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.

Mid Summer Fishing and Book News

Late June and early July brought relatively cool weather and precious little rain for anybody. While parts of New England enjoyed some hit and miss thunderstorms that kept rivers and streams running, other areas were bone dry. For example, Kennebago River never had any real spring salmon run because of continued low water. On July 5 its temperature was 72 degrees, not good. In late June, I fished through the gorge of the Diamond River in the Dartmouth Grant because of water running at only 50 cfs. I fished with folks that have fished there for 20 years and have never fished the gorge because usually it is impossible if not dangerous.

The Rapid River and lower Magalloway both were at 300 cfs for most of this time, also extremely low. Charlie, the owner of Evening Sun Fly Shop in Massachusetts told me that the Squannacook River in early July reached record low levels. It makes for tough river fishing, although I have heard good reports. The West Branch of the Penobscot has been fishing well because that area received a bunch of thunderstorms and cooler weather (and of course it is a bottom-release dam draining a huge watershed).

A gentlemen I know sent me this photo of a 26.5 inch brown he took from the White River.

White River 26.5 brown

That river does not give up its fish easily but those who take the time to know its idiosyncracies, catch some impressive fish.

On the new book front, “Flyfisher’s Guide to New England” is now out and available. It has received some early great reviews as “THE where-to-go resource for New England”. Retail distribution will slowly increase over time but right now it is available at the Evening Sun Fly Shop in MA., Rangeley Sport Shop in Rangeley, ME., Maine Sport Outfitters in Rockport, and The Tackle Shop in Portland, Maine. It is also available at Amazon and from me directly signed if you send me an email. By all means go into your local book store or fly-fishing store and ask for it. That will give them the incentive to order it for their store.

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.

The End of the Season

        

           Well, the official season has ended and I have to say, it ended with a whimper instead of a bang. No appreciable rain meant low water, not a lot of fish moving, and those that were available were pounded day and night by desperate fisherman. The Mags, Kennebago, Rangeley River, Moose River, and many others were as low as I have ever seen them. The Roach river had better flows but at the expense of first Roach Pond which looked like it was going to be drained.  It doesn’t feel like fishing to me when there are 100 fish stacked up in a small pool waiting to go upriver, and 8 fisherman flogging the water over them. When one is hooked, I am never completely sure whether they were legitimately hooked, or perhaps snagged in the mouth.

         There were a few nice fish to be had in less crowded conditions but they were hard-earned. I did some traveling as I continued to do research my latest project – revising Flyfisher’s Guide to Northern New England  book and ended up in Jackman, Moosehead, and northern Massachusetts. My travels reminded me of the wonderful variety of watersheds and the trout that inhabit them. I will upload some photos from my travels soon.

Spring finally arrives in Western Maine; fishing hot and cold

Well, a lot to cover in this blog report…

Finally, after a long end of winter, fly fishing has started… In the Rangeley area, most waters were very cold in early May and the fishing spotty.

Some folks did really well on the lower Mags when the water was running low on a variety of flies including the good ol san juan worm. Several brookies around 4 pounds were caught.The warmer weather around the 14th good action was to be had at the #10 bridge. The smelt run was done but suckers were moving in and trout and salmon along with them. Many nice trout and salmon were caught on streamers, copper johns, sucker egg patterns, and even dry flies.

Lots of fisherman though. One morning I counted 6 boats and 15 wading fisherman. A few testy folks because fishing was in tighter quarters than normal but it seemed like everybody was catching fish. Some folks I guided did very well on a new nymph I tied.

They were fishing to trout and salmon that had been fished over heavily but this fly roused them. I will write about it in a later post.

Road were terrible though. It looks like when the snow melted quickly, all the culverts were still frozen through with ice so the water damaged the road along almost every culvert. You had to be very alert to avoid vehicular damage. I didn’t see one rut and almost damaged a few molars not to mention the underside of my auto.

The heavy showers during the weekend did blow out a few streams and rivers depending upon where the heavier rain fell.

This week I am teaching seven Greely High School seniors how to fly fish. They chose learning to fly fish as their senior project. They are fine young men and catching on quickly. You forget all of what is involved with actually successfully catching a fish until you teach a real newbie…With everything that has to go right, sometimes it seems a miracle that we catch what we do! We have been fishing in southern Maine to newly stocked fish and they act so differently from wild fish that sometimes I am not at all confident what tactics and flies to use.

Finally, my book continues to sell steadily which is satisfying. A nice review in the Maine Sportsman Magazine helped. We are almost sold out and have to do a reprint, which is great.

I hope everybody gets out fishing. My next presentation is at the Rangeley Library in early July. I will be busy the next few weeks with guiding and attending two kids graduations.

September fishing wraps up with warm temps, large fish in rivers

Fall Salmon

Ben Sturtevant releases a nice Kennebago River Salmon during a mid-September outing.

In the Rangeley area, the rest of September remained dry and seasonally warm. While lots of rain fell all around Maine, it seemed to miss our area. One good rain fell in the middle of the month, and that along with a few nights of cold temperatures, did start the fish moving.The Kennebago and the Mags had large fish present throughout the river system by the middle of the month.

The size of the salmon this fall was very good with most fish 15 inches and above and very fat. It shows that there are plenty of smelt in the lakes for the salmon to feed on. With lower water flows and many fishermen, the fish wised up quickly  and while some lucky anglers enjoyed fast action, most worked diligently to land a few fish. The fish landed though were usually of good size. Fresh fish into the rivers were suckers for marabou streamers in white or grey. Later on as they wised up, nymphs, small soft hackles, and wood specials worked better. Hornbergs fished wet and large attractor dries such as Royal Wulff’s took their share of fish.

It was a windy month and many days the lakes were difficult to fish although the fish were in the shallows most of the month. The foliage started peaking the last few days of the month. How our climate is changing. 25 years ago when I fished the Rangeley area the last week of the month, most the leaves had fallen from the trees and it frequently spit snow or sleet. Today it is in the high 60’s.

Early October should bring good fishing in waters that are still open. Water temperatures and flows will be reasonable. The long term weather forecast looks benign

A Dry Early September

Despite lots of rain in the southern part of Maine, the Rangeley area did not get enough rain to move the rivers much. After fishing hard the first week in September and talking to a number of people, it was clear that the fish hadn’t started moving yet. The temperatures had been fairly warm as well. In the upper Magalloway, anglers (myself included) caught mostly chubs. I did catch several dozen trout and salmon at the old Black Cat dam one day nymphing but they were all (with one exception) of the 6 inch variety. The one exception was a beautiful, fat 18 inch salmon that must have ascended the river from the lake.
The second week of September is bringing much colder temperatures and hopefully with some rain later this week, the fish will be on the move.

Interesting Summer

The erratic weather certainly continued in July and so did the erratic fishing. Many rivers remained blown out for much of the early part of the month and by the time the water came down, the continued warm nights raised the temperatures quickly. (Cool nights with low humidity are important to maintaining reasonable water temperatures). Most days were humid, hot, or rainy.
In early July, the Rangeley River had reasonable water levels and many fish in the 6-10 inch range took nymphs readily. The Mags below the dam had certain times with reasonable water flows and nymphing anglers caught some very nice fish. The temperature of the Kennebago River on July 19th was 76 degrees. Despite the high temps, I actually caught while nymphing a beautiful fresh 2-pound plus salmon in a pocket between fast water. It must have come up stream in the last pulse of water. I also caught a few smaller salmon right by the dam. Salmon will tolerate warmer water if it is highly oxygenated.
There were outstanding hatches on Kennebago Lake, albeit two weeks later than normal. During the 3rd week in July, on either side of the causeway, were emerging hexes, green drakes, and brown drakes. They emerged primarily in the afternoon and early evening. It helped that the weather was relatively calm, very humid, and warm. Where there were springs to cool the bottom water temperatures, trout and a few salmon rose to the bugs off and on all day. They got very persnickety though with a lot of false hits on standard dry fly imitations. Cripples and emergers worked better. Because the hatch was so late most of the anglers were gone with only a few boats to enjoy the fast fishing. Most fish were under 12 inches, perhaps the water too warm for the larger fish.
I will try to update this blog more frequently, now that I am finished with the final editing of my book

It pays to be creative to avoid fishing crowded spots

I have been busy guiding so I haven’t had a chance to update this blog. Fishing weather has been very interesting this year. Seasonably hot and dry weather for weeks and then cold, dreary, rainy weather for weeks. Shortly after ice-out, water temps warmed quickly and then with the cold, wet weather, they went the other way. Suckers showed up almost at the same time as the smelt. Midges started hatching but not much else. Water levels in Rangeley area lakes were low because anticipated heavy run-off never occurred. Now water levels are rising so most everything is backwards.

Fishing has been excellent at the Rapid, Magalloway, Rangeley River, #10 bridge, etc. because in places suckers showed up about the same time as the smelt and anglers did well fishing streamers and nymphing. Lots of fishermen though so fish got pounded quickly and moved. Appeared and disappeared. Anglers that hit it right did amazing while others just a day later were disappointed. I have never seen so many fishermen at the usual spots. I am afraid that the age of instant communication means that more people find out more quickly where the fishing is good. I have a video of 24 folks surrounding one group of fish on the Rapid. I counted 6 cars at the snowmobile bridge on the Maggalloway. One morning there were 12 fishing number 10 bridge. This certainly takes away from any sort of “back to nature experience”

I have two suggestions when there are many fisher people about. The first is to fish different techniques or flies than everyone else. I guided a client at the snowmobile bridge on the middle Mags and there were 4 guys there all nymphing. My client fished streamers exclusively and caught some nice fish. Later we went down to #10 and everyone was nymphing or casting streamers and we did well on salmon swinging wet flies. Don’t be afraid to try something different.

Don’t be afraid to fish different water. I fished an area last week where the fish in several popular pools were very jaded from a lot of fishing pressure. I fished a skinny run nearby and had it to myself and caught many trout. They were smaller but eager and I had a good time.