The North Woods’ wild, native Maine brown trout are breathtakingly beautiful.
All photos by Charles Hildick-Smith

Our second day at Libby Camps Dawn was clear and calm in Maine’s North Woods, perfect weather for a short flight and a long day on the water. After flying the guides and gear to a lake on the western border of Baxter State Park, lodge owner and pilot Matt J. Libby came back to pick up Charlie and I and guest Jerry Birchmore who would be joining our adventure. Flying seaplanes is always exciting, and soaring over a stunning wilderness with Mount Katahdin in the distance was a cool experience.

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Pack up for the short flight to the lake where the creek begins.

We ended up at the lake, the headwaters of a beautiful creek that flows through a pine forest in a series of ponds, pocket water sections and wide curves. The plan was to hike a little over a mile downstream and then fish back to the lake with fish. According to guide Jeff LaBree, the key to making this all work out is time management: There’s so much good water that you have to constantly force yourself to keep going upstream or you’ll never make it in time to meet the plane home.

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The view from the seaplane is breathtaking.

Eventually we stopped at a gravel bar where we stocked up on stint imitations. Jeff showed me a deeper run on the far bank and told me to wade halfway up the creek to present the fly from above. On my first cast a trout made a big hit on the fly but didn’t eat it. But a few casts later he smashed the fly and the first of many fish landed in the net. While I’m used to catching most fish while a streamer is swinging above Because of the current, the trout in this stream often hit when the fly was flying directly upstream, so it took a lot of touch ups in places to get just the right angle.

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We hiked just over a mile and then hiked a bit through the bush to get to the water.

Over the next seven hours, both of our fishing parties hopped upstream, catching trout almost every spot we stopped. The creeks were large by my Vermont mountain creek standards—mostly 10 to 14 inches—but no blowholes were landed. We relocated a few much larger trout but couldn’t get them to endure the bright sunny conditions. There is so much great looking water that it was difficult to get past some sections. “Time management!” Jeff would announce, forcing us to continue upstream inexorably. I could well imagine spending three or four days fishing what we have covered.

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My first snag of the day came from a narrow gap on the other bank.

Eventually Jeff stopped at a short pool that actually didn’t look promising at all to me. Seeing my skepticism, he said, “Humor for an old man, eh?” So I waded in and caught four trout in a spot I would have walked by without a second thought. Jeff grinned from ear to ear every time he dipped the net to receive another brookie. “Works every time,” he chuckled.

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This beauty pulled off a stint imitation.

As I write this, sitting at the lodge after dinner, I have the wonderful feeling of being both exhausted from the day’s rigors and exhilarated by the great experience. I leave you with some great shots that Charlie took that really capture the flavor of the experience. Tomorrow we fly out again in search of landlocked salmon. Stay tuned.

Click here to read more about the first day of our journey.

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We met a beautiful friend at the first pool where we stopped to fish.
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There was a great view at every bend in the river.
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We caught fish in almost every tank we stopped at, and sometimes four or five trout were caught.
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Even the photographer was part of the party.
Photo by Phil Monahan