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For a student of Colby College, the fall is a magical time. The semester breathes new life into our social and academic endeavors as we bask in the vibrant oranges, deep reds and bright yellows of the autumn months. Suddenly and without warning, new and familiar faces flock to Mayflower Hill from all corners of the world, like a pod of salmon moving up the Roach to spawn. Analogous to the dynamic Maine trout stream, each student carves out their own niche in the greater institution of our school. Some prefer to act or to dance, to hike up mountains or to play sports, to cook or to photograph. And still, some others find the need to feed an addiction for which an FDA approved treatment medication has yet to be developed nor even desired. I am of course referring to fly-fishing. Thanks to the small size of my school, I quickly discovered several other guys as enthusiastic about the sport as myself. A couple had been fly fishing for a few years like myself while one or two were completely new to it but quite eager to learn the basics and develop their modest skills. Together we have explored this great state and deepened our understanding of fly-fishing, the Real Maine that too many of our classmates never experience, what “spring” means up here, Maine Italians (I call ‘em grinders), and women. Below are a few brief introductions to the Fishing Boys as we are known, my roommates and some my dearest friends I’ve made. NOTE: I do apologize for the range of quality of photographs. With 8+ people taking photos all over the two different rivers from the report below, some were better equipped than others. (ranges from my fogged up iPhone to Casey’s very expensive camera). Meet Jake aka “The Herron”: Resident Old Man Perspective/Advice Provider Jake is an Old Man at heart. John Gierach and Mr. Abbuhl are kindred spirits. He learned this sport from his grandfather and his uncle the year before Colby. However, in just the few years that he has attended our school, he has made waves as the arguable figurehead of the student fly-fishing culture at Colby. Below is an excerpt from an article he wrote for the Colby Echo, a student run newspaper: “Hello. My name is Jake Abbuhl and I have a fly-fishing problem. I can’t stop fly-fishing and searching for new places to fish. Whenever someone hears that I like to fish, I almost always get the same question: “Oh that’s cool, where do you fish?” I get the feeling that people think I have one spot on some lake about 20 minutes from campus. This is not the case. I love rivers and, fortunately, Maine has awesome rivers all over the state. Some of these rivers are even open for year-round fishing. Sadly, my fishing addiction does not fall dormant in the winter. I can be found on the side of a stream in January trying to tie a fly to my line with frozen fingers and almost no chance of actually catching a fish.” Meet Jose: Human/Fish Relations Jose earns his title due to his diligence to preserve the art of fish handling. He never forgets to wet his hands before touching a fish and when he does use a net, it is never mesh but rather fish friendly rubber. He lacks many fish pictures because he is too eager to see it returned to the wild. This fall Jose divided his time between examining chalk streams across the pond and charming Scottish lassies. He has proven to be exceptionally competent in both endeavors. His return toped all of our Christmas lists. Meet Charles: Western Perspectives Charles aka “Chuck” is a young man from the banks of the Roaring Fork in Colorado. Charles came to Colby never having fished a streamer before, preferring the smallest dry flies and nymphs. His first words were in fact “28 midge”. Charles enjoys the most remote of streams, ones in which the trail to the river is unmarked and the distant hum of an engine fades into oblivion. The man can smell a hatch 6 months in advance, a true hero of our clan. As a side note, the smallmouth that call the Rapid their home are the bane of his existence. Unfortunately Charles could not take part the weekend festivities; he had a date with his crew team. I personally think he needs to get his priorities straight. Meet Dylan (me): Fly Architect My introduction to fly fishing and fly tying was in reverse. I started tying flies at the age of 10 at my local fish and game club back home. The man teaching the class had no kids of his own and lacked a filter, so when he saw some promise in me he said “If you don’t turn out to be an a**hole, I will teach you how to fish those flies.” He kept good on his word and I tried to veil any assholesque tendencies. Within a couple of years he had given me my first rod and reel and a wealth of tying materials, and I haven't had to buy a fly since. I am eternally grateful to this man for the positive impact he has had on my life. Meet Samuel: Trout Historian Please note the left pocket. Sam’s love for fly-fishing is rivaled only by his interest in the history behind the sport and the rivers and towns to which we travel. That being said, his talents on the river are bold and productive. Some of my best days of fishing have been spent alongside this man. Have I seen him break more than one rod on the river? Yes. Have we had 30+ fish days together? No, but it was probably about 20, that’s not bad. Whether its waking up to 6 inches of snow outside our tent on the banks of the river or hiking 7 miles to the Rapid through the snow, Sam is along for the long haul. Meet Tyler: Big Fish Predator (self-dubbed but pretty accurate) Tyler is an enigma. This man is not your conventional fly fisherman. He will do whatever is necessary to catch an elusive trout, be that swimming across a rapid to gain access to a pocket upstream or tying on orange beads from one fly to the line in front of a wooly bugger (I’ve seen him do it and catch 4+ fish on that rig). What he lacks in logistics he makes up for in unwavering constitution and an innate ability to find a fish when no one else can, and for that we love him. Did I mention he eats raw meats? Fishing Ball 2014 All of the sports teams at Colby have “balls”, here referring to exclusive parties once a year or once a semester in which the members of the team each invite a date. Seeing ourselves as the unofficial fly-fishing team of Colby, we decided to have our own ball this fall. Jake, Sam, Tyler, and myself were the ones available that weekend in late September. We each asked a lovely lady and bought some fresh foods which we would each convert into dinner on the side of the river. We departed separately throughout the day on Friday afternoon. A class or two may or may not have been skipped. A quick stop for a photo, about an hour and a half into our ride. That's Olivia, my date, and myself above; below are Sam and his date Alison. Our view from the campsite. We arrived at our chosen campsite on the side of the river and began to unload for the feast when we realized the unthinkable had happened…Tyler forgot the charcoal and lighter fluid for the mini grill. Instead we had to make due with wood chips for fuel, which was not ideal for maintaining steady heat. Fortunately I had brought along my Coleman camp stove as back-up. For my date and I, I prepared grilled peach bruschetta with goat cheese and thyme, grilled pear and brie sandwiches, and my “famous amongst friends” potato salad. Unfortunately I was too eager to cook and eat and in my rush I failed to snap a photo... Sam and his date Alison enjoyed a salad of arugula and homemade vinaigrette alongside pesto chicken quesadillas. Unfortunately for Tyler, he brought along bison meat with the hopes of making burgers for his date Amanda, as well as Jake and his date Sophie. Half-thawed bison meat, no charcoal, no lighter fluid, and no buns made for a meal to remember. Sam and I were eager to share our foods with them, but the ever-stubborn alpha male Tyler insisted on eating the mostly raw meat instead. Jake was quoted saying something along the lines of, “if it was up to me, we’d be eating slim jims and hot fries, so this isn’t half bad.” The rest of the night was spent sharing stories and laughing around the campfire, some of us getting to know each other’s dates, others of us getting to know our own dates. The night dropped to below freezing, something we had not yet felt up on the Hill, so we knew something important was happening. We divided up amongst two tents and drifted into a deep sleep thinking of red/yellow speckles and orange bellies. "At sunrise everything is luminous but not clear." -Norman Maclean We woke up the next day, ate some eggs and potatoes, and split up into groups. Jake and Sam hoped in the car and took their dates much father upstream while Tyler and I found some pools closer to the campsite, as not to crowd up this relatively small river. Olivia proved to be a natural at it; the girl had caught her first brook trout within the first 20 minutes... ...followed by many, many more. Not only did she pick up the roll cast and false cast almost immediately, I tried her out without a strike indicator, relying only on feeling the takes with a tight line mixed with observing the end of the fly line for any twitches or resistance. She caught all of her fish this way and I was so damn proud of her. She demonstrated something that I have seen time and time again in introducing my friends to the sport: girls pick it up faster. I think part of this has to do with their listening skills, but a large part of it is their delicateness. I have watched too many of my guy friends slam their rods and line back and forth between the shore behind them and the water in front of them. She lost only 1 fly the whole day. We all agreed to make the day about teaching the girls, although Olivia got to a point where she didn't require me to breath down her neck shouting "set-it!" at every strike. I fished a little as well. BLUE STEEL. By around 2 o'clock we were done for the day and we slowly made our way back to the campsite to find the others. Their day was equally as epic and they were eager to share some stories of fish and shenanigans. (for the record, Olivia caught the most fish of all the dates, a true budding talent) The Herron instructs Sophie in the ways of the waterfowl. Sam releases a real hog... "I'm pretty sure there's a lot more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good-looking." Alison's first trout! The girls and guys agreed, Fishing Ball is to be an annual event. The Boys of Fall: A Last Hurrah With the success of Fishing Ball and the closing of many of our favorite Maine rivers to fishing, the boys and I were eager to satisfy our needs for tight lines and fishy hands. As much as we loved teaching the girls, and I assure we truly did, the tug is the drug and we were having withdrawals. We looked to the north, to a river we had yet to fish together. The rather obscure location (to us) was located about 2 hours straight north of any rivers we had fished in this particular region. My summer as a rafting guide at Northeast Whitewater in Greenville (THE premier small size rafting company for any group, seriously come fish the a river or Roach and raft the next day like I do) had brought me to this particular river for some of the most epic class III and IV rapids (particularly for inflatable kayaking, there are more surfs to be caught here per mile of river than any river I've been to), but I had yet to fish it. It was a gamble, as any information of this spot of any sort, especially fishing, is almost non-existent on the internet. We actually had no idea if any good trout or salmon fishing was to be had, and so we relied on intuition in making this decision. In preparation for the trip I tied up some of my favorite flies, including some experimental streamers and old favorites. Experimental... Old favorite... After one too many flat tires this summer, we take it nice and slow on the dirt roads. What made this trip truly unique was that we had in our company an artist, our friend Casey Coulter (http://instagram.com/casey_coulter). Casey is truly talented, his photography is out of this world, and I mean it. He has thousands of followers on instagram and other social media because his photographs of Maine and elsewhere are sensational. Check this kid out, he is going places. Now he is also deeply interested in film. We had approached him with an idea for a short fishing video earlier in the semester and he had expressed an interest in showing others what one of our trips consists of. We hit him up for the trip and he headed north with us. It was amazing to watch the trees gradually go from mostly green in Waterville and the location of Fishing Ball to vibrant autumn colors at this northern latitude. Tyler and Jake headed up north first with some supplies and the original plan was to meet them up there around dinner time, which during those months was still mostly light out. That did not occur. We loaded up the artist, his cameras, and the gear we could remember around 7 and arrived at our chosen campsite at midnight. Tyler and Jake were nowhere to be found....after some frustration and swearing were just decided to go through with the filming without them, wherever they had wandered to. We slept in a lean-to and awoke just before sunrise to get some awesome footage, as our campsite was only a few yards from the river. Literally seconds after that shot, Casey, a sleeping Sam, and myself were startled by a deafening shout that could only belong to Tyler. It turns out that our site had some kayakers staying at it around 10 pm when the duo had last checked in and so they found a new spot up the road. The boys were back together at last. Jake informed us that Bob Mitchell, the mastermind behind our favorite and most productive streamer (Mitchell Creek Marabou) was in fact on the same river that weekend, at least according to the "local" fly shop. Our gamble, it would appear, was not so crack-pot after all. Below are some of the photos Casey took the night before and during the day of our trip. Below that is the video he created, which was featured on an Orvis Friday Film Tour during the month of October. This spot has absolutely no light pollution for miles and miles. If you look closely, you can see all four of us. Check out the video, for HD find it on youtube. Here is another video Casey made of me tying my own take on a classic fly that has served me very well over the years and was used to catch fish from this very trip. While Casey was off finding inspiration, he unfortunately missed many of our fish. Below are some salmon and brook trout caught off camera. I apologize for the often fogged up camera of our iPhones... Releasing one of my salmon. Jake's big brookie Another one of my salmon. Per usual, the rocks were covered in these little guys A welcome surprise... We left the river that day feeling accomplished and satisfied in our decision to head to this new and unexplored river. With so many explorative trips ending in nothing more than a few chubs, it was nice to end the September season on an unexpected high note. We all agreed, this will be one of our new spots to return to next fall. Tyler in particular was impressed when he hooked into something that immediately pulled out about 30 yards of line and snapped off his 4x like it was 8x. A monster still lurks in these waters. I hope you all enjoyed this lengthy report on my favorite weekend of fishing in my Colby College career. Until next time, Dylan A view from this river's source...so yes it is a tailwater, watch the video.