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Thread: Maine Woods

  1. #1

    Maine Woods

    You can’t be lost………………… if you don’t know where you are going. That is one of life’s truest statements and one of life’s greatest luxuries. I am not a “young un” anymore and to be honest, I am a hell of a lot closer to fifty that I care to admit….. read that as less than another calendar year, but when I have a chance to disappear into the woods with my backpack strapped on and no specific destination in mind that is a true luxury. I recently had a business trip scheduled for late in the week in Portland Me. I can hear you guys out there already, so yes I know my business schedule doesn’t suck all that much does it … regardless of how much I might pregnant dog about it. Anyway if you were going to end up in Portland Maine on a Friday midmorning with the choice to fly back to a 105 degree, 80 percent humidity Atlanta for the weekend or go find yourself a slice of legendary Maine woods to go explore for the weekend … … well what would you do. Fortunately for me, I have a few close friends that have fly fishing pedigrees that are beyond reproach and they are the type of caring and sharing guys that a rank amateur like me can simply shoot them an email with dates and the type of fishing/ experience needed …. In this case … scenery, solitude and a chance to catch a Maine Brookie or two … … and a return email from sources so far beyond reproach that it makes even me cringe in embarrassment, appears in your in-basket. After the usual disclaimers about this isn’t the season or the time to do what you want … … but if you are dead set … … here is the general area I would head to.

    So a game plan was formed and backpacks were lugged to the airport and I found myself at 11 am on a Friday morning in Portland ME with fly rods in hand, a rental car full of gas, a Woodford Reserve bottle that was virtually full and four or five cigars safely buried in the back pack and no specific plans other than to lose myself in the Maine woods for a while. The experts had assured me I could catch a few fish but they had also allowed that this was too late in the summer and the water would be too low and that it wasn’t going to be a fish crazed high pressure fishing trip where the expectations were nearly impossible to live up to. So I had no pressure and no expectations which trust me is a situation that I can live up to, all I had to do was lie around enjoying the scenery and let my soul catch up with my jet lagged body. I was practically skipping across the motel parking lot as I headed out. I knew I was headed to the White Mountain National Forest area between Maine and NH but that was about as much as I knew. The drive up was scenic and anxious as I wondered what my mystery weekend had in store for me. I headed to a local fly shop in Bethel Maine that had assured me in a previous phone conversation that they could steer me in the right direction for a backpacking fishing trip in this area, but when I got there, all they wanted to do was sell me a smallmouth float trip with a guide and didn’t seem to know a single camping spot in the entire national forest that wasn’t going to make them some money, and according to them Brookies at this time of year were rarer than sit down dinners with a Sasquatch. Which while I understand their conversation from a business point of view, it sure as hell didn’t mean I had to like it and in the end it probably lost my business, but then I live in Atlanta so that probably isn’t a big loss for them anyway. I was feeling lost and a little worried as I back tracked to the edge of the national forest and stopped at one of those big large placard maps set in cement that are the mainstay of national forests around the country. On that map I saw a river that my world famous expert had mentioned in his email as one I should look at …. … and better yet I saw a campground at the end of the mapped road… … and to further make up my mind I saw about three more inches of blue line stenciled into the map beyond where the campground was and beyond where the road stopped. Well a light bulb went off somewhere deep in the recesses of my slow redneck brain … … and I jumped back into the rental car and tore off up the dirt road with a mental picture of what could be.

    After what seemed like twice as much time as it should have taken to reach the dot on the map that I was hoping would be my destination, I pulled into a national forest campground complete with a smattering of RV’s and generators noisily humming. I found the camp hosts, who were entertaining a large group of retired RV enthusiasts. I introduced myself as a dumb lost redneck from Georgia who was trying to get out and enjoy the Maine woods. The wife of the host couple politely pointed me to a camp spot between two roaring RV’s and pointed to a wide river bed overgrown with weeds and brush with a small trickle of water rolling down the middle. Well to say I was disappointed would be a severe understatement … … but hey we all make do with what we have to don’t we. I parked my car across from them and lugged out my back pack and leaned my fly rod tube against the side of the car wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into … … when an Elderly gentlemen from the host camp spot broke away from the group of people that they had been entertaining and walked up to me. He asked me rather briskly if I knew what the hell I was doing here … … and well honesty has always been one of my stronger points so I told him I didn’t have the slightest clue of what I was doing and went on to describe to him what I “wanted” to do … … mentioning yet again scenery, solitude and brookies. He just smiled and said that was what he thought from my gear, and proceeded to tell me that if could strap that big ass backpack on and could still walk, about a mile up the rail bed I would reach a wildlife refuge area and that there was a perfect camping spot where nobody will bother you, right by a swinging bridge across the river. He then mentioned the river was smaller up there but ran with a lot more volume and speed and that was where the river came out of the mountains with some white water. He then stated that from that camp spot I could walk another mile or so and be into some serious brookies… … some might even be larger than what I expected. He said the last with that knowing smirky smile that makes us fishermen quiver in our boots as we know we might just have found what we were looking for. I hesitated about 2 seconds and told him that sounded perfect and that I already had my Maine fishing license and was ready to go. He laughed out loud, looking at me as if I was a complete idiot … … which is a look I must admit, I get a lot of … … and then he mentioned to me I might want to re-think that part as I was about a mile into NH … and then still chuckling to himself, he told me the closest place to get a NH license but then he smiled at me and told me I wouldn’t be disappointed …. … well I knew that maybe this old blind sow had found an acorn.

    About two hours later, a new license in hand and about a mile or so hike in a drizzling rain later, I dropped my pack at my proposed campsite. I could hear a river rumbling and tumbling just out of eye sight so I stumbled toward that sound wondering what I would find.

    Well to say that a smile spread across my face would be a gross understatement and to say that I practically sprinted back to camp to set up my tent and rig a fly rod would be an even larger understatement. I knew this water even though it was the first time I had ever seen it and a big ugly stimulator with a soft hackle dropper materialized without a conscious thought. My new Oyster 4 weight bamboo sang in harmony as the first few casts flew through the afternoon rain. Boom I am on the board

    And just as quickly I am holding what I came for … … a Maine Brookie.

    The strikes were slashing and violent with no time to react. Small mountain streams strikes are always slashing and boiling like winter’s starvation for the fish are just a few weeks away and up here that probably isn’t far from the truth. It beats anything I have ever seen and always make me smile and giggle even if the fish are small. Thank god for small mountain streams and unpretentious and undemanding fish. The rest of the afternoon became a wonderful tonic of casts rolling out smoothly before me and fish rising and flashing hard after my high riding stimi. The steady rain couldn’t do anything to dampen my spirits which were soaring at the realization that I was deep in the Maine woods, really NH but who is counting and there was no way I could be happier or more content. Every time I turned a corner water like this just kept opening up in front of me. The rain was falling harder but the air was warm and the rain felt good against my skin so I just kept “fishin and grinin” … … not a bad way to go through life. And with virgin water like this ahead of me … … all I could say was life is good… … d**n good.

    I hooked and landed a really nice brown that was the largest fish of the day but managed to drop him while trying to balance rod, fish and camera… … Oh well I guess I should be glad that this time I dropped the fish not the camera. By this time the rain was pounding down hard enough that even a boy that my Momma claimed was “too dumb to come in out of the rain” … … decided it was time to get out of the rain.

  2. #2
    I drug back to my wet camp site refreshed but tired. Jumped into the tent to try and dry off for a while and promptly fell asleep. When I woke it was almost dark and rain was drumming down on my tent like Ginger Baker in the high times of Cream. Fortunately for me the bourbon and the cigars were safe and dry in the tent with me and while I may have no smoking rules that I have to live by at home … … i decided then and there that I ran a “smoking section” tent. The weather broke just enough for me to start a quick cooking fire and to grill some sausages and boil some mac and cheese. Eaten in my tents to the plop plop splosh sound of the raindrops bouncing off the nylon again… … and quite honestly I can’t remember a meal I enjoyed more. I ended up the evening giggling aloud to myself as I read Dan Jenkins “Dead Solid Perfect” on my kindle until my eyes got tired and I faded into a happy contented sleep with the sound of the raindrops keeping me company letting my sleepy mind replay slashing strikes with the tantalizing thought that I had two full days of fishing still to come dancing merrily through my head and trout swimming in my dreams.

    I woke refreshed and care free but a little worried about the sound of water drops splashing against the tarp of the tent. But when I crawled out to spring my morning leaks I was relieved to find out the drops were falling from the trees above and that while it was still overcast there wasn’t any rain falling. I lazed around for about 15 minutes because I thought I should, before the twitching in my casting arm proved too much and I strung my rod and headed up the trail. The day was still overcast but had just enough light and patches of blue in the sky that deep down I knew it was getting ready to burn off. The birds were singing and I had the world by the tail. I walked upstream for about 45 minutes enjoying the differences in the Maine woods and my own southern Appalachian woods. Being in new places always brings a sense of wonder to me that makes me happy someplace deep in my soul. When I broke away from the trail to get down to the river I wasn’t disappointed.

    The fishing didn’t wait long before it turned into catching. The fish were holding as far back in the holes as they could get and nearly all my casts were from the hole below up into the one above me. Again the strikes were slashing and solid as if mortal starvation not a simple snack was floating down the stream. It was one of those days where no brain function was required just a rhythm of casting and catching. The bows were little and active the brookies were a little larger, not large really by Maine standards at an average of about 10 to 11 inches, but certainly large by my southern brookies size range. Yet, for a trip like this size really doesn’t matter. Most important is that they were absolutely gorgeous. .

    The browns were the larger and one even got close enough to the 13 inch mark on my tape measure that I could claim it (read that as nearly 12 and a half). Unfortunately they were also camera shy and managed to somehow escape my hands right about the time I got the camera out of my vest and lined up for a shot. I have several shots of nothing but air in my hands where once a fish had been resting. Oh well I have the mental pictures and that is what counts.
    By afternoon the overcast clouds had burned off and the day had turned hot and clear, and quite beautiful.

    The hole in that last picture was deep enough and the afternoon was hot enough that after catching two fish out of there, I skinned down and took a quick cooling swim or underwater kneel to be more exact. After that I took a nap laying on a rock in mid stream with the sun warm and red through my closed eyelids and the sound of the water rushing by mere inches away… … as I said before life was good.
    By the time I got back to camp I was satiated with catching fish and totally relaxed and content, which had been the real intent of my trip to begin with. Of course for those of you that know me well … … it was time to make a bourbon and stream water, light a cigar grab a camera and go take a stroll. I love this time of day when the afternoon is yielding to evening and the Bridge across the river was a perfect place to hang out and watch the world go by.

    After that I grilled some steaks and settled in for a long night of starlight, campfire light and music. Slim Harpo of old bluesman fame was the evening’s musician and a fine guest to have by the fireside, I must admit.

    I woke to the sound of birds chirping and from the brightness of the sun on the tent I knew I had slept later than I planned but the sleep had felt so good that I actually rolled back over and fell asleep for a little while longer and that is a true luxury of life. When I stuck my head out of the tent I was struck by the beauty of the sun dappling the leaves above my tent.

    I dressed and started out on a morning fishing trip before I had to drive back to civilization. The fish were just as willing and just as pretty.

    And the river may have even been prettier.

    And so it was with a twinge of sadness that I packed up my camp and started back down the trial to my car. I really had no idea where I was and I seriously doubted I could find my way back to this river again if I tried. But even though I had been lost… … you are never lost if you don’t know where you are going and wherever you end up is where you intended to go … … … so I think I spent the weekend in the perfect place doing exactly what I had wanted … … scenery, solitude and brookies.

    Dick Davis

    in case you wondered why my pictures might be a little out of focus

  3. #3 supporter and plankowner
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Lawrence, KS
    Woohoo--I really look forward to and enjoy your "business" trips. Sounds like you got real close to a deep understanding of New Hampshire's motto.

  4. #4
    WOW great trip report & photo's !

  5. #5

  6. #6 plankowner ofuros's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    The Great Southern Land, Australia
    Here's to scenery, solitude & brookies.....
    Still have another 3 weeks or so of hibernation before the new season streams open over the border in NSW, Australia.
    the anticipation is killing me .....great post & pics, thoroughly enjoyed the escapade.


  7. #7 plankowner
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Southern CT
    Nice job of following your gut instincts, and a great story!


  8. #8
    Wonderful report. Thank you very much for posting
    The stream looks much like mountain streams in our country, though streams here are steeper. (Besides, our mountain streams are crowded with fisherman.)


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