The Bear Referendum brought me new friends. One friend is Erin; she is also a hunter and fellow Woman of the Maine outdoors. I’ve never had a lot of time fishing or hunting with anyone other than John or the kids, so when I got the chance to go fishing with a new friend and hopefully show her how to fly fish in my favorite place to fish, I jumped on it.
I couldn’t wait to go fishing. We planned it all out a couple weeks in advance. The river is usually down during the week so I was pretty excited that we’d be able to fish and not be competing with so many other fisherman that are there on the weekends. The Dead River is a rafting river so on weekends when they raft, the river rises and stays high until about one o’clock. Then it drops, we fish, and Sunday it repeats itself. The rest of the time, the river levels are determined by Brookfield, the owner of the dam, so fisherman are at their mercy. Three days out from our big day, we got rain, and a lot of it, but the river levels remained steady. The river was still running low the morning we headed out.
The trip takes an hour and half from my house, and once we leave Anson, cell phone coverage is spotty at best. This meant I couldn’t receive any more river level notifications and we’d have to hope it was still low. We weren’t so lucky. According to another fisherman, about a half hour before we arrived, the river was released and was raging way above any fishable level. I was pretty disappointed since John and I had just come off a stellar weekend of fishing and I didn’t want to let my friend down. In an attempt to salvage the day, we headed to the Carrabassett River. John and I had fished the river and caught some nice brook trout below the wire bridge the week before, and I knew it was accessible and safe to navigate. The scenery was awesome and the river was also high, but still fishable.
We didn’t catch anything, but had a great time checking out all the wildlife and sharing tips on fishing. The one thing we did before the day ended, was to plan another day…after all, we couldn’t possibly strike out twice on getting to fish the Dead.
I watched the river levels every day. I also noticed a systematic behavior of the dam operators. Thursday mornings before the weekend with a rafting release scheduled, they cut the water back to 375-385cf/s…perfect for fishing. What I didn’t realize was that for two straight weeks there would be no rafting release…and you guessed it..the water rose, and it stayed there. I was Dead wrong…the water levels at 1120 cf/second were so high that once again we couldn’t fish it.
This time, I had a plan B in place. I had done my research and decided we’d take on the Kennebec River which also meant facing my long held fears. We parked and hiked down in by the eddy. The water was moving fast but it didn’t look unconquerable. I can say I was nervous because I wasn’t familiar with the river, the drop offs and all the childhood baggage of fearing the Kennebec. I managed to get myself out on this rock that was almost impossible to stand on. I don’t know if it was actually my fear, or my feet screaming to stay on the rock, but I didn’t’ stay long before I gave up and joined my friend on the shore. With no hits we decided to try the other end closer to the dam.
It was a hot muggy day, but the sunshine was still welcome. Dressed in waders and boots, we hiked down to the dam and made our way down to the water. First cast out with my big drake fly, I get a hit when I least expect it…yes, I was talking….and I lose the fish! I get so excited I’m screaming, “Oh my gosh, that was a big fish!” not realizing that if you’ve never caught a fish on a fly rod, you don’t know that feeling of what it’s like to get a big one on the hook. My excitement was contagious to my friend Erin, and it warded off the thirst that was slowing draining my energy for a while. Getting no more hits and roasting in our gear, we decided to head back to the car and get something to drink and eat. By the time we make it back to the car, we are both drenched in sweat…but we didn’t care! Hats on and sweaty pits, we laughed it off as being Women of the Maine Outdoors. We headed back to a store, bought our sandwiches, crawlers to fish with, and drinks, many of them, and we headed out to a different spot much different from what we had been trying to fish. After all, I wanted my friend to catch a fish!
I was pretty proud of myself for finding the spot since I hadn’t been there for a few years, although we did go the wrong way at first. Once we found it, I informed Erin of the poison ivy that grows there…lots of it. So much so, we decided to wear the fishing gear to keep the poison ivy and bugs off us. It wasn’t nearly as hot since we were in the shade. As we made our way in, we came across two piles of bear poop, lots of turkey tracks and even saw two fledgling owls. Fishing was slow at first. As with any small area to fish, the hardest part is getting the darned worm cast out far enough from shore to actually lure in a fish. We had some good laughs and I climbed out on a tree to rescue a worm caught up in some branches. Fish taunted us as they jumped for flies and bugs while we kept patient and fished with worms. After Erin tried a few attempts to catch one of the fish, I gave it a try. I got lucky and it finally took the bait. I caught a nice 10 inch native brook trout. So this time we didn’t go home empty handed, but there’s already a third trip in the works…and next time Erin will catch a fish! Hopefully the Dead River cooperates and lets us finally have a chance to fish. I know those fish will be ready for some of my tasty looking flies on top of the water!
A big thank you goes out to my friend Erin for a day of fishing and friendship with talk that didn’t encompass my nails, shopping, working out guilt, dieting or any self-deprecating conversations.
And that’s just another reason more women should get in the outdoors.