The temperature outside was in the high eighties, the air thick enough to wade through. Lacking a pool and with the lakes all kind of warmish the best option to keep cool on Sunday was wet wading in the river! I loaded my XT 600 with some light duty gear for the Smallmouth and rode over to the Lazy “K” Ranch to meet Mark. Over at the old homestead in progress we ran into our other rod and gun club mates. Woodhead was out feeding the resident deer. Dave and Zach came over to enjoy a beer however, I rallied at least Mark and Zach to head down to the river.
In an exciting bit of news, using accumulated L.L. Bean dollars I was able to replace my old set of waders with an upgraded pair. The old ones were getting worn out and some of the lace holders had popped out. The pair I purchased are called West Branch Studded Wading Shoes by L.L. Bean. After using the new boots for several hours on Sunday I am highly satisfied with the purchase. The shoes lace up well and provide ample support. The rubberized materials seem to keep off “aquatic hitchhikers” while drying quickly. The studs provide ample grip on slippery rocks, even allowing me to catch my balance and save my phone after falling over a big hidden rock!
Midsummer on the Paulinskill can be an exciting time to dip a hook in the water. There is literally no telling what you could pull out of the water when something bites. The variety of temperatures, habitat and stream conditions allows for many species, stocked and wild to live together. In just a few hours of fishing we had landed Rainbow Trout, Smallmouth Bass, Rock Bass, Largemouth Bass, White Suckers, Sunfish and a Golden Shiner. This year, the copious rainfall that has kept the river cool and flowing high, yielding above average fishing days.
As far as tactics go, this time of year the fish seemed to be enjoying a Green Woolly Bugger or similar fly, cast across stream, allowed to dead drift downstream and then retrieved in two inch strips or a steady lift. I suspect a wet fly attractor would have presented in a similar manner and yielded and equally good day of fish. The only trick was locating faster water, springs or deep pools. That seemed to be where the fish were congregating.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Robert Frost ~ excerpt from, “The Road Less Traveled”
The inaugural summer trip I took up to Vermont was in August of 2008 with my good friend Brandon. I always used to go up to this scenic paradise for snowboarding and skiing but not for summer time fun. By 2008, I had largely wrapped up the most difficult part of graduate school and again had time to start Fly Fishing and begin Dual Sport Riding again. In my college years, we completed many dirt miles on the rural roads of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Vermont exists on a whole different level of riding because of their unique Class IV seasonal roads.
So much has changed since our first trip up to Vermont. New houses, new jobs, new bikes, new people, marriages and now babies! However, Post Mills, Lake Fairlee, the surrounding forests and hills, they are timeless. The airport, the lake, trails, the hills and mountains it is all there each time you make it back.
During this trip we rented out a cottage on the lake for ourselves instead of staying at the airport. This new development made access to fishing on the lake much improved. Fly Fishing for warm water and cool water species is quite excellent in Lake Fairlee. The lake features some prominent drop offs and extensive shallow weed beds, which lend themselves quite well for fly-fishing.
Fly Fishing For Bass
Brandon paddles up the Middle Brook.
A lake is a vast expanse of water to read, comprehend and adequately explore for fish with a fly rod. However by working with the limitations of basic fly gear and Bass habitat you can reduce the size of the problem to a manageable puzzle. Fly gear will be most effective around structure in less than ten feet of water, near to the shore or weed beds.
Fly Fishing for bass is better in the early morning, late evenings or cloudy days. All of these factors contribute to bring Bass nearer to the surface and within reach of your fly tackle. If you fish near shore in the early mornings, late evenings or cloudy days, you should be able to rip a few ‘ole bucket mouths from the lake.
Fly Tackle For Lake Bass
I have fished with everything from 4WT to 8WT for Bass and other warm or cool water species. My favorite rod to use is my 7WT St. Croix Bank Robber, a rod designed to throw the heavier flies and streams that Bass like to eat. This rod equipped with weight forward Rio 7WT line and a Sage reel is a Bass lip ripper for sure. Alternatively, I have fished an 8WT Cabela’s salt-water rod and a 6WT Scott Radian, all function great, however, my preference if for the 7WT streamer rod.
The ride up to Vermont on Friday afternoon and evening was a long and soggy one. After departing work at around 4PM, I loaded the GMC 2500 and started driving. The rain I hit around Troy, NY certainly slowed me down as I drove through the Green Mountains in the pitch black. I did not arrive at the lake house until around 11:30PM. I suspected that as these rainstorms cleared, it would yield postfrontal conditions and negatively impact Bass fishing in the morning, I was proven incorrect.
After staying up late imbibing as the rest of the team arrived, we all hit the sack in the wee morning hours. Fortunately, the beautiful sunrise over the lake awoke me from my slumber and once I paddled out across the placid waters my head cleared and I was focused on the watery depths. I allowed to canoe to blow into a cove and quickly tied on my Thin Mint fly and some tapered Bass Leader.
This was to be my best day for fishing, the sun rising, burning off the fog; fish after fish chasing my fly. Mornings like these are why men and women have traveled to Vermont to escape for hundreds of years. For the hour and a half I stole away to fish, I landed ten fish and missed countless more. Of these fish, one was my first pickerel on the fly! A little fourteen-inch predator that came tearing out of a weed bed and took some line off of my reel.
The fish in Lake Fairlee were in post spawn hunger mode with a few stragglers remaining on nests. These conditions paired with the low light of sunrise and sunset bode well for catching a variety of fish, especially Smallmouth Bass. We were able to get out on the canoe or the rowboat equipped with a 6HP outboard every day until Tuesday. Unfortunately, the Eurasian Milfoil removal team interrupted our Tuesday morning fishing. Eurasian Milfoil is a highly invasive plant to North America that finds its way into lakes through non-cleaned boating gear. It is common in publicly accessible lakes and must be removed mechanically or with special herbicide. Always make sure your boat is dry and free of weeds or other debris when moving from lake to lake.
The Yellow Brick Road
One morning in 1940 New England, the entire population of a town, 572 souls walked up a winding logging trail into the wilderness and was never seen again. Or so says the fictional account of the American gothic style horror movie, “The Yellow Brick Road.” Exploring class IV roads of Vermont, it is not difficult to see the inspiration for this movie and others of the genre. Scattered along the trails and abandoned roads you will find in Vermont’s highlands stone foundations and cemeteries nestled deep in reforested pastures. Many of these farms were abandoned during the civil war, the owners or children who never returned from their crusade to preserve the Union.
Over the years, dual sport riding in the Green Mountain State we have experienced varieties of gnarly conditions. Be it massive mud puddles, logging roads that terminate at seemingly insurmountable rock faces, beaver dams in the middle of trails or off the grid hermit cabins inhabited by residents that don’t take kindly to visitors. Being out here on the trail is surreal and disappearing into the dense forest seems remotely possible. In fact, I recall one time while riding east of Dartmouth, New Hampshire, Brandon and I took a turn onto what we thought would be a semi-improved road. Several hours later around dusk, we finally made it off of this over ten-mile logging trail. “Trail” is a generous term for the animal path we were riding on.
Bike Troubles Resolved
Up to this year’s trip, the last time I had my bike running proper was right after Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. That trip was fun, however in regards to dual sport riding it was somewhat of a failure. The XT 600 was all re built in October of 2012 and that trip was the maiden voyage. That year, the cards were not in favor of the XT’s operation, the stator shit the bed within minutes of cranking the ole girl up. Running on battery alone we made it about 15 miles before the bike needed a pickup truck ride home.
Fast-forward to today, three years later, one stator, one voltage regulator and a starter solenoid for good measure and the XT 600 is purring like it is 1992. Twenty-three years have passed since my father purchased this bike brand new from Action Cycle in Metuchen, NJ. This trip was an endurance test of all of the repairs we have completed to get this bike up and running like new again.
All told, we completed 91 miles of trail and class IV road riding over the four days. We did an additional 21 miles of improved road riding. Now this may not seem like many miles, however, when a 30-mile trail ride takes you four or five hours, it is an incredible amount of riding. I believe this was an adequate test of the XT’s abilities for now. When I get home, I fully intend to take her out again to explore some local terrain.
Each and every time we get out on our favorite familiar trails we try and locate new challenges and roads not taken. Without fail you tend to locate a new area to explore or a trail to try or even a hidden lake or historical oddity. This time we found the ATV/ Snowmobile trail up to Bald Top Mountain.
The trail started with a deep-water crossing caused by a beaver’s engineering handiwork. The trail continued to slowly meander around the base of Bald Top, gaining altitude as it went. There was a large rock, standing out against the landscape, which we had to crest, intimidating at first, not so much when you arrived at the top. The real trouble lay ahead, as we started to ascend Bald Top, the trail developed into a rocky and muddy path.
Brandon made it about 25% of the way up the final ascent, I was not ready to begin the real ascent and held down at the base. After a little bit of walking around and evaluating the various options, we decided this was a puzzle better solved on our next trip.
This Vermont adventure was unique in that it was the first trip we have taken with Brandon and Nicole’s new addition Wyatt! Also with us riding dual sport bikes was Dave and his wife Carly. Out there fishing and paddling with me was Bob who was also accompanied by his wife Steph and son Logan. This was one of the larger crowds since we attended the Vermonster back in 2011.
All in all it was an excellent trip and I cannot wait to go back again!
The northern woods are abuzz with the sights and sounds of fall. Bow hunters have taken to their tree stands, Trout are recovering from the long summer and the evening winds are brisk and cool. Autumn is a welcome relief from hazy, hot and humid summer evenings. I believe in taking full advantage of every weekend opportunity to either get out on the motorcycle or Fly Fishing. It is also a fine opportunity to get in an extra camping trip or two.
The Open Road
The East Coast Gypsy Run is a non-traditional motorcycle rally that starts down in Brooklyn with a Thursday night party, before heading up through scenic Ulster and Sullivan Counties in upstate New York. This year the ride set out on Friday the 13th, unfortunately we were unable to make it. On Thursday evening a ferocious storm blew through the county, leaving a path of downed trees and power outages through the Township.
Brandon and I decided to follow the run up through Route 52 in Sullivan County and into Ulster County on Route 55. We made some modifications to the route including a cruise through Walpack Center and the Delaware Water Gap along with Hawk’s Nest and a stop at the Roebling Aqueduct.
In the Wild Forest designated areas within the Catskill Park there are remote roadside sites to camp at. This recreates the true freeborn man effect for a weekend warrior such as Brandon and myself. Cruiser bikes are a fine form of transportation; the saddlebags offer a place to store some of your gear and the seats are comfortable.
En route, we found the Blue Hill Café located in the sparsely inhabited mountain town of Claryville, New York. The café has a nicely renovated interior, they are a restaurant, bar, deli and small grocery. When we stopped in we met Irena, the owner and her bus girl Tishana. I had a delicious seafood feast washed down with a few Russian beers.
As a boy, the family had a farm in Wurtsboro, NY on McDonald Road. It was a great place and one of the reasons I enjoy the outdoors. We no longer own the farm; we sold it a few years back. Wurtsboro remains one of my preferred destinations for a motorcycle ride; the Shawangunk Range running parallel with RT 209 town makes it beautiful country.
There are two stops that a rider should make when hammering down through Wurtsboro; the first is the Wurtsboro Airport. The airport is the oldest operating glider port in the USA, it was owned by the Barone Family since the 1940’s. The site of the airport was a large family homestead and the final resting place of the first non-Indian settler in Mamakating Township. Filled with storied history, the airport is under new ownership, the grounds are home to two Cessna Bird Dogs, gliders and several other historically significant airplanes.
Private aviation boomed after World War II, thousands of Americans were trained in the operation of the war birds; these pilots are the individuals who made America the great nation that it is. Recently aviation has fallen on difficult times, the Greatest Generation has retired, the housing boom destroyed airports to make way for subdivisions and the collapse of the housing boom wiped out trillions of dollars in retirement savings. Hopefully soon we will see a return to the pre-recession economy.
Danny’s is my other recommended stop in Wurtsboro; popular with bikers, sportsmen and any red blooded American this is a fine roadhouse. America’s watering holes disappear all the time as our nation becomes successively more urbanized and suburban growth destroys each place’s unique heritage. Pretty much, this is the opposite of your average boring suburb’s Applebee’s, the building dates to the 1800s when the primary means of transportation through town was a canal. Over the years the establishment has been upgraded but you can still rest your kick stand less dirt bike against the pillar here and tie one on… now that’s America!
That about wraps up the open road adventure, our time living as freeborn men. Like any weekend warrior, Monday is a fine opportunity to focus on numbers work and nurse the injuries of the adventure. It is a jam-packed fall and next weekend we will be at the Orvis Game Fair and Country Sporting Weekend along with Fly Fishing adventures in the Hudson Valley.