I drive my car onto the big grass lawn, park, get my luggage, roll it out onto the ‘tarmac’ (which is a pier), and the pilot says “Slide on into the seat on the right and put on that headset.”
Now this is how I like to do air travel; no parking issues, no check-in lines, no taking off my shoes, and a window seat – actually, it was the front seat! I flew to one of the most prestigious and long running sporting camps and cabins in Maine, Libby Camps. I was getting there in a prestigious way; by floatplane flown by the 5th generation owner himself, Matt Libby.
Decompressing at 3,000 Feet
I’ve been in a lot of planes, but this was the smallest yet. It was simply Matt and me flying at about 3,000 feet. And thanks to pretty strong 30mph winds it sort of left me wishing I had taken a Dramamine before I did my quick plane boarding.
There were trees, trees, trees – everywhere I looked, I had forgotten what real wilderness was like. Occasionally I noticed a little dirt road, but as we kept flying further into the North Woods it just seemed to get more dense and remote. I could practically feel my stress melting off of me already as I stared at those trees. It wasn’t but 3 1/2 hours earlier I was surrounded by thousands of stressed out people in New York City trying to make my way to Laguardia airport. Sometimes it amazes me how hard it is to escape New York, but when you do, you get this feeling I have now; the feeling of incredible relief. I was relieved that my world was going to slow down and simplify for a weekend. With each passing treetop, and each lake, time was starting to melt away like a Dalí clock dripping down the wall.
Tranquility in Maine’s Remote North Woods
We landed on Millinocket Lake smoothly, Matt turned off the engine and suddenly everything was quiet. Libby Camps is located deep in the North Maine Woods. The nearest town, Ashland, is forty-five minutes away by rough logging roads. Ashland has a population of only 1,500 people and not much else. So even though we flew into this remote region in a mere 30 minutes from Glenburn, you can actually drive in too if you have a lot of time on your hands, a 4 wheel drive, and good shocks.
Matt walked me to the main lodge that served as the dining room and common area for all guests. Antlers hung from the wood beams, there was a big fireplace, and cozy furniture. Sure, I love the modern, sleek design look, but there’s something about walking into a real log cabin in Maine and feeling like you are in the comfort of the wilderness. There was a big porch that looked out onto the lake with adirondack chairs and an American flag flying above.
Matt introduced me to his wife, Jess, who was busy preparing dinner and then showed me to my own personal camp. No, it wasn’t tent camping, for some reason camps means cabins in Maine. I had a large cabin to myself. It would normally sleep a family or multiple people, but I was flying solo on this trip, so I had the whole big beautiful place to myself.
What is a Sporting Camp?
Learn about the history of Maine Sporting camps here and how these remote Maine resorts changed over the years.
Let There Be Light
Like most Maine Sporting Camps, they are so remote there is no electricity in the camps, so the use of generators was necessary. The Libby lodge was powered by a generator, however the cabins were not. My cabin was lit by old indoor gas lamps. A big box of matches was provided and Matt showed me how to light the lamps. I heard the familiar whoosh of the match flame and gas combining and watched as the mantle started to glow. Childhood memories came rushing back to me as we used to use these types of gas lamps when our electricity went out at home. The memory brought a smile to my face.
Matt explained that a few years back they added bathrooms to all of the cabins, but they decided to keep the lamps to remain authentic; a good decision in my opinion. Next he showed me how to light the wood stove, because even though it was August, it did get chilly at night in the woods. I looked at the big beautiful quilt on my bed and decided I could probably go without the stove tonight. There’s nothing better than snuggling under an old quilt – right?
If our bodies had a volume button, mine had just been dialed down. I felt so calm and comfortable here already. Surrounded by trees, the smell of log fires, the camp dogs, quilts, and gas lamps. Forget fancy spas…this is really all I need to relax…nature is the best wellness therapy there is.
After a dinner of comfort food, and the best blueberry pie I’ve ever had, I sat in one of those Adirondack chairs and watched as the sky blazed orange and the sun dipped down into Millinocket Lake. As I worked by gaslamp in my cabin, I heard the generator shut down at 9PM and with it so did my internet connection, which meant for once I would have an early night.
Learning to Fly Fish My Stress Away
It was good I had an early night because my fly fishing guide, Jeff, was all about getting an early start the next morning. Yes, this weekend escape wasn’t simply about lazing around my cabin in the woods. I decided that I wanted to try something new, fly fishing.
Maine might not be the first place you think of when you think fly fishing, but Maine occupies a very special place in the history of fly fishing and tying. For more than 100 years, creative Mainers have developed some of the sport’s most enduring fly patterns. These fly creations are among the favorites of trout and salmon anglers worldwide. Plus, with the Maine Professional Guide Association at your disposal, it’s a phenomenal place to learn one-on-one with an experienced guide.
After a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs, Jeff looked me up and down with the skill of a Barney’s personal shopper and picked out a pair of waders for me that fit perfectly. I seriously doubt Jeff had ever been in Barney’s though. As we bounced along the forest roads in his old truck I learned that he was a man of the woods. A bit of a loner who basically went a whole winter making flies, smoking cigars, and living a pretty solitary life. I was intrigued by his ability to really sink into the wilderness and isolation. Yet here in the truck he was very social. After all, he had been a Maine Guide for decades, working specifically at Libby Camps.
“I hate traffic,” Jeff said as we met rare car on the road.
“I guess it’s rush hour,” I replied. Note, we never saw another car all day.
We parked and got our rods and equipment out of the back of the truck and hiked into the woods. Jeff was familiar with guiding beginners like me; in fact he said that one big change he’s seen over the years is more women were coming fishing. Libby Camps furnishes all of the gear you need which is perfect for a beginner like me who has no equipment and absolutely no idea of what I’m doing!
We pushed through the woods and arrived at Munsungan stream where Jeff then taught me the finer points on how to wade in the river. Strangely this was what I was most excited about in this fly fishing process – wading. It can get quite deep and the current can be strong so he suggested I follow in his wake, making it easier. It was a weird sensation stepping in the stream and having water up to your waist. Jeff carried my gear for me so that I could get my footing and comfortable with the wading. It didn’t take me long to determine that this was going to be a lower body workout, and that following Jeff’s wake sure made life easier!
We waded into the convergence of two streams where the cool and warm water temperatures mingled. Jeff knew where to find the fish, it was impressive to be following this master fisherman who knew the area so well. Now came the hard part, casting.
I had visions of a River Runs Through it dancing in my head but it sadly my technique wasn’t quite as polished as Brad Pitt’s. Jeff was patient and funny as we worked on my casting and he gave me tips on technique and theory. I felt as if I had to sort of get in touch with my fishing feng shui; I needed to stop thinking and just let it flow. Which is generally what everyone needs in life.
I did catch a native brook trout…well sort of caught it. Let’s just say I had a lot of help from Jeff. I asked Jeff why he loved fishing, “I just like being out on the stream on a nice day,” he replied. As I practiced my cast I thought, I do to. I get it, it’s calming, relaxing, and it was a beautiful day to be out in nature. I think all of those frenzied New Yorkers should try this.
Outpost Cabins in Maine Go Deeper
We went to another spot, one of the Libby outpost cabins perfectly placed where 2 rivers converge. Outpost cabins traditionally are even more remote. We sat and ate lunch on the porch as Jeff taught me about the different flies he makes. I had no idea there was so much creativity and art to this sport.
After lunch we got back on our waders and waded out into the river. This was real work; the current was much stronger than the last location and I really had to fight to stand up – and quite frankly – I loved it. Jeff handed me my rod and on it this time he had a bobber. I laughed as I saw it and said that my brother and I used to use bobbers as kids when we fished at the lake by our house.
“It’s not a bobber, its a strike indicator,” Jeff said.
“Huh? It’s a bobber to me at least that’s what we called it in Illinois,” I replied
Jeff and I had a big laugh at this new ‘marketing term’ for good old bobbers. He said that they changed the terminology a while ago and he has to use the correct terminology as a Maine Guide.
“I’m going to still call it a bobber, “ I said to Jeff as we both laughed at the absurdity of it all.
As we drove back to the main camp after a very full day of fishing, Jess contacted us on the CB radio to ask how I liked my steak cooked. Probably the best use of a CB Radio ever. I hadn’t caught many fish; however, I did learn the true joy of fishing – just being out there trying.
The Libby Sporting Camp Legacy
Libby Camps has been owned and operated by generations of the Libby family for 125 years. I don’t know that I’ve been to any other establishments in the US that have such longevity. It’s sort of mind blowing. But it also makes you believe in the power of family. And no matter how high tech our world gets, we will also have a need for nature and a slower pace – maybe now more than ever.
Over steak dinner that night the guests all chatted about their day out in the wilderness; there seemed to be an abundance of fish and moose for everyone. The guests had all been here before, in fact some had been coming for over 20 years. I listened to 80 year old lifetime guest, Art, tell me about how it was a family tradition as his daughter sat next to him at the table.
As I laid in my hammock that night gently rocking and watching the sun sink down into the lake again, I thought about what an amazing escape this was, and how it’s been serving people up this experience for over a century.
Nature never gets old. People spend so much money trying to create tranquility in their life, but maybe all they need is a forest and a fishing pole.
Escape to Libby Camps in Maine
If you are looking for a break from the fast pace of life, try out a Maine Sporting Camp like Libby! You can fish, hunt, and hike or simply paddle a kayak around and lay in a hammock and eat comfort food all weekend!
Libby Sporting Camps Website
Libby’s Fishing Packages
I was a guest of Visit Maine during my stay, however all opinions stated are mine.