Don’t hold you’re breath

April 15, 2019
As you can see from the photo above, taken today, spring is taking its sweet old time showing up in the Moosehead Lake Region. It’s going to take more than a few warm, bright sunshiny days to beat down the snowpack and desolve 4 feet of ice.

Spring run-off hasn’t really started yet and snowpack this year holds a lot of water. Way more than the lakes have capacity to hold. As we begin posting daily water flows we’ll see flows begin to increase in a attempt to let excessive run-off go downstream. It’s about flood protection. When there is just enough water remaining in the snowpack added to average yearly rainfall (caculated by the 50 year average) flows will eventually go to minimum flow in order to capture the remaining water. The lakes fill then water is adjusted to inflow (what comes in must go out). If mother nature doesn’t throw us some above average rainfall all will be well. Mother nature plays a huge role in how water flows over the next three weeks.

As we reported earlier Brookfield Energy has a new water infomation web site Safe Waters. This site shows a lot more info than just current water flow. They have added predicted flows, scheduled releases and lake levels which don’t seem like much but divulges much more info if you know how to use it.

For now lets take a look at Moosehead Lake and the lake level number. When the Moosehead is brim full the number is 1028.98 feet , right now the lake level number is 1025.61 feet. Do the math and you’ll find the lake is still down 3.37 feet. Moosehead is a 75,000 acre body of water. Adding enough water to fill it an additional 3.37 feet is major water. And there is more than enough water and expected rain to fill Moosehead before this years run-off ends. So the water people keep a watchful eye on what is entering the lake and what still remains in the snowpack. When things cut loose all the little mountain streams around the lake run hard adding to what is coming down the Moose, which begins above Jackman plus what dumps from the Roach River drainage which is all the mountains to the southeast of Kokadjo. When it all happens, water level in Moosehead begins to change rapidly. Last year the prefect storm of run-off happened and Moosehead filled three feet in three days. Keeping an eye on lake levels is a good indicator as to what’s going to happen with river flows. Once Moosehad fills to capacity, 1028.98 feet, what comes in must go out or else dams can be compromised. Water management people prefer not to fill Moosehead to capacity so you’ll see the lake is generally maintained 3 to 4 inches below full so there is enough room to handle additional water from a rain event without having to dramatically increase flows. That’s done to accommodate us recreational users.

As summer comes and we emerge from the rainy season you’ll watch lake level gradually drop inch by inch throughout the summer. On the other end of the season, there is a provision in the license agreement that states the lake has to be drawn down to a certain level by mid-October for the lake trout to spawn successfully. If lake level is still fairly high come Labor day water has to be released to meet that goal. If it is a dry summer and low then don’t expect much of a bump in flow, which is one of the two componants we need to spark spawning runs.

So if you are into fishing as deeply as we are you can follow water data on Safe Flows as we do and with a few note on one piece of paper have a fairly good idea what might be coming.

So when you read our ramblings and preditons of things to come know that it’s not just off the cuff. We love doing our homework and sharing it with you so we can hopefully help you have many memorable days of fishing.

The Maine Guide Fly Shop will offically reopen for the season on May 1st.

We look forward to seeing and helping everyone enjoy their precious time on the water.

Hatches & Hints

Our Hatches & Hints page is dedicated to educating you about fishing the Moosehead Lake Region and its many windows of opportunity that present themselves throughout our fishing season. Starting with early season smelt runs, followed by the sucker spawn, then major mayfly, caddis and stonefly hatches culminating with the spawning season.

We’ll fill you in on what you can expect to encounter and when, along with proven techniques you can add to your bag of tricks that should help you become a more aware and productive angler.

A Simple Solution

Every summer, around Drake season, fishermen wander into the fly shop frustrated about their leader getting all twisted when casting big drake patterns to feeding trout at their favorite pond. They want to lay the blame on the particular brand of leader they were using. Fortunately it’s not the brand of leader’s fault. Because it doesn’t take a ten pond test leader to land a brook trout, many of which are under twelve inches, we choose a 5X – 4 lb test tapered leader. It makes scense because any brookie can be brought to the net on 4 pound test if we’re careful. The thing we don’t factor in our decision is how a big fly, say size 8, moves through the air during the act of casting. We all want to make a long cast because there’s plenty of room so we can really reach out there. But the further we cast the more we flex the tip of the rod so the faster a fly moves through the air. A big Green Drake imitation is not very aerodynamic and wants to spin or corkscrew out of control leaving many revolutions in the leader once the fly lands on top of the water. Sometimes you’ll watch as your bug tries to unscrew on the surface of the pond. Bring your fly to hand to see hwats wrong and the leader is twisted up and we end up blaming it on the leader.
There is an easy fix and it’s not changing brands. First, forget about the trout, they don’t figure into this equation. Think about the fly you chose to imitate one of natures monster drakes. In order to minimize corkscrewing you need to use a heavier, stiffer leader. Save your 5X – 4 lb test leaders for smaller size 14, 16, and 18 flies. Ramp up to a 3x – 10 lb or 2X – 12 lb test leader. They are much stiffer and stop big fluffy mayfly imitations from spinning out of control. Your fly will cast much easier, turn over better and land more naturally than when cast using a lighter, whimpy leader that can’t control you’re bulky bug. And consider backing off on that country mile cast so your bug won’t be traveling at warp speed. You’re perennial problems with twisted leaders will become a thing of the past.
Here is a nice table, to follow regarding
dry fly size in relation to leader size.
 6X – # 18 to 24
5X – # 14 to 18
4X – # 12 to 16
3X – # 10 to 12
2X –   # 6 to 8
**** When it comes to streamers you can get away with lighter leaders simple because streamers are generally much more aero dynamic than dries. With streamers it’s more about pound test than leader diameter. Just remember when big salmon and trout grab a streamer it is likely going to be a violent act. If you go too lite that big fish you’ve been hoping for might steal your streamer, leaving you with just another sad story to tell while you’re drowning your sorrows.****

New Waterflow Website

Brookfield Renewable introduced a new water flow website, SafeWaters.com
It’s lot more than just a chart with today’s flow
As we kick off 2019, Brookfield Renewable would like to introduce their new waterflow tool – Safe Waters.
SafeWaters.com has replaced the former h2oline.com website. Flow information can also be accessed by calling 1-844-430-FLOW
Users will no longer need to provide a site code for conditions.
This user-friendly website and phone line will allow users to easily check real-time water conditions, long-term forecasts, whitewater schedules, safety notices, and facility information at Brookfield Renewable sites across the US.
We will have a message on Waterline redirecting users to Safe Waters throughout the year as we continue outreach.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out.
  And please feel free to share with others.             Safewaters.com

The Year in Review – 2018

Last winter hung in there longer than anyone wanted or expected. Mother Nature didn’t loosen her grip until well into April. At the time ice-out predictions implied mid-May at the earliest.

But warmer weather finally arrived and conditions changed quickly. A perfect storm for run-off developed and within a ten day stretch snow was quickly dissapearing sending run-off was into full swing. In a few short days lakes filled to the brim, ice-out was back on schedule and officially called on May 5th. The rain ended and within a week high water subsided and great fishing conditions prevailed.

Smelt runs in all of Moosehead’s tributaries were as good as anyone has seen in resent history. Biologist told us they had small sampling nets out and documented smelt runs in every stream around the lake.  A tremdous run at the Moose River produced early season trolling as good as it gets with some very impressive salmon and brookies caught.

When high water comes on the East Outlet every spring we’ll see a good run of salmon enter the river from Indian Pond as well as drop through the gates at the dam on Moosehead. The bonus associated with this kind of early season event is big Moosehead brookies drop out of the lake as well and remain in the river for some time. Fishermen were boasting of 3-4 lb brookies being caught. We had some of our guided customers bring real some beauties to net on a number of outings. As predicted 18 – 20″ landlocks were common creatures. Sinking lines and streamers did the trick throughout the month of May.  And trolling the shorelines the first couple weeks after ice-out proved very productive. Customers not only talked about boating some huge brookies they had photos on their phones to prove it. Our son Alex caught a 5 lb. 2oz bruiser while trolling a tandem Grey Ghost streamer along the shoreline in sight of downtown Greenville. Fishing season was off to a very impressive start.

Hatches came right on schedule and small pond trout fishermen had a grand time the last week of May and the first week of June. Green Drakes were right on time so pond fishing held up throughout the month of June.

Caddis hatches prevailed through the end of June and well into July. Eighty-degree days came early though and relentless heat was dominant throughout the summer. We had to dig out the air conditioners. Something that doesn’t happen most years. It was great camping weather but the hot summer warmed the rivers to the point where fish moved back into the lakes and colder water.

When the heat of summer comes we typically head for the West Branch of the Penobscot and it’s tail water fishery. Even that was warmer that usual but fishing held up pretty well throughout the heat of summer.

Once cooler weather came around spawning runs kicked in and big fish began showing up. When they first enter a river they are very aggressive and eager to globber a streamer. Fall fishing is hard to beat. Hard hitting, high flying landlocks put smiles on a lot of fishermen’s faces. Anglers brought football shape salmon pushing four pounds to their nets. Thinking back on those days helps get you through that long spell of down time.

We posted some wonderful outdoor photos throughout the season at our “Photos” page of our website. Have a peak. It’s helps get the juices flowing again and inspires you to get this season’s trips in the works. Planning a outing to your favorite fishing hole is a prescribed cabin fever reliever when all you currently have to look at is cover in white. Our website also has a “Videos” page if you want to see some moving water and leaping fish. You might even pick up a hit or two on how to fool a fussy fish or two.

The Moosehead Region has a good compliment of snow so water should not be an issue this coming season. It’s getting to be that time of season when we begin our countdown to another season opener.

Late season rewards

October 22, 2018 – There is only a week remaining in the extended season for the East Outlet of the Kennebec. Come November 1st the only stretch of river that remains open is from the Dam on Moosehead to the yellow posts located at the Beach Pool.

Until then the entire river remains open and the fishing is still worth a trip. The river is full of adult landlocks and brookies. Anglers have been wrestling with some gorgeous fish averaging 18-20″ and bigger. We aren’t saying getting one to eat your fly is easy, breezy but if you work the river over you’ll probably have a grin from ear to ear before the days end. Our latest customers comment was “I can’t believe I landed that big fish on that tiny little fly”.

Because we are nearing spawning time for salmon, around mid-November, their mind is on other things than looking for a square meal. But because they have eaten a million Lays potato chips in the past they may just grab one or two more before they move to the spawning areas. Their mind may be on spawning but if a tender, tiny Pheasant Tail nymph or a small Partridge & Orange soft hackle comes drifting past their nose they may casually sip it in.

It may take a number of different flies to hook a few different fish. There is a salmon out there that will still chase down a streamer, or one that will pick up one more nymph drifting along the bottom, and others that are willing to slip to the surface and sip a soft hackle when presented just so.

Have a look at some of the beauties our customers have been bringing to net this October at the “Photos” page on our website. They are some of the best fish of the season.

Our fly shop is now offically closed for the season. What few fishng still around don’t really need anything so we are busy doing things that were left undone during the busy season. We aren’t far off so if you are passing through and need gear feel free to ring us up @ 207-695-2266 and if we are handy we’ll be happy to swing the door open and help you out.

Last Harrah

October 5, 2018 – Spawning runs are in full swing in all of our rivers. The water temperature is now the low 60’s and some of the biggest fish, which spend their summer in the depth of the lakes chowing on smelt, now are in our rivers have their mind on other duties.

When landlocked salmon and brook trout leave the depths of a lake and enter a river they are thought to be very aggressive and prone to chase streamers of all configurations. Once in the river for a spell they’ve seen lots of our streamers and likely been fooled once or twice, they’ll settle down and begin to ignore fast moving flies.

It’s a fact food isn’t their driving factor but actual spawning activity doesn’t occur until mid-October for brookies and sometime in November for salmon. During their long wait fish begin to pick at a little food. The theory is they have eaten plenty of Lays potato chips in the past so when the right nymph comes drifting by their nose they may just pick it up. The same goes for a soft hackle. When swung slowly cross current and just below the surface, they’re an easy target for a bored fish to sip in.

So there are fish willing to chase your streamer, pick up your nymph, or sip your soft hackle if presented in a way that tickles their fancy. But they can be very particular and ignore lots of offerings. One fish wants a Sour Cream and Onion while another prefers a Wavy Lays. Our fly patch is always full by the end of the day. Many days it takes 10 different flies to catch ten different fish and that’s not counting all the flies they could care less about. This time of season when you catch a fish on some fly you’re often better off cutting it off and going to another because it can be tough catching two fish on the same fly.

Our best advise this time of season is “If I ain’t working, change it” and “Cover every square foot of water” so if there is a fish out there looking to grab a fly it’s going to see your fly. And remember this is spawning season so fish aren’t always holding along the feeding lane. It’s not about food. You’ll find fish where you never see them any other time.

It’s that time of season once more. Sunday marks the closing of most waters in the Moosehead Lake Region to fishing. It’s all about our wild brook trout populations.

We have some of the finest brook trout waters in the lower forty-eight. Brookies will be spawning soon and are best left alone so they can spend time on their spawning grounds and lay their eggs in peace. Once laid their eggs sit on the bottom until spring when they finally hatch. With only a small percentage from each cluster of a few hundred reaching adulthood they need all the help they can get. And biologists now know that more than 50% of all adult brook trout and salmon perish during the spawning cycle from exhaustion and predation. If we want to maintain healthy brook trout populations we have to accept the fact that wild brook trout waters need to be left alone during the spawn to repopulate. It’s been working so our wild brook trout waters remain well populated and extremely healthy throughout the region.

There are some exceptions where wild brook trout populations do not dominate the fishery and fishing is allowed to continue beyond the last day of September. In this region there are a number of small ponds that are annually stocked with hatchery trout. Mountainview, Saywer, Prong and Shadow ponds all remain open until the end of October. Also the East Outlet, West Outlet of the Kennebec and Indian Pond, which they run into remain open to anglers through October. So fishing opportunities remain available for at least anther month. We don’t have to hang up our rods just yet.

Have a great weekend on the water.

 

 

It’s all about water flow and water temperature

September 21, 2018 – We say it every time someone asks, “How’s the fall fishing?” The answer is always the same, “Fall can be Feast or Famine.”

In order for landlocked salmon and brook trout to get the urge to begin their fall spawning runs in earnest two factors have to fall into place, a sudden increase in water flow and a sharp decrease in water temperature. A sudden increase in water flow is easy. Just crack a gate or two at the dam. In our region the policy on Moosehead, Brassua & First Roach is hold enough water back during the season so flows can be increased after Labor Day to attract fish into our rivers. That has already happened and the Roach River also got a second increase around mid-month. The second ingredient, a drop in water temperature, which mother nature has control over wasn’t as co-operative as we would like. When flows were increased the day after Labor Day it was 70 degree water and fish decided to stay put in the lakes until water temps fall from the low 70’s to the low 60’s. River water comes from the lake above the dam so the lake has to cool off which isn’t an overnight process. As nights get colder lake water drops about a degree a day so it takes many cool nights to get water temps where they need to be to attract fall fish into a river.

Everyone remembers last fall’s run. We had a week of cold weather the last week of August. When they increased the flow just after Labor Day it was 62 degree water and all the river filled with fish in just a few days and fall fishing began with a bang. Not the same situation this fall season.

Fish will come in when conditions get right. The last few nights have been in the low 50’s and in the low 60 during the day. The cooling process is beginning to work because most people in the shop today are finding and catching fish and they are beauties. Today it’s raining hard and the air temperature is in the low 50’s so conditions are changing fast.

This email just came from our fisheries biologist Tim Obrey.

We wrapped up the weir project today.  We put 301 brook trout upstream and 189 salmon.  We saw improvements in fish size from the last time we operated the weir in 2010 and 2011. The catch in the weir went up and down with the warm weather. The warm weather the first week of Sept and again on the weekend of the 14th really slowed them down, but the number of fish coming into the river picked up this week.  The water temp today was still 62 F. This cold rainy weather will get them excited. We tended every day so not to hold the fish up for more than a few hours each day. We had around 75 fish today and several very nice salmon. We removed large sections of the weir before we left.  Some of the frame remains but the fish can pass freely. I’ll have a more detailed report later in the fall.

There isn’t a lot of time left for most waters but if mother nature continues to co-operate it looks like it’s going to be a very strong finish.

The Stars are lining up nicely

September 9, 2018 – River flows have increased on the Moose, East Outlet, Roach, and Upper West Branch at Seboomook Dam. Even through water temperature was warmer than we would like some new fish have moved into the river and are being caught on all the rivers. Its not fast and furious but folks who have been doing the catching say the fish are beauties. The next two nights are predicted to be cooler with a frost warning posted for Greenville north tomorrow night. A few degrees drop in water temps and spawning runs will begin to pick up speed. We may even get some measurable rain the beginning of the week, which will help the cause.

When fresh salmon and trout enter a river on their spawning run they tend to be aggressive and very willing to chase down a streamer fly. Often a big Grey Ghost will do the job because those fish are just coming off a steady diet of smelt. After they are in the river for a bit fish are more likely to chase some sort of attractor pattern like a Montreal Whore, Shufelt Special, or Black Ghost. Once fish have been in a river for a while they tend to settle in and not be as aggressive. They’ve seen their share of streamers, maybe been hung by one a couple times and not too anxious chase another. There was a time when we thought late season river fish could only be caught on streamers but over time we realized they will eat a Lays potato chip now and then. It’s a long wait before they actually spawn, sometime in October for brookies and not until November for salmon. So, as September progresses along fish begin peckin’ away at a nymph here and there and nymphing becomes an important component for catching. Think of it like delivering a Lays potato chip to a couch potato. They have eaten plenty in the past so when one more goes drifting by their nose, why not if its easy pickin’. And every fish doesn’t necessarily want a plain potato chip, some want barbeque, others salt and vinegar, or maybe a corn chip. The point we are making here is there isn’t one nymph that works the best come fall. Most hatches have come and gone so aquatic insects are all starting their lives again as nymphs so everyone’s crawling around down there. And there comes a time when it takes five different nymphs to catch five different fish. On days like that when someone lands a fish on a particular nymph we’ll say “you might as well chop that fly off and try another”, only because we can’t catch two fish on the same fly.

As water begins to cool on our remote ponds trout are freed from their lengthy mid-summer stay at the spring holes. The only way they’ll survive the heat of summer when small pond water reaches the mid-70’s is retread to the spring hole where 55-60 degree ground water enters from the bottom. They were fat and happy when they settled into the cooler spring hole water sometime in late July but when they finally get to wander off they are hungry and begin circling a pond looking for anything they can find. There are few fall hatches so finding rising fish can be a chore. In still water fish have to go looking for a meal so trout are constantly on the hunt. So if you tie on a Royal Wulff or a Wood Special and twitch it around on the surface trout will find it. By giving your fly a twitch it produced concentric rings fish key in on. It’s the same act preformed by a crippled bug struggling on the surface. Small bright streamers work just as well when cast a good distance then retrieved just under the surface. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how successful you can be fishing a trout pond that looks like nothing is happening.

So the countdown is on. There isn’t a lot of time remaining before most waters close for the season. This is our favorite time of season when we often land some of the nicest fish of the season.

Stop by the shop on your way through. We can tell you what’s going on & where.

 

 

Right from HQ

August 24, 2018  –  We have been in summer mode for a while now. Nothing has really changed in the last couple weeks. Fishing is always good but catching has been slow compared to a month ago. Some nice fish are still being caught at the East Outlet. The flow was at 2200 cfs for a few days and some beautiful salmon dropped down from the lake into the upper section down to Secret Pool. They are nice fat, silver, fresh from the lake salmon that are fat as a football.

We have been catching fish but it takes a big bag of tricks. The predominant hatch has been a small tan body caddis, hatching mainly in the early morning hours. An even smaller black caddis has also been on the menu lately. Skipping caddis about the surface has been the best way to fool fish into believing your bug is the real thing. When fish aren’t interested in the dry fly bouncing on top they’d grab a soft hackle wet fly just under the surface. It’s an easier nugget to get. The key to successful soft hackle fishing is covering every square foot of the pool. Cast your soft hackle 45 degrees across the current and downstream. Give it a gentle upstream mend and slowly ease your bug across the current then let it hang for a bit at the end of your gentle swing. On your next cast pull another foot of line off your reel and repeat the process. Don’t swing it fast or retrieve it like you do a streamer. If it moves too fast fish just ignore it, bugs don’t naturally move that way. Keep increasing the length of your line a foot or two with every cast until you have reached as much water as possible. If nothing happens it’s time to either change flies or change spots. A small soft hackle Hare’s Ear or Partridge & Orange has been doing the trick.

Nymphing is always in fashion. The issue is most of the insect hatches have come and gone so the bottom on any river is now loaded with young nymphs. Flip a few rocks and you should find them covered with caddis lava and mayfly nymphs. Because there aren’t many hatches of any one species of bug, fish feed on the wide variety of nymphs that inhabit the bottom. One fish may want a Hare’s Ear, another a Pheasant Tail, and another a tan caddis lava. So flip a few rocks to see what’s around then have a look in your box for something the same size and color. If that one doesn’t get any attention move on to your next choice.

Up at the West Branch, below Ripogenus Dam, the same game applies. The one difference there is fish cannot exit the river so lots of fish now hold in Big Eddy on up to Little Eddy where the water is the coolest during the heat of summer. Most of that stretch is above Telos Bridge where there is a 26” minimum length limit on salmon so to protect the gene pool when most of the biggest fish hold during the heat of summer.

We just received word regarding fall, river flows right for Headquarters. Increases will begin right after Labor Day. The Moose should go to around 1200 cfs, and since Moosehead has plenty of water it will see a substantial increase as well. In the fall it’s all about decreasing water temperatures and increasing water flows. When fall increases happen it only take a few days to fill spawning tributaries with an early run of big fish.

Also this fall our fisheries biologists will be operating their fish weir at the Roach River. Moosehead Lake fish are in the best shape since the 80’s and they want to have a close up look at both the salmon and the brookies. The weir is set-up up in the lower section. We’ve gone there in years past to watch them tend the weir. The biologists always welcome visitors and they have a lot of cool info to share. Plus you’ll see some fabulous fish. Fall flows will begin right after Labor Day. They said there is enough water in First Roach Pond for two to three increases in flow during the month.

It appears that the heat of summer is beginning to back off. Nights have been cool and days haven’t been hot. At the beginning of this week the East Outlet water temperature read 74 degrees and yesterday it had already dropped to 68 degrees.

We never want to wish away summer but everyone this last week has been talking fall fishing and catch some of the biggest fish of the season.