It’s not that lakers are particularly difficult to take with a fly, it’s just that… I’m not a lake fisherman, I’m a stream and river guy, a fish out water when I’m faced with miles of stuff that stays in place and doesn’t flow anywhere. And let’s not talk about my timing for lake trout adventures, or the skill level required to hook one of these North American chars.
It was a beautiful day, and that’s what counts… For upstate New York, it was a first truly spring day, with sunshine, still air, and temperature climbing into the 60s. Good for lake trout fishing, maybe.
I wanted some new angling territory, so I drove to Canadice Lake, my favorite of the Finger Lakes, a cold glacially-toned water that, for some reason, I’ve never fished before.
I was marking new ground, perhaps– leaving a boot track on the wild eastern shore, learning something about this place, putting something of my essence on the lake (okay, like a cat or a dog lifting a tail or a leg), an action that says, “I was here. I’m probably harmless but I’m letting you know, nonetheless.”
All this makes me think of our beloved family pet of 13 years, Mustache the Kat, who died the other day and was laid to rest on our hill beside Brook the Dogg.
Mustache was an indoor/outdoor animal with human-like characteristics given to him by those whose lives he enriched. Mustache loved to mark his territory.
For instance, one time I was standing with him on our driveway when we saw a black bear ambling toward us from a distant bend in the road. Taking heed, Mustache lowered himself defensively. With head pointed and with measured steps, he growled as if to say, “I’ll take care of this; you stay here.”
“No!” I commanded. “Mustache, get OVER here!” I felt like telling him something else… I might be stupid and only human, but I wasn’t born yesterday, damnit. I grabbed him about the same time that the bear finally saw us and no doubt felt intimidated by a two-legged being and a miniature lion.
Whereas our cat marked his territory with defiance toward a bear, I looked at the lovely Canadice Lake and faced the spectacle of Time, of Chronos, the great creator and devourer. Time had a way about himself, as if to say, enjoy this scene fully, my friend; this lake is wild as a bear and it’s alive, like you, but only for a while.
Canadice is the smallest of New York’s eleven Finger Lakes, with a shoreline of about seven miles, an area of 649 acres and a maximum depth of 83 feet. It’s the highest of the lakes in elevation, and it’s the wildest and remotest of all the Finger Lakes, despite being only 30-35 miles south of urban Rochester. Along with neighboring Hemlock Lake, Canadice serves the water needs of Rochester and, thus, is protected on state forest lands.
I had noticed that ice still covered the shallow north end. While standing in the lake near a canoe launch site on the eastern shore, I felt the cold water pressing tightly at my breathable waders. It was quiet here: no camps on the lake, no boats, no human voices other than that of a hiker or two traversing the trail on the west side of the water, half a mile away.
A gull screeched and a pileated woodpecker chortled from the pine-studded forest on the western hills, but that was it. If I hadn’t known otherwise, I could’ve been casting on a pristine lake in the Adirondacks.
When an angler takes the time to detail a description like this, you can figure that the fishing was probably crap. And it was today.
No brown, rainbow or vaunted lake trout came to the streamers that I played on a stout leader and a sinking line. It was still too cold in the lake and too peaceful in this lovely valley for success. At least that’s how I saw it then.
The lakers come close to shore in the early spring and in the fall when it’s spawning time. They are wild fish here in Canadice, and unless I get a float-tube or some other naval device, they probably won’t see me again till… next year?
The enjoyment that I got from this visit to the lake was my “marking” of the territory. I figure that the place is mine to return to when the next small window of opportunity presents itself.
With that, I’ll sound one final note about our old cat and his territory, and the red fox…
I’d been mowing the lawn at the time but stopped the motor when I saw a pickup truck come to a halt nearby. The driver, window down, was laughing. I turned to see a fox running up the road then stopping to turn its head. Whoa, the cat was still in full pursuit! The fox bolted across the yard, and Mustache pulled up near the truck where the driver sat amused and shaking his head…
All I could do, I guess, was to call the cat over, scratch his ears, and get back to mowing– one of the ways I feed the great Creator, the Devourer whose name is Time, and try to slow down his advance.