Spring finally arrives in Western Maine; fishing hot and cold

Well, a lot to cover in this blog report…

Finally, after a long end of winter, fly fishing has started… In the Rangeley area, most waters were very cold in early May and the fishing spotty.

Some folks did really well on the lower Mags when the water was running low on a variety of flies including the good ol san juan worm. Several brookies around 4 pounds were caught.The warmer weather around the 14th good action was to be had at the #10 bridge. The smelt run was done but suckers were moving in and trout and salmon along with them. Many nice trout and salmon were caught on streamers, copper johns, sucker egg patterns, and even dry flies.

Lots of fisherman though. One morning I counted 6 boats and 15 wading fisherman. A few testy folks because fishing was in tighter quarters than normal but it seemed like everybody was catching fish. Some folks I guided did very well on a new nymph I tied.

They were fishing to trout and salmon that had been fished over heavily but this fly roused them. I will write about it in a later post.

Road were terrible though. It looks like when the snow melted quickly, all the culverts were still frozen through with ice so the water damaged the road along almost every culvert. You had to be very alert to avoid vehicular damage. I didn’t see one rut and almost damaged a few molars not to mention the underside of my auto.

The heavy showers during the weekend did blow out a few streams and rivers depending upon where the heavier rain fell.

This week I am teaching seven Greely High School seniors how to fly fish. They chose learning to fly fish as their senior project. They are fine young men and catching on quickly. You forget all of what is involved with actually successfully catching a fish until you teach a real newbie…With everything that has to go right, sometimes it seems a miracle that we catch what we do! We have been fishing in southern Maine to newly stocked fish and they act so differently from wild fish that sometimes I am not at all confident what tactics and flies to use.

Finally, my book continues to sell steadily which is satisfying. A nice review in the Maine Sportsman Magazine helped. We are almost sold out and have to do a reprint, which is great.

I hope everybody gets out fishing. My next presentation is at the Rangeley Library in early July. I will be busy the next few weeks with guiding and attending two kids graduations.

It’s Hatch Time

The sucker spawning activity has come and gone but there was good fishing to be had while it lasted. Lots of fishermen around too. One morning at the #10 bridge on the Magalloway River I counted 7 cars fishing there and another 5 cars parked at “the snowmobile bridge” trail. That is a lot of fishermen for a small area. The parking area at the Rangeley River by that snowmobile bridge was also full of cars. My clients during that week caught a number of fish on sucker spawn imitations but also green-colored nymphs such as a green copper john. I had someone slip in the Maggalloway and when he pulled himself up his waders were covered with olive green caddis larva so It is no mystery why green is a good color. Salmon were active up and down the Magalloway and were still whacking streamers –so were the big fallfish that were starting their spawning activities. Many fisherman, particularly beginners enjoy catching the two to three pound fallfish. It is good practice for setting the hook and playing a big fish – the larger ones fight pretty well.
Fishing the sucker spawn is always interesting – on the upper Mag (above the gates –have to stay at Bosebuck to access) – one riffle runs into a pool in five distinct mini current streams. Fish were stacked up in only one – the others were vacant –even though each current looked similar. Sucker eggs must have been drifting down there and nowhere else.
The first hatches started in the logan on Kennebago Lake with very few anglers around. Brook trout in the 12-16 range could be taken on dries which is always a treat. These early mayflies actually start to emerge under the water, fly rapidly away, and don’t linger at the surface, so emerger patterns work better than traditional dry flies, particularly for larger fish. Here is an excerpt from my upcoming book –from the chapter on spring hatches…
Ahh… the warmer days of late spring and early summer – the season of mayfly hatches – the foundation of fly fishing, and for many, its soul. Consider all the bank-side discussions shared, the flies tied, and even many a book written, waiting for the hatch to start.
There is, however, one inconvenient reality – in most northern New England waters, hatches of mayflies occur briefly, sporadically, unpredictably, or not at all. One year, mayflies blanket the water, while the following year brings nothing. Or one cove has a great hatch one evening while the rest of the lake might as well be a desert
The biggest key to success is also the most difficult to pull off – be on the water when a hatch occurs. Since hatches are very unpredictable, it is best to keep your fishing schedule flexible, be around the water as often as you can to observe what is happening, and fish when you see evidence of a hatch, regardless of the time of day. Very difficult to do when you have conflicting needs on your time – little things like a job or a family. Have you ever noticed that many successful and/or famous fly fishing “gurus” don’t have wives or families? At least not for long, and I don’t think it is a coincidence.
I hope to get videos from the smelt run and sucker spawn up on the sight soon. Check back next week.

Smelt gone – Suckers starting soon

The smelt run ended a little over a week ago but people caught a lot of big fish in the Rangeley area. It seemed like the smelt run lasted longer than normal and since the water was lower almost everywhere, it was easy to reach the big trout and salmon that were feeding on the smelt. I saw more large (from 2.5 to 4 pound) trout caught in a few days than I have ever seen. I guided a guy who caught 6-8 (I lost count) trout over 2 pounds in two days. I fished several days as well and caught two trout on successive casts that were over four pounds. Of course my video camera ran out of memory right before I landed them so I have no photographic evidence – but my buddy saw them. Most all the fish were caught on a certain smelt imitation pattern that not too many people use. But people were catching them on a variety of patterns. When I get a break from guiding I will post videos of the smelt run so you can get a sense of it. Because of the early warm weather there were some good hatches as well of blue-winged olives and plenty of fish caught on dry flies and small nymphs that imitate blue-winged olives. The Rangeley River and the Maggalloway river above Parmachenee (have to stay at Bosebuck camps to fish there) had anglers with 15 fish afternoons. The Rangeley river had some really fat and strong fish that fought hard, although I did better nymphing than with dry flies, but the fish were rising.

Now it is time for the suckers to start their spawning run and if one is in the correct spot, nymphing with sucker egg patterns can be very productive. Here is an excerpt from my book on the subject…

Sucker spawn:

Although smelt runs get most of the attention, as spring progresses and stream temperatures increase and water levels drop, other spring spawning runs can bring outstanding fishing. Following the smelt (about two weeks later) are the suckers, followed one or two weeks after that by fallfish (some call them chubs) and black-nose dace. Sucker spawn is small and varies in color. Most that I have seen are pale to medium yellow in color. Eggs leak from female suckers before and during the actual spawning activity. Trout and salmon line up behind sucker schools, feasting on the yellow eggs. I have caught a salmon, opened its mouth to remove the fly, and its gullet appeared to be full of lemon jello because it had swallowed so many eggs. Fishing can be so good during the sucker spawning run in the Rapid River that several guides I know turn down guiding jobs (even knowing there would be large tips involved) to fish themselves for brook trout up to 5 pounds. Believe me; I have seen the pictures (carefully edited to remove any landmarks that might reveal the exact location). Fishing the sucker spawn is not easy – it took me ten years to learn the intricacies of it – those that have figured it out don’t share readily. I can’t really blame them.