Story and photo by Richard A. Rampello
In searching for the meaning, generically not so much in an Existentialist fashion, of what are the Finger Lakes, it became clear that geographically I am far more encompassed in their digits than thought. You see, as one who does not imbibe, wine has never struck my fancy and the Finger Lakes Region is known for its wine. I know this alone from my time at WXXI where I transcribed for Taste of New York. Admittedly, cataloging audio and b-roll is hardly a hobby I would take up on my own, but I do recall panoramic shots over large lakes, lined with forest green and intermixed with colors, something that surely could have found its way into the mind of the late Bob Ross, the painter from The Joy of the Painting. Moreover, what impresses me the most is how many Finger Lakes I have experienced first-hand.
So where to start? I could begin with Keuka Lake, which I drove along while lost. It would be a wonderful start because we often find the greatest things while not looking in earnest for them. Or perhaps a familial tradition that my grandpa started, and later ended, that being a cottage on Conesus Lake? Especially given Lakeville is close to where I went to college, a Finger Lakes school in the State University of New York (SUNY) system. Conesus Lake holds great moments of fishing with my dad and the catches that may or may not have followed; where we talked about going out early to cast as well as his tips and tricks (he swore talking to them worked).
Yet it is where I am now that I will talk about, the biggest of the glacial Finger Lakes, the deepest, the one with Naval uses, including now abandoned testing areas that mine eyes have witnessed via Seadoo and boat – Seneca Lake. The body of water that has not seen a trout attached to my line ironically, given it is the “Lake Trout Capital of the World.” Even at the risk of sounding like an I Love New York jingle with that line, I follow with that I did present a trout to my dad on Conesus.
My wife introduced me to Seneca Lake, her own generational extension, plus the surrounding foodie swells. She took me on my first jet ski ride, but it is passing down fishing lessons and experiences to my nieces that stands out. Kids may be in our future, but living in the present is a lesson from those no longer here, namely my dad. I find that a sensible paradox, one hard to define but relatively easy to witness; from loss comes great gains.