American Fly Fishing

By Jeff Erickson

Maine’s Acadia National Park presents enticing dichotomies: pristine brook trout and landlocked salmon lakes a short drive from bobbing lobster boats; sweeping mountaintop vistas perched above Atlantic Ocean beaches; and bustling harbor tourist towns surrounded by peaceful hardwood and pine forests laced with hiking trails and bike paths.
   Among the nation’s most popular national parks, Acadia boasts riches that easily keep both anglers and nonanglers blissful. But don’t take my word: veteran travel writer James Kaiser, who wrote the definitive Acadia: The Complete Guide (2010), characterizes the park as “one of the most amazing places in the world.”
   The rugged landscape of Acadia’s Mount Desert Island was fiercely sculpted by glaciers. Intrepid French explorer and geographer Samuel de Champlain first described the locale in 1604, noting, “The island ... is very high, notched in places, so that there is the appearance to one at sea, as of seven or eight mountains extending along near each other. The summit of most of them is destitute of trees, as there are only rocks on them. The woods consist of pines, firs, and birches only. I name it Isles des Monts Deserts [Island of Barren Mountains].” 
   While only a fraction of Acadia visitors come to fly fish, its glacial meltwater created habitat for diverse fisheries, including more than a dozen lakes and ponds. Three of the most accessible waters typify what’s available: Eagle Lake has brook trout, lake trout, and landlocked salmon; Jordan Pond has brook trout and landlocked salmon; Bubble Pond has brookies. Other ponds hold brown trout, smallmouth bass, chain pickerel, yellow perch, and sunfish. Spring and fall are best for finding cold-water species near the shore and the surface, where they might be enticed with general dry and nymph patterns. As summer water temperatures rise, boats, float tubes, and sinking lines help anglers locate fish with dragonfly and damselfly facsimiles, Muddler Minnows, Mickey Finns, and Gray Ghosts.
   There are saltwater opportunities too: Somes Sound produces mackerel, bluefish, and striped bass (mainly July, August, and September). Anglers also catch mackerel along Fra-zer Point on the Schoodic Peninsula during the same period. No license is required for saltwater angling; a Maine license is needed for the park’s fresh water. For a complete inventory of Acadia fisheries, see
   Post-fishing relaxation starts with a stop at the Jordan Pond House, famous for afternoon tea and delectable jam-covered popovers since the late 1800s. If the weather cooperates, sit outside and admire views of the restaurant’s namesake, peak-fringed tarn. Scenic drives designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. mesmerize motorists. One example is the road winding to the top of granite-capped Cadillac Mountain; at 1,530 feet, it’s the highest Atlantic Coast promontory north of Rio de Janeiro. Historic buildings, bridges, and paths punctuate the natural landscape. The 45-mile web of nonmotorized carriage roads meticulously planned by park philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr., between 1913 and 1940, is a gem. Originally built for horses, the routes are also a paradise for hikers and cyclists—pack a fly rod to access
less-frequented water. 
   While Maine’s rugged coast isn’t exactly Florida, there are some fine beaches tucked between rocky headlands that will encourage you to loiter on bluebird days, scanning the horizon for puffins, basking seals, and spouting whales. Visitors have the option of staying at two park campgrounds or numerous lodging choices in adjacent villages.
   Picturesque coastal towns like Bar Harbor will quickly fill your camera’s memory card, and there are enough excellent restaurants to paint smiles on the faces of foodies. Fresh lobster is a main attraction, and among the best places to get it is Thurston’s Lobster Pound, perched tenuously on barnacle-encrusted pilings over Bass Harbor. Many of Maine’s best lobster venues have a down-home, shacklike appearance, but this doesn’t deter locals or savvy visitors. Nursing a local microbrew, I eagerly readied my utensils and tied on a protective bib, while my wife, Mary, laughed uproariously at the spectacle. The large, rusty-orange lobster, just out of the sea and presented unpretentiously, was succulent and delicious—every last, butter-dipped morsel. The perfect way to end a trip to Acadia.


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