Libby Camps, Day Two: The Dream Stream

The wild, native Maine brook trout of the North Woods are stunningly beautiful.
All photos by Charles Hildick-Smith

Our second day at Libby Camps in the Maine North Woods dawned clear and calm, perfect weather for a short flight and a long day on the water. After flying the guides and gear over to a lake at the western border of Baxter State Park, lodge owner and pilot Matt J. Libby came back to get Charlie and me, as well as guest Jerry Birchmore, who would be joining our adventure. Flying in floatplanes is always exciting, and soaring over a stunning wilderness, with Mount Katahdin in the distance, was a cool experience.

Loading up for the short flight to the lake, where the stream begins.

We touched down on the lake, which is the headwaters of a gorgeous stream that tumbles through a piney forest in a series of pools, pocketwater stretches, and sweeping bends. The plan was to hike downstream for a little over a mile and then fish our way back up to the lake. The key to making it all work, said guide Jeff LaBree, is time management: there’s so much good water that you have to keep forcing yourself to continue upstream or you’ll never make it in time to meet the plane home.

The views from the floatplane are amazing.

We finally stopped on a gravel bar, where we rigged up with smelt imitations. Jeff pointed out a deeper run along the far bank and told me to wade halfway across the stream to present the fly from above. On my first cast, a trout took a big swing at the fly but didn’t eat it. But a few casts later, he smashed the fly, and the first of many fish came to the net. Whereas I’m used to catching most fish as a streamer swings across the current, the trout in this stream often hit as the fly came straight upstream, so it took a lot of mending to achieve just the right angle in some spots.

We hiked for a little over a mile and then bushwhacked a bit to get to the water.

For the next seven hours, our two fishing groups leap-frogged each other upriver, catching trout in almost every spot we stopped. The brookies were large by my Vermont-mountain-stream standards–mostly 10 to 14 inches–but there were no lunkers landed. We moved a few much bigger trout but couldn’t get them to take in the bright, sunny conditions. There is so much great-looking water that it was tough to pass some stretches by. “Time management!” Jeff would proclaim, forcing us to continue inexorably upstream. I could easily imaging spending three or four days fishing what we covered.

My first hook up of the day came from a narrow slot against the far bank.

At one point, Jeff stopped at a short pool that actually didn’t look promising at all to me. When he saw my skepticism, he said, “Humor an old man, would ya?” So I waded in and proceeded to catch four trout from a spot I would have passed by without a second thought. Jeff grinned from ear to ear each time he dipped the net to receive another brookie. “Works every time,” he chuckled.

This beauty nailed a smelt imitation.

As I write this, sitting in the lodge after dinner, I have that wonderful feeling of being both exhausted from the day’s exertions and elated by the awesome experience. I’ll leave you with a few more of great shots Charlie took that really capture the flavor of the experience. Tomorrow, we fly out again, in search of landlocked salmon. Stay tuned.

Click here to read about Day One of our trip.

We met a gorgeous friend at the first pool where we stopped to fish.
At every bend, the river served up great views.
We caught fish in almost every pool we stopped at, and sometimes four or five trout came to the net.
Even the photographer got in on the action.
Photo by Phil Monahan

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