The lure of the water’s bounty

Posted Oct. 20, 2011, at 9:21 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 20, 2011, at 11:23 p.m.

Every autumn two species return to Grand Lake Stream: landlocked salmon and the passionate fly fishermen who pursue them.

“You know, there’s something about these fish. They bring you back,” said Joel Anderson, while casting a streamer last Tuesday after dark in the quiet waters above the dam.

“I went to Montana this year and had some amazing fishing for brown trout and rainbow trout — but there’s something about landlocked salmon. I mean, I just hooked a fish down there on Evening Pool, swinging a wet fly. As soon as I hit that fish he was three feet in the air, line screaming off the reel.”

Grand Lake Stream is a 3½-mile-long river connecting West Grand Lake and Big Lake in Washington County. In the fall, when the water cools down, salmon enter the river from each lake. The hard-fighting fish have been attracting sportsmen for decades. There are more registered guides per capita here than anywhere else in Maine.

“The whole community caters to the fishermen. It’s all about the fishing,” said Anderson of Auburn. “You walk downstream and you walk through somebody’s yard, and the people are friendly. They say, ‘Yeah, walk right through.’ They’re not standoff-ish at all. They welcome the fishermen because they realize we bring the money into the area. We keep this place alive.”

The next day, an hour before sunrise, Anderson is back in the water, this time up to his thighs in the swift-moving water below the dam. A headlamp under his ball cap casts a warm light on his hands as he ties on a new fly. Soon it will be light out and he’ll have plenty of company in the popular pool.

“The place is not a secret. It’s crowded, but you know, you can’t find better right now in mid-October, not in Maine. This is as good as it gets.”

Well, actually, it’s as good as it got. The extended catch-and-release season ended Thursday.