Blowin’ In The Wind

Trout Boy and I arrived in Eustis on a mid-June Monday, around noon, and watched the tall spruces bend before a strong and gusty northwest wind under thick grey clouds. No fishing. Tuesday morning it was still too windy to fish on our chosen pond so we used the day to explore familiar territory, revisiting places we had fished before, trolling for fading memories of long-ago adventures. We drove up the Alder Stream road all the way to the deadwater. The Alder Stream was where the Old Man and my brother (the Bro) and I first cast a fly. We would go there every June when school let out and stay in a little camp owned by Norman Field, a Bowdoin friend of the Old Man’s. Even as rank novices we daily filled our canvas creels with the limit of little seven and eight-inch trout, which we ate for breakfasts and dinners, coated with corn meal and pan-fried in bacon fat.

Logging has changed the Alder Stream landscape, not for the better, but there was a day when Trout Boy and I were grateful for the loggers. Late one afternoon, on another of those sentimental journeys, I let my vehicle wander too far to the right and into the wet, sandy shoulder of the road. The wheels sank to the axle and we were mired. Route 27 was miles away. The few widely scattered camps along the road were empty. Then I remembered seeing a log skidder in a clearing a half-mile back. We walked there and I climbed up onto the driver’s perch. The thing seemed simple enough to operate. As I remember, which is not precisely, either the key had been left in the ignition or no key was needed. I started it up, threw it into gear and headed back down the road, feeling quite powerful sitting over those giant wheels and growling engine. We had a tow rope; maybe we found it with the skidder. Trout Boy got behind the wheel of the car, I nudged the skidder forward, the car obediently followed. The skidder didn’t break a sweat. I drove it back to where we had found it, left a five dollar bill under the seat cushion, and we stayed in the exact center of the Alder Stream road until we were back on asphalt.

On this dark, windy and chilly Tuesday we navigated the Alder Stream road without incident. We did not attempt to fish until around five in the afternoon when the winds abated somewhat. “Somewhat” means the pond was still running a choppy sea with occasional whitecaps. Cast downwind and you set distance records. Cast into the wind and you get a faceful of fly line and a Pheasant Tail nymph for a decorative piercing. But on a trout pond you don’t have to make long casts. The trout are not shy of a boat and will often rise within a few feet of it. On a river you might — might — need to make a long cast to reach fish. But I have often seen anglers at Upper Dam strain their arms, shoulders and flyrods to heave long double-haul casts out to where they thought the big ones were swimming, while standing in one of the prime lies in the pool, fish swarming around their waders. I have caught fish off the boot tops of such long-distance anglers when their backs were turned. The great Ted Williams would make hundred-foot-plus casts on the Miramichi and boast to his guide, who would gently point out that his line went over the backs of fifty salmon as it was zinging toward the far shore. On the pond Trout Boy and I made short casts and caught and released some nice trout before the chill wind and the fading light sent us back to a snug camp and a warming cocktail.

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.