Dear Diary

It’s useful to keep a fishing log, or angling diary, if you don’t succumb to angleritis and stretch, push, pull and hammer reality into a better story. An honest accounting of the day’s fishing — which many people believe that we, as a class, are incapable of — can be instructive as well as humbling when read in future years. My log from May 27, 2008, at Upper Dam:

 Cold and very windy. Fishing impossible. Tried new waders and fished near shore for an hour and caught nothing. Sat on a pier of the dam and watched a school of trout of various sizes swim back and forth along the downstream edge of the dam. Went to Oquossoc. Saw a bear. Bought a pair of oars and oarlocks. In the evening the wind died down. Caught two 10-inch trout on a Doug’s Smelt.

No one was watching. Those trout could have been logged in at 15 inches or more. In reality, though, they were nothing special for that piece of water and I understood as I wrote the words that someday my own honesty would be useful in tracking my late-May fishing successes and (more likely) failures. Three days later, on a pond:

Late in the afternoon fish were cruising for Mayfly nymphs, taking them just under the surface. I made a perfect cast to one with a Pheasant Tail and he sucked it in. I struck too hard and the tippet snapped.

Or, a few days later at the East Outlet:

Rain. Fished in the tail of the dam pool, no success. Moved down below the railroad bridge and fell face first into the water. Went to Greenville to dry waders, vest, jacket and wash/dry other clothes.

Those sorts of entries keep one humble. There are success stories as well, and the cumulative effect of the entries through the years reveals patterns. Insect hatches appear more or less on schedule. Effective fly patterns change from week to week. As I read my log entries now, my regret is that I was not more detailed in my observations about insect life, water temperatures, and weather conditions. I routinely promise to change, and routinely fail at that. I enjoy writing about fishing and now that I am writing for the Bangor Daily News I will be more thorough in my log accounts, because the more detail I gather in the field the more informative my stories will be. As a writer I understand the value of vacuuming up as much material as possible; if when I sit down to write I have more than I need, great. If I have less than I need, it’s probably too late to fill in those blanks.

Here is a blank I can fill in. In the May 27 entry I refer to a Doug’s Smelt, tied by my friend Doug Mawhinney, formerly of Mexico, Maine and now of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Doug is a fly-tyer of wondrous ability and Doug’s Smelt is one of several of his patterns that I fish regularly and with success. Another of Doug’s creations is a deadly fly whose name I have sworn (to my brother) to keep to myself. I did reveal it some years ago in an earlier incarnation of this blog, and one day I was walking down the path toward the dam pool when I heard my brother congratulating another angler on catching (and releasing) a good fish. When the Bro asked, rather impertinently, what fly had been used the angler replied “(name of now-unmentionable fly).” Shocked, the Bro demanded, “Where did you learn about that fly?” The answer: “I read about it in a blog by some guy named Mills.” Curses filled the air, directed at me, though my brother had not yet seen me approaching. Lesson learned, but not noted in my log.

Nick Mills

About Nick Mills

Full disclosure: I was not born in Maine, alas! I was born in Massachusetts, but the family moved to Maine when I was eleven, and I grew up in Thomaston. My dad was skipper of one of the draggers that sailed out of Rockland, in the days when it was a rough-tough working fishing port. When he came in from the sea his favorite activity was freshwater fishing with me and my brother, Peter. We learned together to flyfish for trout in the Alder Stream in Eustis. Once hooked on the sport, pun intended, I fished at every opportunity in every place I could -- in the rivers, streams and ponds of Maine; in the mountain ponds of Utah, where I was stationed for a year in the Army; in high Andean lakes in Colombia, where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer; even in a lagoon that surrounded one of Saddam Hussein's palaces in Baghdad. I tried once to go trout fishing in northern Afghanistan, when the U.S.S.R. occupied that country; a landslide blocked my path, but that led to a more interesting adventure, which I will tell you about in a future post.