Exploring, not Fishing, Part 3

Exploring, not Fishing, Part 3

Another place on my life list was B Pond. This pond was also made famous by Mrs. Rich. It was her favorite place in the world. It was her favorite spot to pick blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. It was serene, secluded, almost untouched by man. It is not quite that today, but almost. There is one camp on an island today—the only camp on the pond.

The Only Camp on B Pond

The Only Camp on B Pond

The road to get there is difficult, but not terribly so. The trail to the pond is difficult because it is a little steep, a little rocky, and very muddy.

The Muddy Trail to the Pond

The Muddy Trail to the Pond

If I remember right, it was about 350 steps or about 125 yards long. That doesn’t sound like much, unless you are dragging a boat and a ton of gear up and down it.

Lugging Gear to the Pond

Lugging Gear to the Pond

To avoid lugging our boat, as we did at Pond in the River two nights earlier, we “borrowed” an unlocked boat with a broken bow seat, which sagged under Tony’s weight, plants growing out of it, and lots of crickets and spiders. (Too bad B Pond has an artificial lure-only regulation.) Our assumption is that the owner of this boat is no longer with us.

The "Borrowed" Boat and Its Gunwale Plants

The “Borrowed” Boat and Its Gunwale Plants

The transom was rotted through, which caused problems with mounting our trolling motor. Using a little Yankee ingenuity, we found an old, broken folding stadium seat, which we used as a makeshift transom. The boat also didn’t have a bow rope, oars, paddles, and most importantly, a baling scoop. Luckily, another boat, which was chained up, had all of those things. We “borrowed” those as well for our two-hour voyage. To our surprise, we never needed the bailing scoop (that is, a plastic coffee can). Who’d have thought that an unchained boat with a broken bow seat and plants growing out of its gunwales wouldn’t leak at all?

Beggars Can't Be Choosers

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

Despite Mrs. Rich’s love for B Pond, she never caught a fish there! She and her helper, Gerrish would go there a few times a year to spend the day fishing. Mr. Rich hated the place, or more precisely the trip and aggravation of getting there, and he wasn’t a fisherman. Back then, there was nothing but a poor foot trail there through some God awful terrain. They must have dragged the boat to it in the winter over the snow because there is no way a half dozen people could get it there over bare ground. Of course there is no such thing in this part of Maine as bare ground. Every inch is covered by trees, shrubs, vines, stumps, and of course the ever present rocks.

Well, in keeping with Mrs. Rich’s tradition, we didn’t catch anything worth mentioning.

We Managed Several Perch

We Managed Several Perch

We managed several perch, but no trout or salmon—all while under the watchful eye of a nesting Osprey and four nesting loons.

The B Pond Osprey Nest

The B Pond Osprey Nest

We did see a lot of wildlife that evening. On the way there, we saw a hen partridge (ruffed grouse) with poults. On the way home, we saw four snowshoe hare (no surprise there), a deer, a red fox (surprised it wasn’t a gray fox), a bull moose walking down the middle of the road, and surprise of surprises, a woodcock!

Woodcock

Woodcock

I definitely will go back to B Pond, but with less gear, a lighter boat, and cooler temperatures. Right after ice out, usually the first week in May, or in late September when the trout and salmon are ready to spawn, would be the logical times.

We'll Bring Less Gear Next Time

We’ll Bring Less Gear Next Time

I think Tony would agree, from a fishing standpoint, Mrs. Rich’s front yard, Pond in the River, is more appealing than B Pond.

From a seclusion standpoint, B Pond is the better place, and it would make for a great day of kayaking.

WLAGS

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Exploring, not Fishing, Part 2

Exploring, not Fishing, Part 2

On Day 2 we headed for Little Kennebago Lake.

Little Kennebago

Little Kennebago

The weather is all important here because it is a fly fishing only water, which in Maine means fly casting—no trolling. Also, the lake is also restricted to the use of any power on a boat other than oars, wind, or paddle. So for those reasons you cannot deal with much wind. The forecast called for CALM. That means less than 2 MPH. Perfect!

We got there and launched in the river outlet, some 200 yards downstream of the lake.

Launching in the Kennebago River

Launching in the Kennebago River

We expected to have to row against the current and did. What we didn’t expect was the 5 MPH winds out of the south. That was fine for now, as it pushed us towards our goal of the north end, where the river flows in. We knew now that we would be rowing against the wind on the way back. Things got quickly worse from there.

As we reached the inlet, the winds picked up dramatically with gusts over 10 MPH, and with the length of the lake to build up that wind, that meant whitecaps. It also made casting the light, 4- or 5-weight fly rods difficult at best.

We managed to catch three trout, very beautiful in color, here in the river system where they were born, but they were small to average size.

Native Kennebago Brook Trout

Native Kennebago Brook Trout

Now the work began, rowing the boat into the teeth of the wind.

Rowing Across 190 Acres

Rowing Across 190 Acres

It was exhausting, and worse yet, our Fitbits didn’t give us any credit for all that rowing!

FItbits Don't Register Rowing

FItbits Don’t Register Rowing

We wasted another morning largely because of trusting the forecast.

So while we were in the neighborhood, we decided to look for two remote ponds I had been told about. Even that didn’t go well. We drove by both ponds more than once, as there are no visible trails, and the only road to the larger one is gated. We walked through the woods repeatedly, and finally found the ponds, but no visible path. We would need more information and hopefully be back tomorrow.

That evening we decided to stay close to home and rest up. We fished the Errol Dam. Again, another couple of not so good breaks. As we pulled into the parking lot, we saw four people seemingly rigging their fly rods. At best, only three people can fish there.

So we left and took the roads to the opposite side of the dam. Upon reaching the other side, we were greeted with two wide open gates on this side of the river, making fishing impossible.

High Water at the Errol Dam

High Water at the Errol Dam

I noticed however that the other fishermen and women were leaving. We rushed back to where we were 30 minutes earlier.

We finally got to fish as the sun set in the middle of a stonefly hatch.

Stonefly

Stonefly

I lost what I thought was a large brookie, and Tony managed a couple of bass before we were driven out by darkness and mosquitoes.

Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth Bass

Better luck tomorrow…

WLAGS

Exploring, not Fishing, Part 1

Exploring, not Fishing, Part 1

This post could be titled many things like “We Can’t Catch a Break,” or “Exploring, not Fishing,” just to think of two. This trip, which we had long looked forward to, was about doing a lot of exploring, but hopefully some fishing too.

As you will see in the first evening’s adventure, the “can’t catch a break” theme comes into play almost immediately. We headed to one of the most famous of all native brook trout waters in the country. Its name is Pond in the River, made famous by Louise Dickinson Rich’s book, “We Took To The Woods.” She lived just below it on the Rapid River near Lower Dam, which no longer exists.

There is a steep, rocky, tree root-riddled trail that takes you to the pond after you have traveled over seven miles of logging roads. We thought that we could put our 12’ boat on wheels to negotiate the trail. WRONG!

The Wheels on the Boat

The Wheels on the Boat Go Round and Round

Just inside the first foliage there were two boulders that a man can just barely fit through, never mind a boat.

We're Going to Need a Smaller Boat

We’re Going to Need a Smaller Boat

Well, we thought if we get the boat over the rocks, we would put the wheels on the boat on the other side…wrong again! The trail was too narrow, rocky, steep, and stumpy to get anything down it, except for our feet.

So we lugged the boat down, knowing full well that we would have to drag it up the hill later, no doubt in the dark and fighting mosquitoes. After that, it took us several trips to lug the gear down, including the battery for the electric motor, which we knew we would need to reach our goal of the inlet of the Rapid River before dark.

We're Going to Need a bigger Boat

We’re Going to Need a Bigger Boat

With that accomplished, we made our way across this fabled water to the outlet of the Rapid River.

Pond in the River

Pond in the River

Another “Can’t catch a break” moment? The water was rushing at 4,000 cubic feet per second (CFS)! That’s more than double what was reported a few days earlier.

We knew it would greatly affect the fishing, and it did. We had hoped to see some hatches, and we did, but there were no fish rising.

We managed to catch two very nice 16” smallmouths, but they were a serious disappointment as they are not native to these waters and were illegally introduced in the 1980’s.

16-Inch Smallmouth Bass

16-Inch Smallmouth Bass

They are now in competition with the trout and salmon. We gladly would have enjoyed catching those fish back home, but not here.

Tony caught some other small fish, and then as the sun set, we headed back across the 512-acre pond, which we had completely to ourselves.

Sunset on Pond in the River

Sunset on Pond in the River

On the way back, we caught our first break. There were trout rising, though very scattered, in the middle of the pond. It was only going to be possible for one of us to cast as the other guy would have to be constantly positioning the boat. It worked, and Tony caught an unbelievably beautifully colored brookie of the Kennebago strain.

12-Inch Brook Trout

12-Inch Brook Trout

Then it was dark, and the real work began as we had to get everything back up the hill—250 steps each way.

Lugging the Boat Back to the Truck

Lugging the Boat Back to the Truck

There is no way, at my age, that I was getting that battery up there, at least without stopping several times, but Tony did it in one shot.

It was a great night in some respects, like me putting another checkmark on one of my life list items, and then seeing a bull moose in the road on the way home.

Bull Moose

Bull Moose

It is a beautiful place, and we definitely will return—next time with a smaller, lighter boat, like Tony’s canoe, which was our original plan.

WLAGS

Just When You Think You’ve Figured It Out, Part 2

Now that we’ve checked all the cameras, we’d like to illustrate some of what we discussed in “Just When You Think You’ve Figured It Out.

On my previous trip to Camera #1, I got a video of a sow with two new cubs. They were about the size of six-week old lab pups, and they were scrambling like crazy to keep up with Mom.

I also got video of a very pregnant doe, and I was hoping to get some of the fawn this trip…and I did.

Today, I saw fresh moose track near Stand #1, and did get a video of a big cow.

I also got video there of a sizable bear…

…and a coyote.
I rarely actually walk up to the stand, but for some reason I did today. I was in for a surprise, as the lower four-foot section of the ladder was on the ground while the rest was still hanging in the tree.

Dismembered Ladder Stand

Dismembered Ladder Stand

My first thought was (as one might expect) was “someone was messing with it,” but I know better. First, this stand is very well hidden. Second, I tried to put the section back in place, but it was fruitless unless I loosened all of the straps, which in the rain and with tons of mosquitos buzzing around me, I decided against. It was obvious the perpetrator was very strong. He had to lift and pull this stand, which was extremely secure, having been in place for years!

The first camera is only 25 to 30 yards away, but with all the new greenery it might as well be a mile away. However the bear that I would see on the video when I got home was more than big enough to do the job.

Next surprise? Not a surprise at all. Camera #2 was all discombobulated when I arrived. One of the two latches was open, and the camera was on the wrong side of the tree. This didn’t take a genius to figure out. Sure enough, the video was all telling that it was a large bear.

WLAGS

Just When You Think You’ve Figured It Out

At my age, it is easy to think that you’ve seen it all. I know better, especially when it comes to the natural world, but I do think that, most of the time, I can figure it out.

Wrong!

Example number 1: This year’s Moosehead fishing trips. It is true that no two years are ever alike up there in May, but I can usually deal with that and have a measure of success.

This year was like no other. It was warmer, windier, and calmer (all in a week’s time) than I had ever seen before.

It Was Warmer and Calmer Than Ever Before

It Was Warmer and Calmer Than Ever Before

The surface water temperatures changed not daily but hourly as much as five degrees an hour. Never have I seen that before.

I won’t bore you with the details. It was not our worst year ever, but it was close.

We worked harder and put in more hours to catch a few fish. The good news is that they were all good fish–from Debbie’s 15”native brookie to Tony’s 23.5” laker. They were worth the effort, but it was a lot of effort.

Tony's 23.5-Inch Lake Trout

Tony’s 23.5-Inch Lake Trout

Example number 2: Today at J.E. I tried to take advantage of a break in the heat and the rain to check cameras.

On my previous trip to Camera #1, I got a video of a sow with two new cubs. They were about the size of six-week old lab pups, and they were scrambling like crazy to keep up with Mom. I also got video of a very pregnant doe, and I was hoping to get some of the fawn this trip.

Today, I saw fresh moose track near Stand #1, and did get a video of a big cow. I also got video there of a sizeable bear and a coyote.

I rarely actually walk up to the stand, but for some reason I did today. I was in for a surprise, as the lower four-foot section of the ladder was on the ground while the rest was still hanging in the tree. My first thought was (as one might expect) was “someone was messing with it,” but I know better.

You might remember a few years ago when a similar experience proved me wrong when two young bears messed with a camera and a stand, eventually climbing the stand. Those videos are on YouTube.

Two Young Bears Messing With Our Stand

Two Young Bears Messing With Our Stand

So I wasn’t so quick to come to a conclusion. First, this stand is very well hidden. Second, I tried to put the section back in place, but it was fruitless unless I loosened all of the straps, which in the rain and with tons of mosquitos buzzing around me, I decided against. It was obvious the perpetrator was very strong. He had to lift and pull this stand, which was extremely secure, having been in place for years!

The first camera is only 25 to 30 yards away, but with all the new greenery it might as well be a mile away. However the bear that I would see on the video when I got home was more than big enough to do the job.

Next surprise? Not a surprise at all. Camera #2 was all discombobulated when I arrived. One of the two latches was open, and the camera was on the wrong side of the tree. This didn’t take a genius to figure out. Sure enough, the video was all telling that it was a large bear.

Next surprise? Three times in three minutes the bear stood on his hind legs and vigorously rubbbed his back on the tree right in front of the camera! Bad news: This is my oldest camera, so there’s no sound.

The bear is very much enjoying his back rub!

Pole Dancing Bear

Pole Dancing Bear

Just when you thought you’ve seen it all!

WLAGS