over rapids or drops from a falls, the air temperature has a much greater effect on the water temperature than it does in flat, calm water. Water temperatures at the base of waterfalls will often be several degrees warmer than the waters above the falls. The more foam and froth created by falls or rapids, the more warm air entering the water.
Locally, falls pools, such as those at the base of the Mill Pond dams on the Chubb River, Lake Everest Dam and The Flume Pool on the Auable or Lake Flower Dam on the Saranac River, will provide ideal conditions for early season fishing. So will sections with turbulent water or rapids like those found throughout the Wilmington Notch or above Franklin Falls on the Saranac River.
Kids and fishing: A great combination
The Annual Kids Fishing Derby in Saranac Lake which began on March 29 is scheduled to run through April 13. The event, which is hosted on the Saranac River between Lake Flower Dam and Pine Street Bridge, features the release of 25 tagged rainbow trout, in addition to another 380 released. The contest is open to all area youth under the age of 16.
A lucky kid who catches a trout and brings the tag to the Blue Line Sport Shop will receive an award. All of the tags that are turned in will then be include in a drawing for a grand prize.
Blue Line is encouraging catch-and-release fishing again this year, and anglers should bring a bucket to keep their catch alive for later release.
Over the past 30 years, I have fished with hundreds of children and I've learned a few lessons that may help parents wishing to teach their kids the sport.
For parents who take the opportunity to get out with their children, a hook, bobber and a worm are often all that is necessary to put a little tug on the end of Junior's rod. Once the ice is out, the first few weeks of spring find pan fish activity quite good on the warmer days, especially along shorelines.
Keep the kid's equipment simple and let them practice with it at home. I often have kids practice by casting a bobber at a target, such as a fence. It teaches them to aim and judge the casting distance.
Remember to keep the first few outings short since children have a short attention span. Strive to go out on a pleasant day, it's not much fun to fish in the rain and contrary to the old belief; fish don't really bite better in the rain. If the child wants to go home, GO! You want them to enjoy the sport. Leave them wanting to come back.
Fishing provides a lot of time to interact; take the time to talk to you kid. Keep the first few sessions on shore, or from a dock; it is much easier to fish on solid ground than from a rocking boat.
Do your scouting in advance to find a quiet area where you know fish can be found. Find a place without any overhead obstacles and bring along plenty of snacks, drinks and other necessities like sunscreen, bug spray and maybe even a comfortable chair or two.
It is also wise to use a bobber since it gives children something to look at and it lets them easily see where they have cast. It also helps them to perceive a bite. Bobbers also keep bait off the bottom and away from frustrating snags. Use live bait; it produces more strikes and provides the kids with a lively, wiggly thing to play with if the fishing is slow.
Kids need plenty of action. As a result, keeping bait on and taking fish off the hook are important to the success of any children's angling adventure. With needlenose pliers, crimp back the barb of the hooks, to permit fish to be released unharmed.