Never underestimate an untested rig

Wildflowers are brightening up the spring woods again, and black flies are in the air, behind my ears and in my hair.

Birds are seeking mates, anglers are seeking fish and there hasn’t been a snowflake in the air for over a week. Unfortunately, the snowflakes have already been replaced by black flies.

Life is good!

Boaters are beginning to take to the waters, while paddlers have already been at it for awhile. Travelers on the Saranac Chain of Lakes should be aware of the potential for underwater obstructions which can damage props, as well as hulls. It will be awhile before the state Department of Environmental Conservation sets out the channel markers in the river.

The Lower Locks became available for manual operations on Thursday, May 15, but it will be another few weeks until the lock tender comes on board.

A rigamajig rigmarole

The next few weeks of spring generally provide some of the finest trout fishing opportunities of the entire season. Historically, this is a timeframe that is responsible for producing some of the largest fish of the year.

As the waters begin to warm, insects will be mating, as will minnows, crayfish, frogs and salamanders. Combined, these annual delicacies will provide game fish with a veritable piscatorial smorgasbord.

The early season is always best for bait fishermen, while the fly fishing will heat up well into the month of June when the fly hatches begin in earnest on the streams.

While I enjoy fishing with all means of equipment and all manner of tackle, I prefer to troll during the early season. Typically, I’ll use a traditional Lake Clear Wabbler and worm rig with variations.

I use an assortment of wabbler type rigs, ranging from the old standby Lake Clear to Hinkleys, Sutton, Silver Spoons and more. I’ve also experimented with Christmas Trees, tinsel rigs and a wide range of stream flies and nymphs.

Over the years, I’ve also tossed a ton of tin while flinging lures such as Phoebes, Castmasters, Mepps and CP Swings into the log festooned shorelines of many small Adirondack ponds.

Some days my tackle box will fill the packbasket, while at other times a simple flybox is all that is required.

Angling is a sport that has been described as “perpetual anticipation that is interrupted only by occasional exhilaration.” I’d have it no other way. It is the anticipation that makes it so interesting; it isn’t really much fun to catch a fish on every cast.

In 1963, Bernard Venables explained in Creel magazine that “Every fishing outing is, in a sense, an exploration into the natural history of water, an attempt to unravel a little of the mystery.”

In 1653, Izaak Walton, author of “The Complete Angler,” captured the essence of the sport when he proclaimed, “If I might be the judge, God never did make a more calm, quiet innocent recreation than angling.”

In 2013, I discovered that “an old school fool is an angler who refuses to let loose of tradition to try something different.”

My rigamajig epiphany occurred during the first few weeks of the fresh season on a backwoods pond in the St. Regis Canoe Area.

I traveled there with an old friend with intentions of putting a few fresh brook trout in the boat. As usual, we trolled and cast flies. We jigged and tossed tin into the brush. We delicately “tinked lures” over the shoals for lakers and stripped streamer flies in hopes of raising a rainbow or two.

We weren’t alone. We spoke with at least a dozen other anglers, and no one had taken any fish that day. Or at least nothing to brag about.

After I had spent more than three hours practicing my casting and trolling techniques, I reached deep into my pocket and produced a most unlikely looking rig.

My friend actually laughed at the sight, “You’re actually going to toss that thing? Maybe we can net the fish when they belly up from laughter.”

“You’ll see”, I replied. “I’ve been told this little rig is the hottest thing going for big brookies. Watch this!”

I cast the rig toward a large beaver lodge along the shaded shore and let it sink. When the line stopped, I reeled in the line tight and began to jig the little rig.

I picked it up and dropped it in a traditional jigging fashion. On the fourth or fifth pickup, I had a hookup and it wasn’t just an ordinary hit. The fish hit and ran, and the line was just screaming off the reel.

Fellow anglers heard the commotion and slowly made their way toward our location to watch the battle.

After a prolonged session of a give and take, I tightened the drag on my reel and brought the fish to the net. It was a handsome specimen, in the two-pound range. I laughed out loud as my buddy grumbled and mumbled under his breath.

Again I flung the foul looking rig and waited for it to drop, however it never had a chance to make it to the bottom. The line went taunt almost immediately.

Less than two rod lengths from the boat, a beautiful speckle exploded out of the water in a graceful arch, spraying water over my friend.

“Do you think it’ll work now?” I asked, as he mumbled a series of unmentionable words and phrases unrelated to angling.

“Two casts, two fish; pretty good odds,” I joked, and finally the question came, “You wouldn’t happen to have another one of those in your pocket, would you?”

“I might,” I answered, as I pulled it out of my pocket. “I picked up two of them just in case I lost one.”

I tossed it to him, and a gust of wind blew it overboard. He grappled to gather it, but it was too late. He watched forlornly as it slowly slipped out of sight into the depths.

“Well, there goes your chances for the day,” I joked. “Two casts, two fish and one lost rig. Too bad.”

Quick as a cat and mad as a hatter, he snatched the rig off my line and began to tie it on his rod.

“Now that I’m properly attired,” he added, “would you please take me back over to the beaver lodge?”

Being a gentleman (with two fine brookies already aboard), I rowed him back to the scene of the crime, where he promptly hooked up on the third cast.

It took only two more casts and two more fish before we were on our way.

Never again will I doubt the effectiveness of an offering without putting it to use, and never again will I leave home with only two of my (now) favorite rigs.