Scouting Report for September 30, 2014: West Side

I started out today doing things a little different. I went up the west side by going up through all the blow downs that Ray and I walked down his first trip up the mountain last year. It was hard, but it was better than beating my way through the dense growth that just a year ago was a nice walk through the cutover.

My focus was on acorns, and there were quite a few–again not a massive crop, but plenty to supply needed calories. There was a fair amount scattered everywhere. It is going to make planning a bit more difficult. There were tracks and droppings and easy-to-read trails in the damp leaves. There were still a few ripe blackberries that the bears and I took advantage of.

The closer I got to edge of the cutover, the more sign I saw. I deduced that they are making the most of things right now, and against the norm, they are actually bedding in the cut because it is so dense. Hopefully that will change with the leaf drop.

The cutover. One of the more open spots where you can see for 100yds. Last year you could have seen twice that and twice that the year before.

The cutover. One of the more open spots where you can see for 100 yards. Last year you could have seen twice that and twice that the year before.

This place is still moose city. Everywhere I traveled I used moose trails. Walking through the cut would be next to impossible without them.

I found a pack of beef steak in the bottom of my backpack that Dana had given me last fall. It was much appreciated today.

Indian Cucumber going to seed. The roots are edible the berries are not.

Indian cucumber going to seed. The roots are edible–the berries are not.

I heard bear hounds running between me and the lake most of the morning, and I saw fresh tire tracks in the road. No doubt the bear hunters are using the road a lot to track the hounds. The road isn’t in bad shape because of the lack of rain.

WLAGS

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Scouting Report for September 29, 2014

I had a game plan in place as I left the house this morning, and as usual it didn’t come out as planned. I wanted to move the camera from the beaver bog to somewhere where the field scan feature could be better utilized.

When I got to the bog, I saw moose tracks headed right for the camera. I followed, and sure enough he passed so close to the tree that I think he rubbed against it. That turned out to be true as when I downloaded the card at home there he was in all his glory, with his butt inches from the camera! The only way that I knew it was a bull was because he turned his head slightly so you could easily see his antlers that were about the size of Louis’s. He definitely was not the one that I have been seeing at Buck Knob. That one is much bigger. To confirm that this guy was in rut, all it took was a little 25-yard walk towards Dana’s potential stand, and there was a fresh wallow.

Potential Stand Site Near the Back Edge of the Bog

Potential Stand Site Near the Back Edge of the Bog

I like the two spots that I think we might put a stand in, but the foliage is such that the camera would be almost useless until some leaves fall. Right there at the base of those stands, I picked up a good buck track and followed it in the usual trail towards Rte. 1. Then as it got closer, I lost it. Then I noticed a break in the stone wall. I checked it out, and sure enough he passed through it. I followed him through some tremendous cover, thick balsam and spruce, 6’ to 15’ tall. I almost had to crawl, but if I stayed in his track I barely had to duck a few times, but there was no room on either side. Bingo! He took me right out to the field, and he never had to go through any open spots! You just suddenly find yourself there. So I set the camera up on the field. I’ll check it before the weekend.

The bog, by the way was filled with winterberries–another benefit of beaver ponds, especially abandoned ones. Those berries are critical to migrating song birds, especially Canadian robins and cedar waxwings.

A Banner Year for Winterberries

A Banner Year for Winterberries

The beavers are in the middle of another construction site. They are building dams on the right side of Rte.1. This will give them safe passage to a whole new food source.

Why I Live Here. This Morning at the Beaver Pond

Why I Live Here. This Morning at the Beaver Pond.

The brook trout have already taken up residence as they are getting ready to spawn. The beavers are gathering food at the new sight and dragging it across the road to the lodge.

Where the Beavers are Dragging Brush Across Rte. 1

Where the Beavers are Dragging Brush Across Rte. 1

WLAGS

Scouting Report for September 22, 2014

I started out this morning with the intent of finding an appropriate place for Dana to set up his stand for the season. I started by scouting the beaver bog where we recovered the 7-pointer and Ralph got his first buck. There was a fair amount of track, but not many droppings. The best trail was the old one that skirted the edge. I didn’t set up a camera there because, as you can see in the photo, the bog has grown up greatly, and there are still too many leaves on the trees.

J.E. Bog, All Grown Up

J.E. Bog, All Grown Up

I did set up the camera, in field scan mode, in the middle at the intersection of two trails. I’ll give it a couple of days and then check it again. The best trail took me right out to the usual exit spot near the field where we put the buck on the cart.

I then went by Stand #1 to look for a spot near Dana’s old ground blind to look for a possible tree stand site near there. I found a couple of likely trees–an oak and a white pine. Again, track but no droppings.

Then to the camera at Stand #2…more bears and a coyote, and many more acorns on the ground. I then headed for Mother beech, and sure enough there were no beechnuts. As I walked that trail that parallels Fort Knox, I noticed fresh running or trotting bull moose track and a stripped maple snapped off at a height of about 10 feet. It was a good bull, and he was ready for the rut. Later, he turned towards Stand #3 on my trail. A little further down, there was a wallow. Everywhere I wanted to go he was going too. Very fresh droppings just past Stand #3 told me that he was right in front of me. The wind was howling 15 to 20 mph, with gusts up to 30, so to say that I couldn’t hear a thing would be an understatement.

I was getting nervous now. The wind was in my face, so it would limit his ability to smell or hear me. I felt sure I was going to walk right up on him. So I slowed down to give him some time to widen the gap between us. 11 months a year, I would love to walk up on him, but because of at least two previous incidents–one with Tony right near here, and where he got last year’s buck, I don’t relish coming face to face with a bull overdosing on hormones!

So he continued in a path directly to Buck Knob, but like last time, just as he passed the tree stand, he turned left down Rte.1C, just before getting into camera range of the camera I have set there. I’ll bet it is the bull that I got those beautiful photos of when he was in velvet, a few weeks ago.

Moose Heading Down Rte. 1C

Moose Heading Down Rte. 1C

It can get discouraging when you aren’t seeing fresh deer sign, but I’ve been down this road before, especially in good acorn years. I’ve learned that things can change in a heartbeat as we near the season.

One of the problems I am seeing now is not so much that there is a good acorn crop, but the fact that many of the trees that the loggers left 15 years or so ago, are now coming to maturity and producing fruit. So the crop is much more spread out than in years past. I know that they won’t let the acorns at Stand #2 go uneaten, but the question is when will they get back there.

It’s going to be a tense time for me to try and wait them out or pinpoint exactly where they are now. Stand #5 (Tony’s) is high on the probability list for their whereabouts now.

WLAGS

B Pond

There is still one mystical place left for me to fish. It is B Pond. This is another place made famous by Louise Dickinson Rich. In her book “We Took to the Woods,” she said that this pond was the most beautiful and serene place in her world.

Anyone who has read the book would think that such a place would be, in this day and age, easily accessible, unlike in her day when it was a chore to just get there. Those who would believe that would be wrong. Debbie’s and my first attempt at finding this place with only a Gazetteer was a failure.

Later while Tony and I stayed at Lakewood Camps we were shocked to find out that no one there had ever fished B Pond, as it is only a few miles away as the crow flies. Only two people at Lakewood had ever been there (only once each), and neither of them had fished it. They had reached it by bushwhacking their way from the north, coming from the Rapid River.

I became more committed to finding this place. So this year Debbie and I looked again by traveling miles of dirt logging roads, one of which takes you to the southern end of The Pond in the River–another spot made famous by Mrs. Rich, and is now among the Holy Grails for brook trout fishermen.

Pond in the River

Pond in the River

None of these roads have any helpful signs, unless you are a snowmobiler. These roads are almost all used as snowmobile trails in winter.

So Debbie and I, she being the navigator, with what we could muster for maps and a GPS, traveled those roads in our truck. Finally we came to a spot that we determined was, if not the closest spot to B Pond, certainly it would be close enough to bushwhack. I felt sure about that, and that if the leaves were down we might actually be able to see the pond.

Debbie gave me 20 minutes to hike down this trail and return, as it was getting dark.

Off I headed on this very muddy and yet small boulder-strewn trail that was filled with fresh moose track. In 6 minutes there it was!

"B Pond is lovely and placid and wild." --Louise Disckinson Rich

“B Pond is lovely and placid and wild.” –Louise Disckinson Rich

There were two big surprises. First, it was much bigger than I expected. I knew it was around 750 acres, but the shape–almost oval–made it look even bigger. Second was the fact that there were 44, mostly aluminum boats and canoes tied up there!

The Aluminum Armada

The Aluminum Armada

Most of those boats were no doubt dragged in when there was snow on the ground. Obviously the locals have kept this place a secret for years. The registration stickers on some of the boats were 25 years old. Some of the boats haven’t been manufactured for 40 years. There was even a 4-hp outboard just lying there, probably for anyone to use as long as they brought in the gas.

Registration Stickers Dating Back 25 Years

Registration Stickers Dating Back 25 Years

So half of my quest was completed–finding the place. Next year’s mission is to fish it.

B Pond was one of the first bodies of water to be stocked by plane, we are lead to believe. Mrs. Rich’s pilot friend was hired by the state of Maine back in the thirties to stock it with his aircraft. He would later die in a crash. Today it is stocked only with landlocked salmon. This year for example, it was stocked with 350, 9” salmon. The trout are a very rare, and thus a protected native, lake-reproducing brook trout. The size limit on the brook trout is 18”, which is a very big, very old fish. I’m sure that they rarely reach that size. So for all intents and purposes you can’t keep any trout.

By the way, for those who haven’t read the book, Mrs. Rich never caught a fish there! She still went there many times and enjoyed every minute of her days there. She was by the way a very accomplished fisherman and fly tier. If you don’t have the time to read the book, just read the first few pages of the last chapter. It says it all.

WLAGS

6o Years of Waiting

In July 1954, my father returned from a fishing trip to Aziscohos Lake and Parmachenee Lake. He would for the rest of his life, say it was one of the greatest times of his life. I remember vividly the stories of his trip, which was much more than a fishing trip, and he often referred to it as an experience.

His trip started at the southern end of Aziscohos with three friends and a guide. They motored their Rangeley canoes up to the Magalloway River and then up to Parmachenee. After they made their way the ten or so miles up the lake, the guide instructed the guys to set up camp on the shore of the lake while he returned to the bottom to bring up more supplies. He said he would return shortly after dark. So Dad and his friends did as instructed, and true to his word the guide returned after dark. The guide was very excited, and he told the guys to break camp and move it up the shore a hundred yards or so. When asked why, he said because the camp was set up on an active moose trail.

Sure enough the next morning at daybreak, there were a cow and a bull standing in the lake right where the tents were the night before. The cow waded up the lake away from the guys, but the bull waded out into the lake until it was swimming. The guide ushered the guys into the canoes, and he jumped into the canoe with Dad. He instructed Dad to pull him alongside the bull. He did. Then suddenly the guide hopped out of the canoe and onto the bulls back! Dad couldn’t believe his eyes as the guide sat on the bull, grabbing a tuft of hair on its back. About the time the guide thought the bull might be getting its footing, he had Dad pull up to let him get back in the canoe. As it turns out this was a fairly common feat among the guides of the day. It was almost considered an initiation of sorts.

Moose Riding Theodore Roosevelt

Moose Riding Theodore Roosevelt

Dad and his friends spent the next seven or so days fishing the lakes and the river. Dad would often refer to the land there as “God’s country.” He never went into any detail about the fishing other than using single word adjectives to describe it as “terrific,” ”great,” or “wonderful.” Unlike many of his trips, there were no photos. He would often return from such trips with pictures of him and a friend holding a stinger with 25 or 30 trout. I guess it was better in some ways for this 9 year-old not to see pictures so my imagination could run wild. He said more than once that it was “the best experience” of his life or “the best week of his life.”

A Typical Vacation Photo of Dad's

A Typical Vacation Photo of Dad’s

I often wondered why they picked this particular area. Keeping in mind much of this planning, if not all, was done by mail. There is only one realistic answer, the book “We Took to the Woods,” which was very popular and written by Mrs. Rich 16 years earlier. I can’t imagine how else they would have heard of this very remote area when there were so many more famous places like Moosehead Lake. Mrs. Rich was on a guided canoe trip starting in Parmachenee Lake that would lead to her meeting her future husband along the way.

So I’ve had this urge to get there, and I had reached Aziscohos with Tony last year. Parmachenee was a problem though, as it is behind locked gates and miles from any reasonable form of access. However an opportunity arose this year through a friend whose family owns one of the 12 or so camps on the lake. I jumped at the chance even if it was only for a day.

Finally I was getting to fish this place that my father so cherished. Tony and I arrived early on a cold, 30-degree, foggy morning.

Foggy, 30-Degree Morning

Foggy, 30-Degree Morning

The 20-mile dirt road ride was uneventful, except for one moose sighting. We evaluated the situation, and decided on the smallest boat and the electric motor. That proved to be the right choice. Our loading of the equipment was with a serenade of loon calls coming out of the fog.

Loons in the Fog

Loons in the Fog

 

Suddenly we noticed a small splashing sound coming from the edge of the boat. We looked, and to our amazement a minnow (blacknose dace) was thrashing about in the grip of what we initially was a crayfish. Upon a closer look, we discovered the hunter was a toe biter–a flying, swimming insect, about 2 inches long and almost as wide. It injects a digestive juice into its prey with a device similar to that of a mosquito. We were amazed at its quickness.

Toe Biter with Fish

Toe Biter with Fish

We had more important fish to fry than to watch the entire episode, so it was back to readying the boat. The fishing started out slow, largely because we were not expecting the conditions we were experiencing. The surface temperature was 59 degrees. That’s 13 degrees cooler than our host had experienced just two weeks earlier. On his trip, he was consistently taking fish down 20 or more feet, and we were equipped to do the same.

We finally caught our first trout while paying out line, just 10 feet behind the boat! That did it. We changed tactics going for slow sinking and sink tip fly lines. The change paid off immediately with some nice trout and very nice salmon coming to net.

Wild Brook Trout

Wild Brook Trout

The weather worsened. The winds and rain picked up, and the temperature barley made it above 40 even at midday. We caught our last fish later in the afternoon, and with me shivering noticeably it was time to pack it in.

Wild Landlocked Salmon

Wild Landlocked Salmon

Earlier in the week, I sat down at the fly tying bench to tie some flies especially for this trip. I tied 14 flies. Four patterns were juiced-up versions of some of my own patterns that I tie and use everywhere. I added jungle cock to them, as is the norm for flies in the region where streamer flies were invented. Then I tied three entirely new patterns–all this while I had some 2000 other flies in the boat with me. All we needed were my new 14! All but one of the fish were caught on them. They will be forever known as my Parmachenee patterns.

It was a very good day of fishing in a very beautiful place. We were never out of sight of loons. At one point five of them swam out of the fog to check us out. They were as curious about us as we were them. We saw so many loons that I truthfully could not tell you how many there were. We could always tell when an eagle was around, which was often, because the loons would scream bloody murder every time one was near.

An Asylum of Loons

An Asylum of Loons

We saw an amazing amount of waterfowl–geese, mergansers, wood ducks, mallards, and teal.

It was everything I had hoped for and imagined 60 years ago. If I couldn’t experience it with my Dad, then I was very grateful to experience it with his grandson.

Parmachenee: Everything I Imagined 60 Years Ago

Parmachenee: Everything I Imagined 60 Years Ago

WLAGS

Scouting Report for September 17, 2014

I had a couple of missions in mind this morning.

First was to check out the oaks above Mt. Road. The other was to set a camera up there. I did the former, but not the latter. The reason was that although there were acorns, they were not falling in great numbers, and the undergrowth was such as to prevent a good field scan view of the goings on. It appears, at this time to be a good but not great acorn crop. That could be good for us. It means that the deer won’t be able to hold up in a specific oak grove for days on end.

All the sign I saw this morning indicated that they are moving from one grove to another. The acorns are big and full of good meat, so they are not going to be passed up, especially since to this point in time, I haven’t seen a single beechnut.

As I set up a camera down in the hollow, I heard blue jays screaming up at Stand #2. I knew that there was a bear there. Sure enough, as I approached the camera there were fresh bear droppings covered with flies. And sure enough, there were so many photos of bears on that camera, including from this morning, that it is almost funny. They are there not only every day, but two and three times a day! By “they,” I mean at least three, if not four or more bears every day in daylight, usually between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Bear Digging

Bear Digging

After that, I headed for Buck Knob. After checking the camera, where I found the batteries were shot, I came across a big fresh pile of cow moose droppings with a bear track right smack in the middle of it!

Bear Track in Moose Droppings

Bear Track in Moose Droppings

The camera proved me right. A big bear walked right to the droppings, but apparently the moose was just out of trigger range for the camera. There were also some great doe and skipper pictures on both cameras, but no bucks. All this was within easy range of the stands.

Speaking of that, I climbed Stand #2 stand for two reasons–one, to check the windows for a bow, which were great, and two, to look for acorns in the trees, which were not great. A little pruning would make it even better, window-wise.

The only real surprise was how much water is still in the woods. With all the streams and ponds looking low, it means to me that the water table is full, and all we need to restore the water levels in the streams is a little rain.

Today I covered 2.75 miles in 2 hours and 40 minutes. A good workout!

WLAGS