I almost drowned while fishing the Kennebec River

Here are more of my favorite fishing stories.

Once I learned to fly fish, that became my passion. That happened when we bought our camp on Sourdahunk Lake, which was fly fishing only. Even my dad had to learn to fly fish. And I will never forget the time Linda saw a wall full of fly rods at our house and asked me, “George, do you really need 14 fly rods?” Well of course I did!

There was a time when DIFW stalked brown trout below a dam on the Kennebec River in Fairfield. I drove up there quite a few times to fish, pulling on my waders and wading out into the river where I always caught quite a few of those trout.

One time I stepped a little too far out into the river and I started floating down the river while my waders quickly filled with water. I could have drowned but luckily, after floating about 10 yards, my feet touched bottom and I staggered to shore, where I emptied the water out my waders, and of course, waded back out into the river to keep fishing!

My Dad spent 6 months in the Togus VA Hospital’s hospice unit, and this is one of the stories I wrote about that experience.

Dad breaks out of Hospice to catch trout

It’s no accident that much of my career was spent as an advocate for Maine sportsman, or that I am now writing outdoor news and cohosting a TV show focused on conservation and environmental issues. My Dad, Ezra Smith of Winthrop, set me on this course from birth. In 2013 Dad and I hunted together for the 53rd year, a wonderful privilege for me. I guess we must have fished together for 60 years.

But Dad is now in the Hospice Unit at the Togus V.A., with serious health problems. He is actually thriving there, thanks to the wonderful professional staff and amazing volunteers. We’ve set up a corner of his room with his painting supplies, and he’s doing a lot of painting. His room is stuffed with his paintings and carvings, and last week he had me bring in his keyboard so he could play some music.

And I’ve gotten him out five times to fish for brook trout. On the Togus campus, in a small pond created by a dam on the stream that passes through there, he’s been catching brook trout – right in the middle of some hot sunny summer days. The first visit, I told Dad not to expect to catch anything, trout don’t bite on beautiful sunny afternoons, and he promptly hauled one in on his first cast.

Monday of this week was the first time he got skunked, but as he told the staff at the Hospice Unit when we returned, it was good fishing, poor catching. He didn’t seem at all disappointed. All of the fish were returned to the water, accept one we accidentally killed. Dad’s lady friend Irma got to take that one home for supper.

If you ever feel you might not be getting your money’s worth from your Maine fishing license, consider this. Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife stocks that Togus pond with brook trout, for the patients at the hospital and in the other units. Only the patients are allowed to fish there.

I’d wheel Dad out to the Subaru in his wheelchair, drive over to the pond, wheel him out to the edge of the water, in a nice shady spot, and hand him his light spinning rod. Sitting there, watching him cast, is worth a whole lot more than I paid for my fishing license. And every cast represents a parcel of wonderful memories.





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.