Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Following the Hell repeats, I took 8 days off from running, although I did get some biking in before going to the Rapid River. After class Thursday, Stephen Pelsue and I drove up to the Rapid River to meet neighbor John as well as three other spring fishin' buddies for a long weekend on the Rapid River. Unable to bike, and choosing not to run, this was 4 days of solid rest (that was continued into a 5th day on Monday). I ran a modified TMR TNR at Twin Brook last night - I stuck to the fields to avoid any steep uphills. It felt great to run again but even after 8 days of rest (and 5 of complete no exercise rest), my left glute was immediately sore.
The Rapid River is a beautiful river in the western Maine mountains that flows between Lower Richardson and Lake Umbagog on the Maine/NH border. It is only about 3 miles long and is split about 1/3 of the way down by Pond in the River and the iconic image of fly fishing in Maine, lower dam (which was unfortunately removed about 3 years ago). The river has never been stocked and contains huge native brook trout. Smart ones, not the stupid hatchery misfits. There are also landlocked salmon in the river but these were introduced into Rangeley lake in the late 1800s so are not truly native although landlocked are native to Maine (Sebago lake, for example). The river is fly fishing only, catch and release all brookies and 2 salmon over 12 inches can be kept (Maine Fish and Game is managing this river as a premeir native brook trout stream).
Our access includes a 10 mile drive on an active logging road, a 1/4 mile hike down (and back up) a steep singletrack trail through lots of mud with the canoe and all the gear (coolers of beer), and 20 minute paddle to our campsite. This weekend we had about 2-6 guys camping across the river from us, so in total there were about 6-12 guys on this section of the river, depending on the day. Not bad.
After stopping at Barbecue Bob's in Bethel, Stephen and I got into camp and quickly geared up to fish by about 6:45PM. We fished the big pool below the last fall by canoe. Everyone else was there too (the rest of our crew had been there all day). There was a monster hatch going on with bugs flying all over the place. But no fish rising. We were skunked the first evening, which is very mysterious given the hatch. Everyone else had had a hero day earlier but were also skunked in the evening.
After a bone-chilling night (I have a 40F sleeping bag), we had a beautiful day for fishing but again, the fishing was slow, which is fish-speak for being skunked. That afternoon I finally caught a 8" salmon (too small for dinner) and a 10" brookie, both of which were too small to put up much of a fight. At lunch, three of us walked the Cary rd. (an ancient logging road that is now closed) on the opposite side of the river to visit the famous pools. We talked to other fisherfolk who had the same experience: great fishing Thursday morning but slow Thursday evening into Friday. We learned the water flow had increased 25% (the flow out of middle dam changes regularly and is used to maintain lake levels, etc.) and in our experience this change in flow always disrupts fishing (either it spooks the fish or dislodges so much food in the water that your little fly is overwhelmed by real, smelly food).
After another chilly night, we decided to move camp, packed up, paddled and hiked out, then drove to the Magalloway R., which we got to a little after noon. The little brookies on the Magalloway were absolutely slamming the elk hair caddis dry fly. In three or four pools I would get strikes on nearly every cast (only hooking about every third strike) until about 3-4 fish were caught and I'd move on. These brookies ranged from 4"-8", and while there was some excitement, the thrill didn't last so long. After my 15th netted fish, I switched to a gray ghost stream chasing an olive hare's ear nymph combo. I continued to get stikes but at a much, much slower rate. I caught a super-hyper salmon on the nymph. The salmon jumped probably twenty times before I netted him. Given the fight, I was surprised that the salmon was only about 12" according to Stephen's pole (I would have said 16" at least) but he was fat for 12" so put up a good fight. After a short deliberation, I decided to not keep him (I wasn't even sure of the length limit in the Magallaway). I caught another small brookie on the nymph and then fishing slowed for the next hour as I moved back up stream. Dave, John, and Stephen had similar stories although I think John's 20 netted fish won first prize. We decided to call it an evening and go eat burgers and drink beer at the Sunday River Brewpub.