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.