As I write this on October 15, I just got back from Upper Dam, where I fished in a teeshirt because it was 70 degrees. The water temperature…58 degrees…much warmer than expected for this time of year. Anybody still doubt our climate is changing?
After a warm and dry September (again), some trout and salmon finally started moving up rivers and streams at the very end of the month. Fishing turned on in Kennebago River for example on the last two days of the season as water temperatures finally dropped and water was released from the dam.
I never guide the last day of the season, reserving that time to fish with friends or family. I got up at 0-dark-30 to have a few hours on the Kennebago to myself. At a pool by the name of Green Island, I fished uneventfully and unsuccessfully as the light slowly brightened on a cloudy day. On my last cast before heading home for a very late breakfast and maybe a nap, I sleepily cast a prince nymph as far across the pool as I could in order to tighten the line on the reel in an orderly fashion. I was abruptly shocked awake by a strong take. The female salmon that I eventually landed turned out to be the largest I have ever landed on Kennebago – somewhere around five pounds, certainly no less. Tough to get any sort of photo by yourself if you don’t want to put the fish on dry land but you get the idea of his size given that I have big- can palm a basketball – hands…Later on in the afternoon, in some sort of cosmic karma balancing, my wife caught the largest landlocked in her life on the exact same prince nymph fly.
With water temperatures still relatively warm, for waters that are still open, I assume that lake and pond fishing will stay good until the end of the month as will river fishing where there is sufficient water.
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.
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
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.