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Brook Trout & Sinking Lines with Jim Abbott

A splash in the life of an Adirondack Woodsman

Jim Abbott - Adirondack Woodsman


When I planned a trip to go Brook Trout fishing in the Adirondacks, Ralph (WeatherWool Founder) mentioned I should contact Jim Abbott. I wasn't familiar with Jim, but Ralph described him as a classic woodsman living in the Adirondacks, which got my attention, so I decided to follow up on the contact. Jim and I got on the phone and started talking about fishing right away, and I could tell this was someone I could learn an abundance from. His kindness was also evident early on when he offered to let us stay at his house and take us fishing.

Stepping into Jim's home, I quickly learned he was much more than a fisherman. A collection of furs and unique vintage traps hung from the posts, beautiful bucks were mounted on the walls, and off in the corner in front of a collection of axes was Jim's personal pack basket that he made. I later learned that Jim had built this house himself and almost everything in it. The house smelt like a delicious home-cooked meal, and in the kitchen preparing a feast was Lori, Jim's lovely wife, with a kind smile to greet me. Being parents of three, as well as grandparents, the house was also full of kids' toys and family photos along with all kinds of engaging items that I soon learnt all had wonderful stories behind them. We got to visiting, but it was only a short time before Jim was showing me photos and sharing incredible tales of his adventures in the Adirondacks. We could have talked all night, but after a long drive from Canada and an early start scheduled for the next morning to go fishing, I called it a day around midnight. I would have to come and spend more time with Jim and Lori in the future. 


We were up and out the door before the sun peaked over the mountain ridge, driving down winding Adirondack roads into one of Jim's special fishing holes. Jim, now 66, has been traveling these backwoods for as long as he could walk. In his younger years, it was no big deal to carry 100 lb packs with canvas tents and wood stoves and drag out 200 lb bucks. From my perspective, Jim still has the energy of that young man, but since a battle with cancer a few years ago, he claims he doesn't have the strength of his previous self. Despite that, I don't know too many people his age in perfect health that could keep up with him on the trail. Jim may have lost some of his physical strength, but his mind is as powerful as they come, and his feet seemed to remember their way down the rocky, muddy trails into his favorite fishing holes as he hopped from rock to rock like he had done it 1000 times before. Having beat cancer and managing to still harvest a deer every season, even through the worst of his treatment, indeed indicates not much can stop Jim. It didn't take long to realize this former wilderness ranger for New York State knew the 6 million acres of the Adirondacks like it was his own backyard. While the rest of us had to carry our canoes over our heads for 2 miles, Jim was able to stride in casually, only carrying his backpack and oars, knowing there was an old Radisson row boat stashed up at the lake shore.

Jim normally has two rods hanging out the back of the boat but he had
let a friend borrow one to try out for a few laps around the lake.

The hike went quick as Jim walked in front of me, telling stories and commenting on the beauty of this remarkable place. When we got to the water, Jim pulled the boat from behind a patch of balsams. He always puts it back where he initially found it but says he has seen no sign of anyone else using it over the last two years. He rigged up two 9ft 6 piece fly rods with 5-weight Lamson reels loaded with a level sinking line. Jim's technique is unique as he trolls with a fly-fishing setup. Although not original, it's rarely practiced in modern times, but Jim, having tried everything, prefers this system and has been committed to it over the last 45 years. It clearly does work for him, as he had a fish on within 10 minutes of pushing his boat out onto the water. It was female, around 10 inches, which he quickly released back into the lake. Jim's old Radisson looked like it had fallen off a truck a few times, but man, could he build up speed quickly in that thing. He'd have a fly rod tossed out both sides of the boat and drag out 90 feet of line faster than I could keep up with, paddling full speed in my Hornbeck with a double-bladed paddle. Jim was fishing two different flies. One was a beaded hare's ear, a common fly, but the other was one of Jim's original creations. In fishing, some things are better kept secret for a while, and this fly of Jim's is one of his. It could be glanced over in the fly box as just another streamer, but over the years, Jim has refined it until it met his desire and fishes it with great pride. However, on this particular day, there were a few of Jim's friends also fishing Jim's secret fly, but for some reason, Jim was pulling in a lot more fish than the rest. A friendly reminder that it isn't just the look of your hook that matters when it comes to fishing.


Jim doesn't fish for much else other than Brook Trout. He's obsessed with the beauty of these fish, especially this time of the year when the males are all dressed up in their bright spawning colors. "They are one of God's most beautiful creations," I heard him say when admiring the 16-inch male brook trout he had just laid across his lap. Some things never get old, and although Jim has probably held tens of thousands of these fish in his hands, he still admires their beauty like it's the first one.  

Jim put on an impressive display, pulling in several beautiful fish and sharing stories as I paddled alongside him. He says he hopes to do this until the day he dies, but to me, it looks like Jim is already living in heaven. The sun's rays shone a little brighter on this kind-hearted man on that cool, windy day.



As we parted ways, I felt so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend the day with Jim Abbott. I left feeling so inspired and reminded that an honest, aware connection to the land and nature if you know what to look for, is more exciting than anything a screen can depict.
I look forward to spending more time with Jim in the future. We may even have a few more stories to share with you.

Until then,
Cody Bokshowan


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