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

Spring is Sprung

First of all, I apologize for the tardy posting of my blog. Giving many fly fishing presentations and two weeks in the Bahamas bonefishing left me swamped. I am sure not a single person is feeling sorry for me.

After my bonefish adventure, I could literally write a book entitled, ” 101 Ways to Lose a Bonefish”, because I experienced them all. I lost fish to barracudas, sharks, mangrove roots, disenigrating reels, snapped backing line, broken fly-line loops, broken hooks, slack line, and fly-line loops around the fly-rod butt, just to name some of the ways. Fortunately for my ego, I did land a few as did my wife, Lindsey, and members of my family. You can see from this photo of my son-in-law and I releasing two fish, how amazingly bonefish blend into their environment. No wonder I can’t see them.IMG_0807IMG_0811

Getting back to Maine, this is the time of year when everybody is asking me about ice out. At the end of February, it looked like lakes were going to open up early. But then came March, which ended up with an average temperature below December, January, or February. Ice got thicker and then was covered with major snowfall. So now, even though the 70’s weather over Easter weekend melted much of the snow, I think the ice is going to hold out for a bit longer, particularly since this week will feature a return to colder weather. Ice is half out of the small ponds in southern Maine. Damariscotta Lake ice went out late last week. Ice out will move north over the next few weeks.

Stocking will commence in Maine in earnest this week and fishing will improve from there.

Spring Ice Out for Rangeley

An increasing number of people are now contacting me asking about my projections for Rangeley ice-out and trying to schedule fishing trips. Here is what I know….or think I know…

  1. Ice is already out in most of New England and already up to central Maine. For most places it is the earliest ever. When I find some relevant articles, I will post links. Ice in more northern Maine locales is still frozen solid and this week ushered in colder weather with snow and night time temps in the teens. If you look at webcams from Moosehead Lake or Bosebuck Camps you can check the status of the ice.
  2. The long-term outlook is for average or below average temps for early April. This may delay ice out and water warm up. However, I am still think ice out will be in mid-April in Rangeley and threaten the all-time record set several years ago. Snow is about gone so the ground will warm up fast and that will raise the ground water temperature.
  3. What does this mean for the fishing? Maine opened the season last week so it means that it is now legal to fish everywhere. I know people are catching trout in small streams. Smelt will run early, once the lake temperatures rise into the low 40’s. Last time the ice went out in mid-April, it took a number of weeks before the smelt ran. But smelt, suckers, black-nose dace, shad, stripers, etc. will all migrate or spawn several weeks early at least.
  4. Hatches will be early as well but not ridiculously so because the maturation of insects is based on cumulative degree-days of the water over the year. But since water temps have been much warmer than normal since basically last summer, I anticipate early hatches, certainly by a week or two.
  5. Sporting Camps such as Grants are opening up earlier than usual.
  6. Lakes and Ponds that are stocked heavily for the ice-fishing crowd will have plenty of fish to be caught in early spring because the ice-fishing season was so short or non-existent, so try places like Crystal Lake in Gray, Maine. Just to name one.

Ice-out finally and other news

Ice-out is official. For all practical purposes, ice was almost all gone on Rangeley, Mooselookmeguntic, and Kennebago on May 6th or 7th.

I was guiding on Wednesday and didn’t see too many signs of smelt however. Water temps were below 40 on the Rangeley River in the morning but with air temps approaching 80 degrees in the afternoon, water temps were 43 on the Rangeley and Magalloway Rivers by afternoon. By the time you are reading this, I am sure the fishing has picked up.

Everyone anticipated potential flooding from the snowmelt but with little rain falling in the last two months, it didn’t happen. Now with the lakes low, dam operators are trying to refill them and some river levels are low. It is hard to believe given the amount of snow that we had. Mooselookmeguntic Lake is at least four feet low, but maybe this is intentional due to the Upper Dam work being done. This will limit fishing opportunities on the Rangeley River if it stays at that level.

The best thing about giving presentations and signing books at fly fishing shows an Trout Unlimited chapter meetings is all of the interesting people you meet including talented outfitters and guides, some of who you end up fishing with. Over time, I will introduce some of them to you.

Brian, owner of Pheasant Tail Tours (www.pheasanttailtours.com) and Harry, owner of Berkshire Rivers Fly Fishing (www.berkshireriversflyfishing.com) have introduced me to Massachusetts fly fishing. People from northern New England don’t think about going to Massachusetts to fish, but that is a mistake. Mass. rivers fish better early and late in the season then more northern climes and you can extend your season.

The Deerfield River is a great river to float for rainbows and browns, and the Hoosic and Housatonic Rivers are being rediscovered for their very nice brown trout fishing. There are other options as well and Brian and Harry can take you there on either wading or float trips. I have been enjoying my time fishing in Massachusetts – you don’t get a lot of chances at holdover brown trout or rainbows in Maine.

Back from the book tour with ice-out prediction, new fly fishing classes

I have lots of information to share in this blog. First of all, I am going to make my first ice-out prediction – ice-out will be late this year, possibly later than it has been for over ten years. I am guessing later than May 7. Last week someone sampled the ice on Little Kennebago Lake and found it over three feet thick.

With cold temperatures this winter and not a huge amount of snow to insulate the ice, the ice is really thick and will take longer to melt given normal spring conditions.

I am back from my travels to various fly fishing shows and trout unlimited meetings, giving presentations and signing books. It was a lot of fun connecting with many eager fly fishers, as well as fellow authors.

I am adding a guiding calendar this year so people can see what days I have open for guiding. Look for it on my site. Right now I am open May 10,11,12,14,15,16,18,19, 21,22, 29, 30, 31 and June 1-4, 15-27. July is wide open at this point.

I would like to announce that this year, in addition to standard guiding days, I will be offering one-day fly fishing instructional classes based on strategies and tactics outlined in my book, “Fly-fishing the Seasons of Northern New England”. The day will consist of eight hours – two hours of streamer tactics, two hours of dry fly instruction, two hours of nymphing lessons, and two hours of specialized tactics (micropatterns and other approaches). While we will be trying to catch fish, the emphasize will be on instruction.

Location will be the Rangeley area (specifics depend on season and where people are staying). The class size will be 3-5 people and cost $125 per person. I will do a class of 2 but the cost will be $150 each. If you let me know your preferred dates, I will try to put appropriate sized classes together.

Rangeley Area Ice-out

Ice-out in the Rangeley area is finally here. Later than the last several years but pretty typical if you look back over the records of the last 50 years or so. It has been a strange spring with very little precipitation and day after day of blue sky without a cloud. Streams in Central and Southern Maine are very low for this time of year, but in the Rangeley area there was snowpack with lots of moisture content so the melting snow has provided plenty of water for the rivers. As soon as the water temperatures rise a bit the smelt will be on the move and so will the fish. The key to fishing the rivers this time of year when the water is cold is not to move flies too quickly. Dead drifting streamers or providing motion and movement while keeping the streamer in the same place is often the ticket to success.
Some of the most popular places get pretty crowded but it is unpredictable. Sometimes anglers anticipate the weekend is going to be crowded so they hit their favorite spots during the week and Sunday turns out to be empty of significant angler traffic.
I will be out almost every day now trying to hit the smelt runs. My guiding days are filling up but I do have some days available the week of May 20th. Contact me if you are interested.

While waiting for the ice to go out, I travelled to upstate NY to try some steelhead fishing. Check out my video on YouTube under “Playing Large Steelhead” mainelyflyfishing.com to see how I did. Yes, it was cold.
I have started writing a column for The Maine Sportsman on adventure biking (biking and fishing, biking and birding, etc.) Check it out. My first column was in the April issue and they will continue each month throughout the year.
I am looking for a cover photo for my book which will (finally) be published this fall. If anyone has a high quality photo of a person fly fishing with a backdrop that shouts northern New England, I would like to see it. It would preferably show some action – fly casting, fighting a fish, landing a fish – that sort of thing.

I will post again soon.

March 20: Spring is coming – maybe

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, there were days in the 70’s, even up in Rangeley. Snow pack was non-existent and ice-out was only several weeks away for many water bodies. This year feels more like the winters that I remember. March has been snowy with many nights still dipping into the low teens and temperatures staying in the 30’s during the afternoon. There is no way ice-out in the Rangeley area is going to be in April this year. So for all of you that have procrastinated tying those ice-out streamers, you still have time.
A couple of updates… I now have a monthly column in the Maine Sportsman in which I will be writing about backcountry cycling (combined with fishing, hunting, birding, and other outdoor activities. Check over the last year. It is being published by a respected outdoor publisher, Wilderness Adventure Press, and will be out later this year in both paper and electronic versions.
Book excerpt for this month…
 It helps a great deal to have someone living near the water you want to fish so they can pass on what they see. When the ice has melted around the immediate shoreline and the color of the ice itself is closer to black than white, than ice out is imminent and it would be wise to start making up excuses for missing work.
 I have heard a number of theories as to why fish are so eager for the day or two immediately following Ice-Out, even though the water is so cold that during any other season fishing would be pointless. Besides the sudden availability of food, I have heard that Ice-Out immediately increases the oxygen content of the water and that gives the fish more energy. Other theories are that the simultaneous smelt spawning runs increases the predatory mood of the fish, or that the sudden increase in light triggers a feeding frenzy. Maybe it is nothing more than the energetic burst from all living things when they realize that they have survived the winter and have a few months of good eating and reproducing ahead. It might be akin to that exhilarating feeling I get when I put the top down on my convertible during the first warm spring day.

Lou