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

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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

The Annual Father’s Day Fishing Trip: Day 2

The Annual Father’s Day Fishing Trip: Day 2

Monday would be our first full day on the water, or I should say “waters,” as we changed spots a few times.

We started out by heading to the Magalloway River—one of the most iconic native brook trout rivers in the lower 48.

Along the way, I was hoping to show Tony his first bluebird. Unfortunately, with everything being a few weeks behind schedule due to the cold, wet spring, the bluebirds hadn’t yet arrived. Swallows were in the bluebird boxes instead. With his 300mm zoom lens, Tony was able to catch some cool photos of a male swallow handing off a large, white feather to a female as she prepared their nest. At one point, the male dropped the feather and was able to swoop down and catch it before it hit the ground!

Nesting Swallows

Nesting Swallows

As we drove by the Mailbox Pool on the Magalloway, a very famous spot on the river, we saw only two vehicles parked alongside the road. It was a Monday morning, but still only two vehicles was a great temptation. I have driven by this place countless times, but never fished it because it is always being fished hard by talented fly fishermen. We had to stop, at Tony’s insistence, if only to be able to say that we have fished it.

We passed a group of three fishermen that appeared to be a three-generation group, and they informed us that the gates of the dam had been opened the night before. That meant that the river would be unfishable. We went and checked it out anyway. We took a few casts, but those guys were right; the water was flowing at 635 feet per second (fps).

The Famous Mailbox Pool

The Famous Mailbox Pool

So we headed for the upper portion of the Kennebago River. It was another place we had never fished, despite having fished the lower portion many times. I had heard that this upper section would hold many smaller brookies and salmon. Like everywhere else, the water levels were up there as well. It was a beautiful stretch of water.

Upper Kennebago River

Upper Kennebago River

It was nice to see after traveling 15 or so miles of rugged dirt road.

Logging Trucks on One of the Many Dirt Roads

Logging Trucks on One of the Many Dirt Roads

Despite the high water, Tony landed two nice native brookies.

Native Kennebago Brookie

Native Kennebago Brookie

That evening, we swung by the dam again. We managed to catch a few smallmouths and fallfish to end the day.

Tony's 10-Inch Fallfish

Tony’s 10-Inch Fallfish

WLAGS

The Annual Father’s Day Fishing Trip: Day 1

The Annual Father’s Day Fishing Trip: Day 1

Well, this year’s trip got off to a great start. We stopped by the Errol Dam on Sunday evening, shortly after we got settled in our cabin. It didn’t look promising at all, as there were no fish rising in the middle portion of the river where I was, and only a few showing on the east bank where Tony was. So, to say I was pleasantly surprised by the following event would be an understatement.

I made two blind casts (no particular target) with no sign of a fish. My next cast was at the base of the dam. The #14 Elk Hair Caddis drifted into a seam that brought it within a few feet of me. Suddenly there was a splash and a miss on the fly. I repeated the cast two more times with the same result. I made my next cast a little more to the far side of the fish so as to give him a longer and better view of the drift. It worked. This time the fish took the fly going dead away from me. I could see the dark and pointed head as he grabbed the fly going away.

I knew instantly that it was a salmon. He did what a salmon does, jumping two feet into the air after being hooked. I saw him clearly then and turned to get Tony’s attention, but he could not hear a thing over the roar of the river. Finally, he looked up and at me just as the salmon jumped again. Tony knew at that point that his help would be needed to net this fish in that current. He made his way over the sluiceway to me just as I brought the salmon to the edge of the rocks. A minute later the salmon was in the rubber net.

20-Inch Landlocked Salmon

20-Inch Landlocked Salmon

We guessed it was 20”. We didn’t have a ruler with us, but we grabbed a stick and broke it to the fish’s length. Back at the truck the stick would measure 20”+. We gave the fish some time to revive and then released him back to the river.

Releasing the Salmon

Releasing the Salmon

We had seen two deer and a moose on our way up that afternoon. We would see another moose on our way back to the cabin that evening.

It was a great start to our trip.

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

 

 

A Plan and a Whim

A Plan and a Whim

On our last day, we made plans to fish a small and somewhat difficult pond to reach. On the drive there, we had the pleasure of seeing a cow moose kneel down right beside our truck to drink while her calf (a young bull with knobs on his head) whimpered like a dog. He was more concerned about our presence than she was.

Cow Moose Drinking with Baby Bull

Cow Moose Drinking with Baby Bull

That was quite a sight, and it was a great way to start our morning. Now on to that remote pond. It would require carrying the boat and all the equipment over a fairly steep, rock-strewn and root-covered trail.

Heavy Lifting

Heavy Lifting

As usual, Tony did most of the heavy lifting as we dragged his 15-foot canoe and all the necessary equipment to the pond. And thanks to the cold, wet spring we had, the black flies were mixed in with the mosquitoes, even though it was Father’s Day weekend, not Mother’s Day weekend when you’d normally see black flies.

We made our way to the brush-choked shore. It was worth it almost for the view. It’s a gorgeous little pond, even by Maine standards. We were anxious to get started.

Can't Beat the View

Can’t Beat the View

The weatherman had promised an overcast day and maybe even a little drizzle. No such luck! As soon as we launched, the sun broke out of what turned out to be a cloudless sky, and the temperature shot up; not exactly the prime conditions we were hoping for.

We did as well as could be expected, catching my first creek chub, and a few small brookies–both stocked and native.

My First Creek Chub

My First Creek Chub

We lunched on the porch of the only camp on the lake.

A Rustic Camp

A Rustic Camp

It was a throwback in time in its structure and what passed for furniture and equipment. The only access is by boat or across the ice. It looked like it had not been used in several years, but one can only imagine the many wonderful days and nights spent there by so many hopeful hunters and fishermen.

A Hopeful Fisherman

A Hopeful Fisherman

Of note was the cardboard cutout, which was often done back then so you could eat your catch, of a 17-inch brookie with the date and name of the lucky fisherman and the fly. After lunch, we left our respite and headed across the pond to our truck to make ready for an evening of fishing.

After a hearty supper, we started to head for one of the more famous rivers when I once again got a whim. I turned to Tony, as we passed a stretch of a river that looked great and suggested that we drop the canoe in there.

It is one of those places that is very difficult to wade, and it is almost impossible to cover all of the good water with a fly rod.

So we dragged the canoe down yet another steep, rocky bank, and we launched. This worked out great. The darker it got, the more fish rose, and we had a great night of dry fly fishing.

Landlocked Salmon

Landlocked Salmon

We landed five salmon and one brook trout, and one rainbow trout, along with the odd fallfish and smallmouth bass.

Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout

Again a whim paid off!

WLAGS