Since reconnecting with friend George Quimby several months ago at the Cabin Fever Reliever, he has been determined to get me out on the water.
He has the boat, the gear, the motivation and the time to go fishing, which is one of his passions. The Brewer resident has successfully fished all over eastern and northern Maine, including recent forays to Long Lake in Aroostook County, Branch Lake in Ellsworth and Brewer Lake.
We had talked about a visit to a Bangor-area lake in search of salmon or trout. But news of a promising early striped bass run in the Penobscot River this year led George to suggest we give it a try.
Not one to pass up an opportunity to target stripers, I gladly accepted the invitation.
It was a glorious day for it: abundant sunshine, temperatures in the mid-70s and a cooling — and sometimes gusty — south wind.
We would troll the Penobscot from Hamlin’s Marina in Hampden up to the site of the old Bangor Water Works dam, and back. Even though the purpose was to catch fish, it proved a delightful sightseeing excursion as well.
We rigged up three rods, including a fly rod off the stern with leadcore and one of George’s hand-tied streamers. I opted for a jointed chartreuse Rapala, which he had fitted with a couple of small spinners and dressed with red hair on the rear hook. George started off with a spoon.
With the rods situated in the rod holders, I began using my phone and camera to snap photos and capture some video. We passed the huge cranes at the Cianbro facility in Brewer and soon came upon Fisherman’s Park, also on the Brewer shore.
Not even a half-hour into our trip, my rod was bent over by a huge strike. At first, I was certain that I must be hooked on the bottom. I snatched the rod from the holder and set the hook.
Instantly, the resistance was gone. The new 8-pound-test leader had snapped under the strain. Excitement turned to dismay and George’s lure was gone.
Since I had left my fishing gear at camp, he had generously offered to provide the rod, reel and lures. I felt awful and quickly apologized.
“Don’t worry about it,” George said.
We agreed that a large fish had caused the commotion. We were trolling in 20-plus feet of water using a lure that was fluttering barely below the surface, where there were no obstacles.
After checking the drag, it was determined that it probably was set a little too tight. So we backed it off a hair.
George produced one of his lure boxes, from which I tentatively plucked another smaller Rapala-style lure, this one bright blue. I commented that he should choose a lure for me — one that he wouldn’t feel bad about losing.
He insisted that he wasn’t the least bit concerned about that possibility. He probably should have been.
Another less impressive strike 15 minutes or so later didn’t yield a fish. I continued capturing images of the historic Bangor waterfront as we motored under the Veterans Remembrance Bridge, then past the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge.
It’s amazing what you can overlook, even when it’s right under your nose. I have lived in Bangor my entire life, yet had only been on the Penobscot twice previously.
One of those times came nearly 50 years ago on a trip from Brooksville to Hampden with childhood friend Bobby Twitchell. I had never been on this stretch of the river.
I marveled at the views of downtown Bangor, and the sight of Northern Light Medical Center — where I and both of my sons were born — in the distance.
The perspective provided a new appreciation for the beauty of the waterfront from an angle that can’t be achieved other than from the water.
Next thing I knew, my rod doubled over again. I grabbed it, stood up and again must have set the hook too aggressively. This time, the SpiderWire snapped much closer to the rod and the line recoiled back through the interline rod.
Both the bead chain swivel and the lure were gone. I hung my head, thinking back to the inexperienced kid who had snagged hooks, broken off line and lost lures while learning the ins and outs of fishing.
Again, I apologized to George. Again, he shrugged it off.
Since he hadn’t brought along the device used to thread the line up through the inside of the rod, he put it aside and told me to grab the fly rod.
I removed the streamer and reluctantly asked him to select the next lure, which almost certainly would become lodged in the jaw of a feisty Penobscot River fish and be lost forever.
I had messed up and I had to own it.
“You know what they say,” George said.
“[Expletive] happens?” I guessed.
“Yup,” he said.
Embarrassed and somewhat defeated, I was certain that the run of bad luck would continue. All I could think of was, “I hope I can find these lures so I can replace them.”
As we passed the hospital, the fish started hitting. As I reeled in my first, George caught one simultaneously.
They were small smallmouth bass, rather than stripers, but it didn’t matter. We enjoyed great action for a while as George pilotted his 16-foot boat up toward the dam, around and back toward town.
We landed several bass and lost a few more, which thankfully took my mind off the earlier woes and helped restore my shaken confidence.
The return trip to Hampden was made heading into a stiff wind, which created more choppy conditions. I finished the run by throwing on a nifty streamer tied by George.
It featured a large eye and deep purple feathers topped by some glittery green material and white marabou feathers, topped by some greenish ones. The hooks also were wrapped with sparkly thread onto a piece of copper-colored metal wire.
I didn’t catch any fish on it, but it survived the trip and didn’t meet the same destiny as the ill-fated lures.
As we passed the outdoor decks at the Sea Dog in Bangor and High Tide in Brewer, George recounted having generated some cheers from the patrons in the past when catching a striper in front of the establishments.
There would be no such celebrations on this particular day, but the memories of seeing the waterfront from a boat and spending time on the Penobscot with a friend will be lasting ones.
Hopefully, George doesn’t cross me off his list of potential future fishing buddies. In the meantime, I plan to stock up on lures.