The English explorer Captain George Weymouth sort of named the Saint George River after himself, don’t you think? When the original Curious George sailed the good ship Archangel from Monhegan to Muscongus Bay and up the river in 1605, he pronounced it “a most excellent river” and named it for England’s patron saint and I’m sure it was just a coincidence that the captain and the saint shared a first name.
In Weymouth’s time the river was wild and free in all of its 45 miles from St. George Lake in Liberty down to Thomaston and was a source of fish and shellfish for the Wawenocks. Alewives still return to the river, and as a kid I fished for stripers in the narrows behind the old Maine State Prison, and above the tidewater there were native trout and probably migrating salmon. There are still smelt runs in the St. George and its main tributaries, Mill River and Oyster River and when the Oyster River froze over in winter we fished for little tommycod through holes in the ice. Actually, “fishing” is probably not the right term — we would lie flat on the ice and rest a little homemade gaff on the gravel bottom and when a fish swam by we’d hoick it out and take it home for supper.
When communities formed along the St. George, dams were built, hindering the reproduction migration of the alewives, though they were caught in great numbers in the weirs of Warren and are still caught today. Dam removal has helped, and State stocking has provided a good put-and-take trout fishery in stretches of the river above Warren.
This is the long way of getting to the point: I fished the St. George this week for the first time since I was a kid, and I caught a trout, a 12-inch brookie that until a few days ago had enjoyed a coddled life in a hatchery. To get myself into position to catch the trout I had to shame another angler who was catching trout after trout from a rock just below the remains of the dam at the outlet of Sennebec Pond. “Aren’t your arms getting tired, catching all those trout?” I asked, with a smile on my face. He waded ashore and introduced himself as Joe Macomber, and he showed me his rig — three well-spaced flies under a strike indicator. I waded out to his rock and tried my rig — a single nymph, no indicator. I did manage to land one brookie while Joe and my brother, Peter, chatted on shore. I did not manage to land another fish. Turns out I was soundly outfished by a pro. Joe is a fishing guide, proprietor of the Colorado Angling Company, who spends much of his life with a flyrod in hand in Colorado, Maine, Florida and elsewhere.
After Joe left, a young mom and two boys came down to the river, flyrods rigged. Just as they were arriving, an angler who had been fishing on the far side of the old dam managed to wade across on the footings of the old dam to our side, though the current was swift and the water more than knee-deep in places. The mom’s older son, who was about 12, decided he could traverse that same route, but he only weighed about 80 pounds and after a few steps the current took him to the downstream side of the dam, where he was pinned. Couldn’t move in any direction, and the water threatened to push him onto deep water at any moment. The mom and I fetched a handy pole of deadwood from the bank, and I waded out as far as I could without getting carried away myself. I extended the pole, the kid grabbed it with one hand, managed to pass his flyrod to Peter so he could muckle on with both hands, and we got him to shore, but not before he got a dunking in the 40-degree water. He was shaking and pale as mom bundled her boys, one wet, one dry into the car. Short fishing trip.