This fat native brookie fell for my “psychedelic” spoon
The cold front, which announced itself yesterday evening, definitely arrived overnight. The wind is blowing hard from the northwest and the sky is completely overcast with a low cloud deck shrouding the nearby Traveler Mountains. But that doesn’t stop me from crawling out of my tent at the crack of dawn for a morning troll on Upper South Branch Pond using lead core line. I’d like to repeat the experience from last evening by catching another brookie. I do hesitate for a moment about fishing alone when I get to the lake shore: paddling the canoe by myself into the stiff wind will be quite a chore. But what the heck: how often do I get to fish this gorgeous pond? I’m richly rewarded in three ways for my tenacity. I land a healthy 13” native brook trout after about 30 minutes trolling with two spoons fished in tandem one color down (just like yesterday evening). I also experience a unique sound effect: the resident loon calls out twice in a row as I pass it by; its haunting song echoes off the surrounding rock cliffs! I stop paddling to soak in this precious moment… Finally, I see a dark shape ambling in the shallow water along the southern (downwind) shoreline of the lake as I troll back towards my starting point. It’s a young bull moose grazing on the aquatic vegetation! Wow, that’s really awesome except that the wind is pushing me straight in the direction of the animal. The canoe acts like a sail whenever I try to turn it sideways… Then one of my lures decides to hang up on the bottom. F*ck!! I paddle backwards like a madman to retrieve my lures and then turn the canoe sideways and paddle like a maniac to stay away from the moose but parallel to the shoreline. Fortunately, the beast gives me a long dumb look, completely ignores my grunts and paddling shenanigans, and slowly moves on. It’s now 6:50 am and I don’t have the strength left in my arms to battle upwind for another round. I call it good, glad to have caught two nice brook trout in less than 1.5 hours of trolling between yesterday evening and this morning.
DAY 3: Middle Fowler Pond to Upper South Branch Pond
A gorgeous view of the Traveler Mountains from the north shore of Lower South Branch Pond
The brook trout fishing on Middle Fowler Pond was so incredible yesterday evening that I decide not to fish the same pond again this morning. Instead, we rise at 7 am and get ready for our first “real” hike of our five-day trans Baxter State Park adventure. The trail from our current camp site to the large camp ground at Lower South Branch Pond is only about 5 miles. However, the first half consists of gaining about 1,000 ft to cross over Burrell Ridge. That represents a serious physical effort considering that our backpacks weigh over 40 lbs… We leave Middle Fowler Pond around 9:30 am and have lunch on top of the ridge by noon. The view from up there towards the opposite cliffs is beautiful, but we don’t have a ton of time to waste. Soon, we’re on our way down and reach the ranger station at the outlet of Lower South Branch Pond by 1:30 pm. Our camp site for tonight is located another 2 miles away, at the southern tip of Upper South Branch Pond. That site does not have a canoe. So we rent one from the ranger (we’ll bring it back tomorrow morning), load it up with our gear, and paddle upwind towards the thoroughfare that links the two ponds. We portage the canoe for about a quarter mile to pass the shallow thoroughfare. Note that it is possible to pull the canoe through it as we did in 2012, but at the risk of getting wet feet. Reaching the camp site on Upper South Branch Pond by canoe from the ranger station takes less than one hour.
Today is definitely the “laziest” of our five hiking days. We have to walk for about 2 miles, i.e., no more than one hour, in order to reach our next camp site on Middle Fowler Pond. Hence, we don’t feel the rush to get going this morning. Joel and Salvador are sleeping in, whereas I have a hot date with High Pond (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 A1). I crawl out of my tent at 6 am, well before sunrise, and walk to the canoe storage place. I unlock the canoe and drag it over the spit of land separating Long Pond from High Pond, and gently lower it into the water.
View of Mount Katadhin from south of Millinocket, Maine
Baxter State Park (BSP) is the crown jewel of the Maine state park system. Tens of thousands of nature lovers every year make the pilgrimage to northern Maine to enjoy its outstanding beauty. Most people, however, enter this natural wonder at the south end of the park and head straight for Mount Katadhin and its legendary Knife’s Edge, the most spectacular 1.5 mile trail in the northeast. But there’s so much more to BSP than Katadhin! In an effort to expand our horizons and combine our favorite outdoors activities (i.e., hiking, camping, and brook trout fishing), my son Joel and I decided in September 2012 to hike and fish our way across BSP starting at Trout Brook Farm by Matagamon Gate in the north all the way across to Roaring Brook in the south. This adventure was cut short on the third day due to an unfortunate foot injury.
The five blogs that follow tell the story of the successful completion of this trip, which took place between September 26 and 30, 2014. Joel and I were joined by my nephew Salvador on our adventure. The blogs will not repeat all of the background information provided here on how to reserve camp sites at BSP, rent canoes for fishing, identify brook trout ponds, obtain maps, or select hiking trails.
Baxter State Park is the premier wilderness destination in northern Maine for hiking, fishing, and camping. The park is home to several dozen ponds that support healthy native brook trout populations (click here for details on an awesome trans Baxter State Park hiking and fishing trip). The State of Maine also stocks hatchery trout every year in seven designated ponds in the Park to improve the fishing experience. These ponds, and their trout stocking rates, are the subject of this blog.
Baxter State Park offers a genuine wilderness setting. Most people know the park for the spectacular Mount Katadhin hike, including the one-of-a-kind Knife’s Edge Trail. Yet Baxter also offers a tremendous variety of outdoors opportunities which I decided to explore in-depth during a five-day hiking/camping/fishing trip with my son Joel in mid-September, 2012. As a serious bonus, the park offers some of the best native brook trout fishing opportunities on unspoiled ponds found anywhere in the state of Maine.
The hike started at Trout Brook Farm, located about 3 miles west of the northern entrance to Baxter State Park at Matagamon Gate (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 A1) and was scheduled to end at the Roaring Brook campground (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 C1). Click here for downloadable maps of the ponds and the hiking trails on this itinerary.
Trout Brook in late summer, Baxter State Park, Maine
Trout Brook flows roughly parallel with the Park Tote Road (a.k.a. Perimeter Road) in the northern part of Baxter State Park. The brook originates in the western reaches of the park and empties into Grand Lake Matagamon to the east. The substrate consists mostly of coarse sand, pebbles, and cobbles interspersed by many large boulders. The water has a slightly stained color but is otherwise clear and clean.