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The legend of Hornbeck

More than 25 years ago Minerva resident Don Mitchell hefted the first Hornbeck boat ever sold and proclaimed, this is so light I could carry it to Lost Pond. Thus, a legend was born and the name Lost Pond canoe was coined. Today Pete Hornbeck and a small cadre of local tradesmen continue to perfect the craft of building light-weight canoes and kayaks. Working from a group of modest buildings nestled in the pines off Trout Brook Road in Olmstedville, Hornbeck churns out more than 300 boats annually. They sell to whitewater aficionados. To nature lovers. To photographers, to paddlers. And to brook trout fisherman. Arguably the finest pond fishing rig on the market, Hornbeck has carved out a niche among the angling elite. I have wanted one since I was a kid and now I have one. My brother and I picked up our new Hornbecks or Lost Pond canoes on Saturday. They weigh exactly 11 pounds apiece. Eleven pounds. A gallon of milk, in comparison, weighs 8.3 pounds. Weight to a backwoods pond fisherman is like a dog that bites. You put up with it for just so long. So when I finally made up my mind to make the financial leap, I wanted the lightest Hornbeck had to offer. Enter the Blackjack (AKA the Brook Trout Special.) Like other Hornbecks, the boat is modeled after a blueprint created by legendary Adirondack boat builder John Henry Rushton in the 1800s. Hornbeck stumbled on the design years ago at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. But the design is where the similarities end. This one is constructed completely of modern ultra-light carbon fiber right down to the seat rest. There may be a lighter canoe on the market at 10-foot, 8 inches. But if there is, I have yet to find it. Simon Gardner whose family once owned and operated our very own News Enterprise and Chad Smith whose grandfather is none other than the aforementioned Don Mitchell spent much of the day fitting our boats to us & outfitting our packs with equipment to carry them. By the way nice Jeep Chad. Darren VanAken and Tom Blackjack Ninja O'Malley round out the construction crew at Hornbeck. The process to build a Hornbeck, Gardner said, involves laying a cloth of woven carbon filaments in a mold and covering it with a specialized resin mix. The boats are then popped out of the mold and sanded, then finished with seats and cherry molding on some models. Start to finish, the Hornbeck boys produce about a boat a day. The boats arent cheap but you get what you pay for. And the level of service we received at Hornbeck reflected the same. Besides, this boat will definitely open a new world of brook trout fishing to my brother and me. Hard to put a price tag on that. Ice out? The weather gods have smiled on us as of late. We went from below average high temperatures a week ago to temps 20 degrees above normal last weekend. The ponds I checked last weekend are now out, so GET TO IT! Keep in mind that fish like it warm this time of year. Look for them in shallow water, especially early in the morning before the sun gets high and near inlets where warmer water and sources of food flow in, which stimulates fish activity. More next week. John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and an avid outdoorsman. His column appears regularly. He can be reached at johng@denpubs.com

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