American Fly Fishing

By King Montgomery

Maine hosts dozens of sporting camps, some more than a century old. And some of these storied waters that gave up 10-pound-plus brook trout in the early 20th century still offer wonderful fishing for the East’s only native trout, which is actually is a char. But no camp can claim to surpass Lakewood Camps’ 150 years of continuous operation.
   Situated at Lower Lake Richardson in the famed Rangeley Lakes region, Lakewood Camps, (207) 243-2959,, is where Carrie Stevens tied, in hand, her streamer flies; where Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby fished and guided and plied her trade as a noted outdoors writer; and where many other Rangeley luminaries helped forge the state’s sporting heritage.
   More than 100 years after the early heyday of Lakewood Camps, I stepped out on the front porch of my rustic and comfortable log cabin near the lake. The sun hovered just below the hills to the east, across the lake, casting a golden glow over the landscape. A loon, perhaps the same one that sang me to sleep the night before, dove for food just off the shore near the camp’s dock. After a sumptuous breakfast of homemade everything and good, strong black coffee, I shook hands with old friend and fishing guide Bob Duport, (207) 491-6718, on the front porch of the lodge and we planned the day, with a map spread open on the hood of his truck. We decided to begin at the bottom of the narrows leading from the Middle Dam to Pond-in-the-River, then proceed into the beginning of the Rapid River, letting the high water dictate how we would approach the fishing.
   In addition to chasing brook trout and landlocked salmon in the dam effluent, in Pond-in-the-River, and on the well-known Rapid River, anglers can troll—yes, fly rods with sinking lines can work—for lake trout, called “togue” by locals using the old Abenaki Indian name for this delicious fish. Richardson is the only Rangeley lake that has togue.
   Duport gently maneuvered his ClackaCraft drift boat, equipped with a small outboard, around the little island that marks the end of the chute coming from the dam and into Pond-in-the-River, and quietly dropped anchor. On one side, the heavy water rushed by at a nearly unfishable pace. We targeted the seams and bubble lines with dry flies, but pickings initially were slim. I cast quartering downstream and let the fly drift into its inevitable drag, then skated the fly in an arc toward straight downstream, rod held high. I thought I could hear Duport gasp and imagined the sneer that must be there when he witnessed a dreaded dragging fly—until a gorgeous brookie took the offering like a bass slurping a popper. Oh, the indignity! We admired the fish in the net and let it slip back into the water. When I did it again, this time on a salmon, I explained to Bob that’s the way we do things in Labrador for those huge brook trout. Bass fishing for salmonids: I love it.
   The Rapid River is Maine’s, and possibly the entire country’s, premier big brook trout stream, and it holds 20-plus-inch> landlocked salmon as well. It runs its course out of Pond-in-the-River, dropping over 1,000 feet in the 8 miles down to Umbagog Lake on the Maine–New Hampshire border. The Rapid is open from ice-out, usually by late April or early May, until the end of September. It is fly fishing and catch-and-release only for brookies; anglers are allowed to keep one salmon, 14 inches or longer, daily until August 15, when all fish must be released. The river can be very difficult to wade, particularly in higher water, so care should be taken. I highly recommend using a wading staff and wearing a personal floatation device on these cold waters—I like the inflatable kind.


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