This year was our eighth year of doing Smeltapolooza, and we managed once again to do it on Valentine’s Day weekend. We were remarking this year that this scheduling tradition is possibly one of the few great decisions the Monsters of Fishing have ever made. It eliminates the necessity of taking the significant others out to fancy expensive dinners somewhere and buying all sorts of expensive flowers and gifts for Valentine’s Day. It’s a way for us guys to get away and really just say to our significant others “honey, we don’t need an overly commercialized phony holiday to show each other how we feel”. “I care about you so much we don’t need to celebrate on one chosen day, I love you everyday”. “See you when I get back Sunday”.
Despite the fact that we haven’t caught a smelt the
last few years, and only a small handful ever, we dutifully baited all the
hooks, lowered all the lines down into the water, and at that point proceeded
to declare that the fishing had officially ended for the trip. It was actually a good turnout at the smelt
camps that night with many of them occupied and folks milling about visiting
from shack to shack and standing around socializing on the ice. No one was
catching a thing and it all confirmed what we have been suspecting now for a
little while; that smelts actually
became extinct a few years ago and nobody said anything.
That of course will not dampen our efforts in the
least though, oh no. We will be back next year and perhaps we won’t bother to put the lines in the water from now
on I don’t know, but tradition is
tradition and Smeltapolooza will carry on…
MOF has traveled and done many things over the years. We are a hearty group who lives to fish and be a part of the outdoors. We have fished on ice every winter for the past 10 years. MOF has always done a early spring and end of year trip. Over nights in Lyman, family get togethers and recently we have begun fly in trips to remote places for a chance at a big fish. We have noticed that one thing remains constant, the appearance of the legenday Red Solo Cup!
Never a time goes by when a Red solo Cup fails to appear. A Red Solo cup has multiple uses, we have found. It is not only a vessel to contain the “adult beverage” of choice. Oh sure, the Red Solo Cup holds a beer. But also will serve to contain a serving from the Box-O-Wine, a splash of bourbon and soda, even jr. Mof’s kool-aid. In a pinch if your cruising the coast of Sebago lake chasing salmon and togue, and are being watched from the balconies of some beautiful homes, a make shift potty.
Red Solo cups have long been the choice of beverage holder for celebratory “we made it for another trip”.
We have even spotted the infamous Cup at “proposals”
We have even had suprise “WTF” ??….sightings
How did that get there ?
The Red Solo Cup and MOF are synonomous. One does not go anywhere without the other.
MOF Smelt Team 4
Even junior MOF’s in training are taught the value of the Cup…
There is even a “pre-event” MOF cup……
In the coming weeks, the Red Solo Cup will make it’s appearance and hopefully we can capture the event. Please feel free to share and send your Red Solo Cup adventures to us. Outdoor folks and the Red Solo cup are one.
I’ve wanted to get down to the lower Rapid River for quite some time so last year we started planning a trip. This last June a Monsters Of Fishing team went in. The lower stretch of the Rapid River has been described as one of the best trophy brook trout Rivers in the country, perhaps the world. Legendary for mammoth trout and solid salmon, it’s located in a relatively remote part of western Maine. Its very existence was only discovered as little as 100 years ago.
Monsters Dean and Karen wait while Keith fires up the bus
We’ve fished Middle Dam on the upper part a few times but, access to the lower rapid can be a little challenging. Logging roads will get you close until you come to a locked gate…then its a few miles hike. A couple of sporting camps have gate keys and can take folks down in if you are a guest staying at the camps. Some Maine Guides with access can get you in if you hire them. But we opted for float plane. We called up Keith at Acadia Sea Planes who was our pilot for last year’s Kennebego Fly-In and arranged for him to take us down, drop us on a spot where the river widens to a bit of a pond, in fact it’s called Pond in the River, and pick us up at the end of the day. He landed us near where the lower Rapid begins and with a short walk in we were at the start.
The water was really high and, a guide we bumped into that was staying down there in a guide cabin explained that they had done the first spring blow of middle dam up river that very morning and things were raging. Bummer, because he said when they do a big release the fish actually head upstream when they sense it, and go all the way up to the dam where they nose right up to it. Killer fishing right there when that happens he said… lesson learned. Next trip we check for release news and go accordingly. Anyway, this was our first mission to the Lower Rapid and all good recon. Dean snagged a couple of small brookies but that was it as it was pretty impossible to get to any wading or workable pools with the water running so high and fast. We did scout over a half mile of river though, walking down the old Carry Rd and finding points to cut down to the river, and found some good access areas for the next trip when the water is running normally. We’ll be back next time and know where to go so it was worth the trip to scout it. We headed back to our pickup point and waited to hear the buzz from over the trees of Keith’s plane as the pickup time arrived.
Dean at the pickup point
Karen in the departure lounge
Magalloway Salmon Battle
Just as a side note, the day before I hooked into a sweet salmon on the Magalloway. It tore out into some raging whitewater before I could drag it to shore and Dean snapped this shot of me struggling with it 30-40 yards downriver right before it leapt three feet into air right at a water fall and showed off twenty four inches of silver thrashing salmon. It slammed back in on top of my tippet and that was it…..gone. Actually going to be back up to Magalloway soon …. going back after that one.
Our annual tradition of Smeltapolooza almost didn’t go off this year. Unusually warm weather in January was keeping the ice from getting a hold on the rivers and lakes, and the MOF member’s schedules were all askew for February this year. Fortunately, with 48 hrs to spare before our only weekend window, the word from the Smelt camps was “we have ice”. The MOF’s Smeltapolooza outing was on.
This year we had additional company with Monster Troy’s brother Todd and his friend Emily joining us. Todd had been on this adventure once before but Emily? well, we were certain she had no idea what she was about to be exposed to.
As usual, we didn’t catch any smelt and so remain quite consistant year over year. This year’s menu planning fell through the cracks and so ultimately everyone just brought stuff that didn’t need much prep or cooking on location. Bonus points to Troy for scoring us a big load of McRib sandwiches that we wrapped in foil and re-heated on the wood stove. Other items on the menu included a monster fiery chili by Todd, a bucket of fried chicken, cold cuts and lobster meat for sandwiches, slim jims, assorted nuts and potato chips, cheesy doodles, and a can of SPAM that somehow ended up falling unopened into the whole chili.
Todd’s friend Emily was a trooper and, aside from almost throwing up at the sight of the blood worms we use for bait and from being in a very confined space with five smelly guys, she managed to go toe-toe out there. She was a little annoyed that despite years of doing this, her guides were not producing a single smelt. She really wanted to see one, and had been made aware of the tradition that the first smelt caught must have its head bit off by the catcher. Well, someone from another shack down the way found out and brought up one of the only two smelts they had produced so she could see one. Don’t let the picture fool you, the head was off and it was already cleaned when given to Emily.
Oh, and with regards to the title of this post and the part about “Where’s My Phone?!” Well, as we were all sitting around the shack, there was suddenly a significant splash in one of the race holes that startled us all. For a second there was speculation that a big fish might have tried to jump up out of the hole and into the camp. Then conspiracy theories and accusations started flying that one of us has secretly tossed something in the water to get the rest all excited. Finally, someone uttered the words “cell phone?”
There was only one person sitting immediately beside the area of the race hole from where the splash had emanated. Troy, in his pimpin Santa hat, shoved his hand back into the right pocket of his fleece jacket and then hung his head low. We all knew. Not a word needed to be said. It was a good 15-20 minutes before we all caught our breath from laughing so hard. And we had immediately started calling Troy’s phone and leaving voicemails for him to report the underwater conditions down there, and was he seeing any smelts down there………… So for the remainder of Smeltapolooza 2013, from time to time someone would call out “Where’s My Phone?!” and we’d howl all over again.
There has been talk about retiring Smeltapolooza after these years. Been about eight or nine of them. Talk about going south for a few days fishing in February instead. Somewhere warm, with words like tarpon and bone-fish being tossed around. Could just be the winter doldrums causing a little delirium but, hey, you never know. Stay tuned……
The end of September spells the end of fly fishing in most rivers up here but, there are a couple or so exceptions. The East Outlet of the Kennebec River from Moosehead Lake keeps a stretch open for a bit. Karen and I headed up and made base camp at Wilson’s Cottages. Surrounded by the colors of fall, we put last flies out in cold waters, crisp clear air, and called it a season.
It was mid September, and two MOF operatives embarked on a mission: Take a float plane from Rangeley Lake to Kennebego Lake and enlist Maine Guide, Bill Stevens, to help us nail fish on both the Kennebego River and Kennebego Lake.
Monster Dean and I headed up to Rangeley and established forward base camp at a motel on Rangeley Lake. Veteran pilot Keith Deschambeault met us at the dock early the next morning and, with a few rain drops hitting the windshield, pulled us up off of Rangeley Lake in his Cessna Sky Wagon for the twenty minute flight over to Kennebego Lake and to Bill Stevens’s camp.
Bill’s camp is on the lake and one of several sporting camps that go back a long way in this region. His was built in the late 1800’s. A classic log sporting camp, with a living side and a kitchen side with no inside door between them. One must step out onto the porch that runs the whole front length of the camp and go down to the door for one or the other areas. Or sit and enjoy the commanding view of the lake.
Bill took us down river along a private gated tote road that runs parallel to it and into some spots just a short trail walk in. Dean hooked up within the first ten minutes, a nice salmon. Further upstream I grabbed my salmon, and Dean a couple of brookies. Before we knew it, it was mid day and time for lunch. Bill’s wife Jen refueled us back at the camp with a beautiful lunch that warranted a good long nap afterwards, but no. Instead, Bill took us up the inlet to the lake in his boat to a place called the Logan.
It was hard to imagine this placid tributary that fed into the lake would be a hot bed for trout but it was, and we nailed a few good ones. All in all we couldn’t have asked for more. Bill put us on the fish all day and we decided we’ll be back up to see him again. Keith touched down on the water and cruised up to Bill’s dock right on time, flew us back to base camp on Rangeley Lake, and then headed off for one last pick up of a couple of guys he had dropped off down at the Lower Rapid River in the morning.
Chances are we will hook up with Keith and Bill this next spring, perhaps for a fly in to the lower Rapid River and another day with Bill on the Kennebego.
After success on the Magalloway in the spring, Karen and I headed up again in August to see what we could hook up with during the summer doldrums.
I was jonesing to hit a couple of holes we had found, especially since the river had the best flow during this time ensuring plenty of well oxygenated water
I pulled out a nice 16 inch salmon first. Karen was too far downstream to get up for a camera shot so I figured I’d try to take a picture of it myself and started trying to simultaneously dig my camera out of its case and attempt a clean release of the fish.
Well after much fumbling and wishing for an extra hand, the release won out and no picture was taken. Next time I’ll grab a quick in the net shot—lesson learned. A little later I did managed to get Karen to capture a little brook trout on film though. Shortly after that the rain started heavy so we donned the rain gear and beat it back to camp. We’ll be back…I like this river.
Late July, 75-80 degrees and dry air, blue sky, and just a hint of a breeze. Probably the best possible day to strike out and explore a new lake in Maine.
I hooked up the putt-putt and headed to Trickey Lake. My recon consisted of a look up on the state’s lake data site and a recollection from Monster Dean from a time he fished it. It’s relatively small but deep for its size with thermoclines supporting both warm and cold water species. There’s a small public ramp where I saw no one launching when I went in…or out.
There were plenty of camps on the shores; a couple being summer camps for kids that come from all over for a few weeks in Maine, and recreational boating was around. This lake goes to a bit over 50 ft. deep and at times boasts 40 ft. of visibility down through the water..and, they’re right.
I was mostly rigged for bass this time and, being a clear, deep spring fed lake with rock bottom and clean steep drops from shore, it was a challenge to find natural bass coverage. I found a few spots with over hanging trees that offered little pockets of shade and I side arm casted under branches to land three small mouth bass for the day. I trolled 30 ft. down for a little but will need to go back with a depth finder to maximize that. This lake is meant for that.
All in all this was about kicking back…poking around coves where you could see way down through clear water..soaking up the sun and scenery and landing three fish on a perfect summer day in Maine.
A bunch of us headed up to the Rangeley area for some late June fly fishing and much needed R&R. We camped on the shores of Cupsuptic Lake again at a campground named for the same. It’s become a favorite base camp for us there because of the great new facilities and proximity to a number of good fishing opportunities. The Fly Fishing in Maine organization was having their annual Spring Conclave there again this year so decided to go up that weekend and see some familiar faces.
We had great weather for a day and a half before the thunderstorms moved in and washed out one afternoon but, fish were caught! Brookies only. I bagged a decent one on the Magalloway. I’m growing to like this river the more I fish it. The upper reaches where the water is rapid you best do early morning as, starting in June, they do releases from the dam for rafters and kayakers starting about 11:00am and it seems to blow out the fish, or at least mess them up.
Boyd and Brook Trout. Magalloway River
The FFIM folks have a silent auction one evening on a bunch of gear and trips, all donated to benefit conservation in the area. Monster Jimmy and I together won on a floatplane fly in to Kennebago Lake with a guide for the day on the lake and the Kennebago River. We’ve already scheduled that for mid September. We also won two nights ski-in ski-out condo with lift tickets for 4 people for two days at Saddleback.. For when the fly rods are useless….
Oh, and about “quarter turn!” mentioned in this post’s title. Monster Dean bought a new tent for this trip as his previous one just plain wore out. His new one must sleep about 18 people or close to it. It has two rooms for Pete’s sake and is best put up by two people at least. Well, Dean arrived last and set in trying to make up for lost time getting this thing up. He claimed he had set it up once at the house to familiarize himself with it before the trip. So, Jimmy and I settled down into our camp chairs with a couple of cold ones and proceeded to watch Dean thrash around with this big thing. We offered plenty of suggestions and encouragement but, after about a half hour it had not even begun to take on a shape that anyone would mistake for a tent so, we got up and decided to lend a hand.
We were all done with only the rain fly left to put on and, despite the fact it can only fit one way, there are four sides and we needed to figure out which direction to orient it on the top of the tent. One would assume that, with only four possible positions, we would by process of elimination find the correct orientation in a maximum of four tries. Each time we tried it and it was wrong, a shout went out “quarter turn!” to which we would walk around the tent a quarter turn holding the fly. “quarter turn!” rang out,.. we would rotate around the tent a quarter turn and try and install the fly. After nine or ten “quarter turn!”s we realized that, with only four possible positions, we should have found the correct one already….at least twice. We eventually got the fly on and for the remainder of the trip whenever someone did something dumb, a shout of “quarter turn!” would ring out to commemorate it.
Take one Memorial day weekend, add a beautiful weather forecast, and a bad case of cabin fever, and it all added up to the obvious. Time to get the season’s first flies in the water with a trip to Maine’s Moosehead Lake region and the Kennebec River’s East Outlet and the Moose River. Monsters Jimmy, Kristen, myself, and rising pledge Karen were in attendance.
Both rivers are controlled by dams, and the mild winter and early spring meant water levels were already moderate and waters nicely wadeable. That, the holiday weekend, and perfect 70’s weather brought out a lot of fisherman. It also meant that nymphs in the morning, streamers during the day and dry fly’s in the early evening all could all be employed.
There is a lot of pressure on these two spots, and at times, nearly a dozen or more fisherman were within view up and down the river/s. I came up skunked for the weekend. There were plenty of hard strikes, and lots of visuals of fish coming up to the fly for a look in a pool and then backing off—a few clearly in the 18” or more range . Kristen and Karen both hooked up a couple of times with strong pole benders only to have hooks thrown or to break off. Jimmy bagged a brookie. Given the number of lines in the water we encountered over the day and a half there, surprisingly few were having success. There were plenty of occasions to bump into other fisherman and compare notes and it seemed nearly everyone was coming up empty either handed or, a very few, with one…
But,…. there was this one couple. We watched them work the middle of the East Outlet out on the upper reaches of a ridge of river bottom that runs down the middle for a stretch below the dam. Wading out to the middle over a bar to access the middle was quite easy farther down, and plenty of people were out there working the channels on both sides. But, while I was fishing right at the dam, I watched these two work their way up closer to the dam to where they were fighting pretty swift water at thigh depth and greater. Two casts, move, two casts, move, two casts, move….. each move being a laborious struggle against the current. They covered a lot of real estate, moving constantly with great effort…a few casts then move. They hooked up, brought some in, released and moved.
That's a moose outside your window Karen...
I bumped into them later in the day further down the river and asked how they did, mentioning that they had exhausted me just watching them plow through so much territory in rapid deep water earlier up above. 18 hookups and 5 salmon brought to hand and released, all in the 18″ range was their tally. His advice?…..for that spot anyway, cast and move, cast and move… I went back up later and got out a ways out to where they had been working in the middle, but without a wading staff?… I backed off before getting out to where they had been battling the current… and the big fish.
That being said, we learn from every outing, about specific spots, and return. Oh yes, and the part about catching myself?..
While I was fishing the Moose River, a side gust of wind took a back cast askew and brought my Joe’s Smelt slamming into the knuckle area on my right pinkie finger. Slammed it right in down to the knuckle bone way past the barb,…actually down to the curve of the hook’s shank. I gave the “line around the hook’s curve and yank it out” technique a quick try but it was in sideways and I couldn’t really depress the shank of the hook down against anything (see following video) so, had to do the “advance the hook all the way through” technique and snip off the barb and drag it back out. Keep those hooks sharp people because,…pushing that through any significant amount of flesh is not fun and the sharper the better. Here a good video demonstrating both techniques. Good for minor hookings but for anything major, in something you can’t live without, seek a doctor instead.
Next trip…. Rangely area in 15 days. Stay tuned. Some say it’s the Good Life