© 2015 Grace Baldwin

Fall 2015: Fishing

Entering my senior year of College, this fall became a very reflective and sentimental time. However, it also served as a wonderful consolidation of all that I have learned about fly fishing during the past three years.

PROJECT HEALING WATERS TRIP

During the summer I started planning a trip with Project Healing Waters for disabled Maine veterans, Colby students and faculty, and other Mainers interested in participating.

After many phone calls and emails with veterans and volunteers and many stressful hours of planning and deciding the logistics the date arrived, Saturday September 19th. I was not exactly sure how many veterans would end up coming, but the whole group was around 29 people including 7 Colby students and 3 Colby faculty.

IMG_2095We fished at the Evergreen Campgrounds in Solon, Maine off of US 201 A. The owners of the Campground were so kind in letting us fish,  they waived the $5 parking and made a delicious lunch for us all!

It took around 45 minutes for everyone to get suited up with waders, boots, and rods. After, everyone headed to the water and started fishing. My favorite moment was when I first walked to the water a little after everyone had headed down and I saw everyone casting in the water. The students and other volunteers were helping those new to fly fishing with their casting, but the whole group filled the banks of the river with light glistening down reflecting off the water. That moment to me felt like the culmination of all my efforts. Witnessing everyone smiling and enjoying the beautiful day and freshwater was a life-lasting memory.

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Another favorite moment of the morning was watching one of the younger vets, an ex-marine in his early 20s learn to cast. He had never fly fished before but was casting as though he had been fishing all his life.

I also really enjoyed meeting Stan, who is a visually impaired veteran and avid fly fishermen. Stan and Ed, my organic chemistry lab professor and avid fly fisherman, started fishing together and really hit it off. Ed did a wonderful job helping Stan, it was fun to watch the two of them bond.

Around noon we all headed back up to the campgrounds for lunch, which was a delicious BBQ. At one moment I stood up to thank everyone for coming, but as I talked tears started filling my eyes looking at the entire group. The veterans were all so extremely grateful for my efforts, which was inexplicably rewarding.

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After lunch everyone headed back out to the water, some people left around 2pm while others stayed till almost 5 pm. Two of the Colby students, Jack and John became close friends with one of the veterans Dave. They drove to the campgrounds together and ended up driving back together and fishing all day. The three of them even went fishing together after the event!

Overall I had so much fun and it felt so rewarding to give back to the veterans. Everyone who attended had such a wonderful day, which meant so much to me!


 

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WEEKLY FLY TYING

This semester I also started weekly Wednesday evening fly tying! It has been so much learning a different fly each week, and something I plan to continue!

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FALL FLY FISHING TRIPS

Six Mile Long Drift Trip

My first big fishing trip was before the Project Healing Waters day. Dave, a local Trout Unlimited member, had helped me with a lot of the logistics and organizing of the trip. Dave is close friends with one of the best local Maine guides Sean McCormick who owns Blue Heron Fly Fishing. Sean was taken aback by all my efforts with the Project Healing Waters trip so he offered to take Dave and I down the Kennebec from the Evergreen Campgrounds entrance. The whole trip is 6 miles.

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I had never fished from a drift boat before so it was a really cool experience and such a different style of fishing. Sean was amazingly knowledgeable, and I learned so much. Most of the fishing we did was close to shore near what Sean called “good habitat” which he described as overhanging trees, logs, rocks, and a good run. He would position the drift boat near the shore and then we would cast streamers toward the banks. He called this technique “shoot and  strip!” The streamers we were using were pretty hefty; we also used a very short leader which worked well for the streamers. At one point I saw a fish follow the streamer all way towards the boat, take the fly, and then leap out of the water spitting the hook. It was really cool being up higher and being able to see the trout follow the streamer.

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Around 2 pm we stopped for lunch at an island. Sean cooked a delicious meal on the water; while he cooked Dave and I fishing with dry flies. I had a couple really good takes but never landed anything, sadly.

IMG_2029It was amazing how much better my casting got over the course of the day. Sean taught me how to reach cast which allows the dry fly to land and then float down with drag free drift. To reach cast, “just before the fly lands, move the arm and fly rod in the upstream direction to arrange the fishing line so that it produces less apparent drag in the water.” Sean really emphasized drag free drift saying it is one of the hardest and most important aspects of fly fishing.

Sadly we never caught any trout, but landed some fall fish at the very end of the day. Overall though it was such a memorable trip! My casting improved ten fold and it was really fun fishing with such a knowledgeable fisherman.

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Early Fall Fishing

Due to a lot of senior events during the weekends and a lighter course load with later class times, I ended doing the bulk of my fishing during the week.

I went out twice early in the morning with my friend Erik to 1175 Clinton Ave in Benton, Maine. It was during a dry spell so we were mostly going for bass. I caught three little bass and had a fun time showing Erik how to fly fish.

IMG_2223IMG_2623IMG_2625IMG_2631I also went fly fishing off of Kennebec Street in Fairfield. The spot used to be a legendary fly fishing spot. I went one afternoon when it ended up being 70 degrees, but soon found myself casting in torrential downpour. While I was there a trout kept leaping out of the water taunting me to cast to it. I spoke to my friend Dylan afterwards though who said that those fish are old, fat, wise rainbows that eat microscopic bugs and are near impossible to catch.

My favorite part of that day was watching the colors of the leaves change as the sun began to set and reflect on the leaves. They turned bright orange around 6 pm.

I went back to that same spot with my father during parent’s weekend. We woke up early and headed out. It was so much fun fly fishing with him, he was excited to see how much I had improved! We didn’t catch anything but it was an extremely memorable morning.

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First Fall Trout

Sadly, I missed out on some of the most prime fishing weekends due to a physics exam and getting sick. However, I finally starting catching fish early November.

I headed back to the same spot (30 minutes away) where I caught my best brookie last year. My friends had been having a ton of luck fishing there so I woke up early one morning to go fish. I started fishing with streamers beginning at the Dam and working my way down. I wasn’t getting any hits on the streamer and my friend had suggested nymphing to me. I had never set up a nymph rig myself so I was kind of nervous, but ended up going for it. It took me a while, especially tying the dropper onto the first fly, but I ended up successfully tying the rig, and then on my third cast I got a hit and landed a nice brown trout! (pictured below)

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I was fishing with my friend Jack so he was able to snap a picture, my first trout of the season!

I let Jack continue fishing with my rod and set up and then I set up Jack’s rod with the same rig (a nymph and then midge at the bottom with a split shot around 12 inches above the midge). Jack kept getting hits but never ended up landing any fish. I landed two more trout that day! All of which went for the midge.

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My favorite fish of the day was a beautiful brooke trout. The pictures by no means do the fish justice, but the spots and coloring were truly sensational! The third fish was another nice brown trout.

I headed out to the same spot the following Thursday, this time alone. I fished the same hole for about 2 hours and had a ton of luck!

My favorite fish of the day was the first, a big fat brown trout that put up a long fight. It was really fun fighting the fish, listening to the whizzing rod as the fish took his runs put a huge smile on my face.

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It was really fun fishing alone, and it was awesome fighting the fish. I was able to get all of them on the reel, which is something I have been working on with my trout fishing, so that was a great feeling!

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Sunday at the Presumpscott

On Sunday November 8th I had the pleasure of going fishing with Matt Bickford a local Maine guide. He helped me to plan the veteran’s fishing trip and is good friends with Professor David Suchoff.

We met in Gray, Maine and then drove 15 minutes to the Presumpscott river: 32 Tandberg Trail, Windham, ME 04062 (43.831068, -70.449105).

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We entered the river and then walked until we reached a dam where we nymphed for a while. After only a couple casts I hooked into an awesome brooke trout. (pictured below)

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Matt also caught a brooke trout where he was fishing shortly after with a golden retriever fly.
There were so many fish and the water was so clear that you could see flashes of orange or white flicking in the water. One kept on rising to the surface below where I was fishing; after casting towards it a couple times I hooked into it! The fish ran pretty far down and almost became tangled in an overhanging bush but Matt ran after it as I reeled in as fast as I could. After a little bit we eventually landed the fish! By far the largest brookie I had ever caught.

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My favorite spot where we fished was down a little further where the water was so clear and there were so many pockets of brooke trout that you could see around 30 fish or so swimming on the rocks. The water was so clear you could even see the female fish turning to the side laying eggs and then the male fish eating eggs below them.

Despite the fact that there were tons of fish, it was really hard to hook them. A lot of times I mistook the nymphs bumping along the bottom as takes, so that took a little bit to get used to. Also Matt noticed that I was floating the nymphs with the indicator above the fish when really I needed to keep in mind that the nymphs were further behind the indicator. Once I floated the nymphs correctly above them and did a strong set downstream after seeing the indicator go straight down I hooked into a fish! It was a very exciting moment because I had been fishing that spot for so long.

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Afterwards I hooked another fish, but sadly I didn’t strip in tight enough while reeling so I lost the fish.

It was extremely impressive how many fish Matt caught while we were fishing. He kept landing them so easily and probably caught 3 to 4 times the number I did. I always enjoy fishing with people who make me realize how much I have to learn and improve on!

Afterwards we walked further down and fished for salmon under the bridge. I didn’t hook into any but we saw tons of fish rising and moving through the water.

Overall it was such an awesome day! The fish we caught were so memorable and I learned so much!IMG_2880


Tuesday at the Presumpscott

On Tuesday November 10th I went back to the same spot as above. I woke up at 6:30 am and went with my friend Jack. We walked through the woods to the dam that I fished on Sunday. I was really nervous I wouldn’t be able to find the spot, so I was very happy when I was able to make it there!

For a Tuesday morning I was surprised how many people were fishing. When we got to the spot where I landed two brookies on Sunday, I started tying on nymph rigs. Sadly, I stupidly tied the entire nymph rig, indicator and all, and then realized I hadn’t pulled my fly line through my rod…

But I was able to just clip off the tippet from the top fly and re-tie it on after running my fly line through.

My efforts, however, were rewarded! Shortly after I hooked and landed a beautiful brooke trout! (pictured below)

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We continued to fish but were not able to land another fish that day. At one point I fished closer to the dam and was able to see a ton of salmon in the water.

Later in the morning the dam alarm sounded, and soon the water level rose significantly. This made the water much less fishable because it became very murky.

Jack and I left around 11 am, and had delicious lobster rolls (two for $10!) at Gilbert’s Chowder Bar nearby.

Overall, it was a wonderful fishing trip!


Bianka’s First Fly Fishing Trip

On Saturday November 14th, my friend Bianka and I went fishing. Bianka graduated from Colby and now lives in New York. I was so excited for her to visit because she really wanted me to take her fishing. I planned to take her to the same spot I had the most luck around 30 minutes away. In anticipation I made a trip to the Freeport LL Bean to stock up on supplies. I bought new leaders, a waterproof fly box, and a bunch more flies including some midges, wooly buggers, wood’s special, and some pheasant tails. The night before I set up our rigs for nymphing.

The next morning we woke up early and headed to the river. I was so worried that Bianka wouldn’t catch anything, but to both our excitement she caught a beautiful brooke trout within the first 20 minutes or so. (If not sooner!) Sadly she had a little trouble holding the fish up for the picture, which was pretty funny. (pictured below)

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We continued fishing, and never in one fishing trip have I caught more fish! We also lost a lot of fish, which was very entertaining.

I was proud of myself because I was able to trust my instincts regarding when to change the fly which was very successful. At one point I switched Bianka to a woods special. I was demonstrating to her how to strip in a streamer, because we had previously been nymphing, and on my first cast as I was showing her how to strip I hooked into a fish! (pictured below) IMG_4610

After we landed the fish, I cast again to show her how to strip, and again hooked into another fish! This time I let Bianka reel in the fish. (pictured below) IMG_4618

As you can see Bianka’s fish holding improved as the day went on! Eventually Bianka lost both my woods special flies, so I switched her onto a red wooly bugger which didn’t get any action. Then I switched her to a black ghost which was super successful, and then at the end I was fishing with a golden retriever which proved to be very deadly.

When we finally left the river, our fingers and toes were frozen numb, but we couldn’t stop smiling. It was such a wonderful experience to take one of my friends fishing and have it end up being so successful! It was very fulfilling to share a sport I love so much with a good friend.

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A Humbling Sunday

The following day I went fishing again at the same spot, because my friend Matt wanted me to show him where to fish there.

It was pretty crazy because I definitely caught a lot of fish, but Matt must have caught 5 times as many as I did! The contrast between fishing with Bianka the day before and fishing with Matt the day after reminded me how much I have learned over the past two years, but how much more there is to learn!

With Matt we nymphed with egg patterns and San Juan worms which were very effective.

Also at one point Matt found a pool of brooke trout which was so clear that you could watch the brookies follow your streamer. Matt taught me to keep stripping and then pause and carefully watch the fly disappear and then immediately strip set. I noticed that if I didn’t strip set I would lose the fish immediately. I was pretty excited when I finally landed a fish from that spot.

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A Warm December

 Thanks to a crazy warm December I was able to fish after Thanksgiving Break.

I went on December 4th, 5th, and 12th in Maine! On the 4th I took my friend Aly who had never fly fished before and on the 12th I went with my friend Tyler who is an extremely experienced fly fishermen that spent that semester in San Francisco!

Pictures below:

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Summary: It still blows my mind to think about the serendipity of how I fell into fly fishing. The sport has become an extremely important part of my life, and in many ways has started to define who I am.

As always I am constantly excited by the interesting places and interesting people my fishing adventures will take me…

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