With the intensity of the rain picking up Tuesday, I glided across the flat water toward the large downed tree on the edge of the water.
This was my first chance of the afternoon to fish this section of this pond, located in the St. Regis Canoe Area, and I was optimistic that my chances would be good. The weather has been cooler lately and the water temperatures have dropped some, which is good for brook trout fishing.
When I arrived at the pond, a pair of anglers had been sitting in this place for about an hour, before vacating the spot and leaving the small water body entirely.
Within 15 minutes of trolling back and forth in this corner of the pond, I felt a tug on the line. I had hooked into a brook trout - not extremely large, but in the 10- to 12-inch range, a respectable fish.
With less than two weeks until the end of the trout season, it was nice to get out again. I had hardly fished since June, making just three trips - one in August and two in September.
During two of those trips, I actually wound up fishing with people with little or no experience fishing for brook trout.
The August trip was actually just 45 minutes long while I taught my young nephew Sebastian to fish for small brook trout in a small stream near my aunt's house on Upper Chateaugay Lake.
That day we caught five "native" trout with hardly any effort. There was about 35 small fish swimming in a hole the size of a children's pool. It was the most fish I had seen there in years, and I think many of them had left the more shallow sections of the stream for this deeper, cool water. But whatever the reason, because the fish were congregated there, it made my life easier.
On another more recent trip, I went out on Boreas Ponds in the southern High Peaks with Follensby Pond caretaker Tom Lake and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Deputy Secretary Joe Percoco. This was part of trip that Cuomo had arranged, in order to introduce many of his cabinet staff and the media to these future Forest Preserve lands. They are part of the 69,000 acres The Nature Conservancy is under contract to sell to the state over the next five years.
As part of this trip, media members were given their choice of activities: fishing, paddling or hiking. As it turned out, I was the only one of more than 20 media members to choose fishing. This landed me in a motorboat with Percoco and Lake.
I chose this trip because I figured I could paddle the ponds anytime once they become Forest Preserve. I guessed, though, that the fish population would change once it was opened to the public, with the potential for the introduction of non-native fish and plants and overfishing. The water body will likely be a sought-after brook trout fishery because of its scenic backdrop of the High Peaks and because it hasn't really ever been opened up to to the public in modern times.
On this day, though, there were only two other boats with people in them fishing. Cuomo was trolling in a hole, where a "scout" had used a fish finder to locate brook trout, and a Nature Conservancy worker was drifting by himself in a kayak.
At one point as we moved slowly across the pond, which was ringed in red, yellow and orange leaves, Percoco mentioned that he felt a little tug. Within a few moments, he reeled in a small brook trout. I believe he said it was his first Adirondack brook trout, though I know he had been fishing in the Adirondacks before.
Though I didn't catch a fish in the hour we were there, the scenery made the trip worthwhile. I couldn't remember being on a pond with such a spectacular view of the High Peaks. On this day, perhaps because of the fall color, the view was better than places such as Henderson Lake and Preston Ponds, where I had paddled previously.
That's one of the benefits of fishing in autumn when the colorful scenery is enough reason to get on the water, especially in the final few weeks of the season. This is a stark contrast from the early season fishing when the scenery can be bleak.
The fishing is often good, too, because of the cooler temps, and there often aren't as many anglers out as there are earlier in the season.
"This time of year can be the best time of year to go fishing, particularly if you're going for native trout, paddle trips, stuff like that, portaging over beaver dams," said Blue Line Sports owner Matt Rothamel in his Saranac Lake store shortly before I went out Tuesday. "You're going to find excellent fish in terms of color."
Of course, it's also a completely different experience than earlier in the season for other reasons. Brook trout spawn in October and November, which is why the season ends Oct. 15 to protect them.
"The places they've spent most of the summer and most of the spring, in a lot of those areas there aren't fish now," state Department of Environmental Conservation Regional Fisheries Manager Bill Schoch said.
The fish start moving around, eventually landing in spots where they will spawn: streams or along the shorelines of ponds and lakes.
It also means, in my opinion, the angler has more to consider when deciding to keep the brook trout or not. The females will carry hundreds of eggs, with the majority of them not producing fish. By keeping females, in particular, at this time of the year, anglers can potentially reduce the amount of fish in the ponds the following years.
It makes sense to avoid some of the overfished areas or release the fish. Of course, deciding whether or not to keep a fish is always a judgement call determined by a number of factors, including size, number of trout in the fishery, length of the fight and how you hooked it, among other reasons.
On Tuesday, I wound up keeping the trout for dinner. I hadn't put much of a dent in the population myself anyway this year. Plus, I had hooked it fairly deep so its chances of survival were diminished anyway, which really was the determining factor.
Either way, it was encouraging to catch such a colorful fish and brought a sense of satisfaction before the season closes on Oct. 15.
"Right now, I think is the best time to go," Rothamel said. "If you're getting back two miles or more, that's where you are going to find better native brook trout."