This year’s great landlocked salmon quest was special: we were joined by the Smiler, an expert fly guy and keeper of the secrets of the mysterious Rangeley streams. And we were locked and loaded with some of Mac’s greatest and newest creations:
The fishing gods were not kind, however, to our offerings, as we had not yet poured the proper Scotch ablutions. Others said our new lodgings were to blame.
The first two days were skunk for the Fishing P and Wild Bill, and the Wiz, Obi Wan and Mac did only a little better. The fault was not in us, but in the high waters, of course. We had fished high waters at the Great northern salmon stream before, however; the cold winter left the water at 44 degrees, things were chilly in the overcast and the hoped-for red quill pre-hatch was nowhere we could find it.
Mac, however, was not to be restrained, and he quickly fooled a silver one wearing golden spring colors:
Our luck was about to change just before day three: we ran into the greatest of the emigré Maine fishermen—Mac and I call him Picasso now, because he can take the shapes of flies, river colors, the hatch and the hint of light through the pines, and turn them into the most beautiful flies in the world. He also catches fish like no one’s business, even though he now lives closer to greater lakes. One we chatted with him on day two, we knew juju was waving our way:
Like Moses, we decided to move from fishless slavery to the promised land of epic netted redemption. We found a crossing where none could be found and escaped the Chariots of Skunk at the spot known to many in the North as Manna from Heaven. Mac and the Prof got there first, and it wasn’t long before scenes like this were common:
Rat-a-tat, non-stop fish-catching followed, fish on fish. We were joined by two well-known pros of the Maine north woods. Dead Eye and the Salter knew what they were doing—they joined right in the rotation and we shared flies and tons of fish:
Here’s the Salter with a fish much smaller than his usual, and this one taped out at 20.5 inches. Dead Eye, his partner in crime, was no slouch either. He landed a good number of fish and helped the Fishing Professor get untangled from that overhanging tree, and the buried one at the lower end of the drift a number of times. Someone said we were like an LL Bean ad live and in color in the northern woods, and they were probably right. He was dialed in—and though he said he hadn’t fished this stream for a whole, we had our doubts:
At the same time the action was fast and furious along the drift. Fish were stacked here because of the high flow—waiting for a drop in the CFS before making it beyond this particular choke point to infiltrate the rest of the stream, and, as the natural byproduct many were seeking, making many a fly fisher’s dream come true:
If you want to get a sense of how the action went, click on this vimeo link, and watch part of the team in action as a salmon is hooked, landed and about to be released by this team:
This action took place on the last day of our adventure. The gentleman fly fisher upstream had arrived just before us. And as a true sportsman of the north woods, he shared the drift with us as we had the day before.
You can can see an underwater release of one of our team-caught fish here—a brief vignette of our own transition from skunk slavery to fish freedom:
Meanwhile Across the River, The Smiler had set up. And while Obi Wan had departed downstream to work his wiles, the Prince of Rangeley was doing fine:
Mac had style, success and a lot of great fish:
And the Wiz led the way on the final day:
Suddenly a flash blinded us—Obi Wan had disappeared into the mists of the forest. The rest of the team understood the meaning of such signs and wonders, packed up and headed south:
A long year awaits our return to those sacred norther waters. But then, perhaps the dream team will ride again!