I love fishing for brook trout in Virginia’s mountain streams as much as any other angling addict in the Old Dominion. Brookies don’t get very big around here but they’re a plucky group – and give us hours of outdoor pleasure.
No surprise it’s Virginia’s state fish.
But I’d also heard about the big brookies that live way up north in the rivers, lakes and ponds of the American Northeast and Eastern Canada that can put a serious bend in a fishing rod. I’m talking fish that grow to well into the double digits.
I’d also, fortunately, understood that you didn’t have to travel all the way to Maine or Newfoundland to get into our state fish’s broad-shouldered relatives. Upstate New York in the Adirondacks is one of those “closer” places.
I started looking into it and about the same time an email magically appeared from a Lake Placid, New York, fly shop. The Hungry Trout was offering a flat water fly fishing clinic for – you guessed it – behemoth brookies.
I breathlessly dialed up the shop for more info.
Evan Bottcher, who runs the fly shop, answered the phone and started telling me about the two-day clinic. “Big brookies, uh-huh...stripping streamers, uh-huh,” I responded quietly. But he lost me with what he said next.
“Lock-what? Can you spell that?” I said, completely baffled.
“Sure: “L-O-C-H,” Bottcher said, enunciating each letter slowly like he’d had to do it before. Thinking I’d heard him right, I shot back, “Do you mean like Nessie, the monster that lives in that Scottish lake, Loch Ness?”
“Kinda,” he chuckled.
In fact, we’d be fishing for brook trout in a style developed for the lakes — aka lochs — in the United Kingdom. Now having figured out its origins, I felt a little better not knowing what loch-style fishing was.
I’d never heard of it.
I did have to google it after we hung up just to make sure I didn’t have to wear a kilt while casting or learn to play the bagpipes to attract the fish — or eat the traditional Scottish meal of haggis, tatties and neeps for our lakeside lunch.
But a not-too-peaty single-malt scotch before dinner would be just fine, of course.
But I digress.
Classic Adirondack loch-style angling involves fishing from a boat either by trolling or casting. Trolling can be done by rowing or using a trolling motor. I personally don’t find this style very sporting when fishing for trout.
But that’s just me.
The other option is fishing from the boat with the wind at your back. This form of flatwater fishing involves setting a drogue — or a wind sock — from the boat to slow your motion across the water such as along the shoreline or over structure.
In terms of angling, it’s classic streamer fishing using a (recommended) 10-foot 6-weight fly rod outfitted with any number of floating or sinking lines tied off with tried-and-true fly patterns like wooly buggers or leeches.
As Bottcher told me, there are real challenges in still-water fishing including finding the fish on a big piece of water and at what depth they’re suspended. When you do find this out, you’ll be rewarded.
Imagine heritage-strain brook trout—like the Temiscamie—that average 13 to 14 inches in length, but can often go more than 20-inches. Bottcher claims that you can catch 3-pound to 4-pound brook trout in these Adirondack waters.
That’s what I call “football fish.”
I didn’t catch any football fish during the clinic, but I caught several large brookies, including one of more than 20-inches. In truth, I lost just as many as I landed, especially while trolling from the camp launch to our drift areas.
Never could get that trolling hook set right.
Besides the bruiser brookies, the landscape in the Adirondacks is gorgeous — and the Hungry Trout sets up a great camp with awesome meals. Our 2,000-acre “fishing pond” was ringed with pine trees and featured the haunting sounds of loons as the sun set.
It was kind of like something out of a Currier & Ives print.
Being a stone’s throw from Canada on the northern edge of Adirondack State Park, fishing for brookies is a May-October deal before Jack Frost covers the area in ice and snow.
But that still leaves six months of the year to chase these incredible fish. There’s no question: Loch-style fishing is a wonderful way to get a lock-on some big, bad brookies.