Maine has a strong presence in outdoor sporting history books. Fly fishing the waters of Maine has driven many locals and tourists to explore our deeply wooded state for over a century. From Carrie Steven's Grey Ghost, the lauded patch of the Maine Guide, native brook trout and landlocked salmon, Grand Laker canoes, to simply one of the last true wildernesses in the country (certainly in New England), collectively they have given motivation to many outdoor enthusiasts to further explore Maine.
When one thinks of the Maine woods and fly fishing, thoughts of log cabins/lodges resting along the banks of a river or lake come easily. A rich history of fishing lodges and sporting camps only adds to the existing lore of large brook trout and landlocked salmon. These lodges have been housing guests who seek not only the quiet of a true wilderness experience, but also the chance at that "once in a lifetime" fish. Even before the days of Yellowstone National Park, Maine's outdoor assets have drawn outdoor sporting enthusiasts from all over the country. This grew especially when the railways continued to be built as a result of the expanding lumber industry. These railroads provided access to almost the entire state, including the northern/inland woods. Ever since then, Maine's fishing and sporting camps have provided a conduit to wild and rugged adventure.
The following list of fly fishing lodges hold their proper placement in Maine history. They are lodges that lean heavily on the fly fishing tradition - not only providing historical roots to the past, but also currently providing some of the best fishing in the state...some of them over a hundred years later. Additionally, most of the lodges here additionally provide hunting opportunities, hiking, boating, and more. If you are looking to see Maine's outdoor world through the lens of "what was" and also "what is," go no further.
As the longest continuously running sporting camp in the state, Lakewood has been providing anglers with fishing opportunities along the famous Rapid River since 1853. Their fishing season runs about mid May until the end of September (this you will see is true for most camps) with prime time during the month of June and early July. Lakewood has the ability to accommodate up to 42 people. Their cabins are for 2-6 people, however, most of the time anglers prefer their own cabin. Although they are "in the middle of the woods, we still have great food" prepared by their chef Richard. There are many trails to hike, kayaks, canoes to take out on Lower Richardson Lake, and a motor boat provide ample opportunity to see the area outside of the river banks. Their home waters of the famous Rapid River hold native brook trout and wild landlocked salmon.
Grant's Kennebago Camps
Founded in 1905, Grant's Kennebago Camps are situated along the banks of Kennebago Lake. The lake itself is 4.5 miles long and the Kennebago River runs for 9 miles which makes it the largest fly fishing only watershed east of the Mississippi. This provides a less pressured fishery and eager fish during the season. Their fishing season runs from May-October. Grant's is located behind a private gate "where you can still find the old-fashioned hospitality of a traditional sporting camp." Alongside fly fishing, bird hunting also draws quite a few guests to Grant's year after year. Native brook trout and wild landlocked salmon are the mainstay at Grant Kennebago Camps.
Chandler Lake Camps
The northern-most camp on our list, Chandler Lake Camps (founded in 1902) lies on the banks of Chandler Lake in Aroostook County. With access to endless rivers, lakes, and ponds, CLC pride themselves in "willing to work hard to get whatever is needed done." This means stashing 30+ canoes in the surrounding area to give the best possible access to their guests. Their season runs May-October for native brook trout and wild landlocked salmon. A newer endeavor of targeting musky is also an option. Bird hunting for grouse and woodcock in the fall is also a popular activity at Chandler Lake Camps. Because of their northern location, access can be slightly more difficult than some other lodges. But, a drive along winding logging roads with a 4wd vehicle and good ground clearance can bring you directly into camp. Also, float plane service from Bangor airport can bring guests into camp as well as access from Presque Isle airport (owner or guide will pick up guests here).
Nahmakanta Lake Wilderness Camps
Located in Maine's "Katahdin Region," Nahmakanta Lake Wilderness Camps sits south of Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin. The business started in 1872 providing fly fishing opportunities within their 1000 acre wilderness lake preserve where they are the only camp. Their season runs May-October with prime time being May and June. Native brook trout and wild landlocked salmon being the main targets of fly anglers. The lodge can accommodate up to 30 guests at a time with usually around 15-20 on a continuous basis. "Nahmakanta is a truly authentic wilderness camp in a completely natural setting."
Wilsons on Moosehead Lake
Wilsons sits on the East Outlet of the Kennebec River on Moosehead Lake. Their roots started shortly after the Civil War in 1865 and it has been a functioning hotel/lodge ever since. Like all of the lodges listed here, Wilsons provides a full service lodge experience with fly fishing, hunting, hiking, and boating right out of the front door. The ITS snowmobile trail and ATV trail run right along the end of their 1/2 mile long driveway, so there is plenty to do even during the winter. But one thing that Wilsons can tout is one of the longest fly fishing seasons on a river in Maine. Wilsons can provide guided fishing out of a drift boat (unique in Maine) along the East Outlet in November when most rivers have closed. Wilsons' main focus, fly fishing wise, is the East Outlet. Their prime time on the E.O. is about mid June when the Hendricksons and Caddis start to appear and then again in October during the pre-spawn.
Weatherby's, like all of the included lodges here, has been serving anglers for a long time. Beginning in the early 1900's, Weatherby's started to gain attention as one of the best places to fish for landlocked salmon. Maine currently only has 4 water systems that still hold the Maine native landlocked salmon and West Grand Lake (which feeds Grand Lake Stream) is one of them. GLS is currently supplemented with the stocking of salmon and brook trout as well, but you still have a chance of landing an indigenous landlocked salmon. Additionally, the surrounding waters of Weatherby's (including Big Lake), also has some of the best smallmouth fishing in the country. So depending on the season and/or conditions, there is usually a species that can be targeted. A healthy number of guides work out of Weatherby's regularly to keep their guests happy and on fish.