True Originals: The Landlocked Salmon of Forest City, Maine
Greetings from Forest City, Maine (pop. 6), far down east and hard on the New Brunswick border. Mrs. Merwin and...
Greetings from Forest City, Maine (pop. 6), far down east and hard on the New Brunswick border. Mrs. Merwin and I have returned to one of our favorite places — Wheaton’s Lodge — where we spent yesterday trolling with streamer flies for landlocked salmon, including the fat and feisty fish in the photo.
It was gray, windy and cold, and East Grand Lake was showing a few whitecaps. I take that to be perfect weather for trolling tandem streamers on a floating fly line. It must have been near perfect, anyway, as we caught 14 of the buggers ranging up to about three pounds.
We sat comfortably in guide Paul Laney’s 20-foot Grand Laker canoe, a wooden-hulled, square-stern affair that’s locally made and as much of the area’s tradition as the salmon themselves. The boat’s length is sufficient to span much of the wind-driven chop and thus equates to a fairly smooth ride.
The salmon, when they whacked a streamer on the surface, spent as much time in the air as in the water. All except for one fish, that spent even more time on a grill as Laney cooked a shore lunch. Now I’ve had better things, I guess, but it’ll take me a while to think of one.
The salmon here are interesting because they are indigenous to this small corner of Maine where the lakes drain into the St. Croix River system and, eventually the Bay of Fundy. The landlocks you might catch elsewhere in New England — and even as far west as a lake in Oregon — all trace their ancestry back to the lakes we’re fishing, propagated by hatcheries dating back to the late 1800s. So our fish are, in fact, true originals. And they can act like it — sometimes ignoring our flies with all the distain of a New York art critic.
At other times, when the bite turns on and we are dialed in with the right streamer pattern, they are gluttons. Reels whirr under the strikes, we smile at the leaps, and high-five each other while slipping yet another salmon back in the water.
Today might be more of the same, or — if I can twist our guide’s arm hard enough away from the salmon — we might be tossing surface bugs for smallmouth bass. Smallies are abundant along these boulder-strewn shorelines, and the moon is close to full. So perhaps they’ll be in shallow water to spawn and ever ready to whack a Sneaky Pete.
Okay, first breakfast. Then we’ll see…