Fishing report from the Western Maine Mountains and Beyond
Welcome to the Mainely Flyfishing website, your source for guiding, instruction, fly fishing information, books, videos, and more. My name is Lou Zambello and I am a guide, instructor, writer, speaker, and columnist. Please explore this site or email me to learn more.
For those of you wondering why I haven’t posted a blog in two months, I will explain. Caught the flu in early January while traveling to present at various fly-fishing shows. My computer melted down. And just when I was feeling better, it was time to head off to New Zealand for almost a month, arriving back home a few days ago.
So we have lots to catch up on. Fishing season is only a few weeks away and this is when people start asking me for my best guess concerning ice-out and when fly fishing will really start in Maine. The winter started out really cold in Maine – minus 20 and colder in Rangeley for a number of nights- and I thought ice-out would be late. Then we had a warmish, rainyish February, and I thought ice-out might be early. Now we are having a very snowy March and since snow insulates the ice, now I’m thinking ice-out might be more or less at the normal time for whichever body of water you fish.
Updates on my author- related activities….I have an article “A Guide’s Manual to Big Brook Trout” in the March/April issue of American Angler. I haven’t heard much from anybody about it. Has anybody seen it? Also in the same issue is a feature on my guide friend Abbie Schuster from Kismet Outfitters. In the current March issue of The Maine Sportsman, I have my bi-monthly column – this one entitled “Lou’s Ten Fly-fishing Resolutions.”
The Western Maine Fly Fishing Expo takes place next weekend on March 17 in Bethel Maine where I will be giving a talk on “Tactics for fishing Highly Pressured Waters for Difficult and Educated Fish”. Also my wife, Lindsey will be giving a talk on Climate Change and its impacts on forests and fisheries in the Northeast.
I will also be at the Maine Sportsman’s Show the first weekend in April. I am not giving a presentation but will be at the Maine Sportsman’s booth for part of the weekend. When I know my exact schedule, I will let you know.
The Trip to New Zealand was fantastic despite some very challenging weather in the form of big storms with rain and wind. Will go into it in more detail in the future but here are a few photos, my wife with her best fish of the trip (a rainbow) and my best fish (a brown) as well. I estimate that both were over four pounds
Happy New Year. Only three months until official Maine fishing season starts.
First some corrections to my last post regarding speaking engagements:
I neglected to mention that I will be giving a presentation on January 11 in Littleton NH at the Ammonoosic Trout Unlimited Meeting. See their website or facebook for all of the info. My wife Lindsey and I will be giving a video and pictorial talk on western Cutthroat fishing.
My talk at the Marlborough Fly Fishing Show will be: Advanced Tactics and Patterns for Catching Difficult Trout and Salmon in Heavily Pressured New England Waters. My talk at the Edison, New Jersey show is: 3 Best Places to fish for Trout each month of the year in New England (36 in all)
My daughter, Erika, and her fishing-fanatic husband, Brian, were visiting over Xmas vacation, so of course we went flyfishing. On Xmas eve day we headed over to the upper Presumpscot and for this winter it was a reasonable day with temps around 32 degrees. We crunched through the ice-crusted snow and nymphed the clear but cold water. It was beautiful with the sun shining through the ice-covered trees. We didn’t really expect to catch anything but then we saw a pretty good rise in a slow pool and then another rise under the bridge. We increased our intensity and fished until feet were numb but didn’t get a strike. Oh well, we at least can brag that we were out there.
The photos below are indicative of how cold it was. The first photo shows the only thing I hooked with my woolly bugger – a chunk of ice.
First a seasonal joke: What did Santa say to his fishing buddies before they left on a fishing trip? “I hope that you sleigh ’em.”
Let me first go through some announcements…
First, for those of you who might want one of my books, but is looking to save money, I have a limited number of “seconds” for sale. These are books that are earlier editions, have a slightly marred cover, or it smudged when I signed it. Some folks want a cheap second copy if they have a fishing camp in addition to a primary home. I am selling second of both books for $ 15.00 includes shipping (ordinarily $ 28 and $ 33 with shipping) Just email me your address, and mail me a check to Lou zambello at 35 Crystal Lane, Cumberland, Me 04021 and I will send it right out.
Some scheduling notes: I will be presenting to the Mollyocket Trout Unlimited Chapter on January 17th. Presentation will be Highlights from my book, Flyfishing Northern New England Seasons. For specifics – see their website.
I will be presenting at both the Marlborough and Edison New Jersey Fly Fishing Shows. Check their website for times and locations. Presentation for Marlborough is going to be: 3 Best Places to fish for Trout each month of the year in New England (36 in all)
Finally, look for my article in American Angler Magazine (March/April edition) on Catching Big Native Brook Trout.
Short notice I know, but on November 21st I will be giving a great presentation on western Cutthroat fishing. Lots of video. Also, some awesome video of fall spawning brook trout. Hundreds of fish stacked up because of the drought. For more on the impacts of the drought, see my article in the Maine Sportsman for December.
Anyway, the cutthroat presentation on the 21st of November will be at the Sebago Lake Trout Unlimited Meeting at 7:00 at Camp Ketcha on Blackstrap Road in Scarborough.
Just returned from Florida, fishing the fabulous Pensacola Bay for many species but particularly schools of giant bull redfish. See the result below:
As I write this on October 15, I just got back from Upper Dam, where I fished in a teeshirt because it was 70 degrees. The water temperature…58 degrees…much warmer than expected for this time of year. Anybody still doubt our climate is changing?
After a warm and dry September (again), some trout and salmon finally started moving up rivers and streams at the very end of the month. Fishing turned on in Kennebago River for example on the last two days of the season as water temperatures finally dropped and water was released from the dam.
I never guide the last day of the season, reserving that time to fish with friends or family. I got up at 0-dark-30 to have a few hours on the Kennebago to myself. At a pool by the name of Green Island, I fished uneventfully and unsuccessfully as the light slowly brightened on a cloudy day. On my last cast before heading home for a very late breakfast and maybe a nap, I sleepily cast a prince nymph as far across the pool as I could in order to tighten the line on the reel in an orderly fashion. I was abruptly shocked awake by a strong take. The female salmon that I eventually landed turned out to be the largest I have ever landed on Kennebago – somewhere around five pounds, certainly no less. Tough to get any sort of photo by yourself if you don’t want to put the fish on dry land but you get the idea of his size given that I have big- can palm a basketball – hands…Later on in the afternoon, in some sort of cosmic karma balancing, my wife caught the largest landlocked in her life on the exact same prince nymph fly.
With water temperatures still relatively warm, for waters that are still open, I assume that lake and pond fishing will stay good until the end of the month as will river fishing where there is sufficient water.
Another year and another hot and droughty September. Last weekend was ridiculous with very low water, air temps in the 80’s during the day and 60’s at night and water temps hitting 70. I think that there has only been several days of rain in the last four months.
It was sad to see schools of brook trout trapped when they came up rivers during the brief cold and rain of early September and then got hung up. I saw small pools in Kennebago, South Bog Stream, and others with hundreds of mature brook trout who were being harassed by anglers, mink, otter, and predatory birds.
Cold weather is coming so maybe the last two days of September will offer okay fishing. My friends and I fished hard for several days last weekend and didn’t catch a single fish over six inches..
On a more positive note, here are a few awesome pics from the season…
My daughter fishing during the rain in early September without me. Not the best way to hold the fish but she had never caught a fish this big and it was a good learning experience. The photo is a little misleading – she is not holding the jaw.
Brookie has great camouflage from above to thwart predatory birds as you can see after the release of this fish.
But brilliant to each other as they fight for spawning territory.
9500 ft. alpine lake in sw Montana from my trip.
My wife, Lindsey with nice cut from that lake.
and a photo from our float on the middle fork of the Salmon River, Idaho in early September.
Sorry for my tardy reporting but I just returned from two weeks in Idaho and Montana fishing. I know, I know, absolutely no simpathy from my readers and none expected. It was a great trip but we will cover that later.
In late August and early September, most of New England experienced cool temperatures, something we have not seen in several years. Night time temps were down in the 30’s in Rangeley a few nights and water temps in rivers dropped into the 50’s. Several good rain storms raised the rivers. Trout and salmon started moving into the rivers early and fishing for big fish was good into the first week of September.
The weather pattern has now changed and no rain has fallen in a week or so and high temps are in the upper 70’s to the low 80’s. Water temps in rivers such as Kennebago have risen into the upper 60’s. Fishing has slowed way day down although selected and experienced anglers are catching some nice fish on nymphs.
Lake fishing has been good with the warm and calm water encouraging some insect hatches including terrestrials such as ants and grasshoppers. This has fish looking up while they stage in shallower water awaiting spawning time.
I will check in again soon, but in the meantime pray for rain and cooler temperatures to bring more fish into the rivers and streams.
I happened to be on Kennebago Lake during the afternoon of August 21st, the time of the partial eclipse. It was very interesting to see how the natural world reacted. During the peak when the sun was over 50% covered, the sunlight was definitely muted, the sky and reflected light off the water, looked like it was an hour before sunset.
Mosquitos emerged, when ordinarily they wouldn’t have in the heat of an August afternoon. The lake was calm and small trout started rising regularly. Birds such as Merlins that would only be active in the evening this time of year took flight. Loons started calling. And then as the sun re-emerged, song birds started singing like it was early morning. All very interesting.
Here are a few photos of us on the dock looking at the eclipse by manipulating a pair of binoculars so they would project two images of the sun onto a piece of white paper.
Looking ahead, early September rain and cool temperatures for the last few weeks should mean fall spawning runs are starting now.
When water temperatures warm to the point that river and stream fishing slows down, surface activity on lakes and ponds only occurs right before dark or first thing in the morning, and stripers start moving out from tidal rivers to deeper in Casco Bay, it is time to change fly-fishing locales. or species. While I have been prioritizing stripers, they are disappearing from near shore haunts as the water warms with the warm humid nights that we have had.
People have the false perception that it is the hot days that warm the water. More often, it is when the nights stay warm and humid, and prevent waters from cooling, that create the largest upswing in water temperatures.
When larger waters warm above 68 degrees, I sometimes move to small mountain streams that stay cold all summer. Wading wet, even if the day is a scorcher, can mean numb feet after awhile.
Small stream summer fishing means a 3-weight (or smaller) rod, a handful of flies, wet wading, and lower expectations. The native and wild trout, and even the educated stockers are easily spooked and won’t be must larger than hand-sized.
But I love the carved granite plunge pools of New England; no two are ever exactly alike, and the quicksilver trout can appear as if from nowhere in liquid-crystal pools to grab my offering.
The below photos are of the upper Ammonoosuc River where on my last visit a half a dozen hand-sized rainbows rose to my Puterbaugh caddis. I didn’t land a larger rainbow from one of the pools below.
What a difference a year makes. Last year, July marked the continuation of a deepening drought with low and warming water. This year, almost continuous thundershowers have kept rivers so high as to be unfishable at times. This in turn has brought landlocked salmon into many rivers from the lakes where they usually spend their summers. These salmon will now stay in the rivers all summer. Some anglers believe that salmon only run up rivers in the spring and the fall, but during high water, salmon will enter and move up the rivers regardless of the calendar.For example, fresh salmon moved into both the Magalloway and the Kennebago Rivers in early July, and anglers who intercepted these fresh salmon did well.
My wife and I actually had a LLS double, both fighting leaping salmon at the same time, but not in the river. We were dry-fly fishing Kennebago Lake during the evening around July Fourth. We saw no sign of any of the drake hatch from the week before, but trout and salmon must have memories that last at least a week because for several nights, they were coming up and nailing a Quigley’s green drake cripple (emerger). The best trout was a fat 16 incher that gave quite a fight on my 3-weight rod.
I reluctantly left Kennebago because I wanted to try some striper fishing. The striper fishing this year on the southern coast of Maine has been the best it has been in at least a decade, according to those that keep track of such things. Particularly plentiful are schoolies in the 10 to 16 inch range that can put up quite a fight on a 6-weight fly rod. My kids and wife wanted to striper fish as well so we had several family outtings and caught stripers in the New Meadows River while kayaking, the Scarborough Marsh (in a friends boat) and off Higgins Beach (wading). A green and white Clouser seemed to be the ticket, but then again, that seems to be all that I ever use, so how would I know any different. I have caught a few larger fish on a fly-fishing type popper. Boy, do they slam that thing.
Here is a few photos with various family members holding up typical schoolie stripers. I highly recommend getting out there and giving it a try even if the water is warming up and the fish are getting a bit more difficult to come by.