Fly Fishing on the Northville Placid Trail

NPT-24

The Northville-Placid Trail (NPT) is a good trail with some excellent fishing water. During my previous trips along the trail, I would sometimes watch the streams & lakes and dream of catching the fish as they jumped small falls or quietly tookflies in the pools. On my third trip along the NPT, the decision to bring a spinning rod, a selection of flies and worms was an easy one. The flies I bring also let me use dries, placed about 4’ up the leader with the worm below to cast them. I can then “dance” the fly on the water with twitches of the rod tip as it drifts by the many small holes. I hiked into the area on a Sunday, leaving from the Long Lake Trailhead and knowing I would see only a few people. (I passed five people along the trail to Averyville Road, in Lake Placid…the northern terminus of the trail…in the 35 mile hike.)

1-Northville Lake Placid Trail

Hiking into the Cold River from the Long Lake trailhead meant about a 12 mile hike, part of it along Long Lake. I wasn’t looking for a lot of miles. I was after fish, in particular the Brook Trout, at the Cold River. Along the way, several beaver dams offered an opportunity to take a break. But, after a cast or two and catching a couple smaller fish, it was time to move on. My goal was the Cold River, even if it was low this time of year (middle of August.) The pocket water and holes along that river promised good fishing regardless of the hot sunny weather. I was looking forward to it.

2-Northville Lake Placid Trail

Arriving later in the day, I set up camp at one of the lean-tos. I cleaned it up pretty well, knowing I would be there for a couple days: emptying the fireplace, removing a “false” fireplace, gathering wood for a couple days (or just locating it,) finding the outhouse, making supper, and getting water…generally getting to know the surrounding quarter mile around the lean-to, including locating several potential fishing spots. One way I get familiar with a spot is just plain old walking through the woods

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Walking through the woods is pleasant, though others may think of it as bushwhacking. It is possible to distinguish the two by a very simple rule. Walking through the woods doesn’t need a goal. It is more of an aimless wander. ‘Corse the trees, whether down or standing, help determine your course. A thick pine stand may block my path. I walk along it till I find a game trail, what looks like a disused path, through the trees. This time I see a squirrel climbing a tree. He gets out on a limb and chatters at me. A few birds take off through the trees. It doesn’t matter what specie birds they are. It is just pleasant to walk around in the woods, unencumbered by my pack, for a change. There are a lot of trees down from Irene in this area

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The trail is blocked by a couple blow downs. I remove them after a short walk back to camp to get the saw. I brought my saw this time. I cannot do much with the little Sven saw. 6-7” is all it will cut. But I can clear the path to the outhouse (I *might* need it in the middle of the night.) The sun begins going down as I cook supper. I don’t make a hot roll tonight, since I have a couple “energy” bars. Laughing out loud, I think that energy bars are not real food. Fried fish…now that is REAL food. Well, “Time to get to bed” I tell myself as I rinse my supper dish and “bury” the water. I walk down to the fishing hole one more time. Yup, there ARE fish here. Tomorrow, I think as the sky darkens.

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I catch a couple trout for breakfast. No size to them, only 8-9”, but two will make a good breakfast. There is a frying pan at the lean-to but, it needs some cleaning with some sand and pine needles. Another squirrel visits as I clean the pan, perhaps the same one. He doesn’t get anything. I know he doesn’t care for the fish scraps I have left from cleaning them. I walk away to bury the scraps and the waste water from the pan. A little olive oil and the pan is ready for the trout. 10 AM? “Wow!” I think. Well, the fishing is not going to be very good during the middle of day. Bright sunlight and brook trout are not a good mix. They will be deep in the holes, waiting for sunset. I eat my breakfast. “Red”, as I name the friendly squirrel, comes back to see if I will give him something, he is disappointed, again. I can try fishing a few holes in the shade, I think. They might bite. Later, I think. I need to get some firewood.

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I take care of a few more blow downs with the saw. It is difficult work on one of them. I have plenty of firewood, more than I need…’course, it is always nice to leave “a fires worth.” Only two days out and I smell from getting hot and sweaty sawing wood. I laugh, thinking, it could be worse. What will I smell like after a week? I’ll need a spit bath later. Just to be able to live with myself. I take a nap as I think of wily trout jumping into my “creel” (a gallon zip-lock stuffed in a pocket.)

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Fishing most of the afternoon didn’t produce anything but whitefish (a type of carp.) But, the evening’s fishing was good. Three more trout were released, ranging from 5” to 12”. I only kept another, the largest and last fish. I also caught more whitefish, one at around 14”. Good fighters, but I don’t care for them in my trout water. My supper tonight is poached fish, a rice side, and a cup of cocoa (with a double shot of scotch.) Life is good, I think. I get my first fire going. The flames lick my thoughts away…tomorrow I’ll hike up to another lean-to. I didn’t catch a lot of fish, but I was fairly pleased with what I had known/predicted about them. What would other spots bring?

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As I pack in the morning, “Red” visits, again. I take pity on him and he gets a few grains from my oatmeal bag. We share breakfast in silence. I pack my gear into the MiniPosa. I usually bring a smaller pack, but the MiniPosa is better when I bring the fishing gear and saw, it’s a bit taller with an extension collar. Both pieces of gear weigh under a pound, each. I weighed the pack when I left, it was 18 pounds, including the extra. But the fishing gear had paid for itself, already. The pound of fish I ate weighed a little more than the fishing gear, including the worm baggie.

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“Red” skitters away, done eating. I think the bear bag works well. I made a small modification to it this trip. I used a shorter section of 2mm Bow String (25’) and a shorter section of 1mm spectra or dynema, I don’t remember which. It is easier to handle when tossing it over a tree limb and the larger line does not cut into the branch with 8 pounds of food. My old rock sack was frayed beyond use, so a new one had been added…it doubles as a ditty bag. It weighs a few grams less than the old setup.

12-Northville Lake Placid Trail

I am ready to leave this lean-to. Breakfast and supper were fish. I thank the trail gods as I hike up to the next lean-to. So far, the Cold River had been good to me. There is quite a bit of pocket water, but, most of it is in the sun…not good fishing.

20-Northville Lake Placid Trail

Hiking up to the other lean-to, I cross through the “blow downs”. “Hobo”, a gentleman that pretty much lives on the trail through spring, summer and winter, had marked a route through them. The quarter mile or so of Irene damaged woods had really been an obstacle, last year. Irene didn’t “like” the good trail that used to go through this section. Some of the trees are still alive, some dead, all are too big for the little Sven saw. This year, they were fairly easy to walk around, thanks to “Hobo.”

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Getting to camp, I again cleaned out the fireplace. And I pick up many pieces of aluminum foil … a full quart baggie. A wrapper from a bar and other bits and pieces of Mylar fill out my “haul.” I’d catch some trout tomorrow, I thought as I buried the baggie of worms. I need to keep them cool. I hiked back up to the end of the blow downs and cut a smaller pine tree away from the huge pile of debris, there.

22-Northville Lake Placid Trail

A large fishing hole served as a place to wash my cloths and take a bath. I didn’t bring any soap, and the 55F water was “bracing,” especially after the two other trips back to the blow downs carrying wood. Supper was cocoa, dried sausage and creamy chicken noodle. I ate a small bag of corn chips, too. It wasn’t trout, but after yesterday, I wasn’t much interested in eating fish, again, right away. I will get them tomorrow morning, I think.

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Wow, I caught several fish in the 9-11” range this morning. I had a good time and kept one for breakfast. Fishing the rest of the day produced a couple more…poached fish, cocoa and scotch for supper, since there wasn’t a frying pan there. Ohhh, the hardship and privation of it all!

I sort-of missed having “Red” around. The chittering that reminds me is from a ‘coon. Pesty critters, they are smart enough to know how to get into the bear bag. I can’t leave it out at all. I always leave a few feet below the branch to discourage critters when hanging the bag. They know that they cannot climb up the 2mm line, nor, can they drop the 15’ to the ground if they jump down to the bag. Anyway, I can ignore him, I think. But, of more concern, I have to be careful where I put my worms. He can dig them up easily. I’ll move camp to the next lean-to, tomorrow. Besides, there was some good pocket water between here and Moose Creek (Olouska Lean-to.) I will get some fishing in as I hike. Again, it will be sunny pocket water but the bends will be in shadow… I hope.

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A short hike brought me to Olouska Lean-to. I love pocket water, but there were no fish to be found. Ah
well, you can’t hit them good every day, I think. I continue on to the next lean-to, Cold River #2. What a
mess. I pick up several cans and clean the fireplace. I picked up close to a quarter pound of aluminun scraps and other junk. I clear part of the trail again.

I continue to fish Moose Creek, where the lean-to is. Only two trout this evening, but the fish were small. I can live on another night of trail food. I make a couple rolls before cooking. The evening sun is giving way to a brilliant full moon. This leanto has two out-houses. It is getting cool tonight with a nice large bright moon.

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Generally, I carry minimal gear. One liter of water, usually flavored, about 8 pounds of food, my sleeping bag and pad, a small ditty bag, some AquaMira, spare batteries for the light & Steripen, the SVEA, fuel, pot, spoon and wind screen, my trail journal, a 2.5L platy bottle, tarp, hiking staff, sleeping cloths &socks pretty much makes up my kit for a week. The fishing rod, a Mitchel UL reel, a Krazy Glue tube of sinkers and fishhooks, and a selection of flies do not come on most hiking trips. Nor does the camera.

In the picture above, you can just see the garbage in the right side pouch. Only the stakes, saw and
garbage stayed in the pack, along with the two layer SitLite pad. That’s the Gossamer Gear MiniPosa,
btw. The forunner to the Gorilla, it is about 15oz. The old pad adds about 5oz. It has a few repairs on it, but works real well with a garbage bag inside as a liner.

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Anyway, I fish Moose Creek some more. Still, only one little fish to add. Time to move on, I think. I head
up to moose pond, and do a bit of fishing up there.

Nothing… nada, no fish. I am not really set up for lake fishing, but the Muddlers should work…they
don’t. I release the worms. They have fared pretty well this trip, I think as they wriggle over my fingers. I WILL be back, probably earlier next spring. Well, tomorrow is Friday, I think as I nod off to sleep. A little rain came down, not bad, tomorrow will be nice again with two days of NO RAIN. I look forward to it.I hike up to Wannika Falls. There isn’t a lot of water, but it will be interesting, anyway. After a short hillclimb, I set up camp. No lean-to here. It was taken out in 1989. I find MORE than enough fire wood, butthe fireplace is a MESS. I spend about 2 hours cleaning, rearranging the pile of stones, and getting wood. I usually spend about 15 minutes, so this was bad. At least there was little garbage. My garbage bag is quite full. I wash up again just below the pool. The water is COLD. It falls off a 40’ rock face into a tree lined pool. It is a little beyond “bracing”, this time…it’s just cold.

I shiver as I start the fire. Not a real great camp site for this time of year. I had plenty of fire wood, but in the ravine, I will get soaked with morning dew. But, the water is so clean, I just drink it. No ice needed! A nice place to camp, I think. It is a short hike out this morning, 2 hours or about 6 miles. I finish the last of my cocoa and oatmeal, sitting near the fire. The tarp is coated with dew as is everything else. I delay as long as possible as the sun peeks around the hill. It is hard to get going after a week in the woods. My tarp is soaked, and I wring it out. The sleeping bag is damp. My bear bag is dripping, and my pack is even wet inside. That stuff will weigh almost as much as the pack load when I started, including food, I think.

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But, there is always food at the other end. I hike out chanting my typical end of hike mantra: “Cheeseburger”, “Fries”. A good trip ends up like that.

The hike out is in tune with my mantra. And, I feel great! “Cheeseburger”, “Fries”. The final miles fly by as I think of the trail, and the fish, and the critters, and the few people I met. “How was the fishing,” my wife asks as I give her a greeting hug. “Great” I say, “Well … Really, Great.” There is so much about the hike that is simply left unsaid, things I cannot describe. Things that belong between the trail and me.

This beautiful trip report was written by Trail Ambassador Jim Marco who has a flair with words!

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5 Responses to Fly Fishing on the Northville Placid Trail

  1. ADKinLA October 15, 2013 at 4:49 am #

    Great trip report Jim, glad to see a write up of the ol NPT! I wish you good fishing!

  2. Philip Werner October 15, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    I really have to get off my butt and learn fly fishing. This looks like it was an awesome trip and a great way to immerse yourself in the wilderness while still hiking.

  3. Marco October 18, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    Thanks, guys!
    Yeah, it was fun…someday I’ll take a real fly fishing rig up there. But the fish were mostly laying fairly deep(3′ or so) and in shadowed or dark water. I will go back!

  4. Dan Smith October 19, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    Jim,
    Thank you for the vivid trail report and for being such a thoughtful trail ambassador. Your report makes my heart ache for the ADK! I was on trail in Sep south of Raquette Lake, where I saw plenty of fresh bear scat and tree scratchings.
    How did you do with the usually wet trail along the NPT? Did you have on quick-drying boots and ‘gaitors?
    Happy trails on your next venture.
    R, Dan Smith

  5. Marco October 25, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    Hi Dan,
    Wet trails? Oh, you mean the streams they call trails, hey, ha!

    No, I don’t use either. I just use my regular boots. No gators. I just pull my socks up over my pants. I guess it looks a bit geeky. But the lower sections of the NPT are really too wet for trail runners. I just slog through most of it, especially this year. Most of the trail was puddle, till you got to Turrel Pond/Long Lake. Stephens Pond wasn’t to bad. I didn’t need to carry more than a liter of water.

    Trail runners don’t work that well for me. I have a wide toe area, and narrow heel. Even with liners, my heel slips around a lot, if my toes have enough room to prevent blisters. All the roots and rocks mean a lot of slippery steps. I use my mid-hiker boots, mostly. They have a good scree collar, soo I really don’t need gaitors. Twice, I had to stop and empty my boots of water on the whole trail. (They also have mesh to drain water, but this takes a couple minutes.) Wringing out my socks leaves them no wetter than when I hike in hot weather with them. No blisters the whole trail, let alone the short fishing trip I was on.

    Raquette Lake? Hmmm, where abouts? Yeah, there are LOTS of black bear around there. Fortunatly, they are mostly wild and don’t bother people. There was an incident at Stephens Pond. But usually hanging your food will keep them away. I do a bit of canoing around there, Tioga Point, Seargents Ponds, Browns Tract Inlet, etc.

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