Sunday, November 25, 2018

Proud Dad Moment

For the past few days, I have been on Thanksgiving break and not had too many responsibilities. Most of my schoolwork was done for the semester and I have been enjoying some free time. Yesterday, I cleaned up my fly tying bench for the first time since I got here and then proceeded to watch some tying videos. Emma either spotted what I was watching or simply came over because of the crazy techno music playing (thanks Fly Fishing the Ozarks). Regardless, she started watching the videos with me and kept asking to watch more. As a father, this made me really excited so tonight we took her interest to action and she tied her first two flies. Her only request was that they would have "rainbow colors". I put a variety of supplies onto the table and let her call the shots. Hopefully I'll have a little tying buddy with me now from here on out.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Quick Session

Now that the stripers had moved south for winter, It was time to target inland fish. It was a Saturday and Hugh and I had a few hours in the morning to spare before adult responsibilites took the better of us. I was excited to fish a smaller river again as it had been a long time. This particular river contained brookies, land-locked salmon, and brown trout. I was excited at the chance to catch my first salmon.

When we arrived at the stream it was breezy and lightly raining. The rain was so fine you could barely tell it was there. It only became apparent when you looked out over the water and the refracted light from the river highlighted the fine droplets. This type of rain is common to New England, and something I had not experienced out west.

Hugh headed straight to the bridge and I worked my way upstream. I spotted a nice eddy and flung an olive streamer and began stripping. The spot looked fishy, but nothing was biting. I remember thinking "I wonder what the salmon want." I knew they liked egg patterns but I didn't want to deter from the streamer game. Slingin' meat is too much fun.

I worked my way up to a nice run and just knew a fish had to be in there. As I fished a couple other anglers started fishing right above me. Within the 4 hours of fishing that day I had other fisherman both above and below me fishing. Is this how they do it out east? As far as I'm concerned, the respectable thing to do is to walk well above or below and give other fisherman space. It made me kind of upset but I just tried to ignore it.

No fish came about in this spot either. I was starting to doubt there were fish here, or perhaps one of the other anglers already went through? I decided to head back and see what success Hugh had, or lack thereof.

He said he had a bite but, that was it. I then decided to head downstream and get away from the other anglers near the bridge. After an hour of slinging a variety of flies I finally caught a decent brown. It took Mikes trusty "muddy water worm" on a dead drift swing. I was hopeful it would have been a salmon but at this point I'd take anything.

This was the only fish brought to hand that day. Fishing a new river is always a learning experience, and this particular one humbled me. Just before I caught the fish I added a heavy split shot because I was thinking my flies were not getting deep enough. There's the saying "the difference between a good fisherman and a great one is one split shot." Perhaps this was the problem the entire day. The water was swift and deep and maybe I was not fishing deep enough. Regardless, it was a beautiful river and I'd be back again for round two. Hopefully next time, there wouldn't be other anglers.

Back at the parking lot another angler was gearing up and we sparked a conversation. He was a local guy and seemed to know how to fish this river. He showed me his fly box and what flies he uses for the salmon and brookies. I actually had tried the majority and humbly told him I had just caught the one brown. He stated that it can be tough and also mentioned all the anglers out here were most likely chasing the salmon run. He was also kind enough to provide some intel on a local river with "huge browns". Hopefully I can get out soon again and find those big boys. We just got 8 inches of snow yesterday but as long as the river is running, I'm all in.

Shrooms are still out

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Chasing Stripers

The time had finally come to go chase stripers on the fly. I had been in Maine for 4 months and been thinking of these fish since I got here. I knew it was striper season but honestly had no idea how or where to catch them. The demands of summer semester kept me from the water but now, I was only two weeks into fall semester and had an open weekend.

For this trip, I was very fortunate to fish along someone who knew where and how to fish for stripers. It's a random story but, he is the father to Emma's best friend. When he rolled up Saturday afternoon to pick me up with two kayaks and enough rods and gear for 8 guys, I knew I was in good hands.

We arrived at the dock and were met with strong winds and whitecaps on the ocean. A local tour bus called the Downeast Duck rolled up as we were gearing up and we overheard random sounds of ducks quacking and tourists talking. The sounds made me laugh but just like that, the bus drove right out into the ocean. I honestly didn't think anything of it at first but after a second or two I turned to Hugh and said "that thing is a boat!?" He laughed and acknowledged that indeed it was.

After getting all of our gear ready the bus made its way back to the dock and casually drove by but not without the driver saying, "kayakers, be careful out there with the strong wind gusts." We took his words into consideration and proceeded to launch the kayaks.

The strategy Hugh planned was to attach our kayaks via rope as he pulled me along while each of us trolled with large white spinners lures to find where the stripers were. Once we found them we would throw flies and hope to catch one. Hugh's kayak was the ultimate fishing rig. It has a pedal drive system that enables him to be hands free and fish while cruising along the water. He has also mounted multiple rod holders allowing him to carry and troll with ease. Lets just say I was super jealous and hope to have my own someday.

As we made our way out into the bay ocean waves crashed into my kayak and splashed cool salty water onto my legs and face. I was glad I decided to put waders on as I quickly became soaked. We each tossed out our rigs and anxiously waited. The further we made it out into the bay the calmer the wind and waves were. This was a good thing because it was a little sketchy in rough water with an open style kayak.

Before I knew it, my rod was bent over and a fish was on the line. Man did it feel good to feel the tug again-it had been a long time. Quickly I was reminded of when I caught wipers back in Utah. These stripers fought the same way and caused that kink in the wrist that most trout never match.

First fish caught in Maine and in saltwater
Hugh was next on board and caught a feisty schoolie.

As we made our way further out and closer to Mackworth island the fishing really picked up. I landed two nice fish in a matter of five minutes.

As low tide began, we made our way over to a sand bar to try our luck with some topwater flies. There were a couple fisherman on a sandbar on the opposite side to us that weren't catching anything but we were hopeful. I grabbed Hugh's 9wt, rigged a big topwater bug and began slinging away. It was odd to be in the middle of the bay on a sandbar but it made for a great place to cast flies. At high and low tide the ocean really changes.

As I waded out into the soft mud, there were clams and muscles everywhere. Apparently stripers eat clams which seems impossible but Hugh assured me that they do.

We both threw flies for about an hour with no luck so we made our way to the island to meet the ladies for a beachside dinner. I enjoyed a Chipotle burrito that really hit the spot.

Soon, we were ready to head out again, but not in the kayaks. The strategy was to wade far out away from the island and hopefully reach the deep channel that runs through the bay where the stripers would be. Looking out into the ocean on the beach you'd never guess that the water at this particular spot was not very deep. As we waded out I found it much easier to walk over the plethora of empty clam, muscle, and oyster shells. They provided traction and helped me not sink in the mud.

As I waded out I turned around to look at the island and it appeared I was about a football field length away. I began tossing a clouser pattern that Mike had tied. I could not tell if I had reached the channel but, I was getting too anxious and had to start fishing. The water at this point was up to my lower torso, which made for difficult casting. Much to my surprise, as I began stripping in my second cast a striper nailed the fly and that familiar kink in the wrist caused me to smile. It was fun to fight the fish with me feet grounded this time and not in a kayak.

By the time I caught my third fish high tide was in full effect and it felt as though every second the water was rising. As water climbed up to our chests, we decided we better head back to the beach. I had a fish on and brought the fish all the way back to the island to show everyone.

One poke is all Emma wanted from the fish

The sunset that evening was one of the most beautiful I had ever seen. A fiery red engulfed the sky and illuminated the water below. It was the perfect ending to a great day.

Striper Session 2.0

With all the fun and success we had the week prior, Hugh and I decided we better get out again the next weekend before the stripers headed south for the season. The destination this go around was completely different. We would start on a river about two miles from the ocean and kayak down during low tide so the current would easily take us toward the ocean. 

Hugh picked me up at 5AM that Saturday. We needed to get out early as that is when stripers are most active. When we reached the boat dock it was still dark but as soon as we launched the kayaks a hint of sun appeared and lifted condensation from the water. It was a cool 45 degrees and I couldn't wait to get out on the water. 

We fished near the dam for a bit which warmed our bodies before heading down river. It was disappointing that we didn't catch anything near the dam because Hugh had heard that a local caught a 35 inch striper here last week. Regardless, we then made our way down river maneuvering our kayaks between parked boats and ones heading out for the striper bite. 

Soon, my rod was bent over with a nice striper. Man, this was too much fun. Though these fish were still "schoolie" category, they put up a great fight. As we made our way down river I landed a few more but the big boys still eluded us.

Touch of Fall
We made our way to a big opening in the river and noticed some topwater action going on. There were some stripers chasing baitfish so we hurried over as fast we could. By the time we arrived the fish had stopped but we both threw out our lines in hopes for a bite. Unfortunately they had seemed to move on. I was super bummed as I had really wanted to catch one on top water. Hopefully next time.

As we made our way closer to the ocean we discovered a spot that held big stripers. I could see the ocean in the distance and the beach that we were headed to. I was fishing near some boats when all of the sudden Hugh starts screaming, he had a fish on and I could tell it was big by his reaction. I hurried and reeled my line in and peddled over to his kayak and couldn't believe my eyes. 

Whole lotta striper

Hugh had landed his all time personal best, a solid 30 inch striper. He had beat his old record of 29" and was ecstatic. 

Needless to say, I was pumped he caught such a nice fish but, now I wanted one for myself! Well, ten minutes later, in roughly the same spot he had caught his. I landed my personal best striper, a 22".

It wasn't quite as big but, man was it a fun fight. These fish fight so hard and have so much strength it's incredible.

We then made our way to the beach and fished a while from the shore. We didn't have any luck here but it was still fun slinging flies as ocean waves crashed into my body and crabs scurried from underneath me.

With no more fish to hand, we made the trek back to the boat launch two miles away. We fished on the way back but the stripers were no where to be found. Though it was now high tide and the water helped carry us back, the trek back was still quite difficult. By the time we reached the dock I was pretty beat.

Because the fish Hugh caught was over 28", he kept it and filleted it on the dock. It was quite the spectacle watching Hugh work the knife on a big fish. The process is completely different than preparing small trout. The next evening he enjoyed the fruits of his labor and had fresh striper with his family that was prepared by a local seafood restaurant.

Until next time...

Monday, August 27, 2018

Acadia National Park & Moosehead Lake

Having just finished my first semester of school, I was in real need of a break. We decided to head north to Acadia National Park, somewhere I had been longing to go since we arrived in Maine. We were lucky enough to score a camp site on the south end of the island near Acadia. It turned out to be a great location and was not far from an amazing lighthouse. Our first night we walked to the coast and were met with a beautiful scene. Low clouds swallowed up most of our surroundings and brought a light mist of rain. There were distant sounds of seagulls calling with an occasional dong of a fog bell from far-off. Ocean waves crashed against the rocks and the smell of sea was strong. An occasional flash of red beamed from the lighthouse and illuminated the low lying clouds and fine water droplets in the air. It was a moment I will never forget. It felt as though I was in a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean.

Walking down to the ocean.

The next day we climbed Cadillac mountain and enjoyed the beautiful view and ate lots of blueberries from nearby bushes. It was another cloudy day with low lying clouds that appeared to be swallowing up the distant islands making them look like giant pillows.

Wild Maine blueberries

The hike around Jordan Pond was refreshing due to the heat of the day. We all waded in and enjoyed the cool lake water. Emma even spotted a frog.

Though it was particularly busy, sand beach was also a fine place to escape from the heat. The tide brought in the biggest waves I have seen yet since moving to New England. Emma and I had fun dodging the waves.

That evening we enjoyed a forest trail which followed the ocean. When pine trees meet ocean it makes for a breathtaking scene.  We eventually left the trail and went down to what appeared to be a river of ocean water returning back from high tide. We found numerous shells and sea creatures.

More random pictures of Acadia National Park beauty.

Woke up one morning at our campsite to find all of these spider webs underneath the trees. Thought it was quite strange. The rainstorm the night before was one of the strongest I had ever experienced. It was raining extremely hard with constant flashes of light from lightning and booms of thunder. Honestly thought we were going to get zapped it was so intense. I was pleasantly surprised our tent held up to mother natures fury. Emma didn't even wake up which was a huge surprise. 

One of the many stone bridges in the park
Homemade pie using two cups each of local blueberries, raspberries and strawberries
The following day we made the trek inland to Moosehead Lake. My uncle Jerry was kind enough to let us stay in his cabin situated right on the lake. It turned out to be such an amazing place and the perfect vacation spot for our family. A cabin in the woods along a lake will always be a place of refuge.

According to my uncle, this site used to be a scout camp a long time ago before he bought it. Scouts got to camp by means of a steam ship and used the camp as a basecamp before heading even further north.
Main cabin 
Powerhouse and separate cabin with bedroom

I had been itching to do some fishing since I arrived in Maine. I pass rivers and lakes all the time but finally had the time and means to do so. Though I wish I could say I caught something, it was honestly just nice to toss a line again, especially in another state. Prior to fishing, I obtained my license from a local sporting goods store and talked with the cashier about how the fishing has been. He stated that this time of year all the fish are deep seeking cooler water. While out in the kayak I put on heavy flies and let the line sink for a good amount of time but never even got a nibble. I had sinking line but I hadn't put it onto a reel yet. I wish I would have had some but it was still nice to get out and wet a line. I was also reminded how hard it was fishing out of a kayak. Any subtle change in wind and I would be spinning circles. I would need to hurry and position and let out quick casts in the intended direction if I wanted to throw line where I wanted.

No smallies near this island
Big mayfly out on the back porch. Have never seen one this large before.
Local Greeneville fly shop
The following day when we visited a local b-52 bomber site was when I really wish I had brought my rod. During the trek on the dirt road we passed a nice stream which upon further research held salmon. As they say, there's always next time.

 The site was truly a humbling experience. The b-52 bomber was practicing evasion drills from Russian satellite before the plane lost its vertical stabilizer and ultimately crashed. What those nine men experienced on that cold evening in 1963 was horrific. Only two men made it out alive. They experienced -29 degree temperatures in five feet of snow for 18hrs before help arrived. The state of Maine has done a great job making this site a sacred place to come and pay respect for those who died.

More random Moosehead pics.
Emma loved jumping from this rock.
These ducks came by everyday and would eat out of our hands

Literally thousands of wild raspberries on our hike

Not a bad view
Smores every night!

Throughout our time in the Acadia and Moosehead we saw TONS of mushrooms. Emma loved finding these bizarre fungi and often helped her keep her mind busy during the hikes. I admit I had a lot of fun too. There are so many varieties and shapes and sizes.

All of the mushrooms caused me to reflect on a story I heard on an Outside Magazine podcast episode. In the story, a lady went out to her backyard in the woods and gathered what she thought were edible mushrooms for a dinner party she was hosting that evening. The guests arrived and they all had a fine dinner together. The following day, something was wrong. The lady who initially picked the mushrooms was not feeling well and ultimately ended up in the hospital and placed in critical care. She received a phone call later on that evening from one of her party guests who had also landed in the hospital. They had all eaten a mushroom that was a neurotoxin and each could have died if they had not sought medical attention right away. Point of story- be careful not to eat toxic mushrooms!

This one looks just mean and nasty

Did not know if this was a mushroom at first but we looked it up and its a type of white coral mushroom

Love how this image turned out

Emma called this one a jellyfish