Becoming a flyfisherman. Five women go into the woods.

When an old friend of the ringleader of Maine Women Flyfishers read about the group’s formation and offered his property on a remote wild brook trout pond for a weekend, I was one of six lucky applicants chosen to attend. The sixth person was sick on the overcast Friday morning that began the trip.

Three of us met in a park and ride. Stuffing all our gear into Evelyn’s car, we drove north, connected with the second car and continued into ever less-populated Maine. We stopped for lunch and fuel at the last station before leaving the paved road.

During lunch, as we got to know each other, the ‘scenarios’ began.  Both Evelyn and Wendy are Maine Guides. Wendy had taken her examination only a year before, so they regaled us with the various possible disasters with which they were presented during their testing. We began presenting our own.

The rain the night before was a blessing when we got to the paper company roads. Without it visibility would have been impossible for the second car. And visibility was desirable in the wilderness into which we traveled. Just short of thirty miles later, we arrived at the gate to the property.

Carrying a light load, we walked a half mile of rough, narrow trail. The camp was impressive. In addition to the main cabin, there was a brand new bunkhouse, where four of us would sleep. In true romantic spirit, the new outhouse had an interior glass door behind the wooden one. If privacy were not needed, it would not be necessary to block the view of the pond.

There were several solar panels installed on the roofs of the cabin and a storage shed, so not only were the buildings equipped with electricity, there were also outside lights. Roughing it, Maine-style.

Our host arrived to show us how to operate the heated shower, how to close up camp, run the ATV to get our gear in and out, and, most importantly, the best fishing spot. He had previously told Evelyn that sinking leaders on floating line and maple syrup flies were working well, and she had filled orders from those of us who did not already own them. The circles on the pond were making everyone antsy, even though we were advised that most of them were salamanders.

Trout loved the maple syrup fly on floating line with a weighted leader. Picture courtesy of Rangeley Region Sport Shop in Rangeley, ME.

One trip with the ATV was sufficient to bring in everything we had left at the cars, and we did not waste time before heading to the boats. The original plan had been that there would be two people per boat. When the question arose of who would go alone, Maura said she did not feel comfortable by herself, Wendy wanted to take her daughter, Sarah, and I lied that I was fine by myself.

I have paddled canoes and kayaks but never used a rowboat. While the two other boats headed towards the indicated fishing grounds, I proceeded to go around in circles and erratic pathways but eventually made it down the pond. As soon as I started fishing, I realized there was no anchor in the boat.

Happily, the flow of the pond took me in the general direction of the cabin, so I was not concerned about anything except that I couldn’t stay where I had chosen to fish. As I drifted, I noticed a huge chasm along the bank. The bottom simply dropped out. There should be fish in that hole, but my boat wouldn’t stay to let me find them.

My personal goal had been to be able to attach leaders more readily. “Easy,” said Guide Wendy. “Just go loop to loop.” She tied the end of my line into a loop. While I had been thinking about attaching new tippet, this turned out to be incredibly important to my trip.

I woke early on Saturday, eager to hit the water, but did not want to disturb the others. Which must have been the situation in all four bunks, because as soon as one of us started to quietly emerge we were all up. Evelyn was in the cabin with coffee brewed, and breakfast just about ready, but we all decided we had to fish first.

Fishing before breakfast. Maine Women Flyfishers photos. Courtesy of Evelyn King.

The rods were on the racks on the side of the cabin, and mine was set with the sinking leader and a maple syrup. As I rowed out, equipped now with an anchor, a mayfly landed on the bow. Hatch! I reached into my vest, pulled out floating leader and attached a fly. On the second cast, I had a hit. Didn’t catch him, but got the adrenaline surging. Then there were none. I reattached the sinking leader.

Hours later we all returned for a great breakfast that had turned into a brunch. By mid-afternoon, I had managed to keep my boat under control, go where and when I wanted, and changed leaders and flies at least 40 times. I kept one plastic bag in my vest holding the alternate leader which I would roll up with the current fly attached. If there were a lot of action on top, I used the floater; when that slowed, the sinker. If one fly wasn’t working, I would try another. I was independent!

The streamer of choice was what we started calling Working Girl rather than its real name which we found judgmental, but anything orangey/red/shiny seemed to elicit interest. Interest did not become a fish in the net, which I was rightly attributing to pilot error, but one really firm fight at the shoreline grand canyon broke the line.  There were fish being caught all around the pond. But, the best spot was at the chasm, and Maura managed to pull out a giant!

“The streamer of choice was what we started calling Working Girl rather than its real name which we found judgmental…” Picture courtesy of Rangeley Region Sport Shop, Rangeley, Me.

Finally, it was getting quite dusky and I felt a gentle tug. It didn’t really fight and I decided I had some weeds, which is what the glob looked like as I brought it out of the water. It was a salamander. Big, black salamander. I was horrified because I could not imagine being able to extricate even a barbless hook from that soft creature. Luckily, he had wrapped himself around the fly instead of biting it, and, when shaken, dropped off. It was time to go in.

It is amazing how quickly people acclimate to what they are doing. We were fishing.  We had wonderful conversations at meals, learned a lot of things about each other and fishing. But, mainly, we fished.

Sunday, almost all of us had a turn at Maura’s spot on the chasm. The bank was deceptive, because there were rushes growing up to the drop-off, and it looked as if the ground continued to gradually lower, as it did on other parts of the pond. I was casting beyond the drop and retrieving to it, then counting while the maple syrup was allowed to drip down naturally. There was a sudden jolt when the trout hit. A big trout.  This time I connected and played him well. As I brought him to the side and reached for my net, I began to wonder if I would be able to manage rod, net, fish and not be in the pond myself. From across the pond, Wendy offered to net him. As she rowed over, I continued to play the fish without disturbing him too much. I maneuvered him around the bow to Wendy’s net. A heart-stopper! The biggest trout I have ever caught! We didn’t get a picture, but I didn’t need one. The perfect trip:  goals attained, a record for my book.

And then it was time to return to the other reality. We packed and cleaned up the camp. There was a vacuum, but for some reason no matter which outlet we tried, we couldn’t get it to run.

Scenario:  Five women go into the woods. On the third day none of the women, either singly or in a group, can figure out how to run an electric vacuum cleaner. Question:  Is there a problem? We didn’t think so!


Genie Jennings

About Genie Jennings

My blog, as my life, is composed of many interests. Because you are reading this, we must share at least one. They are divided into categories, so you can easily find others on our mutual topic. Also, you can avoid things on which we might diverge. Things labeled 'genie' are general life musings. When I took up fly fishing in earnest, I was struck by how much it was like skiing to me. It is an intricate activity that is easy to enter, and the more one knows, the more one realizes how little one knows. My comment was, "I would love to have something I love that does not require so much effort." I immediately knew that was not true. It is the striving that makes things valuable, and it is the striving that is life. I am evolving; I am becoming many things, a skier, a fly fisherman, an irrationally self-reliant human. I am becoming 'genie' whoever that might be.