BOWDOIN COLLEGE GRANT EAST – Vic Buckland recalls when his father taught him to fish more than a half-century ago, and the way into Pearl Ponds required bushwhacking, a compass and more than a little guesswork.

“That’s when you had to find your way, and you wondered if you were right,” said Buckland, of Newport, before hiking into another wild brook trout pond in the woods near Greenville.

The Appalachian Mountain Club has taken the guesswork out of finding a half-dozen wild brook trout waters in this thick forestland east of Greenville, where locals like Buckland like to fish. And folks at AMC are hoping the recent work building and marking trails draws more fishermen to their wilderness lodges in the North Woods.

Maine boasts at least 331 wild brook trout waters, where native trout thrive as one of the few species in a pristine fishery. Since AMC began to amass its 66,000-acre Maine Woods Property in 2003, it has focused more attention on sharing this special resource.

Near Little Lyford Lodge east of Greenville, there are at least 11 wild brook trout ponds, and in the past few years AMC developed trails to five of them. Now eight of the 11 ponds have wide, clear footpaths with signs and bog bridges traversing paths as long as two miles.

“After they had the place a while, they realized the trails to the ponds needed some work. There is good trout habitat. I’ve seen wild trout 16 inches long. And wild brook trout 10 to 12 inches long, it’s not hard to catch those,” said Little Lyford manager Chuck James, an avid fly fisherman.

Built in 1873, Little Lyford Lodge started as a lumber camp. It changed hands before serving hunters and fishermen in the early 1900s and from then on.

When AMC purchased it in 2003 along with 37,000 acres in the region, the rustic camp began a new chapter, catering to hikers and Nordic skiers. Three years later, AMC bought an adjoining 29,500 acres along with Medawisla Wilderness Lodge and Cabins to complete a 63-mile corridor of protected land in the 100-Mile Wilderness. And AMC’s current network of three wilderness lodges here offers the public and its members — all of them hikers — a new outdoor playground.

But the 136-year-old hiking and conservation organization is refocusing its outdoor options at its Maine Wilderness Lodges. While AMC is known nationally for its trail building prowess and high-mountain hiking huts, it also wants to be known in Maine for its fishing and hunting hospitality.

“The last two weeks of September and the first week of October, we will be pet friendly for the bird hunters who want to bring their dogs,” James said. “In the spring and fall we get a good mix of hikers and fishermen. The fishermen will catch their limit and bring it to breakfast to have it cooked up. And they’ll share it with the hikers.”

To the few fishermen who came in to Little Lyford Lodge to relax in early August, wild waters offered a special draw.

Carrie and Brent Balderston came to Little Lyford from Bend, Ore., which is regarded as one of the top fly fishing towns in the country. So they could appreciate the wild trout habitat that surrounded them. And everyone in the Balderston’s party of 10 enjoyed the quiet, the remoteness and the chance to see moose.

“I spend a lot of time on high mountain lakes and streams fishing for native trout,” Brent Balderston said. “I knew Maine had brook trout. The fishing is slow now. Mostly, we came to hike.”

The reunion that gathered the Balderstons and their friends drew families from as far as Amsterdam and California. They came to Maine to kayak, canoe, hike and swim.

But Brent Balderston could appreciate the wealth of wild brook trout waters that surrounded them, so he brought his fly rods to teach his friends’ children.

“There is something here for everyone, and we all like to hike. Our family had been here before and we knew this group would like it,” said Theresa Butier of Los Angeles.

James, Little Lyford’s manager for seven years, thinks the wealth of native brook trout and improved access to those ponds will change the way AMC’s property is used.

All 66,000 acres are open to hunting and fishing. And James said sportsmen are rediscovering this wild country.

“When I first came, the old fishing trails had no signs, no parking. You had to get to Pearls Pond on a skidder trail and a moose trail. Now, some of those trails are wide enough to ski on them,” James said.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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