May was a strange month in the northeast. In several states (like Massachusetts) until the last day of the month it was going to be one of the driest months on record. In southern New England it was also one of the warmest May’s on record. Yet in Maine and northern New England it was very cold. Most of the hatch activity was late.
Fortunately, welcome rain arrived the last day of the month. I was getting concerned about real drought and the quick end to fishing season in many areas. Some streams were running at mid-summer levels. Continued rain has improved the situation considerably and early June has been cold. In Rangeley we had a number of mornings in the lower 30′s with frost in some areas and afternoon highs in only the lower 40′s
In the Rangeley area, early insects such as small black stoneflies, march browns, and even a few sulphers emerge during warm afternoons. The small tan caddis are emerging in droves on Kennebago. The lake is active with some good fish but no one is catching salmon on the river as of two days ago.
Two days ago I guided Rita, a 72 year old woman who had never fly fished. She was a very enthusiastic student but as of 8:30 had not landed a fish without help – casting, hooking, and landing by herself. On just about the last cast, she cast, hooked, landed and released a twelve inch brook trout on a dry fly. Victory!
This has been a different spring for me because I have been traveling extensively to attend my daughter’s graduation and then her wedding, and also researching my next book. I have fished some new and very interesting water. I will share some of my learnings and photos periodically. This week I am going to Damariscotta for some smallmouth bass fishing and then on to fish northern Vermont for the weekend. Next week I will be back to Kennebago to guide for a lot of the week.
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 NewEngland 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.
It is mid-June, the middle of spring fly fishing season and the middle of black fly and mosquito season as well. The black flies really came out last week in the Kennebago area. If you were not protected, you got chomped on.
During early June, the Rangeley River fished well with a variety of fish falling for dry flies and nymphs, but as the days wore on, the fish were pounded and seemed to get smaller and smaller.
Fishing turned on at Kennebago Lake with a variety of fish sizes rising in the evening to assorted mayflies, caddis, and whatever else the wind blew in. On June 2, at the conclusion of a very warm and still day, the large carpenter ants had their first winged mating swarm day of the year – what some fisherman call a flying ant hatch. Those winged large ants falling in the lake and river really got the large fish up and rising quickly. I was guiding on the upper river at the bridge and a slow day turned into a good day as a number of large trout appeared as if from nowhere and starting taking ants off the surface (and similar artificial flies). Later on Kennebago Lake, a concentration of ants meant that two other anglers in a boat and I in my kayak landed 8 trout over 14 inches between us – (mostly them unfortunately as I missed a few and broke off a few) My largest was a full 18 inches. What fun.
Unfortunately, for whatever reason, significant numbers of salmon have not run up the Kennebago River this spring. Not the correct combination of high water and ideal temperature I guess. Maybe a heavy rain will get them moving and salvage the season. With all of the cold and ice, not too many fish overwintered in the river either. Some of the lower pools have definitely changed with the heavy ice, as certain large boulders and in different places and parts of pools have filled in.
My schedule is fully booked for the rest of June and my first guiding openings will be in July. I still have opening for my advanced fly fishing class on June 28th.
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