Of brookies, bass, grandsons, and mating bears

Here’s one of my favorite stories from my book A Lifetime of Hunting and Fishing published by North Country Press.

The 14-inch wild native brook trout took the first dry fly offered when I arrived at my favorite pool about a mile from the road in this cold, free-flowing north woods stream. The trout’s stunning spawning colors erased any doubt that there is a God.

In the last 10 years, Maine has stepped up protection of its native brookies, important when you understand that this state has 97% of all the remaining native brook trout lake and pond habitat in the United States.

Wading downstream to my favorite pool holding hundreds of spawning trout (I caught more than 52 in two hours) I’d been forced out of the stream at one point when three large river otters took a disliking to my presence. They were more aggressive than the cow moose and calf I’d walked around at the point I entered the stream.

Not long before I’d driven to camp to enjoy this fall fishing experience, I’d taken my grandson to a favorite pond near my Mount Vernon home, to fish for smallmouth bass. Six-year-old Addison sat in the front of the old aluminum canoe and cast a jig toward shore, working it back as skillfully as a professional bass angler, while his grandfather watched with a mixture of love, pride, and anticipation.

There! An eager bass grabbed the jig, Addi lifted the rod, the fish was on, the fish was up and out of the water! “That’s a huge fish, Addison!” I exclaimed. And his smile told me the public purchase of land surrounding this pond in the Kennebec Highlands was a very wise decision.

Maine added two million acres in the last decade to its public lands inventory to make sure all of us have access to this state’s amazing natural resources. As a river angler, I’ve been blessed to fish magnificent rivers from Alaska to Montana to Québec and Labrador. Maine’s rivers are equally spectacular.

In July, I slipped my kayak into the Kennebec River just 15 miles north of the capital city of Augusta. The 47 smallmouth bass caught that morning were memorable, as were the two dozen bald eagles along the river. Most astonishing – I didn’t see another person! And this section is so undeveloped you’d think you were in the Alaskan bush.

Waters all over the state draw my attention year-round, yet I remain true to my roots. Nothing pleases me more than a day on a small brook, catching brook trout. My first fishing experiences involve dunking worms into tiny brooks. Today I prefer to cast flies.

My favorite brook regularly gives up as many as 100 brookies in a half day of fishing. Except for that day I waded a mile down the brook and got mixed up with a pair of mating bears. That called for a hasty retreat!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.