Typical September Fishing

Whenever I am asked about trout fishing in September,  my answer is always something like this:

  • The fishing can be slow.
  • The fish are moody.
  • They are thinking more about reproducing than eating.
  • The weather conditions can vary greatly, also affecting their moods and urges. 
  • That said, the fish are in peak condition in both strength and appearance. 

So the quick, two-day trip that Tony and I took just after Labor Day proved all of that.

We started our fishing at one of the most famous spots on the Magalloway River–the Mailbox Pool. We never fish there because it ALWAYS has so many fishermen that I feel like I can’t enjoy myself in a crowd that size.

So when we saw no cars there, we decided to see what was so special about this spot. When we got there, it was obvious why it was so desirable. It looked like the picture perfect trout water.

Your Guide at the Mailbox Pool

Your Guide at the Mailbox Pool

We fished it without a hint of a fish. I think I saw one fish rise. So when a young man showed up with *two* fly rods and his dog, and apparently had fished here many times, we decided to move on.

Local Fisherman and Dog at the Mailbox Pool

Local Fisherman and Dog at the Mailbox Pool

Surprisingly, when we got to our car, there was no other vehicle there. We assumed this young man walked there. That said, there is only one house within a mile or more of this place, which seemed to confirm our belief that he was very much a local.

Now we moved on to our secret place on the river, downstream a few miles. This spot is rather innocuous, but it simply holds fish, big fish. You might remember this spot from this spring’s story of the big brookie that Tony hooked briefly. It was easily the biggest brookie we had ever seen in the lower 48.

Our Secret Spot

Our Secret Spot

So we fished that pool–or more accurately a bend–and for quite some time, there was little to get excited about. Suddenly a nice sized fish broke right in front of me. Thankfully I was in such a position that I was almost instantly able to put my flies (a dry with a nymph dropper) right on the spot. There was a splash, and I was on. Tony knew, even at a distance that it was not your typical 9-inch brookie, and he dashed over to help.

The bank there is the very definition of steep and deep. It is a few feet deeper that Tony is tall. He literally slid down the bank, having to be careful not to go too far so as not to end up in the very deep river.

Eventually, I got this beautiful native brook trout to Tony’s waiting net–a very small hand net that you hang from your wading vest. What we needed, and I’ve since created is a long-handled net.

If Only We Had This Net

If Only We Had This Net

Now Tony needed to get up the bank. That was no small feat, but eventually he made it. The trout was a beautiful 15-inch female that we returned to the river very quickly. That made the trip.

My 15-Inch Brook Trout

My 15-Inch Brook Trout

This place is within a short drive of one of the most heavily fished brook trout pools in all of New England–or maybe the Northeast! We have only once seen another fisherman there, and even that was very briefly, thankfully.

At midday, we went to the dam. That resulted in each of us catching a trout and a salmon.

My 13-Inch Landlocked Salmon

My 13-Inch Landlocked Salmon

Tony’s salmon was the biggest at 15.5 inches. It was a nice couple of hours.

Tony's 15.5-Inch Landlocked Salmon

Tony’s 15.5-Inch Landlocked Salmon

That evening, we returned to our secret spot. Just after sunset, I heard an excited Tony as a salmon took to the air. I went over to help, as it appeared something was wrong. Sure enough, the salmon had taken Tony’s line under a log, not once but twice, wrapping the line around it, and making it impossible to move him. I held Tony’s rod while he once again climbed down the steep bank and into the river, lifted the log, and rolled it to untangle his leader. The fish and the fly were gone.

It worked out for this very smart–or more likely lucky–salmon, as the resistance of the log was enough to break the leader at the fly, which was one of the yellow soft hackle streamers that I tie. Luckily, Tony took a picture of it before he tied it on so I can recreate the fly that he lost.

My Yellow Soft Hackle Streamer

My Yellow Soft Hackle Streamer

The next morning we returned to the dam, and Tony caught an average sized brown trout.

Tony's 10.5-Inch Brown Trout

Tony’s 10.5-Inch Brown Trout

Later that afternoon, we returned to the dam and caught a couple of small smallmouth bass.

Tony's 7-Inch Smallmouth Bass

Tony’s 7-Inch Smallmouth Bass

When 10 high school students began to slowly portage their kayaks over the dam, we decided to move on.

Invasion of the High School-Aged Kayakers

Invasion of the High School-Aged Kayakers

That night, we returned to our secret spot. It started off quiet and uneventful. There were no rises to take note of.

Suddenly, about a rod-and-a-half length from me, directly in front of me, the largest salmon that I have ever seen south of Labrador, jumped in a classic arch.

One of Our Salmon in Labrador

One of Our Salmon in Labrador

It–and I mean this very honestly–took my breath away. I could not even speak as I tried to yell to Tony. I finally caught my breath, and it became obvious that at even 75 yards away, Tony had heard the splash and seen the rings.

This is going to sound crazy to some, but like the appreciation for the big brookie earlier in the year, we felt lucky just to be fishing in a place that a magnificent fish like that called home. Actually, he probably does not live there. He is more likely there for the sole purpose of spawning. He’ll then leave, but he’ll be back. So will we.

WLAGS

Advertisements
Lodge Rating: Great Northwoods Getaway Cabin Rentals

Lodge Rating: Great Northwoods Getaway Cabin Rentals

We here at WLAGS want to give you what we deem an honest evaluation of lodges, camps, and other places we have been. Today, we’re giving you our opinion of Great Northwoods Getaway Cabin Rentals, and sharing some of our photos of our stay there.

———–

Cabin #4

Cozy Cabin #4

Cozy Cabin #4

Location: 9 (It’s close to many of our favorite fishing spots and close to amenities.)

Service: 10 (Very friendly, accommodating owners)

Check-out time (11:00 AM): 10

Cabin overall: 7.5

  • Pros
    • Linens provided
    • Plenty of towels
  • Cons
    • No hooks for hanging clothes 
    • Broken toaster

Cabin structure: 9

Water pressure: 7

Water temperature: 9

Beds: 7

  • It’s a very hard bed, and only one of them.
  • The pull-out couch is, well, a pull-out couch (uncomfortable), and it takes up the whole living room.
The Pull-Out Couch Takes Up Half of the Living Space

The Pull-Out Couch Takes Up Half of the Living Space

Cabin location: 8

  • Cabin #4 is furthest from the WiFi router.

Cabin view: 3

  • It’s right on Route 26.

Cabin temperature: 8

  • There is a window A/C unit.
  • There is a stand-alone heater.

Boating facilities: 8

  • Plenty of room to park a boat and easy turn-around.

Fishing potential: 9

Fishing access: 9

Wild Food Crops

Wild Food Crops

My initial take on the wild food crops looks like this. EVERYTHING is running late this year. You name it and it is true.

Apple Crop

Slightly more than half the trees have apples. The trees that have them have a lot of them. Those trees that have a good crop are also producing small apples.

J.E. Apple Tree With Blossoms in 2015

J.E. Apple Tree With Blossoms in 2015

Most of the apples are now smaller than a quarter in size. What’s my guess as to why that is? This spring’s heavy rains took down many blossoms on some trees, but late blooming trees benefited from those rains. The trees that produced fruit produced so many that it is limiting the size. Many orchards actually pull off excess apples to enable the trees to produce bigger fruit.

Another two or three weeks will tell us much more about the size of the crop and the fruit.

Acorn and Beechnut Crops

It’s too early to draw any conclusions about the acorn and beechnut crops. I have seen both very small and some larger acorns along with some trees that have no crop at all. Again, mid-August will be a better time to assess things.

Berry Crop

The good news for the bears in particular is that the blueberry crop is both big and late. The rains have made the berries big but ripening late by (you guessed it) about two weeks. The field at J.E. is loaded with low-bush blueberries. Wild red raspberries are also in great supply now.

That did not stop a bear (or bears) from hitting John’s feeders again last night, which he forgot to bring in. Which makes me renew my question: Did they smell the seeds, or do they check his yard every night in hopes of finding food? I think it is the former. Although birdseed does not have a very strong scent, it certainly is strong enough for them to smell it from great distances. They ALWAYS show up the night that you forget to bring in the feeders.

The rains produced a bumper crop of many kinds, including bulb plants, like iris that bears also love. Remember my video of them eating iris at the swamp?

I have not come across much mountain ash yet to assess that crop.

The highbush cranberries appear to be having a good year as well.

WLAGS

My Day as a River Helper

My Day as a River Helper

On Sunday, June 9, Tony and I took part in program called Casting for Recovery to help 14 ladies that are all breast cancer survivors to celebrate a new lease on life.

We were told that this was the first such event to be held in New Hampshire, but it was one of about 40 being held nationwide.

I was invited to take part by my primary care physician, and as soon as Tony heard about it, he said he would love to participate as well. There were 14 helpers; the goal being to a have one-to-one helper-to-participant ratio. Fly fishing really is taught best with that one-on-one system because the teacher needs to watch the student intently.

The River Helper and His Student

The River Helper and His Student

The setting was on a local trout pond, and the only observers were a few kayakers and a bald eagle. It was a beautiful day to have such an event. The sky was crystal clear, and it was warm with only the slightest hint of a breeze. However, fly fishing at this time of year in those gorgeous conditions was not going to yield many fish. We were all aware of that, and we accepted that premise upfront. Most of the ladies had fished before, but most had never held a fly rod until this weekend.

Tony's Participant Brenda Makes a Cast

Tony’s Participant Brenda Makes a Cast

I often have thought of fishing as being therapeutic, and this was more evidence of that. It can and does provide both physical and mental relief when needed. It was suggested that the casting motion was also good exercise for the recovery of muscles after surgery. It was also meant to be a bonding experience for the participants, and I feel it succeeded in that for sure.

The 14 Participants Bonded

The 14 Participants Bonded

This was the last of a three-day weekend for them. On the previous two days, they were given casting lessons and some fly-tying lessons as well. So this was going to be their first attempt at putting what they learned to the test.

It was emphasized to us, the river helpers, that this was not about catching fish, but rather about having a good time, laughing, and presenting the sport to them in such a way that they could judge for themselves whether they thought they might like to expand their interest. I think we succeeded in those goals. We did manage to catch a few small fish, and they were very much appreciated by all.

Just Enjoying the Water

Just Enjoying the Water

The ladies were very enthusiastic to say the least. They cheered each other’s accomplishments as if a small fish represented a Super Bowl win. They were patient, attentive, and always smiling. I know I left there with an appreciation for their inner strength and their zest for life. I got at least as much out of this experience as did my student Michelle, I’m sure. Tony felt the same way about his student Brenda.

Brenda and Tony

Brenda and Tony

We got to enjoy a great lunch together after the fishing was done. That further bonded us together.

A Hardy Lunch for a Hard Day's Work

A Hardy Lunch for a Hard Day’s Work

I asked Tony at the end of the day’s events whether he shared my thoughts about the day’s success. He said that he enjoyed it and would certainly consider doing it again.

That’s a good thing because we were told by the organizers that we would be called on next year for sure.

WLAGS

 

Bucks and Beechnuts

Bucks and Beechnuts

Thankfully, there have been a few memorable and rewarding scouting expeditions in my life, and these few hours this morning will be added to that list.

I decided to go to a place I haven’t been to in years because, while looking through my notes for beechnut groves, I came across Gigi’s.

It’s named after the owner of the property that graciously gave us permission to hunt there many, probably 15 or more, years ago.

I remembered that there was a large beechnut grove almost surrounding her property. So I was optimistic that what I have seen near here might translate into a good crop there. I was not expecting to find what I did. As the photo inadequately shows, there are trees loaded with beechnuts. The likes of which I have NEVER seen in 55 years of hunting in the North Country.

Bountiful Beechnuts

Bountiful Beechnuts

As you look at the picture of the field, both tree lines, but especially the left side, are mostly beeches.

Gigi's Field

Gigi’s Field

They are literally hanging branches full of nuts right over the field.

Low-Hanging Fruit

Low-Hanging Fruit

What a once-in-a-lifetime chance to bowhunt beeches. Most of the time, when trying to hunt a mast crop, especially beeches, the food is spread out over a large, fairly open area, and the deer will move from one spot to another as they consume all of the nuts under certain trees. Thus, where they are today, is not necessarily where they will be tomorrow, at least as far as bow range is concerned.

The ground under those low-hanging branches was covered in turkey sign, including several dusting bowls. It’s interesting that unlike here, the trees are not yet dropping their nuts. I can only speculate in that this might be elevation related. I checked the pods and every one was full with a large healthy nut.

The field has ample grasses and even red clover. To top things off there is the apple tree at the far end that I have never seen that many apples in.

Gigi's Apple Tree

Gigi’s Apple Tree

As I headed to the truck, I was very pleased with what I saw and with myself for making those notes way back when.

At the truck, after having a snack, I thought that I should drive very slowly going out because of another big find.

As I drove in on the tote road this morning, I was surprised to see almost the whole mile of road on the left side had been logged, right up to Gigi’s property line. This of course makes her property even more important, as it now offers cover along with food. The only thing that I did wrong at this point was not to have my camera ready.

I had not gone very far, still this side of the big brook, when I saw the rump of a deer up in the cutover, 25 yards off the road. I knew that it was a buck just by its size, and I was even more convinced of that when I noticed another slightly smaller rump to its right.

My first thought was that it was a buck and a doe. Wrong! As they lifted their heads to look at me, it was two bucks.

The first was at least a long-tined six-pointer and maybe an eight, but I could not see well enough to make out brow points. The other buck was at least a four—a six if he had brow points. They were both completely in velvet still. Then a doe appeared, and the three of them bounded up the cutover. They stopped and turned broadside to me as I scrambled for the camera, which was in my backpack in the back seat…of course!

All in all, a very rewarding few hours that might result in some success later in the year.

WLAGS

Better than a Well-Laid Plan

Better than a Well-Laid Plan

Sometimes a whim is better than a well-laid plan. We had planned to fish the Magalloway River, but we were skeptical about the number of fishermen, having seen so many on the Androscoggin yesterday. We figured that river would be crazy with fishermen this morning, but the weather was just bad enough that maybe some would not venture out so early.

But we decided to stop at the dam anyway. We were encouraged when we didn’t see any cars parked there, but as it turns out a couple of guys walked there. One of them had the premier spot, but we decided to give it a shot at a couple of the lesser places to cast from.

I got there a little before Tony, and I took a lower position and motioned Tony to one of the outlets as he approached.

On his first cast I could see that he was into a fish–a little smallmouth. That was quickly followed by a nice perch.

Yellow Perch

Yellow Perch

A few minutes later, as the rain picked up in intensity, I watched as his rod doubled over and then started throbbing almost violently.

I was sure at that point that it was brook trout, and by the bend in his six-weight rod, I knew that it was a good fish. After a few minutes, Tony called down to me that it was in fact a brookie.

Then I saw its head come out of the water and saw the distance between its dorsal fin and tail, and I knew I needed to get up there. Tony always fishes with barbless hooks, and that can come back to bite you when dealing with brook trout because of their head-shaking tactic.

Even the other fishermen knew that this was something special because they stopped fishing and even offered their assistance, which included a measuring tape.

Finally Tony managed to get it to the net. It was a gorgeous 17-1/2” brookie. Other than our Labrador trip, this fish rated the biggest on his all-time list of brook trout.

Tony's 17.5-Inch Brook Trout

Tony’s 17.5-Inch Brook Trout

With a little gentle handling and a chance to recover, the trout was back where he belonged, in the river.

Tony had taken all the fish on this trip thus far, on a fly he tied himself several years ago, a small, dark streamer.

So I headed back down to my spot and immediately tied on the same fly. A nice brown trout found it to his liking on my first cast.

The rain was coming down even harder now. It was the kind of day that if you were inside, you probably would not go out, but once you were out, what the heck; what’s getting a little more wet and cold? It certainly was putting our rain gear to the test.

We caught several more fish, including a couple of nice bass, but as the rain let up, so did the fishing.

My 15-Inch Smallmouth Bass

My 15-Inch Smallmouth Bass

When the rain finally stopped, you would not have known that there was a fish in the river.

We then turned our attention to fishing with my friend Brian that evening. Brian is almost a legend in these parts. He grew up north of the Notches, and knows the woods, lakes, and rivers of this area of N.H. and Maine.

He is also a guide and specializes in moose, both for hunting and photography. He has taken photos of moose that ended up in many magazines.

Brian met us at Lake Umbagog at about 5:30 PM, and we jumped into his 21’ 250 HP boat and were ready for action.

Brian and I in His Speed Machine

Brian and I in His Speed Machine

I must admit that I never went 60 MPH on freshwater before, but that’s what we were doing in what seemed like seconds.

We covered the 10+ miles to our spot in about 10 minutes. I trip that with my 40 HP motor, would have taken me twice that if I dared to go full throttle, and I wouldn’t do that.

We got some nice photos of a mated pair of eagles.

Mated Pair of Bald Eagles

Mated Pair of Bald Eagles

Despite Brian’s intimate knowledge of the lake, the fishing was tough. We managed only a few decent  bass (all caught by Brian), a few respectable pickerel, and perch, and that was that. So even with an expert and the best equipment, sometimes the fish win.

Brian with a Smallmouth

Brian with a Smallmouth

WLAGS

 

Apple Blossom Time

Apple Blossom Time

As I walk through the woods, the things that amaze me most about New England are the stonewalls (which I consider a greater feat than the Great Pyramids) and the apple trees.

As I’m sure you are aware, there are no apple trees native to the Americas. All these trees came stock and seed from Europe, starting long before we were a nation.

There are literally thousands of varieties, many of which grow wild in our woodlands, that are found nowhere else in the world. They are varieties that have no commercial value in today’s world, but are of extreme importance to the wildlife that depend to varying degrees on them. That’s why we were thrilled on our recent trip North of the Notches to see hundreds and hundreds of these trees in full bloom. It makes it so easy to see them for a few days a year when they are otherwise camouflaged into a green world of leaves and limbs.

I call them wild trees because they are no longer in the care of humans and survive as best they can. Tens of thousands have died over the last century. I can find almost a hundred just here in town, but thousands still remain.

Most of them are more, much more than 100 years old. Some twice that. The tree that I shot that buck from in Vermont in 1967, is a good example. It was, according to the farmer there, a hundred years old then, and last I knew it was still alive, 50 years later, having survived being mangled by bears and a lightning strike.

So it should come as no surprise that I cherish them and help them, when possible by cutting out competing saplings and in some cases pruning and feeding them. This picture of the apple tree at J.E. shows how that effort pays off.

J.E. Apple Tree Blossoms

J.E. Apple Tree Blossoms

A tree full of blossoms does not ensure fruit later, but a lack of blossoms equals no chance of fruit.

Long live the apple tree!

WLAGS