Up to camp during the Dog Days. Siriusly. I recruited (without any trouble, frankly) friend Lou Ureneck to join me. I warned him that the fishing would be poor-to-really-poor, which did not discourage him, which was good because I really wanted him there for other reasons. Lou is the esteemed former editor of the Portland Press Herald and a longtime faculty colleague. He has three books to his credit and is working on a fourth, but it was the second one that was most relevant for this visit. His first book, Backcast, chronicled a trip down a wild Alaska river with his then-teenaged son. The third book, The Great Fire, tells the harrowing tale of the Turkish sacking of Smyrna in 1922, a brutal chapter of what’s known as the Armenian Genocide, and the rescue of more than a quarter-million Armenian and Greek Christians who were being driven into the sea by the advancing Turks.

And in between The Great Fire and Backcast came the book he called Cabin. A few years back, Lou purchased a five-acre plot in western Maine and began, with his brother’s help, constructing a cabin. Both cabin and book turned out well, and I thought if Lou can build a whole cabin he can surely guide me in the re-framing of the windows in my camp.

The camp is old. The little wooden plaque I hung by the door tells visitors it originally was the Upper Dam Blacksmith Shop, circa 1890. Frankly, I don’t know if that is true or not, but I heard that from someone and nailed up the plaque before anyone could contradict it. In days of yore, maybe when the alleged blacksmith shop was converted to a camp, holes were cut for windows. The craftsman who did the interior framing seems to have used whatever was on hand, such as strips of decorative moulding and not-quite-long enough odds and ends of board. I have given a lot of thought to re-framing the windows, but I was too busy fishing to actually do it. I think now that I somehow knew that one day Lou would show up and supervise.
But before we tackled the windows we had a simpler task to complete, hanging a new screen door. I had painted the door on a previous stay at camp, but as I’m sure you know, hanging a door is a two-person job. Because very little about a century-old camp is plumb or square, a bit of trimming was required. With that accomplished we hung the door and stood back to admire our work. Only then did we see that we had hung it upside-down. Out came the hinge screws, right-side-up went the door, before anyone passed by and caught us. (No photo of the mis-hanging exists, so we got away clean. Except that now you know.)
The window treatments went a bit smoother, and Lou and I got two done before we had to leave for home, leaving four for the next visit. I now feel competent to finish the remaining windows myself, but of course Lou is welcome to supervise should he care to return.
We did not cast a fly into the Upper Dam pool, which was quiet due to a low flow of water through the dam and whose waters were warm enough to make a fish perspire. We did go down to the Magalloway where it flows under the Route 16 bridge at Wilson’s Mills, and waded in with rods waving. There were fish rising, but they turned out to be chubs, and despite their apparent hunger we two “expert” anglers could not entice even one to take a fly. When you can’t even catch a chub you know it’s time to go back to camp for a drink.




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.