For the last few years I have been going on camping and fishing trips in northern Maine in search of native brook trout, the main goal being to fly fish for them with dry flies that imitate mayflies or caddis flies on the surface of the water. The location of the ponds I go to is about 15 miles in the deep woods away from the asphalt thoroughfares. I am not able to name the exact location as I was sworn to secrecy by the men that first allowed me to enter their group, and I have never given up their secret. These men have fished this location since the mid-1960s when their fathers brought them there on fly-in fishing trips as the tote roads were not in as good a shape then as they are now, although the current conditions of the roads are still rough and you can only go about 10 mph over them. I get a kick out of the fact that there are still large boulder tops sticking up out of the road, some of which are recognizable as landmarks with which you are assured that you are going in the right direction as the woods the roads pass through often look the same everywhere.
Back in the 1970s a few of the original group went to the ponds the first time without their fathers and decided to drive in, instead of their normal fly-in routine and went into the woods on the logging roads as far as their Ford Falcon would take them and then hiked the rest of the way on foot. This was in the middle of May and when they reached the pond to be fished it was still frozen over with ice, not very good conditions for fly fishing. The men weren’t sure of the exact year this happened, but I feel it was 1972 because ice out on Lake Sunapee was late that year, May 9.
I no longer stay with the men at their favorite camping spot which you access by small, light rowboats on the eastern end of the larger pond in a cedar swamp ,which is very thick with foliage and underbrush, but instead I set up camp in a gravel pit nearby, which is treeless and therefore better for my little Jack Russell to be able to roam around while I keep an eye on her.
This year when I first arrived and started to erect my tent I was swarmed by mosquitoes and the thought occurred to me that these insects must have brains, so I googled “mosquito brain” when I returned home and no, mosquito brain isn’t the name of a death metal, punk rock group, although it could be, but yes, I did see a 3D image of the organ and scientists are studying it to try and figure out why the little blood suckers act so.
I did get the tent erected, with little thanks to the vague printed directions or the incomplete how-to video on YouTube, and realized there are metal lollipop-shaped implements at the base of the tent of which I still have not the foggiest idea of what they are meant to do. But overall the new tent worked out quite well considering the harsh weather. It hailed at one point, rained like a cow peeing on a flat rock numerous times and the wind blew so hard I thought that my tent was going to collapse.
In the evening of the day of the wind storm, I went down to the pond I wanted to fish in order to check on the wind conditions, and while I was still in my pickup truck I glassed the pond, looking up through the outlet brook. There were a few ripples on the water and I noticed that though the leaves were still fluttering on the tops of the trees the branches were still and decided that the conditions were calm enough to be able to cast a fly line and fish. As I started to drive away from my vantage point I happened to glance down again at the outlet brook and to my surprise I saw my boat floating upside down in the water. I had dragged my boat up on shore after my early morning fishing session and had laid the anchor on shore attached to a short rope to my boat. The oars were left in the oarlocks but without pins locking them in. The wind had picked up the boat with the oars still in place and had flung it offshore into the drink with the anchor. Luckily, I had my fishing waders and wading boots with me, which I put on so I could wade out into the waist deep water to retrieve my boat. The outlet is a swampy area with foot-deep mud on the bottom with interspersed boulders. When I finally had the boat secured again on shore I noticed this horrible stench emanating from my waders and my boots which were coated with the mud from the bottom of the brook. I decided that the best option for this apparel was to leave it outside my tent that night to air and dry out. It could also act as a deterrent for any hungry bear in the area because the stench from the swamp mud would mask any food smells coming from my coolers. Apparently this worked as no bear showed up at my campsite. I could just imagine a bear getting a whiff of my boots and heading in the opposite direction.
I found it baffling that although I had listened to the only weather forecast I could find that morning on the radio, the announcer had stated that the weather for that day was going to be sunny and in the mid 80s. The impending brutal winds had not been mentioned, no small craft advisories, nothing. This radio station billed itself as the “Voice of Maine” and you would think that a radio station referring to itself as such would have included some mention of high winds that were strong enough to lift a boat off the ground and flip it into the water, considering the thousands of lakes and ponds in Maine and it’s 3,400 miles of ocean shoreline.
Oh yes, I did mange to catch a few trout, but none camera worthy, and I didn’t catch any on top water flies as there were not many mayflies hatching or trout rising. But all in all it was an adventure and that is what I seek while vacationing. A good vacation to me also means that when you finally return home, you are exhausted and this goal was achieved.