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Maine: Spencer Lake


Personal Business: SPECIAL TRAVEL REPORT

MAINE: SPENCER LAKE

A four-seat Cessna seaplane bobs and dips its way 2,000 feet above the rugged woodlands of western Maine. With cold air sweeping high gray clouds over most of the state, the hour-long flight is a gut-wrencher, but the destination should make it all worthwhile.

We're heading for Falcon Lodge, the wilderness equivalent of a Ritz-Carlton. Come spring, sports enthusiasts visit Falcon to enjoy fly fishing, along with gourmet food and luxury hotel service.

MOOSE ANTLERS. As the plane begins its descent, the lodge (800 825-8234) appears on a point jutting into Spencer Lake. In classic Maine hunting-camp fashion, the walls are covered with moose antlers, deer heads, and all manner of locally trapped furs and fish. But the lodge is no rustic cabin. Thick carpet pads the floors, and the bar is stocked with Chivas Regal. There's not a phone or TV within miles, and with the nearest paved road 25 miles away, a visitor sinking into a deep leather chair feels the soothing sense of isolation.

That sensation doesn't come cheap. The minimum three-day stay for two costs $2,550; for one, $1,905. No other sporting resort in Maine costs so much, but none provides comparable service. The price includes the round-trip plane ride from just north of Bangor, all meals, top-quality gear, boats, a licensed guide, and fishing from half a dozen lakes and streams.

Still woozy from the flight, I'm greeted by the manager, an assistant, my guide, and two chefs. Falcon usually operates at full capacity--12 occupants --but I'm the only guest this weekend, because it's early May and the trout and salmon may not be biting. No matter, my guide says. Fish will be caught.

For the next two days, the cold Canada winds bring clouds and rain. Not one bite. I pass on one of the few other activities offered at Falcon--mountain biking--and try my luck on the skeet-shooting range. That evening, after a dinner of lobster (which flew in with me), steamers, and blueberry ice cream, I admire the two fly-tying tables with every feather and tool imaginable.

Waking at 5:30 a.m. on my last day at the lodge, I return with my guide to a remote mountain pond. We'll catch fish, he says again. And within an hour, I've hooked four brook trout--all under 10 inches but beautifully colored. Keeping two for breakfast, I trudge triumphantly back to camp.

After I take a long, hot shower, the chef tracks me down: How would I like the fish prepared? He proposes pan-frying them in cornmeal, with a garlic, wine, and bacon sauce. They melt in my mouth.Geoff Smith


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