Below is my son Tony’s write-up of, this, our final installation of the “Exploring, not Fishing” series.
After three days of staring at topo maps, driving dirt roads, being bitten by black flies and mosquitos, and not catching many fish, we decided to take the easy route on our last day. But before we took the easy route, that stubborn streak that my dad mentioned kicked in.
It was eating at both of us that two days prior, we didn’t find the access points described to us to those two remote ponds. We had emailed one of our sources, and he sent us some updated directions. Much to our surprise, we easily found the access to the smaller pond. The path was good, but steep. It was 160 steps to the water.
The Path Was Steep
And the water was inviting.
With that easy, successful start to the day, we decided to test our luck and find the bigger pond. Unfortunately, much like the rest of this trip, luck was not on our side. We paced back and forth, bushwhacking our way in the areas we were directed by our source. After more than an hour of this, we finally decided that, since our source hadn’t been there in several years, the path he once used had grown into the standard Maine thick brush. We eventually decided to walk down a gated path to at least see the pond close up.
The Bigger Pond
After giving up on any reasonable access to the bigger pond, I was looking forward to fishing the smaller pond. Its beauty (and obvious lack of fishing pressure) was calling me like a siren’s song. Dad wasn’t falling victim to that song today. He was beat from hiking up and down hills through thick brush on a muggy June day. He was not prepared to drag my grandfather’s 12-foot V-hull down that steep path to the smaller pond.
Instead, we decided to fish another place that Dad had always wanted to try, West Richardson Pond. What’s more, at this pond, we could launch the boat without having to carry it and all of our gear for hundreds of paces. There wasn’t a boat launch, but we could drive right up to the water’s edge and use our electric trolling motor. That combination was a luxury that we hadn’t yet afforded ourselves on this trip.
As we were putting the boat in the water, we saw a stocked brookie swimming around. Having hardly seen our primary quarry all week, save the little one that I caught on a dry fly at Pond in the River our first night and the three little ones that Dad had caught at Little Kennebago, we were understandably excited. My grandfather always said, “The hardest fish to catch is the one that you can see.” With that in mind, we didn’t try to catch that brook trout, assuming that there were hundreds of others. But this being a true “exploring, not fishing” trip, we ended up not seeing another trout all day at this pond.
Part of the problem is that despite West Richardson Pond allowing both spin fishing and fly fishing, we only had fly fishing equipment with us because our intent was to fish the fly fishing-only remote ponds for which we had spent all morning searching.
We trolled and casted every type of fly (dry, wet, emerger, streamer, small, large, dark, light) on every type of line (floating, “slow” sinking sink-tip, fast sinking sink-tip, “slow” full sinking, and fast full sinking). All we could muster were “a brace of dace,” as Dad’s best friend, Bob would say. They weren’t really dace—at least not by name, though they have many names. Mainers call them “Chubs.” We call them Fall Fish. We caught a couple of small Yellow Perch too. Nothing to write home about, as Dad would say.
We Tried Every Fly in the Box
Defeated, we headed back to our cabin to regroup and formulate our plan of attack for the evening.
For our last evening’s fishing, we once again decided to take the “easy route.” We went to Big Dummer Pond, a popular, accessible, well-stocked pond. Despite the easy access, people still chain up boats there.
A Sign for Lazy Fishermen
As we were launching, we shouldn’t have been as surprised as we were that it was loaded with tadpoles, just as there had been in the puddles “near” Lincoln Pond, in Pond in the River, in B Pond, and in West Richardson Pond.
The wind was fairly calm, particularly on one end of the pond. Some flies were hatching, and some of the stocked brook trout were taking advantage of the situation. They were obviously schooled up. We’d see several breaks, even some coming clear out of the water, which is unusual for a brook trout. But by the time we arrived on the scene, they would move just out of casting distance. We’d chase them further, and we’d even anticipate where they’d pop up next. Having put several flies right on them, it was eventually clear that they weren’t susceptible to dries, which is also unusual for stocked brook trout, who will usually hit anything that floats. “Matching the hatch” is usually not necessary. We tried to match the hatch, but it was a numbers game. There were several species of flies hatching. They were all quite different sizes and colors. We tried artificial flies that mimicked any one of the real flies, but we just couldn’t get the right combination of size and color to entice a strike. Our assumption is that they were feeding on the smallest (and most numerous) flies that were hatching, which were too tiny for us to mimic. The loons were successful in catching those rising fish, but we weren’t.
Frustrated, we resorted to our tried-and-true tactic of trolling with high-speed sinking fly line. That produced our only fish of the night—a 10-inch brook trout. Dad caught that square tail on a soft hackle fly that he had tied himself, which always makes catching a fish that much more special. He caught that brookie at 6:30 PM, which gave us two hours to try to repeat our success. Dad did have several more hits. He even had a few on, but we couldn’t get another one to the net.
The Only Brookie of the Day
We knew that the forecast was for heavy rain the next day, so our plan was to just get up and drive home. That made this night our final hoorah. As the sun set and the wind died, more and more fish rose in more places over the pond. The loons began feeding more heavily. One called out several times—I’ll never grow tired of hearing that melancholy song.
As we watched the sky grow dark, it felt like the bottom of the ninth inning. We wanted desperately to salvage the “fishing” part of this trip with at least one fish over 12 inches, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Bottom of the Ninth
Over the course of this trip, Dad and I discussed, debated, and tried to convince ourselves that this was a scouting trip, not a fishing trip. Given that we stopped to buy a topographical map on the way and that we drove by many easily accessed fishing spots to navigate down a thin, dotted line on that map, it should have been obvious that our goal was scouting.
Despite all that, at times it was hard to swallow that this wasn’t a fishing trip. We didn’t pick those places to scout (and fish) by chance. Several of the ponds that we scouted are known to have large fish. We thought, “We might not catch many fish, but maybe we’ll catch one or two memorable fish.” The excitement of potentially hooking into the fish of a lifetime added to the aura of these hard-to-reach waters.
Other places that we scouted are known to have a lot of fish, but not many big ones. We thought, “We might not catch any monsters, but at least we’ll have some fun.”
In the end, it was the fish that decided that this was a scouting trip, not a fishing trip, but it was so much more than that. It was an adventure. What’s more, it was an adventure that we shared together, and that made it truly special for both of us.