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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One Response to West Branch of the Penobscot: Home Waters

  1. Rick says:

    Nice loops indeed!

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