Tag Archives: Maine

The Amazing Eight, Take II

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Brooke Hidell, on Sebago Lake in Maine.

Alright, I undertook the ambitious attempt last week of naming the eight (okay, nine) best anglers I’ve had the pleasure of fishing with. As soon as I started the list, I knew immediately that it’d require a sequel. There are far too many amazing anglers who have helped me along this journey to name them, or rank them, in a single blog. The following anglers deserve every bit as much credit for being incredible fishermen and great human beings.

Brooke Hidell, Maine: I had the pleasure of fishing with Hidell in 2010 on Maine’s Sebago Lake system, and it was not only a great time, but it was a fantastic learning experience. Hidell fishes in a number of ways, but one of the more interesting ones is trolling flies around the perimeter of Sebago Lake. Now you’re saying: “Trolling flies? What?” But that’s not a typo. Hidell has mastered an art of dragging flies at just the right depth, depending on the season, to target the landlocked Atlantic salmon and lake trout that populate those bodies of water. It’s truly a unique experience because unlike traditional trolling, where you’re fighting the fish on a stout rod, wrenching it up from the depths of the lake, with Hidell’s system the fight is every bit as much fun as if you’d hooked the fish on the fly.

Gary “The Toad” Stevens: I first met Gary when Field & Stream sent me, as an intern, out to Montauk to cover the Fall Surf Classic. Stevens is without a doubt, a hilarious character. The nickname “The Toad,” I believe, came from stunts in his younger days when he used to attempt to jump over an entire car in one bound. It’s that kind of crazy courage that makes him great in the surf. He seemingly has no fear and will chase stripers in any conditions and at all hours of the night. He’s definitely one of the characters that gives Montauk it’s unique and wonderful charm, and fishing with him is an unforgettable experience.

Rom Whitaker, OBX: Whitaker and his son fish one of the most abundant offshore grounds off any coast, the Outer Banks off North Carolina. Whittaker was a master at devising and setting a trolling spread to target the yellowfin tuna and mahi that we were going after in 2010. Finding and catching offshore species like yellowfin can be a difficult task, requiring a tremendous understanding of the climate, the ecosystem, and how even a few degrees in water temperature can make a world of difference in finding fish. If you need proof that Whitaker has it down to a science, click here.

Clay Cunningham, Georgia: Cunningham targets striped bass on Georgia’s Lake Lanier, one of the best striper lakes in the South. Cunningham is a master at finding the exact depth that the freshwater stripers will be holding at, and targeting them with a specific approach dependent upon the season. One of the coolest parts about fishing with Cunningham was seeing these fish actually “blitz,” almost like saltwater stripers, forcing bait into shallow areas and going to town. And if website-name creativity counted for bonus points, this guy would get it with catchingnotfishing.com.

Mickey Delamar, Texas: The first thing Mickey would say if I told him I was including him on this list, is that he doesn’t belong. He was one of the kindest, most humble people I met on my journey across the country. One look at the wall inside his house, however, would prove him wrong. He’s got a trophy wall of largemouth bass mounts, the largest of which, the last time I checked, was 11 pounds. He lives near Texas’s bass-famous Lake Fork, and is hands down one of the best anglers on it.

Kevin Shaw, Texas: Shaw is another Texan, but he’s a master of the saltier side of the state. Shaw targets redfish off the Texas coast and he’s one of the best I’ve ever met. It takes a certain amount of toughness to take to the water either as a guide or in a competitive arena. Sure, you get those bluebird days where the weather’s perfect, but more often than not, something goes wrong. When I fished with Shaw in 2010, it rained. And let me tell you, rain is like everything else in Texas: Bigger. I mean… it poured. But we stayed out on the water, waited through the storm, and kept chasing redfish.

Gregg Arnold, Louisiana: Nope, that’s not a typo, Arnold spells his name with two ‘g’s. Arnold is an absolute master of one of the most famous redfish areas in the world: New Orleans. Arnold is known throughout the state as one of the best redfish guides, and with good reason. When we fished in 2010, he met me first for breakfast. I was a little taken aback at the relaxed start to the day, but when I got in the boat, he started tearing to the nearest flat so fast that I tipped over and nearly flew over the side. Suffice it to say that Arnold might seem laid back and relaxed, but he takes targeting giant redfish very seriously, and he’s great at it.

Jimmy Fee, Cape Cod: Jimmy Fee is by far one of the best surfcasters I have ever met. I’ll share one anecdote, and that should be sufficient evidence to back up the claim. Fee timed the dropping tide on a saltwater pond in Cape Cod one evening, and thought that bigger bass would be pushing bait back near the shore. We crept up near an empty area by a saltwater pond without another fisherman in sight, and we each caught and released bass in the 20-pound range in a matter of hours. That type of understanding of the species and the fishery is what sets him apart from so many other anglers in and around the Cape Cod area, all chasing the striped bass that have made the place famous.

The 22-pound striped bass that I caught that night is one of my favorite fish of all time.

 

 

 

You Can Take it with You: Places we Save

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The Rapidan River in Virginia is as beautiful a place as it gets. I tried to fool a few wary trout with a Tenkara rod in 2010. 

If you get the chance to travel and see the American landscape while you’re young, especially in today’s social-media driven, share-everything culture, you’ll have one beautiful difficulty. I can almost guarantee it. And if you’ve aspired to wrap words around ideas, places, or experiences to keep the heat on, this will become especially vexing.

Because for some places… There are not words.

I could rattle off a few just sitting here: The Florida Keys, The Grand Canyon, the Montana landscape, the Maine Coast, the Outer Banks… but there are too many to list in a blog, a Facebook post or any online list that you’ll read, if we’re being honest.

And what happens when you stand before these natural monuments is something that’s hard to describe, but I’ll try. With most every other experience in life, no matter how far-fetched or absurd, we experience it by sharing it. If we are crossing the street and a car runs a red light and nearly hits us… we share this story, others recognize its absurdity and agree. We get it out, we see our estimation of it mirrored in the reaction of others, and we move on.

When we experience love in the way of marriage, there’s a church full of onlookers to share in our excitement and gratitude and congratulate us. When we experience loss, there’s a church full of loved ones to console us.

These experiences are defined by our sharing them, describing them, and having some type of community around us to verify and reflect their worth and value. If a man lived and died alone in a forest, would he have ever “lived,” in any real sense? Would his death be a “loss,” in the way we typically understand a death to be? It’s hard to say.

But when we stand in front of the Pacific crashing on the beaches of Cape Flattery, Wash., or see the ocean lapping on the shores of Islamorada, Florida, or see the sun light up the sky in the Outer Banks in North Carolina a thousand shades of fluorescent orange, that’s not necessarily an experience that’s defined through sharing, but rather internalizing.

Sure, in today’s social-media driven culture we’re bound to photograph, hashtag, and post images of these places and landscapes… but truthfully we could just as easily sit in an apartment, download a .JPG, and upload it to our timeline. Sharing the experience doesn’t define it, but absorbing it does.

When you see these places that defy description, you can’t help but absorb them. Somehow that beauty that could only exist in nature, could only be manifested by some divinely inspired creator, becomes part of us when we witness it. “We are what we eat,” has become a cultural slogan, but a more realistic and accurate one might be: “We are what we’ve witnessed. We are what we’ve seen.”

Because when this life’s done and we ultimately leave this place for another, we’ll take only the things that we can hold onto, and fortunately material things don’t fall into that category. “You can’t take it with you,” is right. Except for the waves crashing on beaches, the sunrises over forests, the last shades of silver on the clouds from a setting moon, or the afternoon shadows playing on a meandering river. Those, when we absorb, we keep. And we carry. For today, tomorrow and forever.

 

The Ten Most Incredible Fisheries I’ve Ever Experienced

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This Amberjack convinced me Virginia’s fishery belonged in the top ten.

We all have that bucket-list of places we’d love to fish, and it makes for some great winter conversation with fellow fishermen… because dreaming’s free. But what about the places we have been blessed enough to experience? It’s equally important to think about the water we’ve been fortunate enough to fish… and these are my the top ten that I’ve fished in my 29 years.

 

10. Montana Trout: Some will be shocked that this isn’t higher, but keep in mind I’m only talking about my personal experience, and I’ve only fished Montana in December. Still, fishing the Madison River with Fly Rod & Reel Editor Greg Thomas was a memory I’ll cherish forever. The most amazing part about Montana, for a kid from the East Coast, is the stunning beauty of the scenery you’re surrounded by.

9. Texas Border Bass: There’s no doubt that an element of danger adds some excitement to any fishery, and when you’re on the border lakes between Texas and Mexico, you’re in an area that’s been notoriously problematic for U.S. law enforcement, but that makes you all the more appreciative that you’re able to, with relative safety, pursue some of the U.S.’s largest bass right where the lower 48 ends.

8. Virginia AJsI have never fought any fish that left me as completely tired, worn and whipped as an amberjack off the coast of Virginia. That alone puts this fishery in the top ten.

7. South Carolina Sharks: There’s a guy named Tommy Scarborough who is a South Carolina legend. He’ll laugh hysterically while a South Carolina shark “Whoops your butt…”on light tackle, and that’s part of the fun

 6. Montauk Striped Bass: I cannot, nor will I try, to describe Montauk in all its funky awesomeness in a couple sentences. But it is the striped bass capital of everywhere.

5. New Orleans Redfish: Start a conversation with a Texan and a Louisiana fishermen about who has bigger redfish… and you’d better wear something bulletproof. But the fishing culture around the Big Easy where you’re chasing redfish in water that came sometimes barely cover their backs is one of America’s truly unique ones.

4. Seattle Salmon: Seattle gets a bad reputation for wet weather… but here’s the catch: That’s from people who’ve never fished there. Sure, it rains. And if you’re on the water when the silver salmon bite is on with a guy like Chris Senyohl,it can be pouring silvers and chum salmon. You’re a fisherman… how dry do you want to be?

3. Maine Salmon: Grand Lake Stream, Maine, is not the southern coastal part of the state that most New Englanders envision when they think “Maine,” and I promise you it’s not where most of those “Maine” stickers you see on the back of S.U.V.s come from. On GLS, you can wade crystal clear water and cast flies to landlocked atlantic salmon that will sit right in front of you, taunting you, while passing up your fly.

2. The Keys: The beauty of the Florida Keys defies description. Every day when you wake up and look at the water, it’s as though some part of hardened cynicism you’d developed along the way in life just melts. And the number of species you can potentially target on one given day is greater than almost anywhere else in the lower 48.

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My cousin and I wading the Brewster flats in 2001.

1. The Brewster Flats, Cape Cod: Right on the elbow of the Cape, you can wade out almost a mile and cast light-tackle gear to striped bass that feed on one of the world’s largest tidal flats. The mile walk out is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever been lucky enough to transverse. Again, there’s some danger here… when the water floods the flat as the tide comes in, you’d better be high and dry. But the chance at connecting with a striped bass, on light tackle gear, hip-deep in the Atlantic, almost a mile from shore, is one that’s hard to come by anywhere else on the coast. (Disclaimer: Our entire enormous Irish Catholic family packed mini-vans and crammed into a rental house on the Cape for a few weeks each summer when I was growing up, so this one has some sentimental value, boosting it to number 1).