One goes hand in hand with the other. There is no great substitute for experience, and fishing is a classic example of that.
I regularly call upon my experience in my fishing endeavors. This was very true on this years Father’s Day week trip to northern New England.
Experience has taught me what I can reasonably expect under certain conditions in certain places. Experience has also taught me to expect the unexpected, which also came in handy on this trip.
This was my grandson Sam’s first real fly-fishing trip. He had experience with the fly rod, but not under conditions where casting was of supreme importance—casting for distance but more importantly accuracy and touch, or as we fly fishermen call it, “presentation.”
Our first evening was spent at the tail end of a long pool below a significant dam and above some riffles and rocks.
I decided to play coach that evening to watch as Tony and Sam waded into position.
At first, Sam’s casts were inadequate, but with Tony on his right side and having some knowledge of what a cast is supposed to look like, he got better as the night progressed.
Tony landed a pair of smaller-sized salmon, but salmon being salmon, they provided thrills with their spunk and aerobatics.
Sam managed to catch his first fish on a dry fly—a smallmouth bass, which was full of energy and gave him some experience in landing a fish under these conditions.
The next morning, we headed for one of my favorite places to fish, Parmachenee Lake. On the way there, Sam had another first. He saw his first bull moose, which was in velvet of course—this being June. Luckily Sam had Tony’s camera with its 300-mm lens to capture the moment.
Parmachenee is not a private lake, but the road to it is. The road is gated, and if you don’t have a key to that gate, you can’t fish the lake because you’d have a many mile-long walk on several dusty, sometimes muddy, and always rock-strewn roads. Once you got there, you would need a boat of some kind. This is not a lake that you can wade.
I have the good fortune to have a friend who owns a camp on the lake that was built by his father in 1972.
What makes this lake special is the fact that all the brook trout in it are native, meaning that they are not descended from hatchery fish. Also, all the salmon are wild, meaning that they *are* descended from hatchery fish, but those are from almost 100 generations ago. The lake hasn’t been stocked with salmon since the late 1800s. Hence, the salmon that you catch there today were born right there in the lake, or more accurately, in the surrounding streams.
There are just a few cabins on the lake, which include some of the cabins that were part of the now defunct Parmachenee Club that was made up of almost entirely well-to-do New York City lawyers.
My friend has at his camp two very large (20-foot) aluminum jon boats with small outboards, but because I prefer the quiet of an electric motor, we brought my motor.
As we launched, we saw a cow moose to our left feeding in the lily pads of a marshy area.
We would see her every day, along with some deer feeding and drinking at the lake’s edge. We even caught a glimpse of an immature bald eagle, which left several feathers behind at the launch site.
The fishing conditions were awful. By that I mean that it was bright, clear, and hot. As a salmon and trout fisherman, you want the exact opposite of those conditions. The nastier the better. However, as I mentioned earlier, experience has also taught me to expect the unexpected. Despite the terrible conditions, we caught one fish each. Sam caught a 12-inch salmon on a Parmachenee Belle fly that I tied, and Tony caught a 10-inch brook trout on a pink streamer that I tied. I actually caught my fish, a 12-inch brook trout, on a yellow hornberg fly that I had bought that day just because it caught my eye.
That night we returned to the river, and we all caught fish. Tony caught two salmon while Sam and I put a dent in the fallfish population. I caught 10 of them in 10 casts!
The next morning, we returned to the lake. With the experience of the day before, we had a banner day, catching several trout and salmon; some of which were very nice, even large, like a 17-inch brookie that had a bulge in its stomach as though it had just eaten a bullfrog!
While Sam and Tony again caught their fish on flies that I tied, I caught all of my fish, including a 17-inch salmon on that yellow hornberg fly that I had bought the day before. The salmon had two fat minnows in its stomach.
That evening, Tony and I returned to the dam where he caught a nice 15-inch rainbow trout on a dry fly.
Unfortunately, we did so without Sam because he was called home to mourn the loss of his cat. We were all sad about his beloved pet and to see his trip cut short.
The next morning, Tony and I returned to the lake under much more fisherman-friendly weather, which would eventually turn to rain, including a downpour.
I caught four brook trout and a salmon. The biggest of each was 13 inches.
Tony caught a 15-inch salmon and three trout, including an 18-incher—his biggest ever caught south of the Canadian border.
While reviving Tony’s big brookie the landing net slipped over the side and sank like a stone. Tony had detected a hole in the handle earlier. On our way home, we bought our host a new and better net, which was well worth our time at his camp.
That evening, we fished the Magalloway River. I describe fishing there this way: if fishing were in the context of a college degree, the Magalloway would require a master’s degree. It is heavily fished by good fly fishermen from all over New England and the country. The big fish there have doctorates in fly identification and presentation, along with assessing the quality of a fly tier’s work. Bottom line: if you catch one of those native brook trout, regardless of size, you earned an A on that day’s test.
By that measure, we each worked very hard to get an A that night. I caught a 12-inch brook trout, and Tony managed a 9-incher in the waning moments of light.
We rarely see other fishermen at this spot, but we were joined by a couple of “sports” (clients) and a guide that night. One of the clients must have taken a wrong step off the steep bank and ended up swimming downstream in his waders. I have to give the guy credit. Most people would have panicked in that situation, but he didn’t. He swam until he found his footing, and then he stood up and fished for the next hour right in the middle of the river. He didn’t even get his cigar wet!
The last morning, Tony’s birthday, we made a quick trip back to the dam. I spotted a couple of fish rising, put Tony on them, and he fooled a nice 20-inch salmon with a dry fly to close out our trip with the longest fish of the trip.
It was a very good, memorable trip, and with the exception of Sam’s loss, one of our best.