We've all seen the cartoon about a bigger fish eating a smaller fish, as a long line of larger fish continue to devour each other in progression. But rarely do anglers have the opportunity to view the cartoon-like process in reality.
I've witnessed evidence of walleye pike fry cannibalizing on each other and watched a big pike chase large bass onto the shore. But I've never witnessed the classic tale of a bigger fish eating a big fish in real life. However, I recently met an angler that did.
Tom Graham is a self-diagnosed fishing fanatic. Hailing from Roeland, a small suburb on the outskirts of Philadelphia, Graham grew up with only one thought in mind for a career goal.
Paul Smith’s College student Tom Graham displays a 19-pound lake trout that battled for more than three hours before coming to the net.
"So, I visited only one school in my search for a college," he said. "It was Paul Smith's and it was the only place I could go."
Graham is currently a junior in the college's four-year fisheries science program. He revealed the reasoning behind his decision by saying, "I wanted to do something that I can wake up in the morning and not dread going to work."
To feed his habit, Graham fishes almost every day, and he's usually alone.
"I'd rather fish alone by myself and not catch anything, than fish with people and catch a bunch," he said.
He obviously made the proper choice by coming north, where over 30,000 miles of rivers and streams are interspersed over 6 and-a-half million acres with over 11,000 lakes and ponds.
Detailing the events leading up to his big catch, Graham told me, "I like to see how many species of fish I can catch on a fly rod. I fished there for a total of four days, from the same spot. I got nothing on the first day. On day two, after about four hours, I caught a landlocked salmon, my first ever. The next day I caught a small lake trout and a few rainbows. And that's what kept me going back to the spot. I stood there day after day, laying out long casts over an over."
Mind you, Graham was casting from that big rock on the shore all day long for four days running, and it occurred the week before final exams. Let's see, can casting a fly rod for four straight days be considered "cramming for an exam?"
It may be true if you're majoring in fisheries science and the rod is a Cabela's 9 foot, 5 weight Stowaway pack rod, rigged with a 6-pound leader and tipped with a streamer fly tied by Vince Wilcox of Wiley's Flies.
"I had already landed a few small rainbows and I was reeling in another one," Graham said. "It was small, maybe 11 or 12 inches," he continued, "Suddenly, I saw a big shadow come out of the deeper water, and it took a couple of swipes at the rainbow and missed. I watched as it returned again.
"I stripped line off the reel and let him take it. I was almost into my backing when I finally set the hook, and then the fight began. The trout came to the surface two or three times in the first half hour of the fight. It kept getting harder.
"In the first hour, the fish had me into my backing three or four times and I had to climb over the rock and around the cedar tree. Boaters kept cruising. I could hear them asking, 'Is that kid still fighting the same fish?' I didn't even have a net with me."
Despite the excitement, Graham maintained the good sense to quickly call a friend on his cell phone.
"You gotta get out here quick, and bring a net. I've got a massive fish on!" he exclaimed.
He drove over to the pond and a half hour later, his friend arrived and ran through the woods along the shoreline to reach the tired angler. But the net was far too small.
"It was just a little steam net. I had the trout in close two or three times; but it wouldn't fit in that net," Graham explained. "Then a guy comes by and loans us a net. My buddy climbs over the big rock, around the cedar tree and we finally net the trout, and it was huge. And the fly was right in it's jaw.
"His fins were bigger than my hands. So we videotaped it, measured it, revived it and released it."
The big laker measured 35 inches in length and had a 21-inch girth, with an estimated weight of 19 pounds. Scales plucked and examined proved it to be 15 years old.
Graham battled for more than three hours to get the trout in the net.
"It was my second laker ever, my first was taken while ice fishing," Graham said. "I missed two classes but didn't get into trouble. My instructors understood. It took about two hours before the shakes quit."
The summer solstice has come and gone, and so will the daylight hours. As the season progresses, we'll lose a few minutes of light with each passing day.
With this thought in mind, we should realize how precious each day is by making a concerted effort to enjoy every moment we spend outdoors.
Although we've been graced with an unusually pleasant spring season, we should remember that the only predictable element of the Adirondack elements is that they are so consistently unpredictable. We like our weather just as it is, because it never stays the same.
Respect the road rules
The summer season is already upon us as the region braces to accommodate the expectant crowds. In hopes of averting accidents, drivers are urged to pay attention to the hordes of hikers and bands of bikers that will eventually clutter the roadways.
A bit of tolerance and a good dose of patience will serve to keep tempers cool and confrontations to a minimum. Although adventure travel is the driving force of our regional economy, drivers must not be forced to make split-second decisions.
Bikers must exercise more than their muscles. They should also exercise common sense and good manners; and they must also exercise the rules of the road. Bikers blowing through stop signs, turning without signaling or taking the pack mentality down the center of the road are bound to raise more than just the ire of a driver.
If common courtesy were allowed to rule the roads, there would be far less finger pointing, and fewer fingers raised. Cooler heads will make the summer heat much more bearable and cooler for all concerned.