Paul Doiron remembers his first day of fishing on the Megunticook River.
Like many fishermen I always dreamed of a home by the water. A tidal river swimming with stripers, or maybe a trout stream just down the hill, even a puddle in the backyard with some bluegills - I would have taken anything. So when my wife and I were house hunting a few years ago and she suggested we look at a bungalow in Camden's Millville neighborhood, my interest accelerated from zero to sixty when she spoke five simple words: "It's on the Megunticook River."
My response was even briefer: "Where do I sign?"
We bought the house in January, and all winter I stared out at the river, waiting for April 1 when I could legally wet a line. I should have realized there's a reason that fishing season opens on April Fool's Day. On that cold morning I descended the mud bank behind my shed, and I began casting streamers into the rushing torrent. The hours wore on without a single strike. But the uninterrupted quiet gave me ample time to examine the broken bottles and rusted metal at my feet.
The Megunticook was once an industrial river, home to a woolen mill, gunpowder factory, and leather tannery. Even today, six dams interrupt what would otherwise be a short, three-mile sprint between the lake and Camden Harbor. For decades the river also served efficiently as a garbage removal system for local residents (we still see discarded Christmas trees float by). From my porch the scene was picturesque, but up close the Megunticook showed scars from its long abuse.
Nor did the fishing bring to mind the fabled rivers of the Rangeley region (page 102). That first summer, my daily catch never amounted to more than a couple of microscopic bass. I did surprise a mink one morning who was clearly accustomed to having the river to himself. But mostly I waded gingerly through the spiked riverbed, trying to recall when I'd last gotten a tetanus shot.
The following April I returned stubbornly to the river. I had discovered a promising pool during the winter, and sure enough, I soon saw a rise along the bank. Carefully, I lobbed a Muddler Minnow nearby. Up from the depths rose an eighteen-inch rainbow trout to seize it. Our tussle lasted ten minutes before I had the fish in hand. I smiled in the direction of my new house, wishing my wife could have shared this moment, and then I gently returned the beautiful creature to the river we both called home.
- By: Paul Doiron