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

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

Lodge Rating: Gray Ghost Camps 2016

 

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

——————–

Cabin #9: Fool’s Gold

Cabin #9: Fool's Gold

Cabin #9: Fool’s Gold

Location: 10

Service: 10

Check-out time (10:00): 9

 

* Cabin overall: 9

Water pressure: 9

Water temperature: 10

Beds: 10

Cabin location: 8

Cabin view: 8

Cabin temperature: 8

Cabin structure: 9

Good Cabin Structure

Good Cabin Structure

Boating facilities: 10

Great Boating Facilities and Fishing Access

Great Boating Facilities and Fishing Access

Fishing potential: 10

Fishing access: 10

 

 

 

The Fisherman’s Serenity Prayer

The Fisherman’s Serenity Prayer

Of all the things that an outdoorsman has to deal with as far as weather in concerned, wind is the one he has the least control over. Rain is easily dealt with, for example. Put on the proper apparel and you are good to go. Snow and cold? That’s the same scenario. With wind however, in most instances, there are is nothing we can do to alter its effect on us or our activity. Maria simply wins out.

Such was the case on our most recent trip to Moosehead Lake. We arrived late afternoon only to find the wind churning up the lake to the point that even boats larger than ours were tied up to their docks. No one was fishing.

An early alarm Tuesday was just to get an earlier start to the same gusty, even stronger winds. We launched and took a brutal and wet beating for a couple of hours that included snow flying horizontally, but even the fish were sitting this one out. A few days before our arrival, the annual smelt run had started and everyone was catching fish even the feathered fishermen. Eagles, osprey, mergansers, were all enjoying the spawning fish and the larger salmon that were in hot pursuit of the smelt. The cormorants arrived with us.

The next morning was marginally better, and Tony managed a nice salmon (shockingly caught on a perch Rapala, even though there were smelt everywhere). Now the problem included a bright sun that salmon shun. It was bitter cold and windy, and the sun was now another obstacle to any success at all.

 

Tony's 17.5-Inch Landlocked Salmon

Tony’s 17.5-Inch Landlocked Salmon

After a morning of more frustration, we decided to let Maria have her way for the rest of the day, catch up on our sleep, and take a badly needed hot shower. While Tony showered, I took to the dock to take a few casts. I put on an old favorite lure that had served me well in similar circumstances over the years, and I proceeded to lose it on the bottom on my very first cast. When would my luck change? I went back into the cabin and purposely put on a lure that I had never caught a fish on and would not blink if I hung it up on the bottom.

My first cast with it resulted in the lure getting tangled on itself, no doubt due to the wind. I pulled off my next cast without a hitch. The lure landed at just about the midpoint of the river, and I started a very aggressive retrieve. BANG! I hooked a beautiful salmon, but now, not having not thought this situation through, I found myself in an awkward place. Here I am on this dock, a couple of feet above the waterline, between two boats that the salmon could use to hang me up on, and not a soul around. I resolved the the dock issue by borrowing a boat net from one of the boats, but I had to keep the fish away from props and such. It worked. I landed him, and as luck (good) would have it, Amy the camp owner came by just in time to take a picture so I could release the 20″ salmon quickly without harm.

 

My Surprise 20-Inch Salmon

My Surprise 20-Inch Salmon

By all that is holy, that incident broke many standing rules for catching a salmon, but I don’t care. It worked and I was officially off the schneid. Well that turned our luck around. We conceded the lake to the wind and decided to fish smaller bodies of water where the wind would be less of a factor.

To do this we would have to enlist the services of an old friend, his son, and even his daughter. Mike, a retired game warden has known us for thirty years. Someday I’ll tell you how we met, but not today. Mike’s only son, Kody at 20 years old, is a mountain of a young man, whose arms are bigger that my legs. That said, he could not be more soft spoken, gentle, or more respectful. Top that off with an intimate knowledge of everything that lives in these parts, and he is the perfect guide.

Tony and I had pretty much made up our mind to fish a secluded pond where we had had success on previous occasions, but Kody was very convincing in an effort to get us a to fish another pond. We had some luck at this pond many years ago, but our last few trips there were anything but rewarding. Kody convinced us that by adding a canoe to the mix, it would be a good place to go. Who were we to question a young man who spends his days working with game wardens and biologists surveying streams and lakes?

He would supply the canoe and meet us there down a long, rough dirt road. He beat us there, and by the time we arrived, he had taken the 140-pound canoe on his back and set it in the pond for us!

As Tony and I got into the canoe, we noticed a leak. I didn’t think much about it, thinking that we could bail if we needed to. Kody however was having none of that, insisting that he was going to fix it now. I was thinking to myself “How’s he going to fix a leak in a fiberglass canoe here, now? No way!” He walked back to his truck and returned with a small propane torch, a plastic Gatorade bottle, a knife, and some duct tape.

This, I had to see. Kody proceeded to heat the surface of the canoe. Kody then takes the piece of the Gatorade bottle and heats it on the bottom of the canoe, partially melting it. He then covered it all with the duct tape. It worked! Yankee ingenuity at its best.

Kody Repaired the Leak in the Canoe

Kody Repaired the Leak in the Canoe

This pond is a beautiful, solitary place, and it was a great break from the hustle and bustle of the lake. However, it was not out of Maria’s reach; even this little pond had whitecaps. The long and short of it was we did not catch a fish. But we had many short strikes and follows from what were exactly what Kody had promised, some beautifully sized and colorful brook trout. We left very pleased, and knew that under better conditions we would have some success at this beautiful pond.

As we departed in the dark, we saw several woodcock, snowshoe hares, and a moose. We agreed then to come back the next evening.

We were exactly right. A change in the weather resulted in a change in the trout’s attitude. The next night they were so aggressive in their strikes that they all but took the rod out of our hand. We caught several gorgeous brookies, the smallest of which was 13″.

Tony's 14.5-Inch Brook Trout

Tony’s 14.5-Inch Brook Trout

This evening made the trip, thanks to Kody and his sister Delaney, who came along the second night to help us and later help her brother check smelt nets to check the runs for Fish and Wildlife biologist surveys. She, by the way, shot her first buck last year, at the age of 15, with the help of her brother, after putting on 15 miles in those mountains in one day!

Kody's Smelt Net

Kody’s Smelt Net

When you meet two young people like these, you are left with so much hope and appreciation. The hope being that there are many more out there like these two hard working, caring, and respectful young people. The appreciation that these youngsters have managed to become who they are in a place so void of the now expected norms of what a teenager needs to just exist, is astounding to me. Yes they have cell phones, but with limited service and they use them for more practical things, like a flashlight, a GPS, or for an emergency. I never heard a ring tone, nor did I ever see them checking their phones once in my presence.

Tony and I discussed next year’s trip during our six-hour ride home. Was it worth it? We are getting tired of the hassles involved in fishing the big lake, such as depending so much on trying to time the smelt run, finding the accommodations to meet that timing, putting up with boat traffic, and very unpredictable weather.

We came to the same conclusion. We would not come back next year but for the fact that we are blessed with a good friend and his wonderful children. We, at this point are planning to go back, but only if we get to spend more of our time with Mike, Kody, and Delaney.

Mike and Kody Towering Over Me

Mike and Kody Towering Over Me

Many years ago, when I first started taking Tony here, we did it simply. We fished the smaller rivers, lakes, and ponds using only waders and a 10-foot Jon boat. As we got older, we increased our tools, our expense, and our levels of aggravation.

Sunset Over the Pond

Sunset Over the Pond

What brought me here originally with my father so many years ago was the simplicity and beauty of it all. Thankfully, the place has not changed a bit. We have to change back to those simple ways with simple expectations, and a greater sense of appreciation for what was and what is…

Tony and I Getting Back to More Simple Fishing

Tony and I Getting Back to More Simple Fishing

On many occasions while we were here, my father would say, “This is God’s country” or “This has got to be Heaven.”

I hope heaven is half this beautiful.

WLAGS