Rapid River: A Challenge and a History Lesson

Back in mid-June of this year, Tony and I went to fish the Rapid River in the Rangeley region of Maine. This was result of our first trip there in June of 2012. That 2012 trip was one of exploration, physical effort, and great reward. The exploration came from us going on research, hearsay, and trusting our gut. The physical effort came in the form of a two-mile hike in waders on a logging road in warm weather. The reward was some great fishing.

Great Fishing on the Rapid River in 2012

Great Fishing on the Rapid River in 2012

We didn’t know what we were getting into back in 2012, but we hoped it would be worth the gamble and effort. It certainly was. I caught five native brook trout, including the biggest of my life, an 18-incher.

18-Inch Brook Trout in 2012

18-Inch Brook Trout in 2012

Tony caught five wild (meaning they were born in the river) landlocked salmon and a native brookie.

Tony's 13-Inch Brookie in 2012

Tony’s 13-Inch Brookie in 2012

Most of the salmon were taken on dry flies, by far the most exciting way to catch them.

Wild 17-Inch Landlocked Salmon in 2012

Wild 17-Inch Landlocked Salmon in 2012

The hike out was tough, but not as tough as it would have been had Tony not made an extra trip back to the truck in the midday heat to retrieve food, water, and most importantly shoes so we could carry our waders instead of wearing them. It was a very memorable day to say the least.

So we looked forward to our next trip there, but with some adjustments to our way of getting there. We decided to book a stay with Lakewood Camps, which is located on Lower Richardson Lake, just above Middle Dam and the beginning of the Rapid, where we fished on our previous trip. The lodge has a long history of lodging sportsmen in the region, and that is well documented. The most frequent method of reaching the lodge is by driving to South Arm on Lower Richardson Lake and taking a boat provided by the lodge the five miles across the lake to the camp, which was the only way of reaching it back in the day.

Motoring Across Lower Richardson Lake

Motoring Across Lower Richardson Lake

We provided a rating of the lodge here.

A few days before our arrival, the discharge (or flow) from the dam was 2,000 cubic feet per second (CFPS). When we arrived, it was down to 400 CFPS. That is two extremes–very high and a little low.

That makes where you fish and how you fish difficult to ascertain. All fishing is fly fishing only, and all hooks must be barbless.

The fishing was challenging. If it weren’t for a nice backwash that Tony spotted and many other fishermen missed, our success would have been very different. We caught most of our trout and salmon on dries, which is preferable, but with the river so properly named, every fish was a challenge to land.

Tony caught his biggest native brookie (16″) along with several others and several nice salmon. He earned them because he was observant enough to spot that nice backwash that was holding so many fish.

Tony's 16-Inch Brookie in 2014

Tony’s 16-Inch Brookie in 2014

The other mission we had was to see and fish near Forest Lodge, the home of author Louise Dickinson Rich. She wrote a number of books, mostly about living here in the ’40s. Her most famous was “We Took to the Woods.” It is an amazing book about an amazing lady during a time in our history that is not written about enough. It was all about her life here in what was then wilderness, and I can assure that it hasn’t changed much.

We fished in front of her house and caught some fish just as she did 70 years ago.

Catching Native Brook Trout In Front of Forest Lodge

Catching Native Brook Trout in Front of Forest Lodge

Tony even saw a machine that he could not identify on the porch of her house, which is now a museum of sorts. The machine was a wringer washer, like we used in the ’40s and ’50s.

Forest Lodge Wringer Washer

Forest Lodge Wringer Washer

You can stay at the lodge, by the way, as did three fishermen from New Hampshire.

It is a beautiful area and worth the effort to get there by boat, plane, or by hiking.

Rapid River Beauty Near Forest Lodge

Rapid River Beauty Near Forest Lodge

You can access the area by car only if you stay at Forest Lodge, but you will need a 4WD with great ground clearance, lots of patience, and good driving skills over several miles of very, very rough roads.

This area also produced some other women that were ahead of their times in their independence and their skills in sports dominated by men. Carrie Stevens lived further up the lake at Upper Dam, where she designed and tied the most famous flies for salmon and trout in the 1920s and continued to do so for decades. Her patterns are still used today.

Then there was Fly Rod Crosby, yes a woman, and world famous fly caster and first Registered Maine Guide.

Several of our presidents fished here as well.

Fishing and history are often very compatible.


3 thoughts on “Rapid River: A Challenge and a History Lesson

  1. Pingback: B Pond | WLAGS

  2. Pingback: Almost Famous | WLAGS

  3. Pingback: What I Know About Fishing, Part 1: Be Observant – WLAGS

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