I had been thinking about getting up to the Androscoggin River all summer. Not long ago, I decided to make a quick trip to Pontook Dam for the afternoon.
In the days when I owned the shop, Janet and I would close the shop at 4 p.m. on Sunday and head up to Pontook. Our first stop would be at Ursula’s Snack Stand for a quick super and then head to the dam and fish until dark.
Pontook Dam has a long and interesting history. The first dams were constructed by the logging companies to create enough water for the annual log drives. In the 1980s, the current dam was built for a hydroelectric project.
The dam at Pontook does not generate the power, it simply provides water for a smaller dam, downstream that is the actual generating plant. It is an interesting engineering feat, but it does little to enhance the river. The dam is now in need of extensive repair and a good candidate for removal.
When the project was first introduced, it was opposed by every major conservation group in the state, including Trout Unlimited and AMC. The dam, of course, won out in the end.
Before the construction, the old dam site provided some of the finest fishing in the state. After construction, the fishing has remained somewhat marginal and, over the years, warm-water species have become dormant.
AMC has negotiated water flows since the construction, with the principle goal of maintaining adequate water for white water boating. A goal that is not always in the best interest of the cold-water fishery.
I arrived on the scene sometime after the new dam was built and so missed out on the glory years. I was always of the assumption that the fishing was great until I heard the stories from some of the old timers.
In recent years, I have seen the fishery continue to go downhill since I first fished there. If you don’t know what you missed out on, the fishing can be pretty good if you are there when the flows are good.
On this last trip, I managed to get there at the right time and had a good afternoon. One of the cool things about fishing the Androscoggin is the possibility of getting the Androscoggin Grand Slam: catching a salmon, brook, rainbow, brown trout and a small mouth bass all in the same day. You could also round this out by adding a fall fish to the mix, as well. On this day, it was all about the bass, with a few fall fish to boot.
If you are a dyed-in-the-wool trout fisherman, this can be disappointing, but you have to admire the small mouth. The ones I caught were feisty and full of energy. A few displayed all the acrobatics that any salmon could have provided. They were suckers for my orange stimulator.
My usual tactic is to cast to the bottom of the dam, but the action and the bass were in the currents below the dam. The bass were as cagey as any trout and would not take a dragged fly. A streamer might have been even more productive, but I like top water action and stuck to with the stimi.
After some time, the bass caught on and the catching went dead. It was OK by me the shadows were growing long and I knew I had a dog at home who was missing me and would soon want her supper.
The only sad part of the day was passing by the closed Ursula’s. I would have liked to have stopped for a piece of pie. Still, all and all, not a bad day of fishing.
See you on the river.