Day Two: Back at Camp

June 2021

Noon comes surprisingly fast, even when you are up at 5:30am. Ross, Billy and I returned from our early morning trout fishing expedition in Greenwood Cove feeling invigorated but famished. Thankfully Ted, my old friend and next-door neighbor, whipped up a hearty pancake lunch, which we devoured outside at the picnic table. After that there was no stopping us from an afternoon adventure.

Greg, an experienced local fishing guide, had been talking about a backwoods trout pond that he had discovered off River Road. Our interest was stoked, and everyone was eager to go; the only hesitancy was in knowing that we would be irresistible bait for the backwoods black flies. May is a terrible time for flies in Maine and spray with deet just isn’t enough. On the water they are not as bothersome, but in the woods, we had to wear bandanas saturated with bug spray to keep them off our faces. Arms and legs were food enough for these little pests. No point in dwelling on it. I pulled on my waders, and we all jumped into Greg’s truck in search of the mythical trout pond. I wade for a longer cast of my 5-weight rod. The kids were to fish with Ted from shore.

No sooner did we get going when the laments from the back seat commenced. “How much longer?” asked Billy. “It’s hot – are we almost there?” “Soon, soon,” Greg said, glancing at me with a bit of a wink. The turn off from River Road was an unmarked logging trail. After a mile or so through the brush and mud, Greg suddenly stopped the truck in a somewhat dramatic fashion and after a loud exhale of breath turned to Ted. “Where are we Ted? I don’t remember this. How did we get on the wrong track here?” If this was true, the afternoon would be lost. Billy groaned. “Aw c’mon,” Ted said, getting out of the truck. Greg got out and I wasn’t sure where things were going. Then they both grinned and started gathering their gear like nothing was wrong. That’s dry old Maine humor for you. Ted and Greg grew up together in Maine during summer vacations. Greg is a native and Ted’s father would bring the family north every year. Of course, Greg knew where we were and had pulled over near an obscure trail only he could see. We took a few moments to further shower ourselves with deet before we made our way through the buzzing thicket to the pond. Billy was the first one into the woods. “Wait up!” his dad, Ross, called out to him. Eventually Greg led the way and we clambered and climbed over brush and fallen logs. There were considerable moose droppings and Billy expressed some concern that we might fall victim to an attack. “Not a chance,” said Greg. “Moose only come out during hunting season.” More Maine humor–and a bit of wishful thinking.

The ground became very muddy as we drew closer to the pond. We passed through dense patches of towering young trees that surrounded the pond, edging right into the pond shallows. They were the last obstacle. The gangly boughs and trunks bent easily enough, and Ted took Ross and Billy around to an open area where they could cast from shore. I waded into the pond with Greg still pushing aside these amphibious trees, toward an area open enough to cast. No waders for Greg of course. He wore his usual sneakers and wranglers to fish, in or out of the water–and always with the extra can of beer in his permanently stretched out back pocket. Before I knew it, I was in chest high water without a wading stick—not too smart. I held on to Greg for balance, casting as I waded. We were fishing with dry flies. After a few back casts I was able to get some distance into the middle of the pond. “Strike!” Greg shouted. I could see the swirl in the water where my fly had landed. I recast quickly to the same spot and a fish hit my fly. I lifted my rod but could not set the hook. Fish toying with me is a familiar experience. I need to catch something before my reflexes are secure enough to finish the job. A catch- 22—pun intended–but it seems the connection between hand and eye are blessed after the first hook up. At least in my case. It took a few more casts before I brought a trout into the net. Brook trout are splendidly colored, and I marvel at nature’s way of camouflaging the fish with their iridescent scales. These native fish make the sport of fishing so captivating. Standing in fresh water, when the only sound is the wind and an occasional bird cry, or a can of beer being opened—that’s okay too. I settle in and continue to cast. Heavenly.

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