Monday, June 15, 2015

Maine and the Miramichi - June, 2015

I was delighted to find out that my annual June trip up to Boiestown, NB to do the Central NB Woodmen's Museum fundraiser auction piggybacked nicely with my old friend Ken Simard's yearly trip to the Rangeley Region with his son and his friends to fish the region's many rivers.  A short 7 hour drive from Bennington to Oquossoc, Maine on June 3rd and we were hooked up again after a few years' hiatus...and just in time for lunch!

After a few refreshing beverages, we headed for Upper Dam, which, for 160 years, has held back the waters of Mooselookmeguntic Lake and generated hydro power.  Not to mention creating an amazing fishery below it, exploited by the likes of streamer innovator Carrie Stevens and others.  The place is ripe with fly fishing history, and I have enjoyed great fishing there.  My largest landlocked salmon to date came on a soft hackle there.

Ken and "the boys" (lol, they range in age from 45 to 50 or so, but they'll always be "the boys" to me) ready to hit the pool below the dam:  CLICK ON PICS TO ENLARGE THEM

(l to r: Ken, Scott (owns a car dealership in Buffalo, NY), David (Ken's son, works for the Federal Aeronautics Administration), Billy (Portland, ME fireman), and Greg (Buffalo, NY proud hockey dad - his son was a key player on Yale's national championship team a couple years ago; he now advises families about college hockey for their children).   A diverse group for sure!  And a group that I believe collectively keeps the LaBatts Brewing Company in business.

I knew there were changes taking place at Upper Dam; the power company that owns the dam has been reconstructing it for a year or so.  But I wasn't quite ready for this:

Until a year or so ago, the dam looked like this (photo unabashedly borrowed from my friend Bob Hilyard's (and son Leslie's) book, Carrie Stevens - Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies, published in 2000 by Stackpole Books.  If you don't have a copy, you should):

The spot where I landed my largest-ever landlocked is now unfishable due to the single release chute.  Other spots nearer the dam that were excellent are now just slack water.  But the boys did hook a batch of brook trout and landlocks farther down from the dam than we used to fish.  It's all about current, of course.

I love the look of the camps along the shore near the dam.  I hope to build a similar one on the banks of the Miramichi someday.

I fished a little, to no great effect, with a Gray Ghost.  Ya, I know, it has flash in it.  Pagan.

It's a pretty hefty up-hill hike back to the parking area when you're done fishing at Upper Dam.  Every time we fish it we joke about what a killing a kid with a golf cart and a cooler full of beer could make ferrying the likes of us back up to the trucks!

Thursday the boys headed off to fish the Magalloway River; Kenny and I opted to spend the day trolling (i.e., reminiscing and enjoying a few cold ones) Rangeley Lake.  We trolled in style in his latest boat!

Early morning on just about any lake can be beautiful...throw in a loon or two and it qualifies as an "experience."

We had a pretty full complement of streamers ready for action:

Sadly, I must report that the only thing our streamers attracted that morning was a very affable member of the Maine Warden Service who was on the water checking licenses and boating requirements.  We had a very nice conversation with him, and he seemed only mildly taken aback by the number of beers in our cooler.  Happily, it was only about 8am.  No harm, no foul.

Since there was nothing going on fishing-wise, we decided to head in at lunchtime, grab a bite (which turned out to be the world's most expensive bowl of clam chowder), and take in the sights.  I was tickled to be able to spend time at the Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum in Oquossoc:

Volunteers (and friends) like Don Palmer and Bob Hilyard worked incredibly long and hard to bring this museum to fruition.  They, and all who took part in the process, should be very, very proud of the results of their efforts.  A few pics from inside:

The Museum is a treasure for those, like me, that revel in our sporting heritage.  Go there if you can.

Thursday came and went too fast; my time with Ken and the boys was over for another year.  My liver breathed a sigh of relief.

Friday early darkthirty and I headed to home base in New Brunswick, Boiestown, about a six hour drive.   Beautiful day, beautiful river upon my arrival in the early afternoon.

I just kicked back for the rest of the day, enjoying dinner and drinks with my pal Vin Swayze, his wife Hazel and their daughter Michele, and settled into camp for a few days stay.  Love the "Log Camp" as it is called:

Saturday morning was gorgeous.  I wish everyone could start their day looking at this scene; the world would be a more peaceful place.

I couldn't resist making a quick little video of these guys heading up river (turn up your speakers):

The day passed quickly.  Vin hosted a "pre-party party" on his deck before the Woodmen's Museum fundraiser where it was great to renew acquaintances, then head over to the Museum.  If you ever get to Central New Brunswick, the Museum is a "must stop".  The province is steeped in logging history, and the Museum gives you a great look into that past.

The auction raised almost $13,000 for the Museum's operations.  I'm always happy to help that good cause.  And now for some fishing!  River looks good, reports of some fish in the system (a 44 incher landed upriver a few days prior).  I'm so ready.  Oh, wait, that's right.  Something about a new roof on Vin's other camp.  I vaguely remember some conversation about that back in May, likely when I was well in my cups.  Sigh.

The roof (it leaks and doesn't look nice anymore):

I did a little addition to Dan Bullock's home last year, and devised this system for getting around on a steep steel roof.  All ya need is a front-end loader and a ladder!

Rain delay, but almost there:

Job done!  You haven't lived until you've worked with Allan Wilson and Vin Swayze at the same time!  LOL, I tried to stay up on the peak, out of harm's way!  Seriously, we worked hard but had a lot of fun at the same time.  They are great guys.

We fished an hour or so each day, too.  No salmon to be seen (much less felt), but a bunch of smaller brook trout.  Some day I will hit the sea-runs!

The big Loomis was a bit much for 8 inch brookies, but they sure liked the Celtic Beauty!

Headed home exactly 7 days after I headed to Maine.  A fine trip, full of friends and memories.  What more can you ask of life, eh?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Cave Declared Disaster Area!

Over the past several weeks I've been tying what came out to be 66 different atlantic salmon hairwing wet flies, spring streamers and shrimp for a friend's next book, to be published by Stackpole in 2016 (if memory serves, which it often does not).   Materials junkie that I am, I think I only had to buy one or two tinsels and a couple of flosses I didn't already have on hand to complete the collection.  It was great fun pouring over the books I have, and scouring the internet for appropriate patterns.  I even got the chance to email back and forth a couple times with Charlie Krom (always a treat) about questions I had on a couple of his flies.

Never known as much of a neat freak, the cave really took a beating...materials and books everywhere...not to mention flies!

Thought you might get a giggle out of the carnage:

Finally got around to organizing the flies in alpha order.  Caught several mistakes in numbering and found that I either lost or didn't tie #28 - a Grizzly King.  Back to the vise.  Sigh.

A few pics of the finished collection (click on the pic to see larger version):

A few close-ups:

John Olin

Logie converted to hairwing:

Dick's Demon:

Night Hawk converted to hairwing:

Golden Eagle:

Royal Smelt:

For the purposes of the book, I had to compile a list of the dressings for all 66 flies.  That was a task.    I started with flies I knew and had proven themselves to me.  Then I went on to flies my friends like, finally filling out the collection with flies that had heavy history or just plain ol' were pretty.  Here's a key to the flies, just by name, in case you see one that piques your interest:

1. Arthur Taylor Special    2. Atherton Squirrel Tail    3. Big Intervale Blue   4. Black Bear Green Butt   5. Black Bomber   6. Black Coltrin   7. Black Dose conversion   8. Black Ghost.
9. Blue Charm   10. Bondatti's Killer   11. Bonnie Belle   12. Cains Copper   13. Celtic Beauty
14. Claret Killer   15. Colburn Special   16. Copper Killer   17 Cosseboom (Miramichi)
18. Cosseboom Special   19. Crosfield   20. Deere Fly   21. Deer Lake Special   22. Dick's Demon
23. Emerald Queen   24. Fulkro   25. Garry Dog   26. Glitter Bear   27. Green Picasse
28. Grizzly King   29. Icy Blue   30. John Olin   31. Jones' Special   32. Laxa Blue
33. Little Red Wing   34. Logie conversion   35. Miramichi Special   36. Munroe Killer
37. Night Hawk conversion   38. Picture Province   39. Pompier   40. Rat (Blue)
41. Rat (Green)   42. Rat (Rusty)   43. Rat (Silver)   44. Red Abbey   45. Roger's Fancy
46.  Rutledge   47. Same Thing Murray   48. Silver Down East   49. Undertaker   50. Warden Watcher

51.  Ally's Shrimp   52. Cascade   53. CB Shrimp   54. Flamethrower   55. Life on Mars
56.  Sneaky

57.  Blue Smelt   58.  Deep Green Beauty hairwing   59. Golden Eagle   60.  Ice Runner
61. Magog Smelt  62. Miramichi Special   63. Renous Special   64. Rose of New England
65.  Royal Smelt   66. Tanner's Blue Smelt

Well, it was a lot of work but, in the end, very rewarding.  I suppose the next thing on the agenda is to clean the Cave...sometime soon.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Rich's Jerked Chicken

Every so often, a bunch of friends and I get together at Mike Valla's camp, Vallahalla, handy to the Battenkill, over in New York.  I've made Low Country Boil for us a couple of times (; for our last get together, it was Rich Norman's turn to cook.  And he cooked up a real treat, which I'll call Rich's Jerked Chicken.  I'm happy to share the recipe here, using Rich's exact words from an email he sent me regarding same:

For ten of us:
5 chicken breasts marinated overnight in Lawry's Caribbean Jerk 30 Minute Marinade (much more flavorful after 10 hours than just 30 minutes)
3 garlic cloves finely chopped
One each large red, yellow and orange pepper sliced
2 yellow onions, halved and sliced
8oz package sliced mushrooms
Small can black olives
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (only the best for you guys, I use first press EVOO imported from California, but I digress)

The ingredients (lacking the green pepper...she who must be obeyed doesn't like it):

Marinating chicken:

Ready to start:

To continue with Rich's instructions:

A cup and a half of brown rice (you could use cous cous or orzo, too), and about 3 cups of chicken broth to cook it in.  Make the rice however you like, if you are doing it simultaneously with the chicken, start the rice first; it will take 40 or 45 minutes.  I pre-cooked it and left a little liquid in it so I could warm it on the stove at our get-together.

Six pack of beer or box of Pinot Grigio.

First, open a bottle of beer or pour a glass of wine...or both, and throughout the process, make sure you always remain hydrated.

Warm up the grill.  They are all different; I usually get them real hot and clean them.  Here at home I would then turn it down to medium and let it cool a bit before I put the chicken on.  Mike's grill is hotter than mine, so I set it between medium and low.  Next time I might just turn on two of the four burners.  At any rate, put the chicken on, and plan to turn it only once.  Should be about 10 minutes per side.

Have a sip or gulp of your beer or wine or both.

At the same time in a large pan, heat the EVOO and add the chopped garlic.  Don't get the pan too hot or burn the garlic.  Saute' the garlic for a minute, then add the onions and peppers and keep mixing the veggies around.

Beer, wine or both, and go check the chicken just in case.

B, W or B, and back to saute' the veggies.

Keep going back and forth (constantly hydrating) until the peppers and onions begin to soften (this is usually about the time the chicken needs turning).  Add the mushrooms to the mix.  Stir.


When the mushrooms soften, add the olives and some salt and pepper.  Stir.  Hydrate.

Go check the chicken; it's probably done, so you will need to move it to an upper shelf to keep warm for a minute or two.  You could probably turn the grill off or at least turn it down.

Hydrate.  Check veggies.  Done!  Hydrate.

Get the chicken and bring it to the cutting board and let it sit a bit.

Dump the rice on a serving platter.  Hydrate.

Slice the chicken, and if you feel you may have over-hydrated (not possible in my experience) you should count your fingers at this point (or have someone else do it) just to make sure none of your guests get a disgusting surprise.

Place the sliced chicken and any flowing juices on top of the veggies, find some serving spoons and serve.

While consuming, remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

This is a great meal, and an easy one, for home or camp.  Thanks for sharing it with me, Rich, and Bon Apetit!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Low Country Boil

Low Country Boil (AKA Beaufort Stew) is perfect and a quick meal for a cold winter lunch or dinner.  I first enjoyed it during my time in South Carolina working for the National Wild Turkey Federation.

The Ingredients:

For 5 or 6 folks, here are the amounts:

2 to 2.5 pounds of red potatoes
2 thingies of Polish Sausage
2 pounds of 16-20 Count Shrimp (uncooked; I leave the shells on)
6 or so 2" to 3" chunks of corn on the cob (WAY better with fresh in the summer; pretty hard to find  in Vermont in February!)
Old Bay Seasoning (I use half the large can for this size batch)

Cut the sausage and potatoes thusly:

Bring water with Old Bay in it to rolling boil, hopefully in something with a strainer like this set-up:
(BTW, that's the Batten Kill way down in the background; we're at my friend Wally's house for some cigars, beer and fly tying)

   Add the potatoes.  Count 5 minutes from when the broth boils again.  Add sausage...count 5 more minutes.   Add the corn...go 5 more minutes.   Add the shrimp, and continue boiling 'til they're done (usually 2-3 minutes)

Pull out the strainer full of goodies, lay on a platter for everyone to pick away at...maybe have some broth that can be poured on as well.    Enjoy!