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2-FLY HIGH: Annual fishing challenge on the AuSable River

May 18, 2012
MIKE LYNCH, Outdoors Writer, and LORA BUSHY , Lake Placid News

WILMINGTON - Fly-fishing enthusiasts from throughout New York state will be in town this weekend for the 13th annual AuSable River Two-Fly Challenge.

And it appears conditions will be pretty good this weekend - temperatures are forecast to be in the 60s and 70s - after what has been a strange spring weather wise. Ice-out in the region came in late March, followed by low water levels due to a lack of precipitation. Those conditions allowed some good early season fishing opportunities but they threatened to derail the fishing season if they continued in the long term.

But in true Adirondack fashion, winter returned, hastening the chance for any continuing warm weather spells.

Article Photos

Mike Lynch/Lake Placid News file photo
A fisherman takes part in last year’s Two-Fly Challenge along the AuSable River. This year’s Two-Fly takes place Friday and Saturday.

"It's been an unusual spring," Hungry Trout Resort owner Jerry Bottcher said. "We almost had ... May conditions in March. But that abated with the snow and cold that came in, and set everything back to a normal condition, which was perfect. Right now, the river is full. The water temperature is still lingering around the 50 to 52 degree temperature. It's probably going to be a little cooler than perfect."

As far as hatches on the river, Bottcher said he's recently seen a lot of Hendrickson Mayflies downriver from his business off state Route 86. His son, Evan Bottcher, who is running the Two-Fly Fly Shop at the Hungry Trout this year, has consistently been on the water this spring. He's seen a lot of Hendricksons, march browns and caddis flies.

"Your kind of standard late May Mayflies, because of the early season, are kind of in full swing even though it's the second week of the month," Evan Bottcher said. "Everything's a little bit early, although not too early to were it was a negative effect."

Fact Box

For more information on the fly-fishing event or dinner, contact the Visitors Bureau at 518-946-2255. Registrations will run from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Friday.

The Two-Fly Challenge starts on Friday night with the fly tyers reception on Friday at Steinhoff's Sportsmans Inn from 7 to 9 p.m. There will be about a half dozen fly tyers on hand to display their skills and discuss their techniques with the public.

On Saturday, anglers will hit the water for a full day of fly fishing, during which they will be only allowed to use two flies to land their fish. The winners will be determined by size of the fish. Because this is a catch and release contest, no fish will be brought to a weighing station. Instead the fishermen will be asked to simply report the size of their catches to judges.

Saturday evening, there will be a dinner for the sportsmen at the Hungry Trout restaurant, highlighted by a presentation from Ray Brook fishing guide Joe Hackett, who is also an outdoors columnist for the Lake Placid News and Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

Hackett will tell stories and talk about why "outdoor manner's matter" and the importance of fishing at a slower, relaxed pace. He said sometimes people today forget to leave behind the fast pace of everyday life when they hit the fishing holes and that it's important to do so. He'll also talk about mentoring.

"I learned (my fishing ethics) from a grumpy old man with a crumpled hat and a bamboo rod," Hackett said.

Now he's the one passing on that "old time" knowledge.

So far, it looks like Hackett will have a good crowd on hand to listen. Michelle Burns of the Whiteface Region Visitor's Bureau, said there are about 90 people signed up to attend. That's about the norm, she said.

"This may be some of the two fly conditions we've had in years," said Evan Bottcher. "Last year, the river was maybe the highest it's been for the Two-Fly. This year, anglers are going to be quite happy to see the condition of the river being much more manageable to wade and to fish, with very good insect activity."

River lure

What is the lure of this fabled AuSable? According to three gentlemen in Wilmington, it turns out that the answer is so simple. It is the river itself.

Tom Roginski from Harvard, Mass. has a camp in the area has been coming up since 1975 and has fished here all that time, and he has fished a lot of the rivers on the East Coast.

"The topography of (the West Branch) and the flow rates are significantly different than downstate rivers," he said. "Within a 20 mile stretch, you can have a guide take you to the exact type of water that you would like to fish."

Local guide, fly tier and fishing poet, David "Brookie" Brookman said he thought part of the reason was that "There is definitely a tradition that has been established over the years."

Tom Conway, who owns and operates the AuSable River Two Fly Shop in Wilmington, had similar thoughts.

"It's like bringing your kids and grandchildren to Santa's Workshop over the years, so is the practice of bringing the next generations to fish on the AuSable," Conway said. "The guys that are still alive are still coming, and if they have kids that are into fishing, they are raising them up on this river as well."

Brookman added a reason that is also the reason many people of all disciplines and hobbies come to this area.

"It's not just catching that fish, but with the beautiful scenery, it's the whole picture, and we're very fortunate here in Wilmington and this area to have such a beautiful river," he said.

The trio agreed that the West Branch's stretches are so different from what some of the visiting fisherpeople are used to.

"They're used to fishing with smaller gravel rocks along runs, you know ripples and runs and pools," Conway said. "This river offers more variety in that sense."

For more information on the fly-fishing event or dinner, contact the Visitors Bureau at 518-946-2255. Registrations will run from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Friday.



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