Fall has come to Grand Lake Stream, one of Maine’s most famous hamlets and legendary places. It is late September.

There is a cold north wind blowing down West Grand Lake and the sky is laden with layers of dark clouds. At the dock, two lake fishermen trailer their big Lund boat and ready it for the road.

“How’s the fishing,” I ask. “Pretty slow,” they say, “but you should have been here last week. We couldn’t keep ’em out of the boat.”

Despite the winter jackets and hoods, they look chilled to the bone. Red noses and hunched shoulders, they glance at the Northwoods Sporting Journal sign on my truck. Usually, this generates conversation. Not this time. They smile and go about their business.

Below the dam, at Dam Pool, two intrepid fly anglers are up to their chests in the eddy casting their sinking lines upstream. The action looks slow. “They can have it,” I say to Diane.”Water is too high and too fast for my liking. Looks dangerous.”

“Not so,” say the guides at Weatherby’s up the hill. “It is challenging, but I like the high water,” says Jeff, McEvoy the camp owner and stream guide,” it distributes the fish and the fishermen.”

Apparently, though, I am not alone in my concern for the heavy water. Except for one lone angler on the hatchery pool, all of the favorite fishing spots downriver, Big Falls, the Bathtub and the others are all vacant. Not an angler in sight.

At the Pine Tree Store, nerve center and social apex of the town, Cathy cooks us a pizza. She and Diane chat. Cathy left New Jersey for good, and like so many other former GLS summer folk, she is now a ‘year-rounder at the Stream.”Bring on the winter,” says she.” I love it!”

As I eat my Pizza, a familiar face introduces himself. His name is Mike. We talk. It all comes back. We had met years ago at a downstate sportsman show. A transplant from Squam Lake, N.H., Mike operated the camera barge during the filming of the move classic “On Golden Pond.” Mike says that Henry Fonda was a regular guy. “Hepburn was nice, too.”

Later, per invitation, I offer some remarks to members of the Grand lake Stream Historical Society and read a few excerpts from my new book “Backtrack” to a packed room. They are warm, quick-witted folks who seem to be having a good time. They don’t doze off and they do ask questions.

After my talk, we chat over coffee and pumpkin cookies. Marion Staples Brown, a close childhood friend of the late Barbara Wheaton, who I dubbed the First Lady of Grand Lake Stream, tells me wonderful, amusing stories of what is was like back then growing up at Grand lake Stream.

From a retired camp operator and Downeast guide I learn that Grand Lake Stream, for all its solitude and backwoods simplicity is not immune to the stress and strains and controversies of modernity. The local guides association is mad as hell about the state’s introduction of alewives into the St Croix watershed. The group is bringing a civil action against the state, claiming that there is no historical evidence that alewives were a natural component of the St Croix watershed.

The good news is that, for the most part, Grand Lake Stream is resisting the inexorable tug of change. It is still inhabited by unforgettable characters, though it took a hit this year in that regard. Sadly, the Stream lost Barbara Wheaton, Bob Upham, Lee Matthys and Robert Hazelwood. The stream is also home for some of the finest, authentic old sporting camps that Maine has to offer. Among these is Weatherby’s Hunting and Fishing Lodge where the cuisine, the classic log cabins, and the guide service is all incomparable.

By now, the Pine Tree Store will have closed for the season. The bird hunters will be calling it a day and the local guides will store the outboards and the sleek Grand Lakers. The population of this historic downeast town will revert to its scant winter complement of inhabitants, and the stream will button up for the frigid, snow-swept nights and shorter days that lie ahead.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected] . He has two books “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook” and his latest, “Backtrack.”


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