May 19, 2013

Kayak trip almost becomes ice-out adventure

By Dan Ladd

---- — By now, Adirondack trout fishermen should be having their way in the back country. That is, with the exception of some black flies.

Usually it’s about the time that pussy willows, apple blossoms or lilacs bloom that old legends say is when things start to happen. Another one of those magical times to fish is supposed to be ice-out.

That’s what myself and four kayak-fishing buddies had in mind a few weeks ago when we did a 10-mile, overnighter on Indian Lake in the central Adirondacks. Our plan was to float and fish the Jessup River, which flows into the southern end of the lake, spend the night and fish our way out.

What little information we found on the Jessup River told us you had to take on this 2-mile stretch in high water. Thus our choice of a spring run in hopes of also picking up some brown trout. However, once we launched and paddled under the Route 30 bridge we knew immediately the fishing would be tough. The current was quick and the water was cold.

This first part of the river would be nice in warmer weather, but other than portaging around a downed tree, the high water allowed us to cruise over a number of beaver dams that may be more obtrusive later in the year.

I love waters like this and quickly gave up fishing and just paddled down the river enjoying the tranquility. It didn’t take long to get immersed in another world. It also didn’t take long to reach the last stretch of the river, which included some Class I rapids.

This section of the river is full of rocks and high, fast water made scouting the whitewater necessary. After carrying our boats a hundred yards my buddy busted out his fly-rod and did some fishing while I went ahead and scouted the river. It looked like we could shoot the rest of the rapids. I haven’t done this kind of thing in quite a few years but I have to say, it was a thrill.

Just before the Jessup enters the lake, Dug Mountain Brook flows in and there is a nice picnic spot (no camping) and a waterfall at the inlet. We hiked upstream another quarter-mile to yet another waterfall and fished our way down. This was a bony stream with few pools. But, it was a nice spot just the same and we had lunch and met up with two of our crew who went in the day prior and set up camp.

They picked a winner of a campsite in selecting No. 52, the last one in Jessup Bay. Indian Lake is narrow here and the campsite was on a small point with a beach, two picnic tables, two privies and a sweet view up the lake. We gathered a plethora of wood and enjoyed a large fire throughout the night as we dined on venison, beans and potatoes along with a box of wine. Before I knew it the night was over and I was in my tent, which was set up on the beach.

Morning also came early and we had breakfast, coffee and all the fixings, then broke camp and loaded up for what would be a gorgeous 4-mile paddle up Jessup Bay. We’d then have to head south another 3 miles back to the boat launch.

I can’t say enough about Jessup Bay. It’s narrow, serene and has plenty of campsites. Between us we had nine lines out at one time or another loaded up with various flies, spoons and spinners in hopes of picking up a lake trout or salmon, without any luck. We enjoyed the paddle while we could because what happened next could’ve been a major inconvenience.

When we drove down Route 30 the day prior, we could see there was still some ice in the middle of the lake but the shorelines were open. Admittedly, we chanced it. Now here we stood at campsite No. 39 looking across a sheet of ice at the boat launch 3 miles away.

I noticed a bay in the ice and what looked like a former pressure crack. I paddled over, check it out and was slowly able to make my way through the slushy ice. The others followed suit and we paddled down the west shore of Indian Lake and back to the boat launch. That was lucky.

I’ve paddled 10 miles in the Adirondacks many times on various trips that involved canoe carries. But I can’t remember when it was as diversified as this overnight paddling trip on the Jessup River and Indian Lake.

Someday we’ll go back and maybe the fish will even bite.

Dan Ladd is the author of “Deer Hunting in the Adirondacks,” outdoors editor for the Glens Falls Chronicle, columnist for Outdoors Magazine and contributor to New York Outdoor News. Contact him at