Back to the Bog

I've recently returned from an extended canoe camping trip to the Bog River Flow, Lows Lake Area. Located west of Tupper Lake, the vast region has been the center of controversy in recent months due to revisions in a DEC Unit Management Plan that had intended to phase out the use of float planes servicing the region. Despite the fact that several private land holders in the area retained rights to motorized access, similar access rights were to be phased out over a five year period for commercial services. Fortunately for float plane operators and their many guests, the DEC reversed the policy in a UMP revision that intends to permit the continued use for an additional ten years. The case remains unresolved since several environmental advocacy groups have since sued the state to abide by the restriction of the original UMP. In the late 1970's, I was fortunate to be a guest of the Grassy Pond Hunting and Fishing Club, based on Grassy Pond in the farthest reaches of the Bog River Flow. I believe the location of the cabin is known as Campsite number 32 today. Back then, the area referred to as Mud Lake was an outstanding brook trout fishery. Its where I learned to fish brook trout on still waters from Old Bill Strong of Elizabethtown. Bill, an equally excellent carpenter and character, often joked of becoming the Hermit of Grassy Pond in his later years. He was also one of the best brook trout anglers Ive ever known. Like many Adirondack tradesmen, Old Bill enjoyed his beer. A long weekend in camp usually required a couple cases. On the water, with a can of Busch beer in one hand and another on the tiller; Old Bill would troll for brookies all day. But, when Governor Mario Cuomo announced that the state had agreed to purchase the vast Lows Lake Lands from the Timber Companies in the early 1980's. Bill's dreams of retiring to a brook trout nirvana suddenly evaporated when the Grassy Pond Club lost their lease, and just as with numerous similar land deals in the park, the club lost it's camp. In 1982, after the state sealed the land deal, we began a long tradition of returning every spring to fish for brookies at ice out with Old Bill. Over the years we were joined by a group of friends, relatives and assorted local characters. The annual return to the Bog became known as The Goofy Group, and Old Bill was it's patriarch. Every year, Bills first act upon returning to The Bog would always be a resounding, Screw your, Mario!. It would echo off the cliffs that tower over the upper dam. For years, many nice fish were caught and recaught around the campfire where more than a few beers were consumed. Sadly, in 1993 the day arrived when Old Bill was called to better brook trout waters. Always good with a fish story, Bill topped them all when he requested his obituary mention that, With his passing, brook trout fishing will once again thrive in the Adirondacks. For years, I avoided returning to the Bog, it just wasn't the same. In just a few years the largemouth bass, whether introduced accidentally or intentionally, soon edged out the historic trout fishery. Soon solitude was no longer available, as paddlers replaced anglers as all across old Mud Lake, campsites were designated, numbered and patrolled. Slowly, state signs and regulations domesticated the wildness of the area. It wasnt until 1995 that I finally returned to the area while guiding a group of three gentlemen on a fishing trip. I had hopes of brook trout, but by then the bass numerous and had become a targeted species. Brook trout had become rare. We established a camp on a small ridge, near a little pond, which Bill had always called The Hole. By routine, my first chore in camp was to secure the canoes, and to set the camp ax in the water. This would swell the handle so the head wouldn't fly off when chopping wood. I had learned it from Old Bill. After lashing the canoes, I placed the ax in the water. As I did, the glint of metal along the shoreline caught my eye. Pushing back bushes of leatherleaf and Labrador tea , I found a faded, dented and well worn can of Busch beer floating near the shore. With a fishing net from the canoe, I retrieved the can, which was unopened. I popped the tab and beer foamed out. I took a hearty swig. It was cold, and memories poured out with the beer. I offered a silent toast to Bill and the good, old days on the Bog. The following morning, a fine brookie fell to a wabbler-worm trolled at the far end of The Hole. Over the course of our four day trip, it was the only brook trout taken. Otherwise it was all bass. Though we were all paddling canoes; Im sure Bill's hand was still on the tiller! Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at brookside18@ adelphia.net

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