For Diane and me, the Big Eddy on the West Branch of the Penobscot River has been a must-go trip — a June pilgrimage that is as much a part of our lives as wedding anniversaries and birthdays.

V. Paul Reynolds, Outdoors Columnist

The Big Eddy is a swirling pool in the river below the outlet of Ripogenus Lake and a major hydro dam that controls the flow of water for hydro power, as well as for the benefit of commercial river rafters and fishermen. The combination of deep pools and the cold tail water from the bottom of Ripogenus Lake makes perfect holding habitat for landlocked salmon and brook trout.

As diehard fly fishers, we tell ourselves that we go to this hallowed place on the West Branch of the Penobscot River to fish, to tie into a pouting, pugnacious, leaping landlocked salmon.

We go to Chewonki’s Big Eddy Campground because we just like the setting for a whole bunch of reasons.

We like rubbing elbows and comparing notes with other avid fly fishermen, who also visit the Big Eddy year after year. Campground manager Sarah Sindo and the Chewonki staff are always affable and accommodating.

Best of all, the campground atmosphere is low key and relaxed and, of course, the scenery and always-present sound of the flowing river seems to sooth the soul, whether you are stripping a fly line in an attempt to put a #16 Nancy’s Prayer in the swirling foam, or simply sitting stream side in the Adirondack chair with a cup of hot coffee.


In fact, when conditions are right, when the caddis hatch comes on in earnest and spatters the air like March snowflakes, when the flow from the dam is just right, and the expectant anglers take to their colorful Western drift boats and Old Town canoes at about 6 p.m., it is a happening. Watching the scene unfold from shore can be almost as much fun as taking up a holding slot in the stream flow below the Eddy.

If you are a newcomer to the Big Eddy angling flotilla, be advised that this manner of fishing is the challenging kind. These salmon all hold doctoral degrees in tippet avoidance. The bigger fish have seen a lot of fly lines and drifting artificials at this particular water. You will work for your fish.

Because the Big Eddy is a classic, highly oxygenated tail water, word is that you can find fish all summer, especially when the sun gets low on the horizon. My late friend, Millinocket guide Wiggie Robinson, had a camp just below Pockwockamus Falls on the West Branch. In mid-summer, Wiggie would sometimes fish the river long after sundown. For that particular outing, he clipped off his ever-present trout fly, the Maple Syrup, and tied on a honkin’ big White Wulf.

“A killer fly after dark, a real killer,” he affirmed. As I recall, having fished often with the “Wigster,” every fly he ever used was a “killer fly.”

See you next June at the Big Eddy. But better make your reservations early.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal, an author, a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. Contact him at

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.