With the rough parameters of John’s wilderness fishing trip defined, and dates in early May selected, I began to think about the many options. With over six and a half million acres of rugged forest, containing thousands of ponds, lakes, and flows, the Adirondack Park is big. Planning a week of backcountry fishing would require some thought and a difficult decision. As the Winter of 2020 turned into Spring, I began to narrow my field and began to get excited in anticipation of this unique trip. Then came Covid.
John’s trip became insignificant. All my trips became insignificant. With life on hold, guiding was shelved. In mid May, however, the governor lifted restrictions allowing “non-essential” work to begin again. New dates were set and the trip planning was again underway.
One steadfast rule that I stick to is not experimenting with guests. Choosing to explore a new area instead of sticking with familiar environments almost never happens. Almost. This time however, the notion of exploring a remote stretch of river, one that had my interest peaked for some time, became tempting. The remote nature of the river, its difficulty in terrain and of access, would be sure to test my skills and ability. Being responsible for the health and safety of an angler unaccustomed to rigorous backcountry travel left no room for error.
Planning began and maps were collected and studied. The most important element of the trip — besides the trip itself — was the preparation. Gathering intelligence on the river was key. There is one man in that region who had descended the river more than anyone in history, my old friend of over twenty years, Roger “Butch” Hassler. Butch’s first hand knowledge of the river was the knife that fleshed out my route and itinerary.
As the date approached, I packed my outfit, loaded the canoe, and departed to a town called Natural Bridge. My friend Eric has a rustic and seldom used hunting camp on the banks of the Indian River there, and with Covid precautions heavy on our minds, it was decided this would be a good, isolated, place to begin our journey.
John had a long drive from Virginia and arrived at camp late in the afternoon. After introductions, a couple of cold beers and a steak dinner, I set about the task of inspecting John’s personal equipment. While I had instructed John prior that he would need to have his personal items in one backpack, he arrived at camp, as I expected, with three and a half packs of stuff.
Weeding out about 30 pounds of “useless” items John had brought was painful, for John. I rifled through his packs and the pile of “not going” stuff grew. I could see the disdain in John’s face. Items like an old school digital camera, hairbrush, a hardcover edition of Audubon Field Guide To Birds, a fixed-blade 8 inch “Rambo” knife, a short-handled hatchet, multiple little boxes of fishing lures, were destined to be left behind.
“Useless gear” is a matter of opinion or interpretation. On this trip it was only a matter of my interpretation. Everything that went with us would at one point or another end up on my back. Much to Johns chagrin, a large amount of what he had brought with him would not be going into the woods. In the end, however, he ended up with one full pack and one half-pack of stuff. Some compromises did happen.
In the morning, after a big breakfast of steak and eggs, I set about loading the packs, cooler, canoe cart and other miscellaneous gear. But before I packed these items into the bed of the truck, I removed two ultra-light Fenwick spinning rods from the truck’s bed and placed them on the canoe rack of the truck where they would be safe while I packed. Once packed up, John and I jumped in the truck and drove away, down the bumpy dirt road and on to New York State Route 3, headed north at 55 miles per hour.
It was a beautiful, sunshine filled, Spring day and our spirits were high. Just before entering the Village of Harrisville, about ten miles from Eric’s camp on the banks of The Indian, I realized I left the two Fenwick ultra-light rods resting precarious on the canoe rack of the truck!