Carroll Ware says he comes from at least two generations of “schoolteachers, guides, and sporting camp operators.”
“My first recollection of being in the woods was my dad took me deer hunting the fall that I was 3 years old,” Ware, of Skowhegan, said. “I remember being in the woods with him, and we jumped a deer, and he told me to get down. So I guess it’s been in my blood right along. It’s one of the earliest memories I have of anything in my life.”
Carroll and his wife, Lila, are both Master Maine Guides and run Fins and Furs Adventures, which offers their services on fishing and hunting trips. Carroll owns 31 certified fishing world records.
“A year and a half ago, I started looking around, and I said, âGeez, I’ve got 24 or 5 of these things,'” Carroll said. “I was up at McKenzie River Lodge in Labrador in August, and I picked up four. They’re all catch and release records. So that put me to 31.
“It doesn’t mean I’m any smarter, or any better fisherman than anybody else. You just take advantage of opportunities. We’re very fortunate. This business of ours takes us to some pretty nifty places.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt business when potential customers stop by a booth they’ve set up somewhere and there happens to be a world record certificate on the wall. Carroll’s first world record came in 1988, but he doesn’t rank them, either on paper or in his head.
“They’re all special to me,” Carroll said. “It’s such a gift, in the first place to be able to do what we do and get these opportunities. Neither Lila nor I has ever, ever lost sight of that.”
But like any fisherman, he has his holy grails. Carroll’s was to catch a 10-pound brook trout.
“In 2007, we were working with another lodge in Labrador, and I released a brook trout,” he said. “He was 27 inches long. He was 10 pounds, 4 ounces. The best part of all, as far as I know, he’s still swimming. I got really emotional when I released him. You would’ve thought I lost my brother or something.”
Carroll never submitted that catch and release because he already held the world record in that category. He’s still chasing his other holy grail — to catch a tarpon with a fly rod.
“Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to catch a tarpon on a fly rod,” Carroll said. “I have friends that live in Florida, and we’ve fished with them over the years. I’ve had chances to cast through, and I’ve hooked them up. I just never can get them to the boat. We were down there 10 or 12 years ago. There’s thousands of tarpon everywhere.”
A day and a half and thousands of casts by Carroll later, a tarpon that Carroll guesses weighed about 140 pounds came up and bumped the fly with its nose.
“I put the rod down. I was disgusted. I go over to the other side of the boat,” Carroll said. “Unbeknownst to me, (Lila) picked up fly rod and made one cast, from about 30 feet away. When she made the cast, the wind blew two loops of line around her finger, and damned if this tarpon that’s there doesn’t eat the fly.”
“You can call me âOne Fly” or âOne Cast,'” Lila joked. “Carroll just says, âDon’t talk about it.'”
Carroll and Lila have been married for 29 years and together for 33, and their introduction was love at second sight for Carroll. He first met her when he was working for Cianbro and she was applying for a job. He remembers her wearing a business suit, and he may have made a comment about her southern accent.
“Four or five days later, she shows up, and she’s on her way to meet the guy she was dating, and they’re going to go fishing,” Carroll said. “She had boots and jeans, and a red-and-gold, plaid flannel shirt. She had her hair in a red bandana, and she had a fly rod in her hand.
“I went crazy. Everybody in the office has always said, âIf you could have followed her out there that day, you would have.’ I was mesmerized. I thought, âMy God, here’s this woman that likes to fly fish!'”
“The next thing I know,” Lila said, “my best friend was saying, âThis guy’s fallen madly in love with you, and he wants to meet you.’ It did revolve around fishing.”
They went on their first date a short time later. Naturally, they went fly fishing.
“We went up to the Forks and we fished the Kennebec River in the early morning, before the release comes down through,” Carroll said. “Then we went up above Jackman, almost up to the Canadian border, and we packed a canoe and we went and fished the pond that I happened to know of up there. We had a helluva time. We spent the whole day together, and the rest is history.”
Lila wasn’t putting on an act to impress Carroll. She now has more than a half-dozen world records of her own. She gleefully agrees with Carroll that she’s a better shot than he is, and she came by that with practice.
“We had a firing range at my house, and that’s just the way I grew up,” Lila said. “I proposed a merit badge (for shooting) in the girls scouts and it was denied.”
“I tell everybody that I’m very fortunate and I know it,” Carroll said. “I’m married to a beautiful woman, who likes to hunt and fish as much as I do. And she’s a dead shot with any kind of weapon — great reinforcement for my long-standing belief that you never cheat on a woman who shoots well.”
Carroll’s goal — other than catching a tarpon with a fly rod — is to get to 50 world records. None of his record-setting fish were caught in Maine, so he’s going to make that a priority in the next 12 months.
Carroll often tells the following story when he’s teaching classes at his Maine Guide School. A gentleman went fishing with him once. Maybe he caught something. Maybe he didn’t. That’s not the point.
“He comes back the next year, and he’s got No. 1 son, who’s never caught a trout that didn’t come out of a hatchery,” Carroll said. “Dad’s got him tying his own flies. We catch a salmon or a trout. So I’m down in the water teaching this kid about how to hold a fish.
“Dad’s taking pictures, and pretty quick, I look, and Dad has apparently got something in his eye, because he’s looking off into the woods and he’s got his handkerchief out, and he’s wiping his eyes. Gee, that’s so neat to be able to be able to give that to somebody. We get a lot of really special moments as guides.”