Three Generations of Dry-Fly Fishermen

Three Generations of Dry-Fly Fishermen

In the movie and the book, A River Runs Through It, the author quotes his father, a Presbyterian minister, about the different types of fly fishermen.

“He told us about Christ’s disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume…that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.”

There is something extra special about fishing and catching fish on a dry fly. It is hard to explain to a non-fisherman or for that matter a fisherman that does not fly-fish. Maybe this story about my first trout on a dry might explain it for you and me.

I was fishing with my father at Nashoba Brook in Acton, MA one evening. We were fortunate enough to have our favorite pool to ourselves. We were fishing with the tried and true garden tackle–worms. We were catching absolutely nothing, but there was one trout consistently rising under the alder bushes on the lower left side of the pool.

I went into the back pocket of my fishing vest and pulled out an old Pflueger fly reel that my father had given me. I attached it to my 5.5-foot Horrock-Ibbotson ultralight fiberglass spinning rod that my father had purchased for me earlier that year from a department store on Washington Street in Boston. It was anything but a fly rod, but as soft as the action was, I thought I could make it work as a fly rod for this instance. My father looked on kind of puzzled at my actions, but said nothing. The fly line was silk, and the leader was catgut. Both were very old, and God only knows how long it had been since my dad used them last.

I had never used this reel ever before, nor had I ever cast a fly rod in my life in a fishing situation–only having practiced a time or too with my father’s 9-foot bamboo fly rod. I had already started to collect some flies, including a few I had tied with my father and had them in a old metal fly box. I knew I had a fly that would be a close match to the mayflies that were hatching. So I put on a Yellow Sally in about a size 12.

Yellow Sally

Yellow Sally

I made one cast and fell a few feet shy of my mark. My next cast was exactly where I wanted it. I watched without much expectation as the fly drifted right over the spot where the trout had been rising, and much to my surprise the fly suddenly disappeared in a splash. I instinctively set the hook, and the rainbow trout was airborne. I swear that my father was twice as excited as I was. He started repeatedly yelling, “Don’t horse him!”

And I could hear him scuffling around behind me. Finally, I brought the 12-inch trout to the net. Today that would barely be an average trout, but back then it was considered much better than the 8- or 9-inch average that trout were then. My dad was beside himself with joy. Repeatedly patting me on the back both physically and verbally. That was not the father that I knew on a daily basis.

That was where and when my passion began. Later that year, Dad gave me that bamboo fly rod for my 13th birthday. That’s right; I was 12 that day on Nashoba Brook. I have spent the rest of my life trying to repeat the perfection of that evening.

Fast forward 61 years, and I was introducing my grandson to this aspect of my life. With me was my son Tony, who had long ago become a believer and a skilled dry-fly fisherman. Tony and I were awaiting Ian’s arrival at the Androscoggin River that evening, and we were full of anticipation as we had several trout rising in front of us. I had not managed to interest a fish to an offering until I heard “Hi Grampy.” As I turned to acknowledge Ian’s salute, a brown trout took my fly.

Hooking a Fish Upon Ian's Arrival

Hooking a Fish Upon Ian’s Arrival

It was indicative of what was to follow. Ian was not set up, and the light was dimming fast so I offered him my rod, which had a Griffith’s Gnat on the business end. A little coaching from his grandfather, and soon Ian was into a trout. It was the first trout he’d caught on a dry fly since our 2011 trip to Montana. Tony, across the river, was into some fish of his own.

Tony's 11-Inch Brown Trout

Tony’s 11-Inch Brown Trout

As the darkness overtook the pool, the three of us had each landed a couple of browns each, and Ian and I managed a 14-inch salmon. It was the end of a perfect hour.

Day 2 started out with threatening skies, which worked very much in our favor. We were off to Upper Dam, which lies between Mooselookmeguntic Lake and Upper Richardson Lake. It was home to one the most famous fly tiers of all time, Carrie Stevens, the inventor of the Grey Ghost streamer and many others.

With all the history, and the fact that this place is well managed for both brook trout and landlocked salmon, it is exceedingly popular with the fly fishing community, as fly fishing is the only legal method of fishing here. In my many previous trips here, I have never had the place to myself–not even a minute. Ian’s luck continued to play out as that was exactly what we found when we arrived. I was shocked! I sent Ian down to the tail end of the pool, and he promptly caught a brookie and that would be followed by several others. Some were taken on my Village Pond Special (VPS) fly (a wet fly), some on dry flies.

Ian's 11-Inch Brook Trout

Ian’s 11-Inch Brook Trout

Tony was soon into a few brookies and a salmon, using my Grampy’s Copper Flash for one and dry flies for the rest.

Tony's 14-Inch Landlocked Salmon

Tony’s 14-Inch Landlocked Salmon

I managed two salmon and three brookies, all on dries.

My 14-Inch Landlocked Salmon

My 14-Inch Landlocked Salmon

Unfortunately the threatening skies cleared, and just like flicking a light switch, two things happened; the fishing came to a screeching halt and other fishermen started showing up. We quit while we were ahead, and we were very grateful to do so. It was the best couple of hours I ever spent in this beautiful and historic place, and I was very grateful to have shared it with my son and grandson.

Ian Casting at at Upper Dam

Ian Casting at at Upper Dam

So now came time to work. A main goal of this trip was to retrieve a boat that Tony and I had literally dragged into another famous place that I’ve written about before called Pond in the River. It was made famous by Louise Dickinson Rich and her 1942 book We Took to the Woods about her life there in the previous decades. Pond in the River has since become famous for its brook trout and salmon. A number of rules changes has made it impractical to keep the boat there any longer.

I remember distinctly that when Tony and I brought the boat in, Tony said “I’ll never take this thing out of here” because it was a very steep, rocky, and stump-strewn drag downhill. Well now that drag was going to be uphill!

Our Former Pond in the River Boat

Our Former Pond in the River Boat

I knew I was not going to be much help, so I settled in the truck for what I assumed was going to be a 30- to 50-minute wait as the boys went down to the pond to retrieve the boat. I was shocked when what seemed to be just a few minutes, I heard their voices. My first thought was one of them got injured. To my surprise, there they were, just 11 minutes later with the boat ready to go onto the trailer. I don’t know how they pulled it, off but they did.

I was so tired after the day’s events that I took the evening off. Tony and Ian put Tony’s square stern canoe in the Androscoggin River below the dam just before sunset. They caught a salmon and a brown but they were into the fallfish big time. They were all caught on dries.

Tony's 12-Inch Fallfish

Tony’s 12-Inch Fallfish

Part of my mission on this trip was to introduce Ian to these almost sacred fly-fishing waters so that he will have a lifetime to enjoy them and maybe he will think of me sometimes when he does. Next on the list was another very famous place known as

Camp Ten Bridge on the Magalloway River. Camp Ten Bridge is so famous in fact that if you look closely on most Maine maps it will be on there–in the middle of nowhere. When we arrived, I was not surprised to see five gentlemen, dressed right out of the Orvis catalog, taking a coffee break at their SUVs. I was sure that they had beaten the water to a froth and cast every conceivable fly into that beautiful pool, but I knew the fish in that pool had never seen a VPS. As I went down to the best spot in the pool to cast from I could almost hear the other fishermen saying “fat chance” under their breaths.

As Tony and Ian took up positions at the next pool down, I started casting my trusty VPS. On about the fifth cast, I felt a slight tap. I placed my next cast in the same spot, but retrieved my line at speed equal to the current so as to make the fly look like it was in a dead drift. I saw a flash of silver and instantly felt the strike. A split second later the fish, a salmon was airborne. I think it had to be in full view of the fishermen above me on the bridge, but I couldn’t look now. After a feisty battle, the 17-inch salmon was in my net and a moment later returned to his beautiful home. I turned to hear the SUVs pulling away. What’s that commercial say, “Like that, only better”? I’ve caught many nicer salmon, thankfully, in my life, but that one was special. Ian too put the VPS to use there. He caught a brookie in that second pool.

That evening we returned to the dam on the Androscoggin. Tony took top rod honors that night with a few browns and a salmon, and Ian caught a brookie. I played the role of observer and coach.

Tony's 14-Inch Landlocked Salmon

Tony’s 14-Inch Landlocked Salmon

The last day was devoted in part to reaching another goal. It is called Lincoln Pond. Each of the last three years, Tony and I have made serious attempts to reach this placePart of the problem was that topo maps showed several different roads that would get you close, but each year we would try one only to find it more impassable than the last.

Finally we had a good lead thanks to tips from a retired warden and a current fisheries biologist named Elizabeth. We were optimistic. The road was very treacherous, especially as we had some rain the night before.

That said, it proved to be shorter than the others that we tried. Elizabeth had described to a tee the “parking spot,” and but for Ian’s sharp eyes, we would have driven right by the few blades of flattened grass that indicated “the spot.” As close as we were to the pond, about 80 yards from the water, it was still hidden from view by the density of the trees. We finally reached our goal. It was beautiful, and there were signs that others had made the effort to get here too, but they had a distinct advantage. They left boats there, as we did at Pond in the River, but they got here to fish by using ATVs, hence making the treacherous ride much less so. They also fashioned lures out of Moxie soda cans.

Moxie Can Lure

Moxie Can Lure

As Tony put it, “What could be more Maine than that?” I guess they could have tipped the lures with whoopie pies!

Well after all this, we realized we could not be there under worse conditions, bright sun, cloudless and the moon was not right either.

Rub-a-Dub-Dub

Rub-a-Dub-Dub

The only fish we raised were some brookies taking cover in and around a beaver house. So we took solace in our victory of sort, but realized this was not the day that we had pinned our hopes on, and hastily, but not very quickly, retreated.

We made our way to Aziscohos Lake. There I would rest as Tony and Ian did some trolling at what was the worst part of the day on a day that was anything but suitable fishing conditions. Tony did manage a sizable fallfish among the several they caught.

Tony's 16.5-Inch Fallfish

Tony’s 16.5-Inch Fallfish

Well now it was time for Ian to depart. I hoped, and think, he enjoyed this nearly as much as I.

With only the evening left to fish, Tony and I headed back to the Androscoggin. Tony wanted to take a few fish home to eat, as he had some company coming and they were anxious to try some salmon and trout. Sometimes things just work out as you would like, unlike the Lincoln Pond experience. It was like ordering fish off of a menu. Tony caught two very nice (and legal size) salmon of 17 and 18 inches.

Tony's 18-Inch Landlocked Salmon

Tony’s 18-Inch Landlocked Salmon

I added a 13-inch brown trout out of the several that I caught that evening.

Trout and Salmon for Dinner

Trout and Salmon for Dinner

Again it was dry-fly fishing at its best. It was a perfect way to end a perfect trip with two treasured fishing partners.

WLAGS

 

 

Advertisements
Remote Pond Boat Extraction

Remote Pond Boat Extraction

Three years ago, Tony, his dog, Angie, and I made a mission out of dragging a boat into a remote trout pond that we had fished a few times with success in our float tubes.

Dragging the Boat in Three Years Ago

Dragging the Boat in Three Years Ago

The thought was with a boat in place, we would fish it more often, if for no other reason than we would not have to deal with carrying in the float tubes and inflating them. Well, it didn’t work out that way. As it turned out, we never went back, except to check on the boat. It also turned out  that other people had taken advantage of our efforts. They broke the lock off by twisting the chain, and they obviously used the boat more than once. They twisted the chain so badly that we needed the same bolt cutters that we used the day before to detach it from the boat.

Twisted Chain

Twisted Chain

Well, we now had better ideas for the boat. As he described in his blog, in the fall, Tony could use it at home to access some bowhunting spots that are along a river, and my grandson, Ian could use it for fishing all summer.

So now it was up to us and Tony’s new dog, Bear to get it out of the pond. In both of our trips, it was necessary to make benefit of snow cover to make the dragging easier. At first, this trip was was made more difficult by a coating of ice on the snow’s surface. It was very slippery, especially in the shaded and steep areas. We had to pick our way carefully and more slowly than we had hoped.

Icy Ledges Slowed Us Down

Icy Ledges Slowed Us Down

 

When we reached the boat, it was mostly uncovered from the snow. With a little work, we were able to free it, and when we did it became obvious that it had suffered a little damage. I could see light coming from rivet holes under at least one of the seats. Other than that, it looked as though it would serve our purposes. I’ll patch any holes this spring.

How We Found the Boat Three Years Later

How We Found the Boat Three Years Later

So the trek out began.

Dragging the Boat Up and Out

Dragging the Boat Up and Out

 

The good news was that in the 30 minutes that we readied for our exit, the high sun had softened the snow, despite the subfreezing temperatures. The trip out was significantly less slippery.

The first third of the trip was steeply slanted up and to our left as we made our way through the beech trees on the south facing slope.

 

After that, the biggest problem was not getting hit by the boat as it slid down the steep slopes and avoiding a myriad of boulders. It was a lot of work in a fairly short period of time.

Steep Steps

Steep Steps

 

When we finally reached the truck, Bear did not need much coaching to get in the back seat. She would sleep the entire way home.

 

And after the effort we all put in the day before to relocate the tree stand, we were tired too. It was a good way  to utilize a mid-winter weekend, hopefully to the benefit of many summer and fall weekends to come.

WLAGS

 

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

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

Mid-Winter Update

In an effort to better serve our “sports” (the Maine name for “clients”), Tony and I (mostly Tony) dragged the 8’ Jon boat into a remote trout pond on Sunday.
It was a half mile mostly uphill drag over several inches of snow. Almost perfect conditions to do so.
We have fished it a few times with float tubes, mostly in the fall. It’s a very pretty and productive pond of about 16 acres.
This was something we had long talked about doing and now with the boat there and chained to a tree, we will fish it more often.
Our Jon boat at the remote pond

Our Jon boat at the remote pond

On Saturday at 10:45 am Tony and I saw a deer, too far to know the sex, in a snow-free western facing field.
We said almost simultaneously, that it looked not only healthy but even fat.
Today at 10:45 am I had 2 deer jump out in the road in front of me in Hillsboro. This time I got a great look at them as they crossed into a field,
in the bright sun and turned and looked at me. I could see plainly that both their rumps and shoulders were rounded,
indicating they had plenty of fat under their hides. Not a hair was out of place on this mother and daughter.
It would have made a great picture of them with the snow cover and stone walls in front and in back of them.
A couple of bounds with flags up and then a trot to and over the stonewall and they were gone.
I can honestly say I have never seen deer look that healthy in February before.
The deer are obviously moving freely right now. I think they are moving midday because they are using less energy then than they would be
during the coldest night time hours, when they can curl up and conserve heat and energy.
We are supposed to get a significant snowfall tonight and Sunday. Things could easily change for the worse but I’m optimistic that with a little luck,
the heard will come out of this winter in good shape.
Last year we had a WSI (Winter severity index ) of 32 for the season, far below the average. 17 of those days came in March.
Right now we are at 14 this season. If we don’t have another severe March or worse yet April, we, they should be in great shape.
WLAGS
Your success is our success!