The Rats Nest

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Camp As Seen From The Dock

Lately, my life has been consumed with numbers.  18, 19, 20.  Inches for fish, magic marks so to speak, not your typical numbers associated with the fish I was chasing, well unless you're in the woods of Maine.  $4.10, about the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas, saw that quite a bit on my way up and  back.  And, 549, the title of this blog,  which is the number of miles round trip from my house to the boat launch on the Androscoggin River en-route to camp Ijis on lake Umbagog.
The View From The Porch Overlooking Lake Umbagog

Sometimes, it seems we as fisherman put a lot of emphasis on numbers in various aspects of our endeavors.  I'll admit it, I do it myself, I guess it's actually not a bad thing, as long as you keep it tasteful. Although 549 miles sounds like quite a jaunt, it really is a short hop skip and a jump to a place I find myself longing for time and time again.
Part The Arsenal That Followed Me Up River

It was almost 5 years to the day when I was last on the shores of Umbagog and the Rapid River, chasing square tails and landlocked salmon.  This particular trip did not disappoint, even if it was a long time in the making.  I guess you could say I had some redemption this year.   On my last visit, I managed to destroy my camera and erase all of my memories from that last trip.  With a memory stick full of wonderful trout, landscapes and camp memories, it was a heart breaker to say the least.  And not knowing if I was going to make it back again, I always wondered if I would ever have anything of substance to remind myself of just how wonderful this place really is.
Pocket Water Paradise

The 5 hour drive north went quicker than anticipated and I was a few hours early to meet my host, Dick Celli,  in the quaint town of Errol.  We had to grab his pontoon boat at the local airport, gather up our goods and then make the run across the lake, a mere 50 minute ride to heaven.  There would be no fishing on Wednesday as we had to unpack camp, get the docks in place and settle into our home away from home.  Taking part in all of these festivities really gives one a true sense of just how much work went into backwoods life a mere century or more ago.
Our Transportation

Even though it is hard work, It gives one a sense of accomplishment, and it also teaches you to not take your creature comforts for granted back home.  After a long day of getting things in order, my host (Mr. Celli) and I called it a night early, opted for a few quick snacks instead of dinner and hit the rack around 8:00 PM.  To say I had the best night of sleep in a long time is an understatement; 10 solid hours of shut eye, can't remember for the life of me when that happened last.
Taking It All In

Thursday Morning arrived, and after a good pot of camp coffee and some hearty breakfast, I headed up to the mouth of the river where it met the lake for some fishing.  Now I know this may sound a bit odd to some of you who follow my blog, as it seems that I am very partial to Brown Trout, but in all honesty, Brook Trout are probably are my favorite fish.  I grew up fishing for small brookies on mountain streams in Western Massachusetts, and every time I get to fish for these wonderful creatures it reminds me of my youth.

There are some wonderful blogs out there that are based upon the premise of small stream fishing and chasing brook trout, and I adore the content.  I guess I am paying homage to them as I write this, I know the pictures that follow do not come remotely close to doing justice to the sheer beauty and size of some of the brook trout I was lucky enough to experience this past weekend.  But I hope that you all understand just how magical it is to witness such beautiful creatures as the one's in the pictures to follow, especially when most of them are twice to three times the average length of the specimens I tangled with as a young boy.

Friday came and my brother in law Jeff and I decided we would hike up river to Middle Dam.  We both hadn't been there in 10 years, back when the remnants of the dam were still in place.  In fact I still have an 8 by 10 photo of myself casting in front of that piece of history.  Even though I knew I would be disappointed when I finally arrived back there due to the dam's absence, I just had to get back to the place again.

A 50 minute brisk hike found us in Aldro French's camp, the old Louis Dickinson Rich homestead, a place steeped in history, where the book "We Took To The Woods" described backwoods living in the heart of Maine's Wilderness.  If you haven't  read this particular book yet, I highly recommend doing so as it paints a very vivid picture of what life was like back then.

Even though I was 5 hours away from home in the middle of wilderness, I managed to run into an old customer of mine on the banks of the river whom I guided a few years back.  A few friendly gestures, and a handful of my flies passed on made me realize how crazy little things like this can happen.  We met up again on my second to last day, and a handshake ensued, not to mention the approval that the flies I handed him were also a hit with the fish.  The shimmer stone struck again, it was a hit with the fish all weekend long.

To go hand in hand with the title of this entry, I will not however delve into the proportions of my catch.  It is safe to say my streak is still going strong if that sheds any light on things for those of you that are wondering, but for the rest I will let you ponder the dimensions for yourself.  In short, it was a spectacular weekend of fishing, probably the best to date that I have experienced in that particular area.  The fishing although great, was secondary to my heightened senses, surreal surroundings and mind clearing experiences in the back woods of Maine.

My first day on the river was shared with not a single other soul, just the Bald Eagles, Osprey and Brook Trout and Landlocked Salmon that were so kind enough to pay me a visit.  Solitude, rushing water and clean mountain air do wonders for the soul, it was truly a remarkable experience to know that for a small period of time, I was there by myself, taking it all in.

Every night at camp we ate well and were serenaded by the sounds of Loons both near and far from different reaches of the lake.  As my host would say, there's only one rule at camp and that is when the Loons are talking, nobody else speaks as their song is a a gift from God.  Whether you believe that or not is on you, but I think we will all agree it is truly a sound that shakes you to your core.  Here's to a great weekend from heaven on Earth......

Sunset From Camp

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