Rangeley Memorial Day Weekend 2022

Yes, I went to Rangeley over Memorial Day weekend. And yes, I’ll admit, it has been a while. With the school year and sports winding down, I figured I’d have all the time in the world to write this post. However, this was about the opposite of how the last few weeks played out. I’ve been flat-out busy, and even finding the time to sit down and write this brief post has been difficult. But while my black fly-induced wounds are finally starting to fade, my memories of the trip are as strong as ever.

If I had to sum up my trips with song lyrics, I’d use the words of one of my favorite childhood artists, Wayne from Maine: “Bugs, bugs, bugs … bzzzzz”. While it was to be expected, there was certainly no lack of those flying fiends. It only took about 15 seconds after stepping out of a cabin or car before they found you, and when they did, there was no escape. In the line of my fishing journal entry where I typically include the insects that were hatching, I have just one word written down: mosquitoes!

Kitted up to fish in whatever conditions the woods and weather threw at me. This was pre-gloves to cover the final remaining slivers of exposed skin. Photo credit: Jim Kelley

But it seemed not everyone was affected the same way I was. Once, when my grandfather and I stopped to visit some family, I stood swatting away at a cloud of insects so thick you could barely see through it while the others looked on with amusement. My grandfather chalks it up to blood type, but I’ve heard the best angler in a given area always gets attacked the worst.

Bugs aside, I caught plenty of fish and had a blast exploring the rugged region. What the fish I caught lacked in size, they made up for in enthusiasm to eat a fly. On the morning of our first full day at camp, I started off fishing the river just across the dirt road from our cabin. I didn’t even bother chasing the monstrous salmonids the river is seasonally known for, and instead diverted my attention to another underrated fish that can attain beastly proportions: fallfish.

Last year at this time, I had terrific luck catching big (16-18″) fallfish on mouse flies. This year, I hoped to repeat this pattern. And I did, but the fish were not nearly the same size or volume as last year. I suspect the fish are slightly ahead of last year’s schedule, meaning the true giants already completed their spawn and retreated back to the lakes.

Not as big as last year’s fallfish, but a mouse eater all-the-same.

Later in the day, after a pretty significant rainstorm that bumped the water levels a bit, my grandfather and I headed over to the nearby Rangeley River to close out the evening. True to my suspicions, conversations with other anglers revealed that the big fish had already left the river. Still, plenty of smaller trout and salmon remained in the river for the onslaught of Memorial Day weekend anglers to enjoy.

The hot fly of the evening was my go-to small stream fly, the purple haze. Through the mesh of my bug net I couldn’t tell exactly what insects were hatching, though there were certainly enough to bring the fish to the surface. The dimples of trout and salmon maws constantly peppered the pool I was fishing. Nearly every cast yielded a strike, and sometimes a surprise common shiner would appear at the other end of my line. Mostly, though, it was four-to-eight inch brookies and landlocks, which launched themselves at my artificially colored fly with abandon. I couldn’t complain.

The next day, my 80-year-old grandfather and I had an ambitious trip planned to a remote pond. Without a passable road or formal trail, we’d be bushwhacking our way in. To hear the tale of this exciting adventure, read my post in BlogFlyFish.

On the final morning of our trip, I woke up earlier than intended. Rather than moping in the chilly, mosquito-filled cabin, I figured I’d soak in the final minutes of western Maine beauty down by the river. With my rod rigged with a small sparkle caddis emerger, I hoped to find one of the elusive brookies that stick around after the big fish leave.

Fog rolled off the river in thick sheets as the first rays of the morning sun tickled the tips of the spruce. I worked my way upstream for a while, simply enjoying the morning air without so much as taking a cast. When I decided I’d waded far enough, I turned back downstream to fish a short riffle I’d identified on my way up. It didn’t take long before my fly was drowned by a short, spunky brookie, which I quickly brought to my outstretched hand. It was my first trout from this river in three years, so I was happy no matter the size.

A racey brook trout to cap the trip.

That fish concluded my brief escape from the commitments of school, sports, and other activities, and began some of the most hectic few weeks I’ve ever lived through. I’m happy to have finally got the chance to write this post, which has been weeks in the making. Fingers crossed, my schedule should mellow out after my last day of school on Thursday.

Then it will be summer, and I’ll have to start preparing for my fishing-filled trip to North Carolina in early July. More on that soon. Tight lines and good tan lines, everyone.

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