July Rains Keep Fishing Productive

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.IMG_4469IMG_0996 (2)IMG_0965

Fishing Action Everywhere

Hello everyone,

Sorry for the length of time between posts. How time flies when one is balancing fishing and work.

Late June was a month of weather contrasts, and how good the fishing was depended on what hour you were on the water on any particular day. It could be hot and humid part of the day, then pouring rain,  followed by a cold night and the next day. It led to frequent closet rummaging: Shorts to fleece, back to shorts, and then complete bug- coverage apparel as the little beasties swarmed. Often streams and rivers were too high to fish and ponds or lakes were the best or only options

The brown drake and green drake hatches on Kennebago Lake commenced on the east side of the lake on June 23rd and commenced up the lake until on the 27th bugs were popping opposite Grants on the north shore. It was very windy and rainy at times and fishing was tough under those conditions but those that were out during the lulls caught 12-16 inch trout and salmon on drake imitations. This author, alas, was otherwise occupied with guiding away and familial responsibilities, and didn’t get a chance to partake of above-mentioned hatch.

A couple of interesting fishing stories….I was fishing a favorite stretch of the Magalloway River way down below Wilson’s Mills and on successive casts caught a good brook trout, a large fallfish, and a monster yellow perch. Where else can you do that? The water was almost too high to fish.

My favorite fish caught so far this year: I was high-stick nymphing on the Kennebago right at dark. Couldn’t really even see my line at all – certainly couldn’t see the sighter that I use for reference. I felt a sluggish resistance, set the hook, and eventually landed a very strong and fat 20-inch brook trout. I handed my 10-foot, 4-weight nymphing rod to my son-in-law and he hooked and landed another brook trout that seemed almost identical out of the same lie. We worked our way back to the car by flashlight, both with wide smiles on  our faces.

Authors Note: It is gratifying that my Flyfisher’s Guide to New England is selling so well and that readers are telling me that it is proving a good resource for them. For those of you that have found this book useful, I would like to remind everyone that my first book, Flyfishing Northern New England’s Seasons, is a “how-to” book that complements the Guide. It is written in a different style with instruction for sure, but also stories, observations, and anecdotes. It is available from myself, Amazon, and some fly shops. Finding new water to fish is only half the battle, one still needs to know what to do.

Hatches, Hatches, Hatches

Despite all of the continuing clouds and rain, over Memorial Day weekend, hatches commenced in the Rangeley area: midges, a blizzard of blue-winged olives, and a few medium-sized mayflies in the Hendrickson, march brown, and Quill Gordon families. And yet, large trout were being caught on streamers in shallow water literally stuffed with smelts – spitting them out as they were brought to net. The smelt must have still been running even into Memorial Day, or at least were moving back into their deeper water haunts and being intercepted as they passed through the lake shallows.

My son and I encountered an epic blue-winged olive hatch (size 18) on the upper Kennebago River. With a strong current downstream, and high-winds blowing upstream, the bugs were blown into a quiet side channel eddy that was all of 2 or 3 feet deep, and there were hundreds sitting on the surface. Somewhere between 12 and 20 trout were rising regularly. It was tough to get the trout to pick your fly amongst all of naturals but every once and awhile we would be successful. It was cool just to see the event and catch some fish. A happy young angler just upstream from us landed what looked to be a 20 inch plus trout on a dry fly.

As we move into mid-June, the larger mayflies and caddis are emerging in  earnest and quite a smorgasbord of insects are available to the trout. We are in the midst of really hot weather for the western mountains of Maine, with temps in the high 80’s during the day and upper 60’s at night. It is a  bit discouraging to watch the water temps in the rivers rise from the mid 50’s to the upper 60’s in just a few days. Hopefully, weather and water temps will drop before it forces the trout back into the lakes, otherwise it will be a short season for trout fishing on the smaller streams and rivers with lake access.

We have also been experimenting with a fly we don’t fish often but are intrigued with its success with very large trout. Maybe you can tell what it is from this mediocre close-up photo took last night.KIMG0053 (2)

End of Season

For what seems like the 3rd autumn in a row, September in the Rangeley area was dry and hot, and the trout and salmon didn’t begin to move into shallow water or run up the rivers until the last week of the season. Global climate change really seems to be impacting Maine. I remember that 20 years ago in the western Maine Mountains, by the last few days of the season all of the leaves would be off the trees, and sometimes it would spit snow and sleet. The end of September now arrives with the leaves still green and this year there wasn’t even a frost until mid-October.

I think that Maine’s Inland Fish and Wildlife Department should consider extending the regular fishing season to the first week in October. I know more water is being kept open later but prime waters are not. I don’t think extending the season by one week would negatively impact the wild fish and it would minimize the crowding during the last week in the season.

Although another “official” fly fishing season has come and gone, lots of water is still open. I guided two anglers in early October to upper Dam – still lots of heavy machinery working – but everyone there (up to 14  anglers in the late afternoon) seemed to catch a few fish. Most were 10-12 inches and very thin – I assume that they were resident to that area and that during this hot summer, the water had warmed too much for them to feed actively. A few fresh larger salmon and trout were caught – some in the 20 inch range, but I got the sense that the real movement of fish hadn’t started yet.

I have some interesting photos and videos from the end of September that I will post as time allows.

In other news, I was able to stop into a new fly shop in Lincoln, NH – right at the end of the Kancamagus Highway. This new fly shop is good news for anglers in that part of NH who did not have a fly shop anywhere close by. The name of the shop is Mountain High Fly (www.mountainhighfly.com) and the owner, Sara, seemed quite competent and enthusiastic. They are on-line only during the winter, but the shop itself will be open again in the spring. Good luck with your new endeavor, Sara!

Fall Fishing is Here! Sort of.

Early September has brought a few changes from August but the one thing that hasn’t changed is the lack of rain. Mid-August brought two rainstorms to the Rangeley region that dropped over 3 inches of rain in some areas, but the ground was so dry that much of it was absorbed with little run off. Still, it did raise and stabilize river flows in some areas. However, we have had little rain now for over a week and air temperatures are rising again into the upper 70’s during the day this week.

We did have cool nights (into the low 40’s several days) and water temperatures are dropping with rivers and streams falling into the 60’s. As a result some spawning fish are starting to move. Anglers are hooking a few nice fish in the upper Magalloway, a few nice salmon in the lower Kennebago, and seeing some big trout in the upper stretches.

Best bet is to fish early in the morning, be patient, and be satisfied with maybe one or two nice fish.

Fish are also starting to move into shallower water in the lakes and ponds and people are reporting the beginning of good action – although still with mostly smaller fish. Today on Kennebago it was cloudless, 75 degrees, and calm, but fish were rising at mid-day as tiny trico-like mayflies emerged in shallow water and mixed with a few tiny flying ants. Go figure.

In literary news, my new book is becoming more widely available and is now found in most fly-shops, sporting goods stores, and specialty book stores in New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts including Bass Pro in NH, and Kittery Trading Post. Not LLBean yet. If you don’t see it at your favorite store – ask for it! Of course, you can always buy it directly from me. Good luck with your September fishing and keep praying for a good tropical storm to reach northern New England.

Guiding Season

June is the height of the guiding season and the days can be long when it gets light at 4 A.M. and it is still light enough to fish at 8 P.M. This year has brought some hot days and a few very cold nights, but not very much rain. As a result, the fishing has been hot and cold. I have guided in a location where we didn’t see a sign of a fish, and then half an hour later another angler in the same place with a similar fly pattern, caught a half a dozen nice fish. I guided one person to a small river pool and we caught nothing, and then the next day, in the same pool, I guided two folks that caught 50 fish.

I had a few slow days, but a few successes as well. On the lower Magalloway River one weekend, when the fish were being pounded and fishing was slow, I had an angler who I taught the classic wet fly swing. On his first cast, he landed a beautiful 18-inch wild brook trout a size-18 wet fly – on the first cast!

I had a few new fly fishers who caught their first trout. Always an exciting event and a rewarding one for the guide.

Salmon started moving in the middle Magalloway River after a recent rain and I hope that they do the same on the Kennebago River because they haven’t as of yet.

My new book is finally arriving into my hands towards the end of this week. Then, I will be shipping it out and sending it to retailers ASAP. Enjoy the peak of the fishing season. Fish well and fish often.

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An excited client with a nice brook trout hooked on a dry fly.

Late Fall Fishing

IMG_1761Above photo is looking down at Rangeley in mid-October. Below photo is the Ellis River. Both photos look typical for late September, not mid-OctoberIMG_1773Sorry for the long delay between posts. Busy with late guiding, travel and book deadlines, and then my website melted down for awhile. For yet another fall, weather seemed to shift by a full month. September was like a typical August, and October was similar to a typical September. Water remained low in October and even by mid-October hadn’t cooled enough to move many fish. Upper Dam did fish fairly well and when I guided there, most of my clients and other anglers were catching a number of brook trout (mostly smallish) and some big salmon. Casting Soft-hackle streamers into the faster currents and high stick nymphing on the edges of the faster water took the most fish.

I guided some in southern Maine, looking for freshly stocked fish in the upper Presumpscot or the Royal and sea run browns in the Mousam. Fishing remained relatively spotting and in southern New Hampshire stockings were postponed or eliminated because the water was so low. People were still harvesting beans and tomatos in October because of the absence of a killing frost.

The weather in November proved to be, what a surprise, similar to what one would expect in October. The fishing followed suit. Anglers that traveled to the East and West Branch of the Kennebec in mid to late November experienced fantastic fishing, but then again on November 22, here were a sampling of water temperatures…Upper Presumpscot River – 44 degrees, East Branch Kennebec 43 degrees, Kennebago Lake (closed to fishing but still 45 degrees. Folks, trout and salmon bite pretty aggressively at those temperatures.  The upper Presumpscot also fished well with stocked and holdover fish. In a few hours I hooked beautifully colored brook trout, some washed out brown trout, a good salmon, and then lost a better fish that I never saw.

Early December so far has followed suit with highs in the upper 40’s or even 50’s so I plan to head to southern New Hampshire and try to jam in a few more days of fishing.

June rain leads to good July fishing

I can’t believe how the month of June flew by. Guiding, more exploration of Vermont fisheries, smallmouth bass fishing on Damariscotta Lake, Striper fishing in New Hampshire, and before you know it we are into July.

June was a cool and very wet month for much of New England. I had to cancel two scheduled classes that were supposed to take place in northern Vermont and on the Andro because all of the rivers were blown out. The Rangeley Rivers were very high and not fishable off and on all month. On the positive side, the waters have stayed cool and fishing continues to be good. The Rangeley River fished well thru June – and remains one of my favorite nymphing rivers.

The Kennebago Lake brown drake hatch occurred the last week of June and those that were on the lake enjoyed tremendous action from salmon and trout. A few trout approaching 20 inches – quite a treat on a dry fly No sign of any green drakes or hexes yet.

Kennebago River had some salmon come up in June with the high water but not as many as I might have thought. However, the river is filled with trout of all sizes, mostly 6-10 inches but more then I can ever remember – maybe because of several wet summers. With more rain at the end of June, more salmon have recently arrived. Yesterday, in a couple of hours, I landed 8 salmon on a simple mid-sized Royal Wulff. With cool lake surface temps, I think the river will continue to fish well through July.

The photo is my wife catching a nice trout during the evening rise on Kennebago Lake.

Ice-out finally and other news

Ice-out is official. For all practical purposes, ice was almost all gone on Rangeley, Mooselookmeguntic, and Kennebago on May 6th or 7th.

I was guiding on Wednesday and didn’t see too many signs of smelt however. Water temps were below 40 on the Rangeley River in the morning but with air temps approaching 80 degrees in the afternoon, water temps were 43 on the Rangeley and Magalloway Rivers by afternoon. By the time you are reading this, I am sure the fishing has picked up.

Everyone anticipated potential flooding from the snowmelt but with little rain falling in the last two months, it didn’t happen. Now with the lakes low, dam operators are trying to refill them and some river levels are low. It is hard to believe given the amount of snow that we had. Mooselookmeguntic Lake is at least four feet low, but maybe this is intentional due to the Upper Dam work being done. This will limit fishing opportunities on the Rangeley River if it stays at that level.

The best thing about giving presentations and signing books at fly fishing shows an Trout Unlimited chapter meetings is all of the interesting people you meet including talented outfitters and guides, some of who you end up fishing with. Over time, I will introduce some of them to you.

Brian, owner of Pheasant Tail Tours (www.pheasanttailtours.com) and Harry, owner of Berkshire Rivers Fly Fishing (www.berkshireriversflyfishing.com) have introduced me to Massachusetts fly fishing. People from northern New England don’t think about going to Massachusetts to fish, but that is a mistake. Mass. rivers fish better early and late in the season then more northern climes and you can extend your season.

The Deerfield River is a great river to float for rainbows and browns, and the Hoosic and Housatonic Rivers are being rediscovered for their very nice brown trout fishing. There are other options as well and Brian and Harry can take you there on either wading or float trips. I have been enjoying my time fishing in Massachusetts – you don’t get a lot of chances at holdover brown trout or rainbows in Maine.