I recently spent a week in the Allagash region on my never ending quest for lunker squaretails. The weather played the usual culprit (it's always easier to blame the weather than ones own inadequacies fishing-wise) as the pond temperatures were much higher than I had anticipated for the second week of June. Some of the ponds were pushing mid-70 temperatures towards the end of my trip.
Lesson #1 of this trip: ALWAYS plan your fishing trips for the end of May! The water might be high in the rivers and streams but the pond temps will be good.
In summary the fishing was good. Not epic, but certainly good. Other people staying where I was got into some nice 16-17" fish and I certainly had my chances although I landed plenty of nice brookies to 14 1/2" during my trip.
I stayed at Johnson's Allagash Lodge ( www.allagashlodge.com )with my excellent and highly knowledgible host Bob Johnson and couldn't have had a better time. I certainly will be back as his operation is just what I'm looking for in a Northern Maine experience. He is a seasoned guide, a gracious host, and one hell of a pilot - just ask the boys in Greenville.
I want to come back earlier in the season and in September, the fish in his neck of the woods are dark and beautiful even in the spring and I can only image what they're like in thier spawing colors. I readily admit to being "Brook Trout Queer" as Bob puts it.
Bob also does chainsaw wood carvings of fish that are absolutely amazing and the pictures on his website don't do them true justice. He doesn't ask nearly enough for his work so get one now before he wises up.
So what is the biscuit incident then you may be wondering?
I thought I'd help Bob out by making some biscuits for dinner one night, proud of my ability in the kitchen. Instead of the easy way out with the Bisquick mix I decided to show off and make them from scratch. As I opened the Crisco can it had a very, er... shall we say unique color (transparent, not white) and even more unique consistency (as in you couldn't get it off anything it touched - hands, counter, mixing bowl, rolling pin, you name it). I think that should have been the warning sign right there but I'm a stubborn cuss and wanted to make some damn biscuits for Bob as a Thank You for all the great info he had been sending my way.
What I didn't realize at the time was that Bob was probably trying to supplement his income by developing a new all-purpose lubricant with dreams of selling it to the Aerospace industry and making a killing to retire off of. I believe Allagash Bob's Love Lotion and All-Purpose Lube came up as a possible name for the product, testing to follow at a later date.
Irregardless my biscuits wound up sucking and were completely unfit for human consumption. Bob contemplated leaving them out to kill mice but had a change of heart as he's a compassionate sort who believes in a humane kill. I wound up conceeding to the Bisquick and redeemed myself with a second batch, Thank God.
Lesson #2 - When the Crisco has been frozen and thawed after several seasons in the northernmost regions of a Maine lodge, it's best to stick with the Bisquick for the biscuits and not get fancy.
So on to the fishing. It started off well enough as my very first fish on would have been measured in pounds and not inches. It was a very heavy fish but I didn't tie the knot well and it found freedom before I could get a glimpse or snap a picture. This was on a pond I shall not name on my way in to the lodge.
I was trailing a #10 Dragonfly muddler off a #8 Red-Bellied Dace bucktail and am not sure what it took but the strike was vicious. The same muddler off a #8 Wood Special also got a couple whacks but no joy in the landed department. I finally landed my first fish of the trip during a sparse Hendrickson hatch in the evening off a #12 Birds Nest nymph (which is a hell of an underrated fly by the way) and it taped out a bit less than 15".
I also reinforced why I hate Trico hatches as I was completely beffudled by one on my fly-in trip to a isolated pond that refused to cooperate with my desire to land some of it's very nice fish. I had stripped down my fly selection to minimize my luggage which turned out in retrospect to be a very bad move. I think I equated low fishing pressure to stupid, non-selective fish and that was the wrong assumption.
I never carry Trico patterns as I don't fish the hatch but I at least would have had some of my usual small midge patterns that probably would have been close enough for some looks from the fish. As it stood I decidedly got the finger or fin from every last one of them. Actually, I can't say empirically that it was a Trico hatch but my host seemed to think that it probably was and the indications from the fish lead me to believe it as well. Another fishing experience to file away in the learning process and it's always a learning process if you want to keep improving your skills as an angler.
Another experience that only serves to reinforce why I preach life vests is my tipping my canoe in the middle of a pond the one day I didn't wear it. I was wearing it religiously but that particular day it was raining and I own an auto-inflatible model. I thought the rain would light it off and I was on the home pond so I flaked. Bad move. You can probably see what's coming next.
I wound up down on the far end of the pond out of sight of the lodge, wearing waders I might add. While trying to untangle my fly line from around my boot cleats I started to wobble the canoe and when I adjusted to the other direction I found out just how fast a canoe can roll and out I went lightning quick.
I popped up clutching my Winston rod in my hand and scooted up the back of the canoe, hugging it as I kicked the 60 feet or so to shore while my waders rapidly filled with water.
I finally made shore after an excruciatingly slow and tense transit and wound up catching 7 leeches and 3 brook trout parr as I rolled the canoe to unship the water in it, a pretty neat sight in a messed up situation all things considered.
So, Lesson #3 of this report is also the most important one. And it is this:
WEAR A FRIGGIN' LIFE VEST AT ALL TIMES ON THE WATER, YOU NEVER KNOW! No one is bulletproof. I got REALLY lucky as I had at least 70lbs of water in my waders when I took them off and could barely walk in them. By all rights they should have dragged me back down into the water, someone was definately watching over this fool that day and it wasn't lost on me. Don't be the next guy to press his luck.
The fallout is I also scrambled my digital camera so I couldn't take anymore pictures the rest of trip. I'm still hoping it will dry out but it's not looking good at them moment. I think the memory chip is okay, have to get a reader to find out. I'll post a couple of pics later with this if it works.
On my last day I left Bob's with the intention of bush-whacking into another remote pond east of Chamberlain lake with the potential for some very large fish. I bounced around in 4-wheel drive and actually passed the pond in question. Coming back in from a different way, I got sidetracked onto a skidder road and wound up getting bogged down in a quagmire. I spent nearly an hour on my hands and knees in the mud digging out the muck with a stick and stuffing rocks and branches under my tires for traction. I finally broke free but with the wind taken completely out of my sails and the day about over I packed it in and started the trek out. Fortunately I had some baby wipes in the truck and after about 20 I was semi-presentable to humanity and the good residents of Millinocket.
Lesson #4: Always have a portable shovel/trenching tool and come-along in the truck when in the backwoods, you will hate life if you don't. I now know this to be truth.
Stay tuned, Allagash Bob's Love Lotion and All-Purpose Lube may be coming to a store near you!