Wild Bill, Mac and I met at the LL Bean parking lot in Freeport at 6:30 am to combine cars. The packing was scientific, with an ice-chest design safety-engineered to provide vision out the back of a Prius:
Obi Wan was already at Weatherby’s, the classic Maine lodge in Grand Lake where we stay. He greeted us warmly with his usual sage advice about water conditions, locations and specific flies. He’d been slaying them–that’s for sure, and no one was surprised. It wasn’t long, however, before our “B” team of hackers, poets and professors got going. Wild B. caught our first fish on a gummy stone that was light brown–a color that would turn out to be crucial in the next two days. The beautiful landlocked salmon looked like this:
We fished from around noon till dinner with Mac and Bill getting nice fish. Soon, Mac hooked up big and landed one using this perfect technique. Even Obi was impressed:
Meanwhile, while Obi Wan was fishing in his secret spots with his secret light-saber method, The Fishing Professor–he had total nada, zilch and nixo. The dropper method with the number twelve stone fly that worked so well for me last year produced ball after ball of knotted tippet around the indicator. I spent most of my time untangling, then retying. We moved down to other pools, I switched flies, changed leaders and nothing helped. The dreaded word “snakebit” was heard. Eventually Obi and Mac went back and Bill and I stayed out at different pools. It was getting dark and it looked like my first skunked day at Grand Lake Stream was at hand. To change things up, I began fishing dry flies as I thought I saw some rises. A nice guy on the other side of the Hatchery Pool yelled out what I thought was “Parachute Adams 16″—exactly the fly I had on my fly patch. There was only light to tie on one more possibility and that was going to be it. It was time, as they say, to tie one on:
Finally, the guy on the other side of the pool left and why not: it was so dark a bat out of hell couldn’t have found a casino in Vegas. I could barely see but I thought I heard him say “fish rising at the tail out.” That’s the end of the smooth water that shallows out, just before a bend where a rapid of white water curves down around the corner toward the Evening Pool. I walked across and took the goodhearted fisherman’s spot. Some late reflected light from sunset over the horizon seemed to indicate a small fish rising at the very edge of the glassy surface. Four casts later I hit the spot with the parachute Adams and BOOM: the take was hard. For the first time in my life fishing, however, I was too quick, and I felt the fly take hold, then slip-slip-give—that disgusting feeling— as I pulled the hook clean out of his mouth. SHIT! I’d been too eager on the set and practically guaranteed myself a skunking. But I wasn’t done yet. Only two strikes in the bottom of the ninth. On my second cast—and now it was totally dark, and at least I could foul off fastballs I couldn’t see—my fly finally performed a dead drift over the same spot as the last take. This was DOUBLE BOOM: the same big, effing fish gulped the Adams slowly, and matching the set to his take, I didn’t miss this time. With a slower hook set he was well-hooked and the fight was on. Ten careful minutes later I’d hit a clean double in the gap–a very decent landlocked salmon was in hand, with a huge tail:
It was 8:45 pm. I walked down to the Glide where the car was, thinking it 50/50 that Wild Bill was still out. A bunch of guys came up the path, and when they told me one big tall guy was still fishing I knew Wild Bill had not let me down. He’d also done well. We fished another ten casts together, came out of the water and when we were breaking down our rods at the Prius another car pulls up—Obi and Mac worried that we weren’t back. We were fine–more than fine. It was 9:30 pm and we had to get back, so we could get up at 4:30 am and do it some more the next day.