What I Know About Fishing, Part 2: Think Like a Fish

What I Know About Fishing, Part 2: Think Like a Fish

Now that you have observed the situation and have come to the conclusion that there are fish where you are, then start by doing the things that have worked for you in the past. Like a good athlete, you have both muscle and brain memory. The latter is of extreme importance. There is no greater teacher than experience. That said, when all else fails, think outside the box, or better yet, do what my dad told me more than 60 years ago; “Think like a fish.” Well not literally, but you do need to know what a fish needs and wants.

Take the temperature

He needs a friendly environment; one that fits his needs, both nutritional and physical. The single most important thing other than food that he needs is a comfortable temperature. For example, a brook trout can’t live in water of 70+ degrees or more for more than a matter of minutes. He is happiest in water between 53 and 65 degrees, but he can live in temps a little warmer and much colder.

Preferred Temperatures for Trout

Preferred Temperatures for Trout

Of course oxygen is essential, and there are some places where oxygen levels are better than others, particularly in a river. This is especially true when the water warms in the summer. So it makes sense that in the summer, water that is churning over rocks, would contain more oxygen than flat or still water.

Eat up

OK now your fish has oxygen. Now he needs food. You need to figure out what foods are available where and when. You would not fish a lure that looks like a frog in April

when there is no frog activity. Why would you fish a dry fly if there are no insects flying about? If it is early spring, and there are no insects hatching, then in makes sense the

trout are heavily dependent on eating other fish or insects in the nymph stage. Many insects spend 364 days of their 1-year life span living in the water, only to hatch, mate, and die in a single day. So from a pure numbers game, you are far better off betting that the trout are eating something sub surface.

Mayfly Life Cycle

Mayfly Life Cycle

Many years ago, I used to say that trout diet consists of 80% nymphs. I was wrong. Now I believe that it is more like 99%+ over the course of a year. This does not take into account consuming other fish because that varies greatly on availability, species, and the size of the trout.

Browns, for example, start feeding on other fish at a younger age than rainbows or brookies. It also matters greatly the availability of the prey fish.

Here is a personal example that has stuck with me for 43 years. I was fishing on February 29, 1976, the last day of the fishing season, and an extra day at that because it was a leap year. (The next year, Massachusetts went to a 12-month trout season.) I stood on the shore of Long Pond in Plymouth and watched the ice break up. It was exciting and disappointing at the same time. This would be my last chance to fish for six weeks.

As soon as I had open water to cast to, I did exactly that. I soon landed a 12-inch rainbow. That fish had the tail of another fish still jutting out from its mouth. It wasn’t just any fish, it was an 8-inch yellow perch! When I removed the perch the head was greatly digested, but the middle and tail were intact. This told me that this rainbow grabbed the perch hours earlier, yet he was aggressive enough to go after my lure. It must have looked like an easy meal that he just could not pass up. This is a classic case of availability. Despite this incident, I contend that rainbows are not the fish eaters that similar-sized browns and brookies are.

One last tip: If there are yellow perch in the body of water you are fishing, you could do worse than put on a perch-imitating lure. A yellow perch Rapala is hands down my wife’s favorite lure and is on my list of favorites for sure.

Perch Rapala

Perch Rapala

On our last trip to Moosehead Lake, we were getting little action on our usual lures that imitate smelt when Tony put on a perch Rapala and caught a salmon despite the fact that we were in a river that was full of smelt. Why did he put on the perch Rapala? Because he remembered that a lake trout we caught the year prior had two yellow perch in its stomach.

The Landlocked Salmon that Tony Caught on a Perch Rapala

The Landlocked Salmon that Tony Caught on a Perch Rapala

Use your head

Try to give a fish what he wants to eat or something he just can’t resist. Remember that all forms of life tend to take the path of least resistance. More to the point, the will seek out the maximum amount of calories with the least effort. Hence the success of lures that imitate a crippled fish, amphibian, or insect.

Just yesterday, I saw this video of a 30-inch lake trout trying to eat a 20-inch lake trout that was being reeled in. It would never do that if the smaller fish was not in distress.

I have had incidents like that happen to me many times, including:

  • a pickerel attacking a large sunfish that I hooked
  • smallmouths grabbing a hooked trout (several times)
  • bluefish grabbing another hooked bluefish

And that’s just to name a few.

Think like a fish. Think temperature, think food, think opportunity. 

WLAGS

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What I Know About Fishing, Part 1: Be Observant

What I Know About Fishing, Part 1: Be Observant

I have been asked by many people to put down on paper my knowledge of fishing. In my mind, there is a direct correlation between knowledge and experience. The keys there are to identify the experience and remember it for future use.

At the top of my list of things to do is to be observant. The number of times that my being observant has resulted in fish is literally countless. I’ll give you an example of what I think might be the first time I applied that theory.

Everything happens for a reason

It was the summer, and I was fishing with my father on the Assabet River in the Maynard/Stow area of Massachusetts. I was probably 13 years old at the time.

The Assabet was notorious for becoming carpeted with small algae that the locals referred to as duckweed. (The ducks did love it, by the way.) It would be so thick on the surface of the water that it would support the weight of many non-metal lures.

On this day, we were drifting downstream when I noticed a disturbed spot in the duckweed. Logic told me that it happened for a reason, and I assumed it was brought about by a fish. So I cast my recently purchased 6-inch black Creme plastic worm towards the spot. I was careful to cast slightly past it and bring it on top of the algae to the slightly open spot.

BOOM! A nice largemouth bass grabbed the worm. My father got so excited that I could not believe it. We landed the fish, which we kept to eat. After that, we caught a few more, but we missed more than we caught. The next time we went fishing, my dad had his own supply of plastic worms.

Later, I would apply the same principle to bait fish. My friends and I would go down to the river downtown with little pea-sized dough balls to catch shiners. We couldn’t keep them all alive so we would wrap them in tin foil and freeze them. Before we put them in the freezer, we would bend them into about a half moon shape. That way when we put a hook in the frozen shiner and cast it like a lure, they would spin on your retrieve. They worked in open water, but they worked best coming across the algae.

Stop and look

There are many obvious instances of being observant when it comes to fly fishing, but here is an unusual one. I was wading at Menemsha Beach on Martha’s Vineyard one fall day while fly fishing for bonito.

I was having no luck, despite knowing that I was casting a fly that was a perfect match to the small baitfish that we call “spearing” that were schooled right in front of me. The bonito were crashing within arm’s length of me, at times even splashing me. To say that I was frustrated was an understatement.

The next time a bonito crashed close to me, instead of casting at it, I simply observed exactly what was going on. A crash came, and I immediately noticed a dozen stunned spearing just quivering and slowing sinking from the shock of the strike. Suddenly, below the surface and out of anyone’s view, these flashing streaks darted in all directions and picked off every one of the stunned spearing. When the next explosion occurred in front of me, instead of retrieving my fly after casting, I simply left it there and twitched it a few times…BOOM! I was on!

Sometimes, things are not what they appear

Many times, early in my fly-fishing life, I would get frustrated by casting at rising fish and not getting a take. What I learned was a simple principle that applies to all forms of wildlife, “The less energy expended, the better.” In other words, “Take the easy way out.” Or, “Why kill yourself for a meal when you don’t have to?”

As it turns out, more often than not, those rising trout were not taking the already emerged dry flies, but rather the emerging ones. Those nymphs lay helpless in the surface film for several moments as they dry their wings. They are so easily picked off, like the spearing on Martha’s Vineyard, why not take the easy lunch?

Take it all in

Being observant can also mean exactly that, in that you want to take in all that is around you.

If for example you aren’t catching fish in your favorite bass pond, but you occasionally hear or see a large splash in the lily pads you can assume that the bass are looking on top for lunch, for something like frogs perhaps.

Trust your senses. If you thought that you heard a splash to your right, you no doubt did, and splashes don’t happen for no reason.

If you notice the slightest movement by a lily pad that seems out of place, you can bet that it is a fish, probably a big one.

Watch the loons and mergansers. There life depends on finding fish. That said I would never crowd either of them. Wait until they move off before fishing that spot. When you are there, take note of the depth and water temperature (when applicable) where they were fishing.

Water temperature isn’t that important at certain times of the year. For example, in a shallow lake in late July, the temperature is going to be pretty uniform throughout. However, if you are fishing a few weeks after ice out, a one- or two-degree temperature difference from one spot to another is huge!

I kid you not

Don’t forget the little boy or girl in you. When you went to a pond or river as a kid, what did you do? You looked for all the neat things that lived and grew there. Keep that in mind the next time you launch your boat. If you see many pollywogs, for example, you can bet that the game fish are fully aware of them too. 

Tadpoles

Tadpoles

If you are fishing a body of water that is next to a ripening corn field, you can bet that little rodents are making many trips to that corn and are in need of a drink or a swim.

Look at what is under those rocks. Are there nymphs or leeches? Neither is pleasant to most of us, but they’re high on any game fish’s menu.

Dragonfly Nymph

Observe the elements of your success or failure

For example, August is without a doubt the toughest month to catch trout, especially on a fly *most* of the time.

Many years ago, I fished a heavily fished trout pond on a rainy, foggy, muggy August morning, and I had a spectacular day. Now every August I head to the pond on days just like that. In fact, that pond, which had long been one of my favorites, I have yet to fish this year. It has received much publicity, and it is very popular with kayakers so fishing it in good weather is no longer pleasant. Fishing it in unpleasant weather is much more relaxing and productive.

On a similar note, my very best days there have been in early season snowstorms; I kid you not! 

In fact, one of those days is a perfect example for this topic. In late April of 2011, we had a very cold snowy opening day of trout season.

Ian and Your Guide in the Snow on Opening Day

Ian and Your Guide in the Snow on Opening Day

I had my grandson Ian in my boat, and Tony had my grandson Sam in his. The pond had at least a dozen other boats on it when we got there.

We started by trolling close to shore to try to locate some fish. We did in less than 10 minutes, and we stopped at that spot to cast. A couple of hours later, we had the place to ourselves, and we had landed 77 trout that we released.

Sam's First Tiger Trout

Sam’s First Tiger Trout

It seemed that we could have caught fish all day, but I insisted that we leave because Tony and both of my grandsons were wet and shivering. When we got to the launch, the local warden was waiting for us.

Dave asked how we did. He was shocked. He said none of the other boats had landed a single fish. He said that he was called all kinds of names including a liar when he assured the other fishermen that it had been stocked.

Why did we catch fish when no one else did? We were observant and smart. After the very first hit that we got trolling, I stopped the boats for two reasons. First, I knew that this early in the season the fish would be schooling. Second, I knew that they would seek “structure,” meaning rocks, logs, etc. for protection.

That is exactly what happened. My very cold and wet grandsons were very happy.

It was a memorable day for sure.

Another example that you might remember from my August 2014 blog post called “Rapid River: A Challenge and a History Lesson” is when Tony spotted a backwash that no one else spotted. He learned about the benefit of backwashes from fishing the Cape Cod Canal, where we often catch schooled striped bass who target bait fish caught up in backwashes.

The fishing at the Rapid River was challenging, and the banks were crowded with fishermen. I can count at least nine fishermen in this one photo that Tony took that day. 

A School of Rapid River Fishermen

A School of Rapid River Fishermen

If it weren’t for the nice backwash that Tony spotted and many other fishermen missed, our success would have been very different. We caught most of our trout and salmon on dries, which is preferable, but with the river so properly named, every fish was a challenge to land. Why were the fish attracted to this backwash? Like in the Cape Cod Canal, the backwash traps food. In this case, insects.

Tony caught what was then his biggest native brookie (16 inches) along with several others and several nice salmon. He earned them because he was observant enough to spot that nice backwash that was holding so many fish.

Tony's 16-Inch Brook Trout in 2014

Tony’s 16-Inch Brook Trout in 2014

Keep your eyes open, and think about what you are looking at. 

WLAGS

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

The Annual Father’s Day Fishing Trip: Day 4

The Annual Father’s Day Fishing Trip: Day 4

The next morning (our last) found us back in the stretch on the upper Magalloway where the big trout had been the evening before. He or she must have fed all night and decided to sleep in. That fish never showed. Some of his or her offspring were more cooperative, and we caught and released a couple average-sized brookies.

My 10-Inch Brook Trout

My 10-Inch Brook Trout

It was a beautiful morning, except for the clouds of mosquitoes and black flies. This was not the norm. Usually when we fish here at this time of the season we only have to contend with the mosquitoes, but I think because of the late spring, we had to deal with the black flies as well. We were however encouraged by what we saw and made plans to return that evening.

Beautiful Morning = Bad Fishing

Beautiful Morning = Bad Fishing

Later in the morning we dropped downstream in hopes of finding some feeding fish. We did but they were all fallfish.

Tony's 7-Inch Fallfish

Tony’s 7-Inch Fallfish

We returned to the upper Magalloway that evening in hopes of getting another shot at that big brookie, but it never showed up. In fact, despite adequate insects hatching, the rises were few and far between. We did manage another average-sized brookie each.

8-Inch Brook Trout

8-Inch Brook Trout

It probably does not make sense to a non-fisherman, but the highlight of our trip was that missed fish. Why? Because in my lifetime of almost three-quarters of a century, I have seen very few brook trout of that size. The only ones I have seen, I had to travel hundreds of miles at great expense and physical effort to accomplish in Labrador.

It is even more special knowing that this trout was not born in a hatchery, but instead was born in this beautiful river surrounded by these incredible mountains.

The Cloudy Sunset Behind the Mountains

The Cloudy Sunset Behind the Mountains

I am very happy knowing that that fish is probably still there, and I can’t wait until September in hopes of fooling him with a grasshopper fly.

Grasshopper Fly

Grasshopper Fly

So despite the low number of fish landed, it was a most productive and rewarding Father’s Day weekend, and I will cherish the memories of it.

WLAGS

The Annual Father’s Day Fishing Trip: Day 3

The Annual Father’s Day Fishing Trip: Day 3

On the third morning we put the boat in Aziscohos Lake near the inlet of the Magalloway River. To get there, we needed to drive about 16 miles down dirt roads.

At one point, we came upon a doe standing in the road, licking it to take in the minerals, much like a cow does with a salt lick. Unlike all the moose that we saw, she was not very skittish at all. In fact, she was reluctant to leave the road. We needed to drive right up to her before she would scamper off into the woods, which she did very slowly, giving Tony a chance to take a few pictures of her. One look at her ribs made it obvious why she was so reluctant to leave the mineral-rich dirt road.

It Was a Long, Hard Winter for this Doe

It Was a Long, Hard Winter for this Doe

This is what a deer looks like even several weeks after 17 feet of snow has melted. That’s not a typo. They received 17 feet of snow this winter.

As we were preparing to launch, we met the new warden in the area, Officer Egan. After we exchanged pleasantries, we offered to show him our licenses, but I assume after our conversation he knew that we were legal. Besides, he was far more interested in some campers that were camped right under a sign that said, “No Camping”!

It was a beautiful morning, which inevitably makes for tough fishing. We each caught a small brook trout.

Tony's 8-Inch Brook Trout

Tony’s 8-Inch Brook Trout

A loon was also fishing for those small brookies.

The Loon That Was Fishing With Us

The Loon That Was Fishing With Us

The highlight of the day was seeing a mated pair of bald eagles feeding their eaglet on the nest.

The Eaglet Being Fed

The Eaglet Being Fed

That evening, we went to the upper Magalloway River. There were fish rising, but they were very fussy. These fish no doubt had seen many a fly in their day as this stretch of the river has strict fly fishing only, catch-and-release, and barbless hook regulations.

One of Many "Fly Fishing Only" Signs on the Magalloway

One of Many “Fly Fishing Only” Signs on the Magalloway

It became obvious that there was one very large brookie occasionally feeding in the pool. Knowing that too much activity would put them down, I stopped casting in hopes that Tony could get that big brookie to take. Tony carefully measured his casts so as not to let that fish get a glimpse of his fly line.

Tony Casting in the Upper Magalloway

Tony Casting in the Upper Magalloway

It worked. After several casts and a perfect drift came the unmistakable sound of a big fish rolling on the fly. Up came Tony’s rod with a deep bend in it from the weight of the fish, but almost as quickly it went limp.

The good news is that that miss did not seem to deter that fish from feeding. Tony stayed there until last light, as did the fish. Once darkness set in the air cooled, the flies stopped hatching, and the fish stopped feeding. Both Tony and the fish called it a night.

The Magalloway After Sunset That Night

The Magalloway After Sunset That Night

As we made the long trek home, we saw five moose (including three calves), a doe, and a red fox.

One of Three Calf Moose We Saw That Night

One of Three Calf Moose We Saw That Night

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

 

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