A memorable fishing experience at Nesowadnehunk

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NORTHERN PISCATAQUIS COUNTY — It was a case of just having to get away, and what better idea than a short fall fishing trip with friends. They nicknamed me Scoop a long time ago from newspaper work and I thought writing about it would be fun. We traveled to Nesowadnehunk Wilderness Camps in the northern reaches of Piscataquis County. Pronounced Sow-da-hunk by the local folk, this lake is the largest fly-fishing-only lake in Maine.

Driving north from Greenville, we bounced along from the Golden Road to the Telos Road and eventually turned into the camps. Cabins and travel trailers clustered along the stream leading out of the lake. The place is rustic, surrounded by peaked mountains and really beautiful. The trees were starting to display their autumn finery of red and gold; the waters of the lake were dark and secretive. Chickens roamed free on the grounds, scrutinizing the grass for insects and tidbits. Bear hunters were there too – reaping the reward of a successful hunt, and skinning a couple of bears. Quite a sight!

After parking and unloading gear at the cabin it was time to go fishing – there was a slight mist in the air but no real rain. Perfect for brookies! I was given a canoe and loaded my gear – the rod, reel and some carefully chosen flies. Paddling out the inlet to the lake was perfect – nice flat water and fish rising everywhere. Unfortunately, that’s just where you CAN’T fish so I had to keep on going. I pulled into a small cove and started casting.

About five minutes of out-the-window-and-through-the-door I got a bite. Oh boy! It was a pretty-looking fish, especially at the last glimpse of him after carefully reeling him in – he rolled and flashed his pink belly at me and then he was gone. I reeled the rest of the line in and discovered my special Maple Syrup Fly was still attached. Whew!

Nesowadnehunk Lake,

Observer photo/Shelagh Talbot
NESOWADNEHUNK LAKE — The view down the thoroughfare to Nesowadnehunk Lake, from canoe.

For the next 20 minutes or so, I paddled around and cast the line. Nothing. Time to move on to another spot. I did this a few times. Then, I noticed the wind had picked up a bit, but it wasn’t too bad so I paddled on to a place where I had been assured there might be fishies. I picked a place to cast to and the line went out pretty good. And then – OH MY! I had a bite — a HUGE bite – I thought it might be a snapping turtle. ZING went the line, the rod bent and I was holding on. Suddenly the canoe started twirling like an autumn leaf on water and I was afraid I would break my rod for sure.

After some frantic moments I realized it was no snapping turtle or Monster Brookie – it was a snag or root under the water. But… how to save the line?? Have you ever tried to paddle a canoe with one hand AND not lose your straining fly rod in the other? And deal with a rising wind and unruly canoe all at once?

For about 20 minutes I flailed and flapped. I’d paddle like crazy and start reeling in. I’d almost get the tippet end to me when WHOOSH the wind blew, the canoe shuddered and twisted, the line went ZING and the whole procedure had to be repeated over and over again. Finally, the Fishing Gods granted a lull in the wind and I was able to get above the snag and reel everything in. Everything, that is, except the special Maple Syrup Fly.

Oh well… I was so grateful that the rod didn’t break that I laughed in relief. There were some fishermen in the distance and I could have sworn they were doubled over in their boat after watching my antics. Don’t blame ‘em a bit! By the time I’d gotten back to the nice narrow thoroughfare near the docks, the sun was setting and it seemed as if a gazillion brook trout were surfacing all around me – and laughing too!

I dragged the canoe up and hauled my gear back to camp. After foraging for a frosty beverage I sat and toasted the fish and the beauty of the area. Ahhhh…. Nesowadnehunk, now that’s getting away!

Owner Leo Purlington runs the wilderness campground with its 11 different sized cabins (for groups of up to 12 down to the smaller cabins for two to four people) and caters to the needs of all sportsmen and fishing enthusiasts as well as all who just want to explore this beautiful wild region. There’s a store on the premises in case you need anything, including a souvenir or two.

It says on their website that in addition to the fishing opportunities, “We cater to small game, bear, moose and deer hunters. Our camps are located in an area laced with old logging roads that provide easy access to a wide variety of hunting territory and opportunities” near to Baxter State Park and the Katahdin wilderness areas. Call (207) 458-1551 from May to November for information. From December to April the phone is (207) 746-0008. Visit them online at

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