Team Cheeky Member, Jack Sine, heads back to his old stomping grounds in Maine to participate in the All Species Tournament. A work trip has a different meaning in the fly-fishing industry. Read more about the trip here.
“How can we catch two dozen species in a weekend?” This message from my teammate, Beck, popped into my inbox a few weeks before we headed to Maine for the Oxbow Brewing All Species Tournament. The Tournament offers prizes, including Cheeky fly fishing reels to anglers catching the most species and the largest of a few key fish types.
Frankly, I had never thought about the possibility of catching this many species before, let alone in 48 hours. Beck and I went to school together in Waterville, Maine, and we prepared a plan that would allow us to target a wide variety of fish in the place we called home prior to my move to Cheeky HQ earlier this year.
The state of Maine features 5,782 lakes, 31,806 miles of brooks, rivers, and streams, which hosts 56 different freshwater fish. Maine also boasts 3,500 miles of coastline with a multitude of saltwater gamefish, including striped bass, bluefish, bluefin tuna, and several shark species.
The trip began on Friday at the Cheeky Fishing Headquarters in North Adams, Massachusetts. I left the office midday and headed due north to Oxbow Brewing to drop off some Cheeky Reels for the awards ceremony on Sunday and to pick up our Captain’s Bags, a Yeti Dry Bag! It was perfect for my Cheeky Fishing tippet, leaders, and some camera equipment. We then headed another 100 miles north to our campsite in Solon, Maine, on the Kennebec River, where we would be doing the majority of our fishing. Our plan was to focus on the myriad of fresh water fish that called that river system home. We were looking for a large species count and, perhaps, some big fish.
After a few heaping servings of my secret camp pesto pasta with chunks of cheddar jalapeno sausages, we threw on our headlamps and hit the stretch of calm water right below our campsite Thanks to the full moon we found several landlocked salmon and brown trout that had a hard time resisting our Goddard’s caddis. The moonlight was so bright that we didn’t even need the headlamps aside from changing flies and, well, untangling leaders. Although the tournament did not start until 5am the next morning, these fish reassured us that we had picked the right place to start the tournament.
Early the next morning, Beck and I picked up a rental canoe and some local tips from Joe, the owner-operator of Evergreens Campground. On our 10-mile float on the Kennebec, Joe recommended we stop at a long, bald, bedrock ledge.
“Splash some water on the rock and wait a few seconds,” Joe suggested. After doing this, we began to make out hundreds of markings and carvings in the rock. These marking are known as the Embden, Maine Petroglyphs. They were carved by members of a Native American tribe before settlers arrived in Maine. I wonder how many species they would have found back then? Were the salmon so plentiful you could see them spawning like in Alaska? Unexpected findings and moments like this drive me to continue exploring, and sometimes, the fishing seems to serve simply as an extension of a greater journey.
Pushing off the petroglyph ledge, we worked our way down to Gray Island, the first place the river forks. I began drifting a purple psycho prince nymph above a crawfish jig, and my teammate worked the run using a dry dropper set up. My weapons of choice included a 10-foot 4 weight rod paired with a Launch 350 spooled with a Cheeky All Day Fly Line for dry flies and nymphs. I also rigged up a 9-foot 7 weight rod with a Limitless 375 and sinking line for swinging streamers in deeper, faster water. My teammate's style of fishing was a bit more versatile as he utilized a Limitless 375 on his 9-foot 5 weight. A great all-around set up.
In a pool below the first long run, we caught a 13-inch fallfish, a 14-inch brook trout, several small brown trout, and a 16-inch salmon to start our list of caught species. We were off to a really strong start as the September sun started to beat down on us from above.
Over the next several hours of our float, we continued to catch trout and salmon in the faster runs below Savage Island before we entered the long, slower stretches down river that yielded nearly two dozen smallmouth bass ranging from 8 to 14 inches over the afternoon hours. The area of along this stretch of the Kennebec River has abundant wildlife. We had two flyovers by mature bald eagles and saw some white-tail deer devouring corn in in a riverside field.
The next morning, we packed up camp and hit several freshwater ponds and streams on our drive south towards Oxford to turn in our score cards. We added to our species count with crappie, sunfish, and a largemouth bass. We ended up catching 7 species by Sunday afternoon and were stoked when as we rolled into the Oxbow Beer Garden. At Oxbow, we enjoyed the special “All Species” pizza. A pie made with a pimento cheese base and fresh, local cauliflower and tomatoes. We met loads of awesome folks at the event. Anglers came from all over New England to compete. American Saltwater Guides Association, the beneficiary of the tournament proceeds, spoke about sustainable businesses and how they drive conservation and environmental protection. It made me proud to work for Team Cheeky who cares deeply about our fisheries.
What I enjoyed most was hearing all of the different approaches and tactics that the winning teams took to find success. Whether it was running several miles offshore of Casco Bay to catch a ten-foot blue shark, portaging a canoe down a treacherous trail to find 20 inch stillwater brookies, or fishing a drain ditch for sunfish. Every angler at the event was happy to come together for this great cause. Congratulations to the winning team who managed to bring 14 species of fish to the net over the weekend. I think we did fairly well with our 7 species, but more importantly we supported Tim Adams (Owner of Oxbow and Cheeky fan), ASGA and explored the beautiful water of Maine. Not a bad work trip.
Meet the Author: Jack Sine joined the Cheeky Team earlier this year as our customer service role. If you've emailed, called, or chatted us, you've most likely heard his friendly voice or helpful notes. He may have even dispensed some fishing tips for you! Jack is a recent graduate of Colby College and an avid fly fisherman. Here is a recap of his experiences on his first “work trip” for Cheeky Fishing.