Charles W. (Charles Woodbury) Stevens.

Fly-fishing in Maine lakes; or, Camp-life in the wilderness online

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tributaries of the Androscoggin,
with which it unites a few miles
below its outlet from Umbagog

Although a considerable river of something like
one hundred miles in length, and to be found on
all modern maps of Maine, it is evidently not a
school river, as I ascertained one day when I asked
four Boston schoolgirls what they knew about it.

It rises in Canada, and flows through mountain
gorges, and beautiful meadows, now rushing with
mighty swiftness through rocky passes, and as
silently flowing among the dark shadows of mighty

It is a very crooked river. One of our guides


toid us that it was the last one made, and it had to
be coiled in wherever they could find a chance to
put it. I should think so. A corkscrew placed
by the side of it on the map looks straight.

Thirty-three miles from its mouth as you follow
its winding stream, and about eighteen as the crow
flies, due north, is Parmachenee Lake, a charming
sheet of water, encircled by hills of greater or lesser
height, some attaining to the dignity of mountains,
and all beautiful.

I had often heard of this remote spot, as being
well worth a visit for the beauty of its scenery as
well as its attractions to the sportsman ; for there the
trout, the deer, and the lordly moose abound, or
rather are to be found if one is fortunate enough to
find them.

I had also learned that it was difficult of access
on account of wearisome " carries " across which
we woirld be obliged to walk.

But as this would be to our advantage, so far as
our sporting prospects were concerned, I deter-
mined to make it a visit, and in the early summer
of 1878 made up a small party for a two- weeks'
trip to that locality.

While we were satisfied that trout are plenty in
the lake and surrounding streams, our first experi-
ence was not a success, owing to the lateness of the


season, very bad weather, and " high water." Still
the attractions of the trip are so many and varied,
that I think, notwithstanding our bad luck, there is
not one of the party but hopes and fondly expects
sooner or later to revisit this charming lake.

After much questioning of the few acquaintances
that had preceded us, we determined upon the fol-
lowing route, which proved in every respect a most
delightful journey.

Leaving Boston in the Portland boat, we arrive
at the latter city in ample season for a good break-
fast, before starting again by rail.

We take the train on the Grand Trunk Railroad
for North Stratford, arriving there about four o'clock
in the afternoon.

Here we chartered a team, and were driven thir-
teen miles to Colebrook, N.H., over a beautiful
road which follows the banks of the Connecticut
River nearly the whole distance. At Colebrook we
spent the night at the Parsons House, a well-kept
hotel whose landlord did every thing to make our
short stay a pleasant one.

We were here met by a small party of Vermont
friends, who were to accompany us on our excur-
sion, and a very agreeable acquisition we found
them. At eight in the morning our conveyance
was driven to the door ; and an inviting sight it was


to look upon, the vehicle known as a Mountain
Ranger, very comfortable and roomy, with four fine-
looking horses, who appeared as much pleased at
their starting out as ourselves.

Our destination was Errol Dam, on the Andros-
coggin River, twenty-one miles from Colebrook,
through the famous Dixville Notch.

The day was not all we could have wished ; but
our party of seven was a happy one, and the ladies
were in the best of spirits.

Our route lay up the Mohawk River, which, flow-
ing from the north, empties into the Connecticut at
Colebrook. Many were the pools that we saw as
we drove along by the river-side, and strongly were
we tempted to stop and wet our lines, for we knew
that the trout were there. We had been informed
that it was a stream well worth the fishing.

Soon we began to ascend toward the Notch, and
the forest closed in about us. This, for two miles,
an unbroken wilderness of leaves when suddenly
we came out from the dark shadows, and found
ourselves at the Gate of the Notch. It is one of
the most sublime pieces of scenery this side the
Rocky Mountains. Entirely different in its char-
acteristics from the Notch of the White Mountains,
it has peculiar grandeurs of its own, which must be
seen tc be realized, as they cannot be described,


certainly not by so feeble a pen as mine. Vast
pinnacles of rock, some over five hundred feet in
height, tower like cathedral spires upon either side
of us, as we pass through the narrow defile.

One striking feature is the decaying and crum-
bling appearance of the huge cliffs, a sort of worn-
out look, the few bushes upon their sides brown
and scraggy. At one point in the Notch we look
down from our wagon-seats into a vast ravine, where
the sunlight scarcely penetrates, and where snow
lies unmelted throughout the summer. A promi-
nent feature is Profile Rock, the profile equalling
in outline and size that of Franconia Notch. Al-
together, it is a wonderful piece of scenery ; and I
have no hesitation in saying that the drive from
Colebrook to Errol Dam, through this mountain-
pathway, is one of the finest in America. After
passing the Notch, our course lies beside the banks
of the Clear Stream River, eleven miles to Errol

We reached the Dam at noon, and found Bragg's
Hotel a very inviting place, so much so, that,
deciding to tarry, we spent the afternoon in fishing
at the Dam, and the night with our agreeable host,
who showed us every kindness.

The proper route from this place to Parmachenee
is by steamer through the Androscoggin and Magal-


loway Rivers, to a point distant about ten miles,
Brown's Landing. But in the absence of the
steamer, which is a very notional craft, coming
and going at its own sweet will, we were obliged
to again take the " Mountain Ranger," and drive a
distance of seventeen miles over a mountainous
road, partly in Maine, and partly in New Hamp-
shire, to the extreme end of civilization, where
carries and boating commence.

Changing from our " Mountain Ranger " to a
buck-board, we encounter our first carry of two
miles, and a dismal, rough, and dreary ride it is.
We pass the night at Fred Flint's camp, near the
Aziscohos Falls, on the Magalloway. For good
cooking, a neat table, and a comfortable bed, com-
mend us to this oasis in the wilderness. Surely
Fred is blessed with a wife worth the having.

For our thirty-three miles of boating, we are
ready at an early hour the following morning ; and
at six o'clock our three boats push off from the
landing, each propelled by a willing pair of oars.

From our start at the falls, the entire distance
to the lake lies through a virgin wilderness, not a
clearing, not a sign of a human habitation, save
a solitary hunter's camp, where we landed and
lunched in primitive style. The trip, were it not
for its novelty, would be somewhat tiresome ; but


the scenery was constantly changing, and we were
not there to be tired, and the hours passed pleasantly.
It took just eleven of them to accomplish the dis-
tance, it being up-hill work all the way. To note
the difference between up and down hill, in river-
boating, we were but six hours in making the return
passage. We reached the landing, five miles from
the lake, the river, on account of rapids, being
impassable the remainder of the distance, at five
o'clock, and a comfortable walk of a mile brought
us to Spof. Flint's camp, on the shore of Sunday
Pond, where we spent the night.

In the morning we took our departure through
the woods, on foot, for the lake, distant four miles.
We were two hours in crossing this carry, not
rapid locomotion, but fast enough to be agreeable.
Considering the non-macadamized road over which
we passed, the ladies stood the jaunt remarkably
well. Our baggage followed us on a horse-sled.

To say that we lifted up our voices with joy and
gladness when the waters of the charming lake
greeted our sight, would certainly be within the
range of truth, and close range at that.

Very grateful was the change from our weary
tramp to the delightful sail across the lake, in a
commodious boat to Camp Caribou, beautifully
situated upon a small island near the farther shore.


With John Danforth, designer and builder, an
adept woodsman, hunter, and guide, a bunch of
muscle, and a brain worth the ownership, we spent
at his hostelr^, Camp Caribou, nearly a week ; an
enjoyable one, although the elements were against
us, it being a week of almost continuous rain, and
though in the latter part of June colder than
average May weather.

Our fishing was all done from boats within a
radius of four or five miles from camp.

There are large trout in the lake, and one of
three and a half pounds, a beautiful fish, was taken
by one of our party ; while during our stay Mr.
Burroughs of the Boston Museum Company, who
with his friend Mr. Carlos was encamped on the
shore of the lake, took one with the fly weighing
four and three-quarter pounds.

As I before stated, our luck was poor. We took,
comparatively, but few fish, and not many of even
a pound weight. At Little Boy's Falls, where the
best fishing is usually had, we did nothing, owing to
" high water." At Little Boy's Pond, near the falls,
upon which we put our boats, we had fair fishing in
point of numbers, though the trout were small.

The camp conveniences, table, boats, and guides
are excellent, and John Danforth is the head and
front of it all. Too much cannot be said in his
praise, as all who know him will attest.


Our journey home, varying our route by return-
ing via Fabyan's, the White-mountain Notch, and
North Conway, with the ascent of Mount Kear
sarge, was one of great enjoyment, and the entire
trip one abounding in beauty and romance.

Our party still believe there is good trout-fishing
at Parmachenee Lake, and, taken all in all, feel
that we are justified in recommending it to others.
The expense of the excursion is more than that to
Rangeley, Moosehead, or Grand Lake, but, for those
who seek for more seclusion than these afford, is
much to be preferred.

Should any of my readers wish to take the trip,
I should be pleased personally to give them any
information in regard to guides, expense, etc., not
here set down, as this does not include " the whole



[LAINLY, it happened in this way :
Tom had often driven by the pond
in summer ; and, occasionally stop-
ping to gather a handful of the
beautiful lilies that float upon its
surface, he one day met a hardy
tiller of the soil, with whom he chatted as he
tossed the fragrant flowers towards the sparkling
eyes in the carriage.

" Pickerel, sir ! you can say pickerel. Why,
there's no eend to 'em, sir, if you takes 'em a
cloudy day when the moon is right."

" Do they ever fish for them in the winter, my

" Well, not much. You see, the boys round here,
they likes smelting better ; and the city chaps, as a
gineral thing they don't much like fishing through



the ice ; it's apt to give 'em the rheumatics and
sich ; but once in a while a party, they does come
down. (Beg yer pardon, ma'am ! Oh ! he won't
bite : he only barks.) And, when they do, they
usually makes a haul. There was two chaps come
down last winter when she first froze up, and sot
twenty lines, and carried off nigh two hundred as
pretty creeturs as ever you saw; but they ain't
many of 'em as likes the fun."

"Well, sir, I rather enjoy such sport in the
winter, and I may get up a party, and come down
and try them ; and, by the way, if you will keep
this rather quiet you live near here, I judge? "

" Oh, yes ! close yonder, right by the pond."

"Well, take this, and buy something for the

" I'm 'fraid you're too generous ; but mum's the
word. I sha'n't know nothing about the fishing
arter this."

Now, Thomas is not an unbelieving Thomas, as
was he of old, nor does he forget any thing in a
hurry ; and that night, though one of the warm-
est of last summer's many warm ones, he .woke
his wife calling for more blankets, dreaming, en-
thusiastic soul, that already he stood, with a happy
party, around the dark, bubbling holes, anxiously
waiting for the tiny^ag to give timely notice of the
first bite.


And so it came about, that a fortnight or so ago
he poured this weight of sport which had long bur-
dened his mind into the ears of a few delighted
listeners, who in early spring, with rod and reel,
are wont to tempt the wary trout from lake and
stream, rugged fellows they, willing to breast the
icy breezes and the drifted snow for a good day's
sport and the prospect of a generous spoil.

First, there was Charley W., who delights to see
his fellow- men well clothed, and who, when sum-
mer breezes blow, dons the seaman's garb, and
from the deck of his swift-going yacht drinks in
the grandeur of old ocean's waves, as the beautiful
craft settles down to her work, and parts the water
like a thing of life.

And Johnny L . Every one knows Johnny ;

a perfect Apollo, both in form and voice ; good at
a story, better at a song ; and, if report be true
(and sure it must when from such a source it
comes), to his already shining stars he has lately
astonished the world, and a neighboring city, by
appearing as a "Burlesque Comet."

Then a "Mammoth Cod," a half-amphibious
fellow, who likes the water most every way except
as a steady beverage, another Charley, fond of
fun and fishing, he must needs be stirred up at the
glowing tale, and consents most willingly to join
the merry crew.


In the language of the novelist, " the auspicious
day at last arrived," which was to furnish sport in
abundance ; and in the best of spirits, our lunch-
baskets well filled, our fishing-gear, supplied by
" Prouty," consisting of item : one axe, one long-
handled skimmer, one ditto cold-chisel, twenty-four
patent lines, with red-flannel-flag attachments,
all snugly stowed in the baggage-car ; our little
party augmented by Professor Gerry, who was to
have charge of the whole (hole) proceedings,
we rattled out of the Old Colony Depot, bound for
Lily Pond, Cohasset.

One little incident occurred before starting which
might, to a less-determined company, have proved
a drawback. Tom, with proper foresight, had the
day before purchased a bucket of live bait, cunning
little minnows, who seemed as happy in their nest
of eel-grass, tucked up nicely together, as though
swimming in their native element. Now, Mrs.
J , Tom's better half, discovered this same buck-
et, and the absence of any water in which the lit-
tle chaps might swim ; and, in the kindness of her
heart, poured in a supply, which, under some cir
cumstances, would have proved quite beneficial to
their general health ; but in this case it only damp-
ened their spirits, and our live bait became dead
bait. Poor Tom ! he said he couldn't scold, it
showed such a good disposition.


But we took along our dead " enticements," and
left word with a friend to have another bucketful,
with more life, follow us in the next train.

In due time we arrived at Cohasset, where we
were met by a friend of Tom's, Mr. Hall of Marsh-
field, whose large experience in winter fishing, dis-
played in determining the latitude and longitude of
the holes, the length of the lines, and such matters,
added, undoubtedly, to the success of our day's
fishing. A ride of about two miles brought us to
the pond : in regard to which ride, too much praise
cannot be awarded to our friend Hall, whose win-
ning ways so overcame the stable-keeper, that he
reduced the price of the job from five dollars to
two-fifty, and no extra charge for bringing up the
bucket of bait.

As we drove upon the snow-covered ice, a thrill
of pleasure so filled each breast that it welled up in
one prolonged shout of rejoicing, so loud and long
that it actually started our horse into a trot, the
first since leaving the depot. As we disembarked
from our rude vehicle, known as a pung, a gray-
haired individual rushed across the ice, and was
soon engaged in earnest converse with Tom and
friend Hall, as to our objective point for hole-
building. This proved to be the old gent of last
summer, who lived " yonder, close by the pond."


And now, behold the professor with his axe,
Hall with the skimmer, Tom and Johnny exploring
the little island for the spot and material for a fire,
the two Charleys arranging the lines, and selecting
the most lifelike of the dead minnows for bait,
while the kind old gent wandered calmly about,
telling such fish -stories as would cause the most
stoical to glow with anticipation.

The holes are cut, the lines are set, the little
flags all ready to rise at the slightest indication of
a nibble, and ah ! there goes a flag, the first
thing ! Run, Johnny ! go it, Tom ! False alarm,
was it ? Must have been the wind. A long wait ;
patience : they don't bite till the noise is stilled, so
the old gent tells us.

A longer wait ; a kicking of shins, and rubbing
of noses to keep warm ; nary bite.

Oh, if that live bait would only come ! It don't ;
and ancient gent takes a quiet nipper of old Med.,
and a dollar from the general fund, and retires to
his cottage " over yonder."

Meantime our fire burns brightly, and we gather
round it, watching anxiously our little flags; but
somehow they don't go up.

A boy, an educated youth, joins our party, who
will persist, in spite of Tom's logic, that the salt
water does not flow into the pond. Innocent child,


unused to guile ! Ah, there comes the live bait !
Now we shall have them ! Quick, Johnny, be live-
ly ! Too much time lost already ! There ! Thun-
der ! They don't seem to notice the difference.
Not a flag rises. Well, we are all getting hungry,
and lunch is proposed, to which no one objects ;
when, just as the baskets are opened, and all are
gathered about them, up goes a flag, and five pair
of legs run quickly to the spot, and our first prize
is landed on the ice.

Isn't he a beauty? Hall soon extemporizes a
pond in which we deposit our darling ; and we re-
sume our feast, attended by the " knowledgeous "
boy, whose early education in the matter of eating
had evidently not been neglected. An ice-cutter,
engaged on a distant part of the pond, a ragged,
unkempt genius, also favored us with his company,
and chopped down a few trees for our fire, in
regular backwoodsman style. We were not obliged
to board him however, as he procured his dinner
from one of the trees he cut down, which consisted
of a quantity of overgrown black ants (fact) , which
he seemed to relish hugely. We had heard of such
a diet among the Digger Indians, but hardly ex-
pected to see it in Norfolk County. Being desirous
of knowing where this uncouth specimen was born
and reared, I interviewed him to that effect.


"Well," said he, " I was raised in Scarborough,
Me." He had been, like the "Boots" at Holly
Tree Inn, "a'most everywhere," had fought with
the boys in blue, and later against the Indians on the
plains ; had raised wheat in Minnesota, and felled
trees in Michigan.

As I was well acquainted in Scarborough, a little
town near Portland, Me., numbering some thousand
souls, three-quarters of whom bear the name of
Libby, to test his truthfulness I asked him if he was
acquainted with any person of that name in the
town. His answer was more expressive than ele-
gant :

" Libby ! G d ! Every man in town's name's
Libby, but one, and his name's Libby Johnson."

While partaking of his hearty meal, our joyous
youth became communicative, and informed us that
the kind old gent who had so raised our expecta-
tions had passed the last few years in State's Pris-
on. At hearing which, Tom didn't look at the
flags for seventeen minutes. During the hour and
a half passed in eating and d rying our feet, one
more poor pickerel was insnared, evidently the last
of his race, for not another came to taste our
tempting bait ; and soon the lengthening shadows
warned us that it was time to discontinue our
sport (?).


So, with great reluctance (?) we prepare to leave
the fruitful scene of our day's enjoyment. A half-
dollar more from the general fund for the boy who
wound up the lines, and with our two pickerel in a
bucket of water, for Tom's aquarium, we start for
home. Not much was said as to the grand result.
There was rather a strong feeling manifested by the
two Charleys, that we should have done better if we
had tried Billerica Pond. But then, there were
only five of us besides the professor and the boy,
and but twenty-four lines ; so two pickerel weren't
so bad after all.

It occurred to me the other day, that I would
like to know what the cost of "them air" two fish
might be ; and I give you the result of my fig-
ures :

One axe $2 50

One long-handled skimmer I oo

One long-handled cold chisel .... o 75

One buckeylead bait i oo

One bucket live bait i oo

Express on ditto o 50

24 patent lines, with flags @ 5c 6 oo

10 car-fares, @ 5oc 5 oo

Sleigh from depot to pond 2 50

Perquisite to kind old gent i oo

Perquisite to good young man .... o 50

Lunch for six 4 oo

3 bottles Leather Preservative @ $r.5o . . 4 50

Total ........ $30 25


Which, divided by the aforesaid two pickerel, giv-
eth the cost of each at $15.12^. Very aristocratic
pickerel. Don't you think so ?

Of course the above does not include our cigars,
and a little something to keep the cold out while
we built the fire ; that's understood.

Not wishing to have this spot all to ourselves, I
have given you the name of the pond, and beg to
annex the following diagram of it and its surround-
ings, that should my readers wish to try their luck,
they may know where to go, and how it looks when
they get there.

[The book-maker says my little sketch has got to
be placed at the top of the next page, and he sends
to me in great haste to fill up this gap. Now, if I
had had more experience in book-making, I should
have several " chunks " written up to supply such
wants ; but as I have not, I will use the space by
showing my readers the uncertainty of fishing, and
the aptness of the phrase, "fisherman's luck : "

A few days after our excursion, a party of gentle- -
men from Cohasset, who were in the habit of fishing
the pond in the summer, visited it for the same
purpose, and, with about the same number of lines
which we had, "toiled all day," and caught nothing.
This is a lie, but it fills up the space just the same.]



A A. Lily Pond, Cohasset, beneath whose liquid depths, etc., etc.

B. The cot where lived the gray haired sire (liar).

C. The road to the pond, o'er which young John, with flying feet,
pursued the sleigh.

D D D D. Holes (24 in number), by our artist, " Gerry."

E. The log that furnished the ice-cutter's repast.

F. This is the fire that Tom built.

G G G. This is the island surrounding the fire that Tom built.
H. Rock behind which Charley hid the Leather Preservative.
* I. Crack in the ice caused by Johnny's sitting down suddenly.
K. Pond constiucted by Hall for keeping our fish.
L. M. Our fish.

I have endeavored to make this so clear, that the
most educated scholar can understand it ; but I
hope this picture of a winter day's fishing is not
drawn in such bright colors that the pond will be
overrun with fishermen, and our future sport


^HERE the Androscoggin rises,

'Mid the waving pines of Maine,
Rushes o'er its pebbly bottom,

Swelled by spring and autumn rain,
Four charming lakes of wide expanse,
Lie sheltered by the leaf-clad hills ;
Whose sparkling waters gather strength
From coolest spring and clearest rills.

Beneath their waves, the wary trout

Cleave the clear water as they play,
Or tempted by the bright-winged fly,

Dart to the surface for their prey.
The screaming loon, betokening storm,

Swift cuts the air in stately flight,
Or proudly sailing with the breeze,

Dives to escape the fowler's sight.

On the green banks, the lofty trees

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Online LibraryCharles W. (Charles Woodbury) StevensFly-fishing in Maine lakes; or, Camp-life in the wilderness → online text (page 9 of 11)