Monday, June 22, 2009

Tales from Kennebago

I have something different for bloggers today. To day I want to share with you an actual tale or story. I’ll let you decide. But this actually happened. I was there and was a small part of it. It is an interesting tale and I have tried to tell it as accurate as possible. In keeping with info and stories of the Kennebago and Rangeley as I promised I thought maybe a few true stories would be nice.
Many of our legends of the Rangeley and Kennebago area are not fish but the people involved. I have met most of these “legends” and am a better man for it. To me our greatest legend was an old man named “Skeet” Davenport. I have always known him as Skeet and never really knew his given name. He was the center point of most debates and involved in just about everything. Rangeley had a real mayor and then there was Skeet Davenport the un-official mayor. If you had a question on anything you usually went to Skeet who owned a store in town. And you would get the “corrected” version and answer. He was one of the original guides at Grant’s on the big Lake and helped build parts of the camps too. A Rangeley guide by trade he had been a guide for as long as I wanted to recall.
I have known him since he used to bounce me on his knee, change my three cornered pants and tell me stories of old Rangeley, guides, smugglers, sporting camps and all sorts of rugged adventure.
So here goes believe it or not but it is true and a lesson in Rangeley humor and Kennebago style. I hope you enjoy it
Skeet stopped on the bridge to check out the water and make his choices. With a quick wave to me, he crunched the gearshift into reverse. His truck snapped to attention. With considerable coaxing, it crept down the dirt path leading to a rocky spit of land used as a canoe dock. Twenty feet of gravel and a few clumps of wild grass slid by and the truck nestled itself on a rock. This was not a small rock but an anchor sized rock. Skeet fumbled with the truck door and finally flings it open. Tapping his pipe on the handle, he steps out. Adorned in his essential green felt hat, jeans that had seen many days since purchase, a jacket of unknown origin and his relic Bean boots. Amongst the woodslore of his mind, he tried to figure where that cussed rock came from. He had backed down this landing for years on end and never discovered that rock before. He mumbles something about “flatlanders “, stopping at nothing to aggravate him and his personal opinion of rock placement by mother nature. He fretted and pondered the situation and after a prolonged internal debate, decided to leave the truck right where it is. It certainly was not going anywhere soon. Rummaging around behind the seat, he pops back in to view with a bamboo fly rod and an ancient Pfleuger reel. The rod is strung for fishing with a life-size Grey ghost minnow tied at the tip of an almost non-existent leader. With caution to the four winds and common sense being lost to fishing fever, this is where I greet Skeet exchanging tall tales, and assorted lies. We have fished this river many mornings in the past. And this morning just seemed right for fishing. Everything was in our favor. My goal for the morning was to battle a respectable size trout into submission, release him and set about the task once again. Skeet’s favorite recreation involved matching wits with the landlocked salmon. Sometimes he would win and others he would rather not chat about. We had tag teamed this river many trips before and no exceptions on this day. With considerable thrashing and crashing, Skeet maneuvered his line across the river with the fly still in residence. He was a fly fisherman of the finest kind but given an audience of non-locals, the actor in his being allows him to exhibit all the finesse of a frog on roller skates. And he dearly loves every minute of his one-man show for the “sports”. During the intermission of the first and second acts, I had managed to drown a Black ghost up stream of him. As these streamer flies waffled their wakes in the water, the devious gods of fishing joined in the game. Skeet's rod stiffened up and started to whine. I turned, looking at this sight, just as my rod doubled up and jumped with life. Skeet had a “keeper” on and so did I.
With all this commotion and antics, a respectable gathering of other fishermen on the bridge, had stopped to watch this comedy from start to end. Most of them would have made LL Bean proud; they appeared to have just strolled off the color pages of the latest fishing catalog. My! They were a sight to behold. Their catching ability may have been in question but they certainly resemble the “sports”. After several minutes of gyrations and words of questionable origin, we landed our trophies. Skeet, true to form, had bested a 3 + pound salmon and I had managed to land a nice 2 pound trout.
After the awe and wonder wore off, We tossed our lines out again. A few casts past before Skeet and I did it again. The second act began with two nice fish, battling tail and fin against us. We wrestled these two to the land and sure enough I had another trout and Skeet had a fairly respectable salmon. Of course this garnered a round of applause from the bridge. With these two beached, measured and sent on their watery way, Skeet decided to test his skill with a trout and I am always in the mood to out salmon a salmon. So we settled on trading flies. This made perfect sense to us, having done so times past. Our gallery of “professional” LL Bean fishermen reflected our common sense had gone downstream. Skeet muttered something about them being too pretty to catch anything and the trade was done. One back cast and our lines snaked out in front of us to the river. This went on for a few minutes and some uncomfortable remarks wandered down from the bridge. I think it was about then, Skeet clinched his teeth, bite his cigar in half, flipping his hat into the river and pulling hard on the cork handle, setting the hook on a serious sized fish. Chuckling at his good fortune, I almost forgot that I had a fish on too. We danced and wiggled, finally getting both fish in the net. True to form I had the salmon and Skeet had a right nice Trout. Skeet held up his prize with narration on fishing the Kennebago for the bridge gallery to see and approve of, but it must have been how Skeet said it, more than what he said because our audience turned on us. Throwing pebbles and sticks at us but what we did not know, they had been fishing since afternoon of the day before and hadn’t seen a fin. Here stood 2 locals, obviously out of uniform, nipping on a mysterious concoction called “snake bite” and catching fish big enough for a year’s worth of tall tales. The insult was the releasing of these scaled trophies. Their lack of grasp in the concept that we came to catch not to keep seemed evident. Skeet did mention something about size of bait and too many snakes on the bridge. This developed an intense series of non-flattering remarks. Funny how a few inches of fish and a lack of proper liquid rewards can turn a fisherman from a LLBean centerfold to the front page of Revenge Inc.
Skeet is long gone now and I hope he approves but I just had to share the story with you all, Too many times it is how we dress or what we say can make or break a fishing trip. So I hope you enjoyed my tale of the real Kennebago and one of the characters who made it what it is.
Until next time Keep smiling and fishing it’s these that make life worthwhile,
Rods bent and keep the tips up Joe

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