Drift boat contest winner a great fishing companion

Guide Dan Legere, proprietor of the Maine Guide Fly Shop in Greenville (right) snaps a photo of Jasper Walsh of Newburgh during a fishing trip on the East Outlet of the Kennbec River on June 17. Walsh was the winner of the 10th annual BDN “Win a Drift Boat Trip” contest. BDN photo by John Holyoke

On a bluebird Sunday, Jasper Walsh spent a busy day at “fishing college” with our professor for the day, Maine guide Dan Legere. Walsh was this year’s winner in the 10th annual BDN “Win a Drift Boat Trip” contest, thanks to the kindness of a co-worker who tossed his name in the box during the Eastern Maine Sportsman’s Show in Orono back in March.

Truth be told, Walsh entered the day with at least a masters-level fishing education. He fishes a lot. He knows what he’s doing. Heck, he even built his own drift boat out of aluminum. But by the time the Newburgh angler left the East Outlet of the Kennebec a few dozen fish later, he had certainly achieved Ph.D. status.

Jasper Walsh of Newburgh shows off a landlocked salmon he caught on the East Outlet of the Kennebec River on June 17 while fishing with guide Dan Legere of the Maine Guide Fly Shop of Greenville. Walsh was the winner of the BDN’s 10th annual “Win a Drift Boat Trip.” BDN photo by John Holyoke

Legere is the proprietor of the Maine Guide Fly Shop in Greenville, and he clearly relished the chance to offer small hints to an otherwise “finished” student.

Clouds of caddisflies floated free of the riverside alder trees before we even began our drift, and fish were rising before we had rods strung up and ready for action.

Walsh wasted no time, casting to finicky fish and bringing them to hand again and again and again.

Over the course of a full day with our friendly winner, I learned that he’s not just a fishing nut. He’s a well-rounded guy who has completed all kinds of projects that are on others’ “bucket lists.”

Hike the entire Appalachian Trail? He did that. Ride a bicycle from coast to coast … and then some? He did that, too — more than 5,000 miles with a bunch of buddies.

Build a motorcycle? Well, he did that, too.

And somewhere along the line — he credits his patient wife, Bryn, for this — he finds time to fish a ton.

The day was simply a treat for me. Walsh was a great fishing companion. Legere was a phenomenal guide, as always. Lunch — always a highlight — was again wonderful. Penny Legere’s cheesecake-in-a-jar was a perfect dessert to cap the first half of a perfect day.

Then we were back onto the river, where Walsh continued his fishing exhibition.

At the end of the day, I was left with a single thought: Too bad we only run this contest once a year.

Just another great day in the woods of Maine.

Salmon returns slowing

Atlantic salmon returns on the Penobscot River had slowed over the past few weeks, and after a brisk early spring, the trap tally at the Veazie Dam has fallen far behind the pace of recent years.

Just 37 fish returned during the weeklong period ending June 20, and only 65 were trapped during the seven days before that.

The seasonal tally stands at 536 salmon, according to Mitch Simpson of the Maine Bureau of Sea-Run Fisheries and Habitat. On the same date a year ago, a whopping 2,066 fish had returned to the Penobscot. In 2010, 1,035 fish had been caught in the Veazie trap.

Salmon runs typically slow when the water temperature rises, but the Penobscot was running cool enough over the past two weeks that biologists don’t think warm water was a factor in the slowing of the run.

It may just be that there aren’t many fish staging in Penobscot Bay, preparing to make their dash up to their spawning grounds.

Here’s hoping the situation improves.

A little striper activity

Last week I told you that a local angler had had a (tiny) bit of success fishing for striped bass on the Penobscot. Earlier this week I heard from his mother, who said that Hunter Pate had hooked another striper.

As many readers likely know, striper fishing has gone from “fantastic” to “nonexistent” on the Penobscot over the past five years or so.

Earlier this week I took a trip over to the once-popular park in South Brewer where striper anglers fished from shore during the years when the fish were plentiful.

For the first time in a few years, I actually found a fisherman there. Though the fishing was slow that day, he did say he’d caught a couple during an earlier trip to the park.

Sounds like it’s time for others to follow suit. You don’t catch much if you don’t make a cast, after all.

John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.