The fighting Professor, Joshua Chamberlain—he was my hero, but he didn’t fish. Put down his classics books, headed up the 20th Maine and at Little Round Top, led the charge and saved Gettysburg and the nation. But he had feet of clay. Where was his fly rod? Maybe he did wet a line in a stream in the North Woods of Maine or even around Bowdoin College. But he sure didn’t tell us what fly he used that day or what the mist on the water looked like just before the bite came on. In other words, my hero didn’t blog, and so he wasn’t the Fishing Professor. This is where I get to one-up him a bit, though I’m checking out his archives to see if there’s any fishing tidbits I can steal.
In these blog pages, you’ll be able to find my own fishing version of the downhill charge that saved the nation. Except I will be leaving a fair number of good flies hooked into the trees as I go. Sometimes, I do manage to land a Maine brookie like this:
There will also be some pictures of fish swimming to safety: released without me ever having had them to hand. Other times there will be accounts of fly fishing locales in California, my pseudo-origin, where new water is always around the corner and the season, thank goodness, lasts longer than here in the North, a.k.a. southern Quebec.
The goals of this blog will be to entertain with tales and pictures of fly fishing success and failure, written and photographed by someone who loves both fishing and stories—and professes to be a fly fisherman—in the great State of Maine and beyond.
First Fish of 2012: Gone with the Hook Set.
Spring came early to Maine this year and we’ve had a kind of drought. So there were no blown out rivers with me and fishing buddies chomping at the leader for the flows to go down. That was last year. This year low water meant we could get out early. So I got out to the Kennebec way back in in in early March, because the Kenny in places is open year round and in its tail-water sections keeps running through the winter bite, or non-bite, as it were. Well, of course I froze my ass off without hint, tug or nibble or quiver of a fish:
Then I got back there with my buddy the Colorado kid last week and we threw the proverbial fly box at them. Flows were such that we could stand in a very exciting, deep cut that has produced many fish before: we stood right in the middle of the river, and saw a small caddis hatch and some blue-winged olives. The Kid fishes a triple-dropper nymph rig with an indicator and boy, he is sharp, but still looking for his first Maine landlocked Salmon. Man, I wanted to hook him up so bad!
Thanks to the flows in this dry spring in the north woods, we were able to get out into a deep cut in the middle of the river. Early on, the Colorado K. sees his indicator—it’s a bobber—plunge down below the surface: he’s got a great hit, and I saw his rod wiggle and tweak down. By the time we finished jumping around like two firecrackers in a butane torch factory, poof—FISH OFF! When I asked the ‘kid how the hook set went—expecting a long story about which of his three-fly rig it was—he simply tells me: “I missed it.” When I asked him how that happened, he gives me these three words: “because I suck.”
Now the ‘kid doesn’t suck at all. In fact he’s ten thousand times the fly fisherman I am and knows the streams of Colorado inside and out. But we all suck a little on that first tug of the year. You don’t believe it’s a fish. It’s been a long winter of dreaming, after all, and when you see the line jiggle you stand there frozen until your hook-set muscle memory returns from its slumber. I didn’t meant to make the Colorado Kid feel better, but I did top him in suck-age a few minutes later. I am swinging a blue winged olive drowned, like a nymph, and right at the bottom of the swing, where I should be paying most attention, the line starts dancing in my hands. The feeling was like when your hand or foot falls asleep, and I guess it had. But the tingles didn’t do diddly squat to wake the sleeping hook-setter in me. I also had all kinds of slack line piled up next to my waders, so when I lifted the rod, let’s say zero tension resulted.
I did get to release a lot of tension in the blue streak I swore. The ‘kid had a good laugh and we didn’t get him his first Maine landlocked salmon that day. Stay tuned.