LAKE PLACID - As we finished up the canoe carry and prepared to put the boat back into the water, I looked upstream to where the river widened at the last bend before a short section of rapids.
About 10 feet above the water, I saw an osprey rising into the air. Its talons gripped a small fish - likely a brook trout - as it flew upward.
In less than five seconds, the bird was gone.
Lake Placid News Sports Editor Morgan Ryan, of Saranac Lake, paddles on a recent trip up the Chubb River with staff writer Mike Lynch.
Photos/Mike Lynch/Lake Placid News
It was the afternoon of Friday, April 6, and Lake Placid News Sports Editor Morgan Ryan and I were on a paddling/fishing trip up the Chubb River.
The goal was to catch a few brook trout and enjoy a paddling trip in an area that is close to the village of Lake Placid but still has a remote feel.
We put the canoe in the water off of Averyville Lane and paddled upstream into the High Peaks Wilderness. The shoreline of the Chubb River is undeveloped except for one house about three-quarters of a mile upstream from the put-in. The waterway originates on the northwestern slopes between Street and Nye mountains, which are themselves visible for much of the trip.
In the 4-mile stretch from Averyville Road upstream, the river habitat is mainly boreal. Tamarack, northern white cedar, balsam fir, spruce and pine trees line the shores. There are also stretches that wind through alder thickets, including one particularly narrow stretch just before the carry when headed upstream.
You come upon the 300-yard carry after paddling 1.1 miles. After the carry, the river widens and enters an area surrounded by marshes. It is here that views of Nye, Street and the Sawtooth mountains come into view.
A little later in the spring, the river is especially good for birding. The birds are often sitting on the vegetation along the shoreline as you paddle through. Among those you might see are black-backed woodpeckers, northern three-toed woodpeckers, palm warblers, Lincoln sparrows, merlins, gray jays, great blue herons, nuthatches and chickadees.
The paddle is generally good to do in the springtime because the mile-long stretch that leads to the carry can be too shallow to paddle in the summer when water levels are low. But on this spring day the water level was already very low, and I had to get out of the boat a few times and pull it to deeper water during the first mile. There wasn't a lot of runoff this spring to fill up the waterways because the winter was warm and produced a below-average snowpack.
Above the carry, the river became deeper and wider as it meandered through a large wetlands. After another mile or so, we decided to turn around so we could fish our way back down the stream.
Prior to the trip, I had been hopeful of catching some brook trout, but as we paddled, I was disappointed that there weren't more new beaver dams across the river. They usually are good places to fish below or just behind. We also didn't encounter any feeder streams running into the main channel that jumped out as places to fish.
The river did have some holes that were deeper than the length of my paddle and we tied up to the alders along the stream, hoping to catch some fish.
We didn't get any bites until we hit a shallow stretch where brook trout were feeding on a hatch of insects. The small brook trout rose to the surface, creating small circular ripples on the water.
In this section, I caught a colorful brook trout. I returned it to the water shortly afterward. I'm not against keeping fish. I just wanted a larger one.
Seeing the feeding fish gave us hope as we paddled and fished downstream, but we didn't see any more activity.
We did see some other wildlife, though. Morgan caught a glimpse of what he said was a beaver, before it dove under the water.
We also saw numerous pairs of mallards: drakes with their bright green heads and brown females. The ducks have been paired up since the fall and now were in the breeding season.
In fact, we seemed to continuously run into mallards that couldn't figure out to get away from us. They would fly up or down the river in the direction we were headed. They would land in the water, wait for us to approach and then take off again.
Other than the animals, there was no one else on the river, and it appeared that it had received little traffic so far this year. The trail register had only about six parties signed in. None since April 1.
The cold weather has likely kept away paddlers, but I thought it added an interesting element to the trip. Both carries were covered with snow, before ending with muddy put-ins.
I had actually hoped there would be more snow along the banks of the river, but the recent snowfalls had already melted, despite spring not fully exerting itself yet.