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.

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!

Hatches starting in earnest

May was a strange month in the northeast. In several states  (like Massachusetts) until the last day of the month it was going to be one of the driest months on record. In southern New England it was also one of the warmest May’s on record. Yet in Maine and northern New England it was very cold. Most of the hatch activity was late.

Fortunately, welcome rain arrived the last day of the month. I was getting concerned about real drought and the quick end to fishing season in many areas. Some streams were running at mid-summer levels. Continued rain has improved the situation considerably and early June has been cold. In Rangeley we had a number of mornings in the lower 30’s with frost in some areas and afternoon highs in only the lower 40’s

In the Rangeley area, early insects such as small black stoneflies, march browns, and even a few sulphers emerge during warm afternoons. The small tan caddis are emerging in droves on Kennebago. The lake is active with some good fish but no one is catching salmon on the river as of two days ago.

Two days ago I guided Rita, a 72 year old woman who had never fly fished. She was a very enthusiastic student but as of 8:30 had not landed a fish without help – casting, hooking, and landing by herself. On just about the last cast, she cast, hooked, landed and  released a twelve inch brook trout on a dry fly. Victory!

This has been a different spring for me because I have been traveling extensively to attend my daughter’s graduation and then her wedding, and also researching my next book. I have fished some new and very interesting water. I will share some of my learnings and photos periodically. This week I am going to Damariscotta for some smallmouth bass fishing and then on to fish northern Vermont for the weekend. Next week I will be back to Kennebago to guide for a lot of the week.

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.

August Action

Perhaps as a make-up for the lousy weather, high water, and challenging fishing during much of May, June, and even July, the fishing in August was the best that I can remember. Rangeley rivers fished well with certain pools holding a concentration of salmon and trout. Many lake fish ascended the rivers during the flushes of water from the rain and then when the water warmed into the low 70’s, they holed up near incoming cooler tribs. Colder nights in early August returned the water temps into the mid to high sixties and the fish went on a feeding spree.
Kennebago Lake fished well because hatches were late and spread out and the water stayed cool enough for fish to stay in the shallows and feed instead of decending to the thermoclines. It was ironic that with most of the anglers gone, a few lucky anglers had a number of summer evenings where they could cast to rising fish without any other boat nearby.
The lower Magalloway below the dam continued to fish well with many smaller fish falling to nymphs and dries and the occasional monster caught with big streamers or nymphs.
We have not had significant rain for some time so we now could use some precipitation to bring the start of autumn fishing although with continued cool temperatures, I am sure there are a few good fish to be caught in the lake shallows and rivers and streams.

(Sorry for the delay in posting this – I thought it had posted several weeks ago)

June Has Been a Strange Month So Far

Another busy month and I am behind in my entrees to this blog (again). June, like May, was very strange month weather wise. Cold stretches and Hot stretches but very few days with temps between 60 and 75.
The last weekend in Maine we had hot weather and the fishing really turned on. Big fish caught on the Mags as schools of good fish seemed to move in and out of different parts of the river. Feeding behavior was strange. Had a client catch one big trout still stuffed with smelt. Another client the same day caught another heavy trout but this one had yellow Jell-O (sucker eggs) in his mouth. Still another good salmon was actively rising to insects. Usually, this feeding behavior is separated by a few weeks.
Hatches started in earnest in the Logans on Kennebago and the lucky few anglers fishing caught many trout up to 15 inches or so.
Cold nights and heavy rain early in the month blew out most of the rivers until the middle of the month and the cold rain cooled the lakes and ponds down and seemed to suspend hatch and fish activity.
People arrived in the middle of June at Kennebago expecting active fish and there really weren’t any. Water was cold and it was very windy. I flew into a couple remote ponds between Rt 4. and 17 south of Rangeley and there wasn’t much happening there either.
The high water has brought many salmon and trout into many rivers including Kennebago. The water was just too high to fish in most spots. Anglers on the rivers now with more normal flows are doing really well.
Lake bass anglers had interesting stories to tell. The erratic weather had cooled the water and delayed spawning in many locations until the 2nd week in June or later. If bass anglers were on the water the 2nd week of June after a warm day when the shallows had warmed, they had unbelievable action. I fished with my brother on Damarascotta Lake one evening and one morning and we caught more than 50 bass between us. I have heard other similar stories as well.
Towards the last half of June, brown drake hatches are finally starting although it is two weeks later than usual. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the summer unfolds.

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

Welcome to the Mainelyflyfishing blog.

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.