Brook trout fishing on Nesowadnehunk Stream, Baxter State Park, Maine (September 28, 2016)

Bushwhacking is required in order to find the secret honey holes...

Be ready to bushwhack in order to find the secret honey holes…

Nesowadnehunk Stream is a tributary of the west branch of the Penobscot River with its source located at the outlet of Nesowadnehunk Lake. This 17-mile stream flows roughly along the western and southern boundary of Baxter State Park (BSP) in northern Maine (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 50; the outlet of Nesowadnehunk lake is on map 50 B4). About three quarters of the stream runs approximately parallel to the Park Tote Road which connects the south entrance (i.e., Togue Pond Gate) to the north entrance (i.e., Matagamon Gate) of BSP. The surrounding watershed is hilly and deeply forested with a mixture of evergreen and deciduous trees. The stream is typically 20 to 40 ft wide and has a depth ranging from < 1 ft to > 4 ft. Depending on the location, the substrate varies from soft silty mud, to coarse gravel, to exposed bedrock, to boulders. Fishing on this stream is particularly enjoyable in late summer-early fall due to the cooling surface water and the total lack of black flies, mosquitos and deer flies which can drive even the most dedicated angler to insanity in the spring. Keep in mind that open-water fishing in this part of Maine ends on September 30, whereas BSP closes for the season on October 15.

 

 

 

The deep, slow-moving pool behind a beaver dam holds numerous trout!

The deep, slow-moving pool behind a beaver dam holds numerous brook trout!

 

 

Nesowadnehunk Stream was used extensively for log driving in a now bygone era. A remnant of this activity is still visible at Ledge Falls, a popular swimming hole next to the Park Tote Road, in the form of half a dozen 2”-wide steel spikes that were pounded into the bedrock and were subsequently flattened by decades of passing logs and ice floes. The bottom of the stream is still littered with many pulp wood logs that sank down and got wedged in the substrate. They can make wading a real pain! The entire stream is also considered to be deficient in fish holding pools, probably due to past stream channelization efforts that were undertaken to facilitate log driving.

 

The pool in front of the beaver dam is also a good spot to fish for brookies

The pool in front of the beaver dam is also a good spot to fish for brookies

And yet, through it all, the sturdy native brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) survived this industrial onslaught and has now fully reclaimed Nesowadnehunk Stream as its own domain. It is this magnificent wild creature that my son Joel and I are pursuing today. One approach would be to drive along the Park Tote Road and fish promising locations visible from the road. However, that method has two major drawbacks: (a) it is what everyone else does, and (b) with a few exceptions, the water that is visible from the road is rather shallow, flows too swiftly and shows little good trout holding habitat. Don’t get me wrong: I’m sure that brookies are present in those stretches of the stream but we’re looking for something less fished and more promising. We therefore spent part of yesterday afternoon bushwhacking and exploring the upper reaches of the river in the hope of finding the next best thing to natural trout-holding pools, i.e., beaver flowages. And we found several of them!

 

Beautiful, native and strong!

Beautiful, native and strong!

Beaver dams are a native brook trout’s best friend! The busy beavers dam up a river, thereby flooding a large area behind it and creating a slow deep pool fringed by wetlands where brookies can thrive. The downstream-facing part of the dam can also offer great holding habitat. Brook trout like to seek shade and shelter away from the current underneath the multitude of branches and twigs, and dart out whenever a tasty morsel of food washes over the dam. We brought my canoe and two pairs of waders on our trip to BSP and are going to put this equipment to good use. Wading through beaver flowages can be a pain because of the deep water and the presence of a muddy bottom. A canoe allows us to cover barren stretches of the river quickly and to paddle to and through the beaver flowages in order to reach promising spots.

 

 

 

 

Your blog author caught this little guy who was hiding in the pool upstream of another beaver dam

Your blog author caught this little guy who was hiding in the pool upstream of another beaver dam

Another advantage of this kind of remote fishing is that the trout we encounter are totally naïve: they have never seen an artificial fly or been hooked before and are therefore extremely aggressive and near suicidal! Be ready for a fantastic fishing experience if you’re willing to put in the time to explore Nesowadnehunk Stream and find the beaver dams. Joel and I spent 2.5 hours casting Mickey Fins and small Grey Ghost streamer flies above and below these structures and we caught a total of between 30 and 40 brook trout (we simply lost count after a while…). And you don’t have to be too subtle either: the multitude of trout that hide underneath each beaver dam get chased away downstream when we arrive but then congregate in schools in front of the dam waiting to reclaim their spots. They quickly lose their fear of our presence and actively chase our flies. Keep the following points in mind if you plan on fishing these structures: (a) only fly fishing is allowed on this stream, (b) include extra search time in your fishing plans to find the beaver dams which are ephemeral structures that likely wash away each spring, and (c) the native brookies will invariably be small, with the majority between 5” and 8”, the minority between 8” and 10”, and only a handful measuring between 10” and 12”; trout over 12” long are not present.

 

 

 

 

Joel and I had a one-of-a-kind fishing experience on Nesowadnehunk Stream this afternoon. The work we put in the day before to find the beaver dams was worth every ounce of our sweat. We only had a few hours to fish today, but I have no doubt that we would have caught many more trout if we had had the whole day to keep on exploring. This stream is a little gold mine which will yield its riches if you’re willing to take the time to unlock its secrets…

 

Nesowadnehunk Stream, Baxter State Park, Maine

 

Was the information in this blog useful? I invite you to share your thoughts and opinions. Also, feel free to discuss your fishing experiences at this location.

 

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2 thoughts on “Brook trout fishing on Nesowadnehunk Stream, Baxter State Park, Maine (September 28, 2016)

  1. Great Adventure One of my favorite things to do! I really enjoy your stories/fishing reports!;)

  2. Your testimony is extremely well composed and will entice me to hit BSP once again when I head up to the great north woods. I was up there in early August with a guide about 45 miles in on lumber roads. The guide had located a beaver dam that ha been discovered 25 years earlier but only fished twice before way back when. It was assumed it would have failed by now so that ignored. He located it and managed to drag a canoe 1/2 mile through moose riddled woods just for us. The dam is an astounding 350feet long it literally created this tiny ponds popshoreline, like an Infinity pool. Then there was the fish. Your description of naive trout is spot on. Without having to exaggerate, every cast was a hit every other a catch. We fished well past 40 gorgeous fish with such color intensity and fight! My guide sadly said this dam will fail this winter so this experience will certainly be ethereal as this dam blows. Hopefully these fish will survive in a lower pond but probably not. I was honored to have had this extraordinary experience. bSP sounds just wonderful! Romanpolasli@cox.net

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