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)

Ice Out

My email these days is filled with folks asking me fishing questions so for this blog post, I will just answer them!

When was ice-out?

In the Rangeley area, it was within the last seven days, in fact higher elevations ponds still have at least a partial coating of ice. Further south, ice has been out for two weeks or so. However, the water remains cold because of cloudy days and cold nights. Patches of snow still linger in the woods in the Kennebago area.

How is the fishing?

Fishing has been slow because of high and cold water. In fact the lower Mags is running at 2000 cfs versus 350 for most of last year. I don’t know if I remember it being that high . A heavy snowpack melted quickly in Rangeley, followed by occasional rain. This is resulting in the spring run-off being closer to historical norms versus several dry springs over the last five years. While this means a slow start to moving-water fishing, it bodes well for sufficient water flows later in the year and good ground water levels.

Smelt are running in places, but perhaps not yet where water temps are still hovering around 40 degrees. Lake and pond fishing where smelt are running up brooks is where I would want to be fishing.

Does the high water mean that spring runs of salmon will push up rivers such as Kennebago?

Not necessarily. At least in Kennebago, salmon don’t really take advantage of high water flows until temps hit 50 degrees. Hopefully when the river warms up, water flows will still be high.

Do you have any fun fishing photos/stories?

Always. My guiding partner Abby from Kismet Ouftitters has been doing some drift boat guiding in western Mass. and found some really nice brown trout in the Hoosic River.IMG_3211 (2) IMG_2780

How is the new book selling?

Very well. We are going to start a second printing soon, which will allow me to update the book a little, correct a few typos and include a few more waters. “Flyfisher’s Guide to New England” can now be found in almost every fly fishing outlet in New England, but it does sell out quickly and doesn’t always find its way back onto the shelves in a timely manner. Remember, you can always purchase the book from me directly, signed of course. Just email me.

Enjoy the beginning of a new fishing season.

Lou

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.

Dog Days of Summer

The drought of 2016 continues throughout most of Maine and New England. Most natural rivers are too low or warm to fish well or perhaps shouldn’t be fished at all to protect the stressed fish. I have never seen rivers in the Rangeley area as low as they are now. For example, the Diamond River at the Dartmouth Grant, which can flow as high as 14,000 cfs during snow melt was down to 34 cfs.

It is no better in Massachusetts or the other New England states with the exception of the northern half of Maine that has fared somewhat better.

As I outline in my first book, “Fly Fishing the Seasons of New England” some fishing options remain even under these conditions. Rivers from bottom-release dams such as the Magalloway River flowing from the Azischos Dam has still been fishing well, all the way to the New Hampshire border. I fished it several days ago and we caught 5 species of fish – salmon, brook trout, fallfish, smallmouth bass (up to four pounds), and yellow perch!

The headwaters of rivers and streams high in the mountains are still cold with adequate flows. For example, the upper Ammonosoc River near Mt. Washington was packed with brook trout and rainbows several days ago – I assume because they moved upstream as lower stretches of river warmed.

Lakes in the Rangeley area fished very well all summer until slowing down recently. Fish still rise early in the morning and right at dark. More nights like last Monday night when night time temps dropped into the lower 40’s will lower the surface water temperatures.

Pray for rain!

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.

Hatches Finally Start in Earnest

Hatches are at full swing now in the Rangeley Area with early season mayflies – Hendricksons, Quill Gordons, March Browns, or similar mayflies hatching regularly when conditions warrant –sometimes morning and sometimes afternoon.

The first really warm day on May 12 brought the first surface activity to Kennebago Lake. I had one of those magical evenings that sometimes one is fortunate enough to experience. I was the only one fishing on the entire lake, it was an 80 degree day and warm evening without a cloud in the sky. As the sun started to set, the lake was flat calm around the western shore. Two bald eagles watched me from a nearby tall white pine tree as fish cruised just under the surface sipping midges and other small fare. Every cast to a rise resulted in a fish. In the cold water they fought hard and some towed the canoe. I happily lost count of how many came to hand. It was so perfect, I half expected Kevin Costner to come out of a field of corn on the bank and ask me if this was heaven (that was a Field of Dreams film reference).

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Then on Monday, May 16th, the area had 3 inches of snow and temps in the 20’s and 30’s and howling winds. And I do mean howling – Mooseluckmeguntic Lake had 6 foot waves. On the following Wednesday, the temp of the water had fallen to 44 degrees in the rivers and all of the hatches just stopped

But by last weekend, May 21st, the weather warmed and hatches commenced again including on Saturday afternoon a huge fly ant hatch on the upper river. 4 anglers fishing there caught 10 massive brook trout over two pounds in just several hours.

By the middle of this week, blizzard hatches of early season mayflies were everywhere. I guided yesterday and my sport had a 30 trout (at least) afternoon – not telling you where. My only concern is that we have had no rain and the rivers are at summer levels already – just like the last two springs. We need rain…

Enjoy the fishing…Lou

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.

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.