Tuesday, June 23, 2009


The rivers have been blown out for two weeks, two very long weeks. I have been jonesing to fling a fly in a way only other bugchuckers will understand. I have been distracted to the point of neglecting my job, home, wife and children. For lack of trout I have been less of a man.

Yesterday afternoon, I sat in my chair staring blankly at yet another episode of Yo Gabba Gabba, silently wondering how an enormous orange phallus has become so popular with children. My head slumped forward, and a puddle of drool formed beneath my chin. My daughter Madison asked her mother if daddy was dead. "No honey, your father isn't dead. He's lost his mind." The phone rang. It was Ben.

"Miiiiiiiiiike." Ben's usual greeting. He seems to think I've an over-abundance of vowels in my name.


"Mike. Will the wife let you come out and play? Let's go hit the lake."

"Uhhh. Uhhhh. Uhhhhh."

"Ballston Lake. My family's camp there. We'll launch the canoe, bring a couple of my spinning rods, and see if we can drum up a few largemouth. It should be perfect."

"Uhhh. Uhhhh. Uhhhhh. Uhhhhhh."

"Mike? You there?"

"OK, I'll go. But I'll take my fly rod."

An hour later the drool had dried, and I was paddling against the wind along the shores of a lake that is likely deeper than it is wide. The native people who inhabited the shores of Ballston Lake originally named it Shenantaha, which roughly translated means "deep water." The southern end of the three mile long lake (the section I was paddling) is estimated at 120 to 130 feet deep, although local lore holds that it is likely deeper.

The fishing is typical in that one can reasonably expect a mixed bag of bass and panfish. I'm told Ballston fishing can be exceptional when compared to other local lakes; Ben's best largemouth topped eight pounds and Adam apparently lost one that was much larger. Rumor has it that some enormous pike and lake trout inhabit the depths at the southern end of the lake, but we didn't see anything quite so grand. The best fish of the evening was a 15 inch largemouth that swirled on my mouse, and swallowed it in a boil. Truth be told though, the fish was of little consequence.

There was something about being in that canoe, at that moment, on that lake. I was reminded of my childhood; a childhood spent at my great-aunt's home on the shores of the Battenkill. The camps dotting the shoreline, the smell of moss wet from recent rains, the metronome of waves kissing the dock; it all seemed so very familiar. I was new to the lake, a foreigner on its shores, but I was comfortable. I was at ease. Strange as it may seem, I felt at home.

My jones is sated (for at least a day or two), but I am resolved to go back to the lake. Ben told me the predominant forage in Ballston is the mooneye shiner (alewife), and I've been devouring everything the internet offers about mooneye behavior. Master the forage and you master the fish, or so goes my often misguided and fallacious reasoning. By the weekend I'll have a box full of mooneye imitations, and I'll begin the process of weeding out the good from the bad.

Somewhere in the depths of Shenantaha is an eight pound bass that is desperate to make my acquaintance.

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