Roach Pond – Kokadjo, ME
Below is a bit of our awesome adventures of fly fishing, exploring, and hiking around Moosehead Lake, Maine.
Every year my dad and his best friend George head up to Maine’s North Woods to go fly fishing for a week. Last summer dad asked if Bryan and I would be interested in going fly fishing for them at some point and we both said yes. Me more quickly than Bryan, but that was only because he had never really been fishing much, never mind fly fishing. I on the other hand love it and have fished quite a bit with my dad over the years, but it had been too long since I last fished.
Bryan and I had not been on a vacation in three years, since we moved to Rhode Island and he began law school. Between school and having no money, vacations or even weekend getaways have been out of the question. So, needless to say this vacation was much-needed and appreciated. If I haven’t mentioned this before, my dad is pretty amazing. He treated us to this wonderful week away in the woods, but also built each of us fly rods to take on the trip with us. Bryan is a Penn State graduate and dad built him a Penn State rod – blue blank, with white and blue wraps, and the PSU logo…it’s pretty amazing. As for mine it was everything I wanted…a green blank, with green and silver wraps. This was the second rod my dad built for me, the first one he built several years ago which also came along on the trip. The first rod was named “Jenny Sue” and this was the rod I caught my first brookie on!
Part of our vacation and adventure included a float trip with John from Maine Guide Fly Shop. Our original trip was planned for Sunday, but with the weather and the raising of the water levels it just didn’t work out so it was changed to later in the week. The ideal level to have the water at is 4,000 cfs…on Sunday it was close to 8,000 cfs. Dad really wanted us to be able to take our trip on the East Outlet Kennebec River but in order for that to happen the water had to be at 4,000 cfs on Thursday morning and if it wasn’t we would take the hour and a half drive past Kokadjo and fish the West Branch Penobscot River. We didn’t care either way, we were just happy to be there.
Day 1 – Saturday June 8
Bright and early we headed up to Rockwood, Maine where we stayed at Lawrence’s Lakeside Cabins. Lawrence’s is owned an run by Bob Lawrence. This is also where my dad and grandfather stayed when then went moose hunting in 1994. Bryan and I got to stay in Cabin 1 (one bathroom, one bedroom with a full/queen bed and a set of bunk beds on the second floor, and a small kitchen and living area on the first floor). The second I walked in I was taken back to my childhood. It was like walking into my grandparents house…same curtains, smells, walls, etc. I think this is why my dad loves coming and staying here every year. For me it was also pretty amazing for me to be staying and walking where my gramp was all those years ago. One night we had Bob over for dinner and he was kind enough to bring some photos of my dad and gramp with their moose from the hunt.
On the way up we stopped at Cabela’s to pick up a rain jacket for me because the forecast was pretty wet for the week. The next stop was lunch next to a lake in Dexter, ME. Two more stops stood between us and the cabins…the first was Indian Hill. Indian Hill is a decent sized grocery store/sporting goods store/shoe store/clothing store…seriously it is all of these things and seemed to be the main source of employment in Greenville.
One of the things I noticed when driving through all of these towns was how depressed they were. Houses pretty much falling down. There weren’t many places for employment – most of the shops were closed down and/or for sale along with many of the houses. It was sad to see the quality of living up there. It was a little bit of a culture shock…I felt like one of those “city people”. I think it hit me a bit harder than expected because I know places like that exist both here in the U.S. and abroad and I have spent plenty of time in places like that abroad but not to this extent in the U.S.
After getting settled in we headed out to test the waters and get our lines wet.
Although we were staying in cabins which were pretty rustic – we had full kitchens, refrigerators, etc., plus dad and George brought the wine…lots of it! And we had plenty of good food for the week…our first nights meal was risotto with shrimp and spinach. Surprisingly I didn’t take any photos of any of our meals! Sorry, just know that they were all delicious.
Day 2 – Sunday June 9
This was supposed to be the day of our float trip but again the high and fast waters prevented us from going so instead we put on the waders and rest of our gear and headed to Kokadjo (population…no many to fish the Roach River. The weather turned out to be not that bad, there were a few moments of some drizzles but nothing major. The water was still flowing pretty quickly even at the Roach, but we made do and found some spots to fish for a while. Dad and George gave Bryan and I some pointers and we were on our way to catching fish…or at least we hoped we would be. We got some bites but the ended with in water releases. Over all the fishing wasn’t the best that week due to the weather and the raising and lowering of the water levels but it was an amazing time and when we did catch our first fish of the trip it was just perfect.
While driving up to the Roach River dad was pointing out where he and my gramp had got there moose and as he says this I’m thinking “oh gramp please show me a moose” and sure enough a little further down the road there is a mother moose (cow) and her two week old baby (calf). It was AMAZING. These were the first moose that Bryan and I had seen in the wild. Thanks gramp!
Day 3 – Monday June 10
Today we stayed a bit closer to home and fished the West Outlet which was right down the road from where we were staying. I sadly woke up with major sinus pressure and I am one of those very unfortunate people that also gets the dental pain with my sinus pressure. I only have one filling and dear lord can I feel it when sinus pressure begins. If I could I would probably rip the left side of my jaw out completely. So my morning of fishing was cut a bit short, but before that I caught my first brook trout…brookie! It was beautiful and had the spawning colors but sadly was released before a photo was shot. Not long after I caught a few more and we got a picture of one of them. Such a great feeling when you hook a fish. I’ve been fly fishing for striped bass and tuna before and let me just tell you that is awesome! The fight that they put up just exhilarating. This was a whole new type of rush. They may be fairly small fish compared to the bass and tuna but you still feel them (plus you are using a much lighter rod).
As dad and I were heading to the general store in Rockwood to find some sinus medicine for me, we were driving along Moosehead Lake and dad with the ever amazing ability to spot birds and wildlife, says look, there’s an eagle! Bryan has been dying to see one of these in the wild – he has only seen one at the zoo so he had high hopes of seeing one. Sadly though he was not with us when we saw this. As dad says that I go to try to get my camera from the back seat but couldn’t. As I turned back around the eagle swoops down, puts its talons out and grabs a huge fish from the lake then takes off. I so badly wish I could have captured this. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever witnessed, and so happy I got to see it with my dad. Bryan was a bit bummed that he missed this awesome sighting, but lucky for him he saw an eagle later that day soaring above him as he fished.
After a little while, I headed back to the cabin to get some rest and had high hopes that this pain would go away…it didn’t, not for another 3 or so days!
Day 4 – Tuesday June 11
I took it easy again today due to the pain. Bryan and I drove around a bit and went into “town”…Greenville is the next town over and is about 30 minutes away. That is where Indian Hill and other little shops are. There isn’t a whole lot in Rockwood besides the general store which also acts as a gas station. It has two pumps which may or may not work…no lie.
We took our cameras with us and shot some photos of dad fishing and of the Mason’s lodge. Overall it was a laid back day, which was much-needed.
Day 5 – Wednesday June 11
We were back on the rivers fishing today. Still in a ton of pain and still taking anything and everything I could to get rid of this pressure and pain. Tomorrow was our float trip day and I would have done just about anything to not be in pain for that. It was raining again and we were keeping our fingers crossed that the water level would have been fine for us to fish the East Outlet but it wasn’t. Tomorrow we would head to the West Branch instead.
Today we fished the West Outlet and the beach of the East Outlet. We all caught more fish today and it gave Bryan and I another chance to practice casting our rods in preparation for tomorrows trip. After fishing for a bit in the morning we headed back to the cabins for lunch and fished the beach of the East Outlet later that day. Everywhere we fished was absolutely beautiful, peaceful, and zen like. Up in this area of Maine there aren’t all that many people…moose out number humans 3:1. So with few people come few cars and mush less noise. You kind of get lost in nature up there.
After a day of fishing in pretty crummy weather I thought homemade gluten-free corn fritters would be a nice touch to dinner. I had brought up some gluten-free “all-purpose” flour and some rubs that Adam of Fein Tasting Foods sent me. I used their everything rub in the recipe and it turned out great! It has a good hint of cinnamon in it and I think it would also go well in an apple fritter.
Below is the recipe for my gluten-free corn fritters…hope you enjoy them. Many people deep fry fritters but you can just as easily shallow fry them (like I did) and these are easy to make especially when camping.
1 Cup Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Xantan Gum (only if your mix does not already have it in there)
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
2 Eggs (or 1/2 cup Eggbeaters)
6 Tablespoons Milk (Cow, Soy, Nut, or Hemp)
1 Tablespoon Feiny’s Everything Rub
1/2-3/4 Cup Fresh Corn (you can use canned if fresh is not available, just drain and rinse well…add as much or as little as you would like).
1/2 Teaspoon Salt (or to taste)
1/4 Teaspoon Fresh Cracked Pepper
- Preheat fryer to 350•F or in a medium skillet add 1/4-1/2 cup oil and heat over medium heat to shallow fry instead of deep frying.
- In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients, mix well.
- In a separate bowl, mix together all of the wet ingredients until well combined.
- Slowly add to dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
- Drop batter by the spoonful and cook until golden brown on all sides.
- Check for seasoning and adjust if needed.
- Do not over crowed the fryer or pan.
- Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel lined dish.
- Repeat process with remaining batter.
- Serve warm.
- Hold in a warm oven at about 200•F if needed.
Chef Notes: The above recipe (flour, baking powder, eggs, and milk are a basic fritter recipe – you can add any number of ingredients such as crab (which would work great with the Chesapeake Bay Rub, also from Feiny’s Fine Foods), diced apples with a little bit of cinnamon and sugar in stead of the salt and pepper, etc.
Day 6 – Thursday June 12
The day we have been waiting for…our float trip.We were up and out of the cabins by 5:45 to make the 2 hour journey to the river. Holy bumpy back roads batman! It was like off roading but on a road.
We were originally supposed to go on Sunday with Chad (from Maine Guide Fly Shop) but he had a trip booked for Thursday so we went with John Wood (he has a website launching soon so check back for that). John was probably the best person for Bryan and I to have. He was down to earth, shared a very similar sense of humor, he graduated with a degree in culinary arts, and his wife is a judge…seriously it couldn’t have been a better fit. I also believe he is a long lost relative to my dad…similar is so many ways.
Dad and George went with the guide they always go with Ian and Bryan and I got into Johns boat and started down the West Branch Penobscot River. This river was beautiful beyond words. We went down river and fished for about 3 or so hours then pulled over to the side of the river, got out and had lunch together with dad, George, and Ian. These guys bring it all…we had tables, chairs, a grill. They made us cheeseburgers for lunch. It was wonderful just pulling over to the side of the river and having lunch in such a beautiful location. I ended up bringing a sandwich just in case and ate that instead. I’m sure I would have been fine having a burger but I didn’t want my sandwich to go bad.
John gave us pointers and is a great instructor. He not only explained different techniques but also showed how to do them. For someone like me who is a hands on learner, this was a perfect match. We talked (well he and Bryan) about law, food, nutrition, different diets, etc. We truly couldn’t have asked for a better day or a better guide. Bryan keeps saying that when we go back we are requesting him. I agree 100%. If you are ever interested in a fly fishing adventure up there check out the Maine Guide Fly Shop and ask for John! Thank you John for an amazing and unforgettable trip.
Day 7 – Friday June 13
Mt. Kineo from the dock
Sadly this is our last full day, tomorrow we leave bright and early to make the trek home. Bryan became in awe of Mt. Kineo, which we could see from where we were staying and really wanted to go over there so we decided that today would be a good day. We got up fairly early and packed some of our stuff up a bit before heading over. The shuttle ran every other hour and was less than a 10 minute boat ride over.
Bryan had done a little bit of research on Mt. Kineo and hiking it. Mt. Kineo has an elevation just shy of 1,800 ft. At the summit is a fire tower, which sounds really cool, but if you are two people who are beyond afraid of heights this just maybe the scariest thing you have ever thought to do. The information that Bryan found said that there are four trails and one, The Indian Trail, boasted “the most scenic views” so we went for that one. It also said that it had some parts that were close to the cliff (key world being close). We are hiking up just fine…Bryan way better than I am because lets face it my legs are way shorter than his and stupid me didn’t think to bring an inhaler with me on vacation so I had to pace myself to be on the safe side. There were gorgeous views on this trail, over looking the golf course below and Moosehead Lake which surrounds it. We found some great spots to stop and take a few photos.
There was however one point that my short little legs almost failed me. As I said, I’m afraid of heights…terribly afraid of heights and parts of this trail were close to the cliff. How about it is the cliff. A nice drop straight down about 700 ft. It has been raining on and off the past few days but the day before was nice and sunny so we assumed some of this would have been dried up…it wasn’t, at all. We get to this one steep slippery rock that even Bryan has a little struggle with getting up, and here I am trying to find footing to get up it, but couldn’t. The move I moved to try to get my footing the closer I was getting to the edge. My heart was racing needless to say and it only worsened when I looked up and saw the look on Bryan’s face. He was trying so hard to have a clam voice and lead me up the rock but his facial expression said it all. I eventually made it up with very shaking hands. I ended up pulling my knees up and crawling up the rock. Later Bryan said he almost cut the strap on his bag so I would have something to hold onto. It was quite scary. I am happy I made it up for many reasons but one was just after that spot was the most beautiful lookout (aka resting spot) ever.
We continued the hike up to the summit/fire tower which was only about another 15-20 minutes. Being brave little people we climbed to the top of the tower, and amazingly took a few photos before descending. I still can’t believe that either one of us make it to the top and then back down. My whole body was tense and shaking after that adventure. The view was out of this world and worth every step.
I also took a video with my phone
On the way down we took a different trail, The Bridle Trail which is considered more family friendly, less strenuous, and pet friendly. This trail definitely didn’t have the scenic views that the Indian Trail had, and was way more muddy. Lots of puddles of fresh spring water coupled with plenty of mud and slippery spots. A much easier trek down than up that is for sure.
We met a few sets of hikers on our way down and advised them not to take the Indian Train down due to the steep slippery rocks.
I am so happy we did this hike and got to see all this beauty. Can’t wait to go back and do it all again!
If you would like to see the rest of my photos from the trip you can view them here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jennyjene/sets/72157634132721510/
As I mentioned above I didn’t take any photos of our food (except the fritters) but below is a list of foods that we had during our trip, all of which are perfect for camping our outdoor adventures. It’s great to have a little camp stove or grill if you do not have access to a cabin with a stove.
- Grilled hot sausages
- Baked Beans
- Hot Dogs – Natural Beef Hotdogs
- Fritters (recipe above)
- Grilled Chicken Breast (with avocado slices)
- Sandwiches (I brought along Udi’s Gluten Free Bread and Boars Head Meats and Cheeses)
Hoping to have at least one more outdoor adventure this summer…where and when? Who knows, but I’m sure it will be a great time. Hopefully Penny can come along for the ride.