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Claybrook Mountain Lodge
April, 2016

On the first day of April the sapsuckers arrived and endless tapping on the back of the mailbox stand (and anything else that makes a good sound) has begun. From here on there will be new arrivals every day. The snow is gone and a little green grass is showing but there are still some cold snaps in the works.

There have been only small precipitation events, and with the snow gone and slow melting of the frost, mud season might be over quickly. My estimate is that we are two weeks ahead of what we consider the normal chain of events in Spring. Ron and I have a trip planned to his camp in early May for the annual smelt run, but it might be too late. Ice went out of Gilman Pond in mid-April and Pierce Pond was open by the 20th. That is the earliest ice out at “The Pond” that I can remember. I checked a remote small pond that has a smelt run on April 23rd and though there were eggs in the stream, I did not see any smelts in spite of staying out until late into the night.

I heard the ice was out in Rangeley so I decided to go there and check out the smelt runs there. When I arrived, I saw the same thing had occurred. I went to look at a little stream that crosses route 16 into Rangeley Lake and discovered lots of eggs so I launched my boat there and tied it up. When I came back later at night I checked the brook again and found only one or two smelts. I was about to shove off to try casting for trout in the dark when a truck came roaring up and a Maine Game Warden jumped out, asking what I was up to. Taking of smelts isn’t allowed in any of the Rangeley area tributaries, and Brock Clukey was quite sure he had a poacher on his hands. I don’t think he quite trusted me when I told him I was only looking to cast a streamer for a Brook Trout, but when he searched the boat and found no smelt net he began to believe it. I assume that he had already checked my truck that was parked in the boat launch parking area. He was polite and professional. He asked a few questions, wished me luck and was on his way. It was reassuring to know men are out there at all hours looking after things. Warden Clukey was so sure that he had a poacher I think it broke his focus because he didn’t even ask me for a license. Then again he might already have run the info from my truck to check that ahead of time.

After all that I didn’t catch anything in Rangeley. My next fishing experience was at Butler Pond in Kingfield. It takes about 40 minutes to hike in from Roundup Road to a canoe I have stashed there. It was a perfect morning and I was sure there would be fish cruising around. I saw an eagle on the shore, an osprey flying from tree to tree, 3 loons diving repeatedly and an otter swam close to take a look at me. I did not get a single hit from a fish. All those fish eaters in one place means something, but I couldn’t prove it yet.

Pat and I took a drive to Bar Harbor for a family gathering. My little sister, Eileen was home from Beirut Lebanon on leave. The tourist season wasn’t open yet and a lot of businesses were just beginning to prepare for the summer onslaught. This was our monthly family dinner gathering and there were so many of us that our reservation filled the restaurant. About the only seats left were at the bar. Eileen’s in-law family from the area came and we really had a great dinner with family we rarely see. I recommend Acadia this time of year. Pat and I took a stroll to the Dorr homestead where the founder of the park had a “cottage”. The foundation of the house is all that remains. It is near a beautiful rocky cove in a stand of old hardwoods. Stone steps lead down to the water where we sat in the sun and watched Purple Sandpipers perform their acrobatic flight. It was difficult to leave this peaceful place and head back to mud season.

The vernal pool season followed the pattern by occurring almost two weeks early. I checked our little pool on the corner of Howard Hill Road and saw evidence of Spotted Salamanders and Wood Frogs during the day. We could hear Spring Peepers while sitting on the porch at night. (I should say Pat could hear them. The old guide has lost so much of his hearing that I have to be standing in the pool to hear the ”peepers” now.) I couldn’t resist checking the pool on the Hardscrabble Road, and sure enough the migration of salamanders was underway. In this time of climate uncertainty, it is reassuring to still see predictable patterns. In spite of being so early, at least the frogs and salamanders are carrying on and reproducing for another year.

New birds are arriving every day and we are excited for our birding trips coming up in May. We hope to see you then.

                                        “Gang Warily”,
                                             Greg and Pat

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