Lee was all smiles when he got off
his plane from Salt Lake City in Manchester, NH. I figured either he was
real happy to see me, or was looking forward to our week's fishing trip
to Maine, or both.
"It was a fisherman's dream come true", he smiled.
All the way across country, he'd been lucky enough to be seated next to a very attractive lady angler, who was going fly fishing in Alaska this summer. And, she wanted to talk fishing and Alaska. The triple good fortune of being able to talk fishing and Alaska with a good looking,interesting woman for 3 1/2 hours was just about more than Lee could stand!
By the time Scott's plane landed from San Francisco an hour later, Lee had come back to earth himself, and we headed out for the Farmhouse and our trip to catch some big brook trout and salmon in Maine. On behind the Jeep I had a trailer piled with the first load of boxes of our protracted move from Clifton Park.
The Farmhouse was in good shape when we arrived, although the grass was a bit high and needs mowing. The stone walls and edges are alive in color from flowers that we didn't know were there! A lot of love and care have gone into the plantings around the place by the former owners.
The Bats have returned - into the house!
I was showing Lee and Scott around the place. When we got to the Bat Room, Lee said "What's that noise?"
We all listened - "Squeak, squeak - rustle, rustle"
"The bats have returned," I said, "and they're inside the house!"
Sure enough, there were several bats hanging from the ridge beams in the Bat Room. We later found a couple more in the Carriage House. So much for our bat-proofing efforts! The bat houses, by the way, remain empty!
...but we're going fishing anyway!
We could have dealt with the bats right then - figuring out how they are getting in, and building some one-way openings so they could leave but not return. Yup, we could have, but we decided to go fishing instead. Besides, they'll only stay the summer, and will be gone to their bat hibernacula in September. Compared to the risk of missing the early caddis hatch on the Rapid River if we did postpone the fishing trip to deal with the bats, there was really no discussion nor debate.
Bad news - Jack calls and confirms that he can't join us on the Rapid - it's hell when work gets in the way of fishing! He offers to take us for stripers on the coast when we get back on Saturday, however.
"Do you still have those dead smelt flies made out of quills and soda straws? And the bomber flies that look like dog turds?" I ask
"Sure do - want to use em?" Jack says
"We'll drop by on our way north on Sunday and pick them up if that will work with you."
"Why don't you come in time for breakfast and we'll feed you too." he offers
We're an easy sell, and are at Jack and Ellen's doorstep in Parsonfield at 8:30am Sunday morning. They stuff us with apple pancakes and caribou sausage, and Jack passes along tips for fishing the Rapid River and the other spots where we are heading. He loans us the collection of very strange looking home-made flies guaranteed to "knock em dead" on the Rapid. We leave with plans to meet early Saturday for stripers on the coast.
We stop in South Effingham, N.H. to put flowers on the Crabtree family graves for Memorial Day, and to introduce Lee and Scott to Earl Taylor, Mayor of Taylor City. They are suitably impressed to be in Hizonnor's presence - but I'll have to tell you about Earl in another journal entry - mebbe when he gets re-elected Major on July 4 (he always gets re-elected, but then he cheats!). Then, we're off to Errol N.H. and the Magalloway River on the first day of our fishing trip. Scott has lined us up with some places to fish from his research with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologists in the area.
Scott's third cast gets a strike from a 14" landlocked salmon, in the first plunge pool we come to on the Magalloway River across the state line in Maine, just below the Aziscohos Lake penstocks. Scott lands it while Lee and I are still rigging up! Working down river, Scott lands a nice 16" brook trout, at 2 ½ pounds the largest he's ever landed on a fly rod. We've only got a few hours to fish this first day before dark, and Scott starts things off with a bang! The Magalloway is a nice free stone stream, with pocket water, riffles and pools. Water temperature is 56oF, and the air temperature is in the mid-80's and humid. The black flies are out in droves, with enough squaw flies to be a nuisance.
Seth is a senior in Environmental Science at the University of Maine, Farmington, and has the dream job of being paid to be on the Magalloway all summer doing an angler survey. He finds us spread out down the river, and wants to know what we're catching, where we're from, how long we are going to be fishing, etc. In turn, Scott pumps him for fishing tips and directions to the local waters, what insects are hatching, what fly patterns are working, and where to get access to several local rivers.
What he doesn't tell us is that all three of the restaurants in Errol close at 8:00pm - and we're on the river till dark. Supper comes from the Irving gas station and deli in downtown Errol.
"We'll take all your chicken fingers and chicken nuggets and fish sticks" says Lee to the gal behind the counter "and the curley fries too."
"Sure, anything else?" she says (thinking to herself that she was just about to throw the whole batch out anyway, it being closing time).
Supper is cold fried fast food and a warm Moxie at the Errol Motel - but it closes out our first day of fishing in Maine. It just doesn't get much better than this!
Lee and I are fishless. We've fished with Scott before, however, and are neither surprised nor intimidated. We have miles of wonderful trout streams ahead of us. It was so hot today that when I peel off my neoprene waders, I am soaking wet inside - tomorrow I'll go wetwading. Lee has a new pair of breathable waders, and I envy him.
Having any luck, boys?
We were back on the Magalloway at 6:30am, Memorial Day, and had the river to ourselves. The three of us were working the "Two Girls" pool (so named because yesterday there were two lady flyfishers there most of the afternoon - and we don't know the local name for the pool). Scott had caught a nice 20" salmon at the head of the pool, and was fishing from a ledge across the river.
I was nymphing with a gold-ribbed hare's ear bead head, and had just landed a 14" brook trout from the head of the pool right after Scott's fish. Scott got one picture from across the river, of the fish on. And Lee got another when I landed the fish, from my side of the river.
Lee was working the middle of the pool with dry flies, and with nymphs. So far he hadn't had any luck, but this is good water and it is just a matter of time, the right pattern, and maybe a hatch would help too. We were in fine spirits!
From behind me comes a voice out of the bushes -
"Having any luck, boys?"
I turn around and see the game warden, standing right behind me, complete with binoculars and mesh bug jacket. None of us had seen or heard him come up, and he very likely had been standing there for a while watching us fish.
"Let me check your license and rig" he says to me.
I fumble around for my license in my bag, while he examines my nymphing setup. The Magalloway here is fly fishing only, but we do catch and release fishing anywhere we fish.
Chad, the game warden, checks my season non-resident fishing license.
"Did you get a Maine fishing regulations book when you got your license?" he asks
"Yes, I did." I reply "Is there a problem?"
"This split-shot sinker you have on your line is illegal in Maine - you can't have any extra weight on the line when you are fishing with a fly", and he reads me the rule:
My standard nymphing setup includes a small split-shot sinker on the line, about 14" up from the nymph - this is the traditional way to get the nymph down on the bottom, and I've used it all over the country with no concerns. I mention this to him, and he replies:
"...but not in Maine. This rule has been on the books for years."
"It is usually a $50.00 fine - here, I'll show you the penalty chart" he offered, pulling out his ticket book. "I'll let you off with a written warning this time - but I strongly urge you to read your rulebook."
"How about your buddies - are they using the same rig?" he asks, and shouts across the stream to Scott, fishing off a ledge on the other side of the pool.
Scott had been following the conversation closely between Chad and I, and just then (later he said he snagged on the bottom) he jerked his line out of the water and it flew up into a tall spruce tree behind him. He gave it a good tug, breaking his tippet, and leaving the nymph rig 20' up in the tree. A big grin came over his face, as he cried "I've lost my nymph!"
"Never mind" said Chad - "what does your license say in the upper right corner?"
"Fine" Chad replied.
We'll never know if Scott had illegal extra weight on his line or not, but he kept grinning while Chad wrote me up. When Lee came up from the lower end of the pool, his line was weightless - but Lee insists that this was the way he had it rigged all along.
Chad then offered some tips and advice on where we might go fishing in the area, and answered some questions about beadheaded flies, weighted flies, and multiple flies, or droppers. As soon as Chad left, we went back to fishing - without the split-shot - and I immediately caught another brookie in the head of the pool - maybe he was right after all. In any event, he made believers of us - and a bit apprehensive if we ever hear "Having any luck, boys?" from the bushes.
Rangeley River and Upper Richardson Lake
Chad, the game warden, had recommended a couple of other spots to try in the area, and after catching a few more fish on the Magalloway, we drove to the Rangeley River. This is a short river, about 1 1/2 miles long, that flows between Cupsuptic Lake and Rangeley Lake. We found the snowmobile bridge that both Seth and Chad had given us directions to, and I went upstream wetwading with a beadhead pheasant tail nymph, while Lee and Scott went downstream. Lee finally broke his dry spell, and caught a number of 10-12" brookies on a small parachute Adams dry fly. Scott and I did well also. The Rangeley is my idea of a perfect type of stream - easily wadeable, with long riffles and small pocket water, with room to cast and fish. Water temperature here was also 56o F.
After lunch on the patio at Oquossoc, we fish the afternoon and evening till dark below the Upperdam between Richardson Lake and Mooselookmeguntic Lake. The earth, stone and timber dams built to control water for driving logs on the rivers and lakes of this part of Maine were constructed in a similar pattern, with a long enclosed house over the gateworks. The dam at this point on Richardson Lake looks very much like the Middledam and Lowerdam on the Rapid River, where we'll be fishing in a few days. All the dams have a pool below the spillway, with salmon and brook trout attracted to the food coming down the spillway into the pool. There is generally good fishing at the pool, and at the tail of the pool, depending on what water is being released from the dam.
There are a few people fishing when we get there, and we catch a few brookies in the pool and a little riffle at the bottom of the pool. Lee distinguishes himself by catching a 12" chub in the pool - first chub of the trip! Water temperature is 49o F below the dam.
When things slow down a little, we hike back to the Jeep (gated access road to the dam) and have an indifferent dinner in Rangeley - at least it is better than the Sinclair deli! We come right back, and hike back down to the dam and fish till we can't see our flies on the water anymore. There is a delightful caddis hatch that comes on at dusk, and we do well on small deer hair and elk hair caddis dry flies fishing at the tail of the pool. The highlight of the evening is a spectacular sunset that turns the water to liquid gold, while a young moose swims across the river just below where I'm fishing.
The next morning we're back at the Magalloway fishing three pools further downstream, closer to Wilson Mills. Lee nets two fine salmon using one of Jack's dead smelt flies - one is about 19" and the other about 17". Both were in the 2-3 pound range, The first one had been striking at Scott's strike indicator, and he said to Lee "Here, try that dead smelt fly in at the upper end of this pool - there's a nice salmon feeding. You'd catch him in 10 casts!"
Well, it took 20 casts, but it proved to all of us that Jack's funny flies would work.
Scott lands a nice 17" salmon and a 17" brookie on beadhead caddis nymph as a dropper behind a large weighted stone fly nymph.
The Lakewood Camps is one of the oldest traditional sporting camps in Maine, having been in operation for 150 years. They are located at Middledam on Richardson Lake at the head of the Rapid River. The Camps are reached by boat from Upper Arm on Richardson Lake, and Eric meets us with the camp boat about 9:00 am on Wednesday for the five mile trip. Sue Milton, one of the owners, is at the dock and shows us to our cabin for the next three days. She answers our questions about local fly patterns and points us toward the river.
The dam is releasing 1,200cfs into the Rapid, so some stretches along the river are not easily fishable. However the pool below the dam, and the Pond in the River is very productive.
The walk along the Tote Road is about 20 minutes to the Pond in the River. The riffles and pool where the Rapid River empties into the Pond has some brookies in the four-to-six pound class, and some impressive salmon too. Over the next few days at the Pond in the River, and below the Middledam, we catch salmon and brook trout on nymphs, streamers, and dry flies - even girdle bugs and muddler minnows! We all land salmon in the 15-16" range. Lee and Scott have an early morning couple of hours before breakfast on Friday when the fish were striking at every cast.
Rusty joins us on our second day on the Rapid, and Lee spends time with him instructing Rusty on dry fly techniques during a caddis hatch at the Pond in the River. Russ has a nice brookie nearly on, but no luck in landing one. Later Lee works with Rusty at Middledam, and Rusty has more luck with the brookies on a small elk hair caddis.
The cabins are comfortable, the staff is friendly and helpful, and the meals at Lakewood are legendary. We opt for the sack lunches that they prepare for us to avoid cutting into fishing time, but you can eat at the main lodge for all three meals if you like. Supper is at 6:30 pm, and no one ever misses supper! If anyone leaves the table hungry it is their own fault. The food is good, ample, and the desserts are wonderful! You can even have one of each if you like.
You Should Have Seen The One That Got Away!
Scott hiked down the trail on the east side of the Rapid River to the Pond in the River on Friday morning. He tries nymphing with a rubber leg black stone fly with a dropper in the deep water off the dock at a woods cabin there, and lands a nice 15" brookie. Shortly thereafter, as he recounts:
"I got a strike from something very big down deep in the run. I never saw him, but he kept swinging his head back and forth, and finally broke off. I think it was at least a four pound brookie."
We'd talked to another angler who said that he'd caught several large brook trout in the four+ pound range at the Pond in the River pool. In fact, we all saw him land a nice large brookie from the lee side of the boulder line at the head of this pool.
The day before Scott hooked and lost his big one, I was fishing a beadhead pheasant tail nymph dropper to a big black stonefly nymph in the riffle at the Pond in the River. I got a very solid strike from a fish who was in pocket water behind a boulder at the head of the riffle. When I set the hook, the fish took off across current, and downstream.
"What do you have on?" Lee asks. He's waded out beside me at the head of the riffle as I fight the fish.
"Sucker I think" as line strips off the reel. Neither of us can see the fish, but he is steadily working his way down stream. We had all seen several large suckers at our feet in the shallows where we were standing.
"That's no sucker, the way he's running" Lee replies "How much line do you have out?"
"Almost into my backing" I reply.
By now the fish has made several runs, and is down at the bottom of the riffle, and nothing I can do will budge him.
"That's no sucker" Lee says again.
At this point, the 4x tippet breaks and the fish (whatever it was) is gone. I'm personally convinced that it was at least a six pound brookie, mebbe more! Scott insists it was a foul hooked sucker, but I know better!
Stripers and Smallmouth Bass
On our return to the Farmhouse on Friday afternoon, Scott's parents feed us barbequed ribs at their place on Peabody Pond, just up the road a couple of miles. They have a wonderful place right on the shore, and Scott has spent a lot of time chasing the bass and salmon in the Pond over the years.
We meet Jack early the next morning and drive to Kennebunk, where the Mousam River empties into the sea, for a little salt water fishing. It is a little early for the striped bass to return, but we're all hopeful. Rusty joins us, to make a party of five. The stripers don't cooperate, however, and no one fishing that morning anywhere on the Mousam seems to be having any luck.
We have better luck, however, at the Cornish Lobster Pound on the way back to the Farmhouse. Plenty of live lobsters, steamers, plus the fixings that Paul has on hand, along with some cold beer, make for a pretty good cookout to close out the week. We set up some tables and chairs out at the pool, borrow some pots for cooking the lobsters and steamers, and celebrate.
Jack and Ellen come over, and Paul and Otto are there as well. Scott's folks and his aunt and uncle drop by for drinks and to bring a homemade custard pie. The pool is brisk, but we go in for a swim anyway.
Later Scott takes us out on Peabody Pond for bass, and both he and Lee are successful using Davies hoppers and similar patterns. I am bass-less, but serve a useful role as "net boy".
I dropped Lee and Scott at the airport on Sunday morning, and then drove back to Clifton Park. Altogether we caught 51 salmon, 77 brookies and five bass. Scott's 20" salmon and Lee's 19' salmon were the largest. For the first time that Lee has ever been to New England, he manages to catch the most fish of the bunch of us - a fitting introduction to Maine. He and his wife are coming back in the autumn - for the fall colors and brown trout. It's always fun to go fishing with good friends. I am really looking forward to the time when we move to the Farmhouse to live fulltime and I'll be a lot closer to some of these wonderful streams.
Allen and Penny Crabtree
Find a title you would like? Order
[ E-mail ]
Last updated June 16, 1999