Welcome to the Mainelyflyfishing blog. I will update this blog frequently to keep you up to date on the latest fishing information and to pass on fishing tips and techniques. I will excerpt parts of my flyfishing book that is coming out this year (I hope) by the title of “The Five Seasons of Northern New England Flyfishing”.
This is the time of year when everybody starts to anticipate ice out but the date varies widely. For example, from 1880 to 2010, ice-out on Rangeley Lake has ranged from April 14 to May 24th – a range of 41 days! This late winter has brought us historic warm temperatures with Rangeley getting into the upper 70’s last week and even more importantly, having a large number of nights when the temperatures do not dip below freezing. The earliest ice-out record in Rangeley of April 14th is certainly going to be threatened unless the weather changes drastically – I am thinking sometime the first week of April. There is also very little snow left. This will undoubtedly move the entire hatch calendar up.
Here is my book excerpt for this week…
Ice Out is the real start of the fly fishing season in northern New England, even if some streams and rivers might be fishable when the season opens on the first day of April. Although some hardy souls fish the traditional opening, it is an exercise that reminds me of pre-season major league baseball. Good for getting the equipment ready, and loosening up the old muscles, but not really the main event.
I consider spring fishing to be the time from ice-out to when water temperatures rise into the 50’s and the trees leaf-out. This is generally the period between late April and late May, but it can range from early April to late June depending upon latitude, elevation, and weather conditions. Spring fly fishing in New England should not be confused with other traditional spring events in other parts of the country, such as the Kentucky Derby or the Masters Golf tournament, where there is plentiful sunshine and warm weather. You won’t find mint juleps, bluebirds singing or azaleas blooming. You are more likely to see sleet and snow, and the land is not really green yet. There are just hints here and there; small willow leaves, a few trillium, and perhaps, the first lily pad.
The first key to successful early season fishing is being on the water shortly after ice-out but predicting when that will occur is not an easy task. How best to predict when the ice will go out on a particular body of water is a widely debated topic in New England. (Of course, almost anything in New England is debatable and can be debated – just sit in a few town meetings and you will know what I mean.) There is wide agreement, however, about two facts: (1) your ice out prediction for any lake or pond is going to be wrong more often than it is going to be right, and (2) when the ice does go out, the fishing can be superb.
It is getting increasingly difficult to predict the month that the ice will go out, let alone the week or the day. Maybe global climate change is creating some truly bizarre weather relative to historic averages. In Rangeley, Maine, ice out has recently occurred as early as mid April when historically the date has been well into May. There are now some years when Sebago Lake never freezes, yet at the turn of the century Mainers drove their model T’s from town to town over the ice in the Gulf of Maine! Erratic weather is yet another variable fisherman may have to deal with in the years to come.