Fall Fish

The temperatures have dropped at night and flows are reasonable. Time is short, however, so I could make only a quick jaunt to nearby waters:

Fall Flows and Soft Water

Fall Flows and Soft Water

You can see the soft water to the right; not visible from the photo is the strong rapid to the left. Perfect holding water for brown trout sitting at the seam of the side eddy and the main flow. Several casts with a Woods Special streamer, dead drifted from middle of the rapid to the right—this was the method. I experimented with different speeds on the retrieve. One one retrieve, I felt as if I had dragged the streamer over a flat rock near the surface—except there were no rocks. I took this to be a gentle hit or bump. So I decided to retrieve more aggressively on the next cast. Fish in the fall seem more aggressive both to hand and in the water, and whether they are spawning or not, they are fattening up for the cold to come. You can sometimes startle them into an aggressive strike. After a strong retrieve and dead spot before the next one, BAM. This brown trout went airborne twice:

Swam Away Happy

Swam Away Happy

There’s only one moral to this story—get out and fish no matter what. After that one, I spent the rest of the day exploring new spots on this stretch, and I was confirmed in my suspicions by discovering another fly fisherman in the spot I had coveted. He was friendly, and had done well there—nada for me toward dark, when I had to leave.

Let’s hope Mr. Jumping Brown above was not my last fish in Maine for 2013!

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By Hook and Crook: Rafting And Fishing

Our niece from Italy and her Princess Mother and Contessa Sister (as we call them). Amberini was fresh from a trip to Pinecrest Lake in California, where she caught this beauty:

California Rainbow

California Rainbow

You can tell she was ready to go rafting in Maine with the family:

Brendini Swimming School

Brendini Swimming School

 

There was a stop along the way:

Showers Along the Way

Showers Along the Way

Italian Royalty:

Don't Fall in the Falls

Don’t Fall in the Falls

 

Then there was the real purpose of the trip—caught at 5:30 am by your cameraman before the river heated up:

The Real Rafting Goal

The Real Rafting Goal

 

Thanks Oh Wise One for Taking Us on a Great Day!

Looks, Leaps Anyway

Looks, Leaps Anyway

 

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Rangeley With the Backwoods Pros

Because she felt I just didn’t fish enough on our Owens Valley Adventure in January, Becca, Will and the Maine Guide father Barry invited me for a day of fishing in the Rangeley area. We started at some ponds near their beautiful, far flung camp near some isolated ponds:

 

Cool Hand Suke

Cool Hand Suke

 

We got a number of small native brookies all day long—nothing of great size but some beautiful colors. Here’s an especially ambitious little fella:

But that fly looked so edible!

But that fly looked so edible!

 

 

Barry trains Maine guides—knows how to fish and build replacement parts for his truck from bailing wire, two-stroke oil and the prize from a crackerjack box. Here he is with the the rest of his expert crew after he carved a turkey sculpture with his chain saw out of a tree stop that jumped out in front of our truck.  We were only hung up for a while Barry practiced his black magic—and here he is with his able assistants who are interviewing for positions in his firm:

The Family that Fishes Together...

The Family that Fishes Together…

 

Will and Becca got onto it deep here and got some fish:

Will_Becca

“See My Rod Tip from Last Week?”

This Backwoods Clan really sends the right messages in their attire:

Bates is for Bass Masters

Bates is for Bass Masters

 

The stream of life forks for us all, but I know we will meet up and fish again around the bend someday soon. Thanks Will, Barry, and Becca for an unforgettable day on the waters….

A River to be Fished Again.

A River to be Fished Again.

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Grand Lake Stream 2013: The Guys Go Back

This season had an unlikely beginning. Low flows thanks to little rain in April made the first Maine outings sparse. I did manage to get out with some of the Original 395 Gang who were Jones-ing the worst. They could be found false casting in the Colby quad, or staring at Cabella’s catalogs not very well hidden behind their books in the library. When they dragged me kicking and and screaming to a stream, I had to go. There were no great hook ups, however, until this salmon got taken one morning in a stocked area—a refugee fish from a nearby lake, who devoted himself to making me feel better after my skimpy early season:

Always Throw a Line

Always Throw a Line

A friendly Bates prof fishing the area helped me land him and get the picture! Whew!

Soon it was time for the annual Grand Lake Stream adventure: this year, including our new member, the Wizard of Windham, aka “Wiz” or the Normerator, because there’s nothing normal about his heart of Gold. Here he is with his first Grand Lake Stream landlocked salmon, caught on a dry, I believe. The action photo shows this Houdini fish leaping from the certain grasp of the Wiz:

Nice Shades Wiz!

Nice Shades Wiz

Our Buddy Wild Bill was in rare form—famous for fishing into the freezing night with the Fishing Prof, pulling the latter from the frigid waters, pouring the water out of my waders, slapping me four times across each cheek, and then joining me to fish for another hour. He’s also known for his wildlife photography, with some of his studies of pop tart crumbs on the freestone section of the river now in the Smithsonian. Here’s the Wild One with a fish he pulled out of an area of the river we call Bedrock:

The Circle K Gang Got Beat!

The Circle K Gang Got Beat!

And of course Mac was along and in the finest form. Who could forget this reincarnation of Macgyver, well versed in the dark arts of nymphing, and gifted with the ability to tie a fly with his teeth in 40 degree water while landing a salmon with his other hand. The Macster amazed us with his skills throughout the trip. His waffles weren’t bad either:

Chuck

Mac and I had one magic morning—we’d determined through advanced research that a fly discovered by the Professor, and tied by Mac, would deliver in this waters, in a stretch known to us German-speakers as “Die reiche Mauer,” famous to the rest of the world as the “Don’t Touch My Secret Schnitzel” stretch of the river. We got there at 5:30 am. The sun had not yet hit the water. We knew we’d gotten lucky when Mac stepped in the river, his “Ace Hardware” fly floating to the side aimlessly—or so we thought, when a salmon flashed at it before he’d done anything. This was an epic morning, and the Renzetti Rangers down the river could only gaze on in amazement from afar as they saw us hook up again and again:

"Who Are Those Guys?"

“Who Are Those Guys?”

It was fast and furious action for 20 minutes until the sun hit the water; huge fish and constant hits, landings and action. Here’s my best:

The Splendid Splinter

The Splendid Splinter

Then there was the Nobster himself—the Master of All Things Penobscot, also known to his friends as the Master of the Baxter: State Park, that is. After getting bored with the easy fishing, Bax-Man went upstream and pulled fish after fish out of an area known as “Ace Alley,” where huge salmon sit in hidden buckets of water in fast current, and only the coolest hands pull them out. Here the Nobster himself—who downed a few glasses that night in celebration—with that blasé look that comes after catching too many fish:

Another Day at the Office

Another Day at the Office—A Salmon After Seventy Jumps

In the background, with fish passing through his net like the wind across the Aolean Harp, just around every bend could be found the Fishing Magic of Obi Wan Kanobe himself. Obi would disappear for long hours, then reappear with tales of massive trout, secret flies, and guys who tied  on inferior vices like the Regal—Obi owns the top-flight tying vice company HMH Vices—who tried to kidnap him, chain him a tree, torture him with bait fishing tips, all just to get him to reveal his secret spots. The Wise One sent them to Monkey Pond, and could be photographed only in poses like this one:

"Look Into My Eyes, Fishy!"

“Look Into My Eyes, Fishy!”

By the time we got back to Freeport, we’d had so many glasses of Nob Creek the night before, courtesy of the Wiz, that only three of us were still standing:

"You Mean We Can Fish Again Tomorrow?"

“You Mean We Can Fish Again Tomorrow?”

There are rumors of a West Branch adventure later in the summer, with the Wiz cooking all the meals. Stay tuned!

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Striper Numero Uno

I’ve fished a few years without getting a striper on a fly rod. Mac’s done his best for me–he’s striper wise but I was the curse. So did Mainiac: he ran the striper newbies day a few years ago. I … Continue reading

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Rafting and Fishing: There’s a Catch

Shed Man my buddy is a great rafter and a great guy. He and his Lady, known in the neighborhood as “Right-of-Way-Finder,” or “Rowf” for short, invited myself and the most beautiful former Canadian of them all (Mrs. Fishing P) down the rapids on a fairly hot day. No better place to be! There was one catch.  With the water cool enough with the dam release to fish safely, the raft would have be pulled over at some select spots. The rod had to get rigged, of course:

This One Always Works

But still, adjustments must be made according to conditions:

Super Sneaky Special Getting Attached

Then magic—I hook up with a quite decent fish. Only one problem: net back in the raft. The point was to treat the fish well and the net is the kindest way and surest path to quick release with minimal handling. Being the devoted Eco-Freak that he is, Shed Man leapt from the raft and clambered over dangerously wet and moss rocks to save what turned out to be a quite nice 15 inch brook trout who had starred in the Fish version of “America’s Biggest Losers” but had gotten kicked off the show. I think the following picture tells the story of what happened next:

Shed Man Takes One For the Fish

Skipping out with the net, the Man falls over backwards on some sharp rocks, but manages to get me the net just after this moment. This fish is visible to the left of his hip. Passing rafters were thunderstruck at my skill and Hawaii-appropriate attire, deeply fearing for Shed Man’s safety. The latter was restored after several committee meetings were held post-catch on that very subject.

He will be forever known in the Waters of the North (of Augusta, that is)  as Brookie-Saver—and a truly fishy friend.

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Fly Fishing in the Heat I: The Band Didn’t Play On

Made a trip up north and camped on the river for one night–connected with Mac who was camping not far away. We fished the normal spots to no avail. Hot weather had kept the fish down. I fished for the longest time to some small rising brook trout, I conjecture from previous experience there. Nothing doing. Then switched to a dry/wet fly with CDC, aka “Cul de Canard:” that’s fuzzy stuff from the duck’s neck. The fly sits on the water and looks delicious and sinks slowly. That was the key–hit immediately. I’d been put to sleep by so much failure that once I hooked up, I failed–like a rookie–to keep the rod up. The brookie skeedaddled away. Mac and Mrs. Mac had less luck. After taking off for more promising pastures, I switched spots when I see small rises behind a rock in fast water where I’d gotten big fish before. Going back to the CDC after several long and inaccurate casts, he hit it IMMEDIATELY. One slight problem, though: I forgot I had switched to 6x tippet–very, very light! The bandit broke me off immediately–taking with me my last CDC-type fly.

Here, in any case, is a fish Mac got in the first day after a hike-in to new waters:

A Big Mouth Can Be A Good Thing

The story when Mac and I fished together this time went like this: we’ve got the whole big pool to ourselves and they’re rising like crazy! One on your left, I’d say–them Mac: no–right in front of YOU! Two o’clock high! Another! Wait–over there! It was like the Alamo,   which is what we called it. The takes were QUICK and we’d miss them–fast and furious, as the Republicans say, the action was. Then I said to myself–I’m not gonnna miss this one. And I sure was ready. The salmon hit on a number 18 griffith gnat fly and I WHIPPED the rod into the air for my patented quickset. So quick, in fact, that I whipped the poor guy right into the air, where he performed a double reverse back flip (9.9 according to the Rumanian judge) and threw the hook. As me and Mac said, this guy (here’s a picture of his brother) will never play the trumpet again:

Trumpet Career Over

All fish were returned to the water quickly–the ones we caught and the ones we didn’t. We’ll always remember the Alamo.

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Big Eddy in the Heat: Salmon, Moose and Home

The Mrs. Fishing P throws a mean loop on her backcast. So we got the Crib Cabin at the famous Cribworks Rapid on the West Branch of the Penobscot, available through Big Eddy Campground, run by the wonderful Chewonki Foundation. The view from the Cribworks is pretty spectacular:

Not A Better Spot in Maine

The two guys at the bottom of the picture didn’t do too much good as the water was way too warm. Salmon were to be had but only in slack just by the fastest water and then, only before sunset. The Mrs. Fishing P got some fish around here:

Last Light is Best

And we managed to pull out this landlocked on a black ghost fished in a sinking tip, getting him back in the water quickly so he could swim upstream another day:

Lemme Outa Here

The next night Doc and the Missus came by for a spectacular dinner barbecued outside the crib, so to speak, that I, needless to say, had nothing to do with. After some toasts to the river gods we fished in vain for a good whole. Doc then caught a perch that hit near the surface. He switched rods—moving from the sinking line to the four-weight with floating line he had strung up—and then swung a “supervisor,” as he called it, though it looked to me like a stimulator with an orange body. He got a hit on the first cast–just before dark—and then got WHAMMED by a very fat eighteen inch salmon he managed to land just as we couldn’t see much at all. I’d like to say this is an artsy fartsy shot but in truth, it was damn dark. You can see what a nice fish that was:

Photographic Art—Nice Fish

We took the Golden Road through the mountains to come out by Greenville and found this tough customer along the way. She invited us back in September and we will oblige:

Find Your Own Bog Buddy!

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Ghost Coast, Weatherby’s of Grand Lake, and Doc Reports

We begin with this report from Doc at his summer home south of the ‘Nocket in the “you must be shitting me” but you are not, since Doc is utterly reliable:

“Windy conditions with no bugs suggested streamers and wet line.
After half an hour of changes of fly—grey ghost, dead smelt, Micky Finn, Hornberg—I dug out my last black ghost. Third cast, stripping, WHAM! Nice 16 inch (estimate) fatty leaping and running. Great fight, me happy. After a five minute or so battle he heads up river 10 ft. away and makes one last leap to freedom.

To my total amazement an adult otter comes out of the river chest high and grabs the salmon, brings him under, surfaces 30 feet down river with fat boy sticking out of each side of his mouth, and snaps off my line. I see him come up again 40 yds. away still with his breakfast.

Nature’s revenge, but he may not enjoy digesting that black ghost.”

I received this amazing report after returning from Cobscook Bay Maine, near Eastport, where the Professor and much of his family spent camping over the 4th of July and after. The coast was ghostly but beautiful:

The Spirit of Fourth of July Past

The next day we headed over to Grand Lake Stream—about an hour and some odd minutes inland. Jeff, the superb innkeeper at Weatherby’s—the great old Maine lodge that is the first-class and homey place to stay in Grand Lake Stream—was kind enough to let us know that salmon were still about, and on dry flies. After showing my beautiful wife the splendid cabins to lure her into a future visit (the meals here are terrific as well), we headed down to a well-known pool. The water was gorgeous:

Grand Lake Stream: World Class Waters

There I picked up a nice rising eighteen inch salmon by getting a fly known as “the haystack” to drift properly. The picture wasn’t worth too much but I will leave dedicated followers of the Fishing Professor with this picture of the statue in Eastport, Maine—your captions are invited and winner will be announced on this blog:

Your Caption Here!

 

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West Branch of the Penobscot: Home Waters

Where is home? I asked myself that a few times after getting back back from California, then packing again and heading up to the Kennebec for the Unforgettable Salmon Adventure. Because I’m crazy, I drove that fish back to my freezer—two and a half hours—showered, had some mac and cheese that was meant for camping at the Big Eddy. Then I drove four and a half hours to meet Doc from the ‘Nocket and learn the secrets of the West Branch of the Penobscott. Those are his native waters, as he hails from Millinocket:

“Don’t Nock the ‘Nockett,” Doc Teaches Us

I would like to say I was Thoreau, the interloper from Massachusetts, to Doc’s Northern Guide: the kind of guy who took Henry David around when he fished exactly these waters in The Maine Woods. But I’m no transcendentalist, since in addition to Pop Tarts, here’s my other select dish for camping:

Health Food for Fly Fishing

Home is where the Mac and Cheese is, or where the fish are biting if you get up early enough. For me that was 4:30 am at first light, so that eventually, the coffee aroma could get the fishing blood flowing:

Drip Filter Number Six and French Roast

Doc initiated me into the many mysteries of fly fishing the West Branch: among them was was that when they up them flows over 3,000 CFS at McKay Station to feed the hunger for electricity in Boston, the bite will be off. Doc and I fished the Great Caddis Blizzard of Summer 2012. We were blinded by so many caddis flies in that hatch that if breathed with your mouth open you’d get a little protein with your noodles, as they say in the health food restaurant.  Well, the fish didn’t take ours when the offerings were fresher and we threw the book at them. Luckily, for desert Mac had thought to bring Whoopie Pies for desert, which really go down well with beer. The next morning, I was fishing at the Eddy by five a.m.—wading of course—but these guys were already at it:

Cat Stevens Was Playing in the Background

The Fishing Professor threw some nice loops a little later to a whole bunch of rising fish. I later heard about a few flies they might have taken. But you know, fly fisherman are notorious for second-guessing in the coulda-shoulda fashion:

They Weren’t Fruit Loops

Doc and I caught some fish anyway a bit later at this spot, but what I mean by second-guessing became clear only after we got back to our respective homes, after doing some good at this beautiful locale:

Doc Ministers to Needy Salmon

After getting some nice fish, the Doc from the ‘Nockett discovered something interesting after looking at his rod the next time out. The reason he’d missed so many is that the point of his hook had broken off after the last decent salmon he caught down this run. That’s why he had so many hits and that strangely—just couldn’t set the hook!

This was of course extremely clever on the Doc’s part. Cut off the point of your hooks and you never have to release any fish! The wisdom of the north, however, was just beginning to be shared with me when I had to leave, though I did stop at Doc’s summer palace long enough to enjoy its impressive view of a little peak the Mainers call Jo Mary (though some flatlander professors I know get the name wrong :

The View from Doc’s Summer Palace

This might be why the salmon always return home.

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