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

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.

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.

Fishing picks up in June, but so do the black flies

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.

Anxiously awaiting open-water season

Well, I am sure that everyone is waiting for the cold weather to end so we can start to see some open water. This is the time when we all daydream about fishing and plan future trips so I have some recommendations for you…

First of all, if you have never fished for the steelhead or large browns in Upstate New York that run into the tributaries of the Great Lakes than you have missed out on some real fun. Forget about the stories you have heard about crowded water and snagging. There is a guide service that does a tremendous job in New York. Go visit their website at www.reelactionfly.com. You will be amazed at their photos and videos. They also offer some great options at their camp in Alaska.

Here is a photo of me with a rather large brown trout I caught while they guided me. Trust me when I say that when one guide chooses another guide to assist , then the guide must be good.

If you are interested in Atlantic Salmon, the Restigouche River has some of the largest Atlantic Salmon in North America. I was at a show and the videos that the Restigouche River Lodge were showing were mouth-opening. While I have never been there, Kevin McDevitt is involved, and he is a quality individual who I have known for many years. Their website is www.restigouchelodge.com.

Finally, if you haven’t seen the following video, check it out at http://vimeo.com/85147880

I am not going to tell you anything about it except it is from New Zealand, just click on it – you will be glad that you did.

Finally, I will be giving my book presentation at the Maine Sportsman show on Friday and Sunday, the last weekend of March and at the NutMeg Chapter of TU (http://www.nutmegtrout.org) on March 18th in Connecticut.

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.

Hot October Fishing

I don’t know if it is due to global climate change or some other factor but October’s are definitely warmer than they used to be in Western Maine. I remember years ago October’s were pretty cold – low 20’s at night and low 40’s during the day. This year in October lows were routinely in the high 30’s and highs were in the 50’s – nice fishing weather, and the fish cooperated.
Fishing at Upper Dam was excellent this October, good weather and low water flows made the fish accessible and active. The last weekend of the month brought heavy caddis hatches and brought the fish up. Knowledgable anglers were having 20 fish afternoons. Even without a hatch, fish were concentrated in the moving water at the tail of the pool and were very catchable among the rocks with European nymphing techniques. A few were quite large. I had one very wide salmon on for a while – I got to see him quite well when he jumped head high just ten feet away from me – until I had to work around a rock to follow him downstream. One slight dip with the rod tip gave him a bit of slack, and he was gone.
Fishing in southern Maine also was good as Maine Fish and Wildlife continued stocking several local rivers and holdover fish started appearing again. The brown trout and brook trout the state stocks in the fall are large, healthy, and have very good quality fins and colors. I fished to rising browns in both the Pleasant and Royal rivers in October. On one foggy, drizzly, and warm afternoon a blue-winged olive hatch occurred on the Royal below the old mill, and it was fun trying to catch browns on top. I also just missed a very large fish (sea run brown) that boiled the water around my nymph as it ended its drift and was swinging to the surface.
Early November looks like it may bring more of the same. A relevant excerpt from my book, “Flyfishing northern New England – The Five Seasons”
During the late fall/early winter season, I continue the patterns and tactics that I used in the fall. In many rivers and streams, although the brook trout spawning is probably completed, the landlocked salmon and brown trout spawning is still continuing and those species will aggressively attack colorful streamers. This is particularly true in rivers and streams that stay warmer. Any river flowing out of a large lake will stay warmer because it takes more cold days for the large volume of lake water to cool. Last year, the upper Presumpscott River that orginates from Sebago Lake had temperatures in the upper 40’s, with brown trout still spawning in late-November, even though there was snow on the ground. I guided two people on the Presumpscott last year on the day after Thanksgiving, and they both hooked salmon and trout while nymphing (red copper johns) and wet fly fishing (partridge and orange).