Fall Conditions at Their Best

Decreasing water temperature, now in the low 60’s, along with scheduled increases in water flows has done its job very nicely. The East Outlet, Moose, and Roach have all seen nice runs of fall fish. Anglers are all smiles with lots of tales of big, beautiful salmon. These are 18 – 22” adult spawning age fish.

Streamers are back in fashion as are sinking lines. When salmon and brookies enter the river on their spawning run they are eager to chase streamers. You may be able to get them to chase a streamer just under the surface but more likely a sinking line will attract more fish. New fish to the river have been making a living chasing smelt in the lake so they are not likely looking to the surface for a meal. During early fall getting your streamer down 2-4 feet can make a big different. As time goes on they are more willing to chase something on top.

Start swinging falls streamer patterns on a sinking or floating line. Fresh fish are eager to chase down a grab a streamer. Cover every square foot of water. In the fall you’ll find fish holding in places you never find them any other time. It’s not just about the feeding lane. If you’re using your floating line try casting beyond a deep edge into the shallow water close to shore and let your fly swing back over the deep edge. Fall fish like to hold along an edge close to shallow water. And the shallow tail out of a pool can be very productive. As fish move upstream and enter a new pool they often hold along the seam at the tailout. They may be in less tan two feet of water.

One thing we want to drive home; Swing your fly though every square inch of water. If you do, at the end of the day you’ll find more fish than if you randomly cast here and there. And just as important, “If first you don’t succeed try another fly”.

Nymphing can also be very productive during fall conditions and produce some of the biggest fish. Remember fall fish are not hungry and actively feeding. We always look at nymping like you’re trying to deliver a Lays potato chip to a couch potato. Once fall fish have been in the river for a while they tend to settle into a comfortable spot waiting for the urge, to move to their spawning areas. We’ll call it their lazy chair and they’re not hungry so not on any real feeding schedule. When it comes to nymphing in the fall keep in mind every aquatic insect species is crawling around on the bottom and not much in the way of hatches. As a result fish may pick up one of this or one of that. And if you talk to ten different fishermen who are nymphing you’ll likely get ten different answers regarding what worked. So again we’ll suggest if it ain’t working change it or jokingly we like to say “When you do catch a fish on a nymph you might as well cut it off and tie on something different because you’re probably not going to catch another on that fly”. There is one central theme when it comes to fall nymphing; aquatic insects are just beginning their life cycle and any given species is much smaller now than they will be next summer so smaller is better with the exception of stonefly which can take over a year to mature can be big any time of season.

So Times-a-wastin’. The countdown has begun. Stars have lined up nicely and the time has come to fool some of the biggest fish of the season. In mother natures grand plan there is this wonderful consolation prize that comes with fall fishing. As you roam from place to place you get to watch nature wonder. You get to witness the canvas of foliage change to fall colors, already in progress. Everyday vistas change and become more spectacular. What a wonderful time of year, by far our favorite. See you out there.

The photo above is of a major male salmon caught and released this morning at the Roach River by Alan Jansujwicz of Bangor. And it was the only one.

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The Stars have all lined up nicely

As we say every fall, the key ingredients for a good fall river fishing is falling water temperatures and rising water levels. In the last ten days river water temperatures have gone from their peak at 72 degrees to the current temperature of 64 degrees. Nights have been in the low 50’s with daytime temps struggling to reach the mid-60’s. Fall is definitely in the air. Maples are already showing signs of what is to come. And to help the rising water level component flows were increased to on the East Outlet, Moose River, and Roach River. On the 3rd the East Outlet went form 1050 cfs to 1605 cfs. The Moose River went for 601 cfs to 1200cfs and the Roach is supposed to go from it’s summer flow of 118 to + – 200cfs. What this all means is the stars are lining up nicely to kick-start the fall spawning runs of trout and salmon.

Once that larger volume of cooler water hits a lake salmon and trout respond with an initial run of fish into the rivers. And it doesn’t take them long to filter throughout a river. It only takes a couple days. And when fall salmon and trout leave a lake and enter a river on their spawning run they are very aggressive and eager to chase down any number of streamer patterns. This is the time of season when colorful fall patterns like a Shufelt Special, Fox Hole Special or the infamous Montreal Whore get lots of attention. A floating line or maybe a sink-tip is all you’ll need for a while. Your favorite fall streamer can’t be too big to begin with. When fish leave the lake they are leaving a steady diet of smelt so size doesn’t seem to matter. Start by working your streamer close then slowly add a bit more line on each cast so to cover every bit of water. You’ll find fall fish holding in places you won’t find them any other time. Sure you’ll find them in traditional feeding lanes but they will often be in shallower water than earlier is the season so fish every inch. Be sure to use a good stout leader, 6 to 10 lb test. The strike tends to be quite violent and if you react in the same way to set the hook you’ll likely watch your salmon make a leap to safety with your fly attached to his lip if you don’t have a strong enough leader. The Moosehead Drainage has been growing some bragging sized brook trout and salmon lately so expect the unexpected and plan accordingly. We see some of the biggest fish of the season during the fall runs.

Word has it ponds have also cooled nicely and trout are vacating spring holes and can be found now cruising about looking for something to eat after going a month or more without a square meal. A small traditional Hornberg, Wood Special or Muddler Minnow fished wet of dry should attract plenty of attention. Trout will cruise around looking for a meal most of the month but as the days go by and spawning time nears they’ll migrate toward their spawning areas where they’ll begin gathering in large numbers.

We don’t want to wish away summer but this is without a doubt our favorite time of season. Bull moose begin showing up in the middle of the road looking like they just stepped out of Gillie’s Gym, their antlers all polished and often sporting a bit of an attitude, geese get restless, and grouse are seen feeding on the last of the tender green plants along the edges of the miles and miles of dirt roads. It’s a wonderful time of season when we also see some of the biggest fish. There will be grand animated tales of grand fish accompanied by grand photos and high fives as well as a fair share of sad stories of the big one that…. We’ve already spun a few tales about grand fish from yesteryears. They are what get us all fired up for what we anticipate is to come. Our only wish is September fishing should be three months long instead of three weeks.

It’s go time. Stop by the shop on your way by, in either direction. We have the stuff you need and we love grand tales of grand fish and the photos that go with them.

See you on the water.

 

Fall fishing is now on everyone’s mind

MFO Season is winding down, the kiddos will be back in school soon and the last long weekend of summer is right around the corner.

So for now fishing opportunities remain the same as before except water temps are slowly falling and fish are beginning to perk up a bit. The East Outlet has seen an increase in flow from 1000 cfs to 1500 cfs. And the photo above is of a customer, Mike Cannington, with a big handsome, hook-jawed male landlocked salmon caught a few days ago on a Nancy’s Prayer wet fly at the West Branch of the Penobscot. It was his first ever salmon. It’s the nicest salmon I’ve seen all season.

We don’t like to wish away summer but cooler nights and days over the last week has us leaning toward thoughts of fall fishing. Water temperatures peaked out at 72 degrees but with the cooler nights over the last week water temps are already back to the mid-60’s, a good start. And weather predictions for the next few have highs in the low 70’s with nights in the low 50’s. It would be nice to see this trend continue.

Wonderful fall fishing requires two key ingredients; rising water flows and lowering water temperatures. Both conditions are needed to begin spawning runs. Two falls ago cooler temperatures showed up the last week of August and water flows were increased Labor Day weekend. By mid-week after Labor Day the East Outlet and the Roach River were full of fat, salmon and brookies. Last year cooler temperature didn’t show up as soon and even though water flows were increased it was bath water and fish didn’t respond very well and it was slim picking to start with. This year we have plenty of water in the lakes so water flows shouldn’t be an issue and if cool fall weather continues the stars should all line up for some fine fall fishing. We’ll learn the proposed increases in flows on all of our rivers sometime next week. There are a lot of factors to be considered… the most important being current lake levels and how the water people can make increases and have them last throughout the remainder of the season. Our fisheries guys and water the folks will go over the details next week and come up with game plan. Our next report should have all the details.

The other day we were discussing the evaluation of fall fishing. Thirty years ago all everyone used where big, brightly colored streamers. I could tie on a Montreal Whore the first day of September and leave it the entire month and be happy as a clam and catch plenty of fish. All you needed was one small box of a few different fall streamers in a couple of different sizes. The belief was fish don’t eat anything when they are on their spawning run. We were keeping fish back then and always had a look at what was in their stomachs and hardly even found at thing … case closed, they don’t eat in the fall. Then one day, maybe 20 years ago I was fishing with a Jim Lapage from Orvis, he asked how the nymph fishing was in the fall. I said “You can leave your nymphs in the truck. Fall spawners do not eat, they have their mind on other things. All they’ll grab is a streamer, you have to piss’em off with a big, bright fly.” Jim politely asked if he could bring nymphs along to try anyway. They were new and had brass beads attached. When we got on the river Jim suggested I fish the pools first with my streamer and then give him some time with their new nymphs. I would catch a few fish then turn the pool over to him and watch as he would dredge up just as many as just as big as my streamer would. This went on in every pool all day. Discussing it over a beer later it was decided that there were fish in the pool that didn’t care about my streamer. Maybe they had been hooked a time or two on and streamer and were done chasing them. But when a tiny pheasant tail, that looked like a tasty mayfly nymph, came drifting by along the bottom fish may decide to pick it up only because they had eaten plenty earlier in the season so why not grab one more. That changed the face of fall fishing for me and gave us another trick to put in our bag and more fish in our net.

For years we were happy with our two methods and life was good. Then late one season we knew where every fish was in the pools, we had hooked’em all and they were sick of whatever we were offering so we started thinking of what else we could try in an attempt to fool now wise old fish. In the fall you rarely see a fish come to the surface to eat something on the surface. Bug season is pretty much over so there is nothing for them to come to the surface for. At least that’s what we always believed. And we’d tried dries plenty of times with little or no success. So we brought along our soft hackle wets, which we had been using with great success during the entire hatch season. We discovered that even though fish weren’t being seen coming to the surface anything they were eager to take a tiny soft hackle wet fly presented just below the surface. After all, like the many crippled bugs they had been eating in the film of the water all season, why not just one more.

The evolution of fall fishing continues although we now have a much bigger bag of tricks than we did 30 years ago. Between stripping streamers, bouncing nymphs along the bottom and swinging soft hackle wets you should be able to hook some of your biggest fish of the season.

We will be closed Sunday, August 25th to Wednesday, August 28th for a few days at camp to enjoy a bit of down time off the grid before the fall rush starts. We’ll reopen for the remainder of the season on Thursday August 29th, in plenty of time for the Labor Day Weekend.

MFO Season

We are smack dab in the middle of the heat of summer. Waters are the warmest they will be all season. It’s a great time to take care of those family obligations. We call it MFO (Mandatory Family Outing) season. Many of our customers are here for a wedding or family reunion or summer vacation. The fishermen in the family sneak in a day or two of fishing between family events. They’re looking for a nice day spent on the water and aren’t disappointed if they don’t see a lot of big fish.

The East Outlet and Moose Rivers are currently at low flows and fishing can be slow, especially during mid-day. When river water temperatures climb to 70 degrees many trout and salmon move into Moosehead and it’s colder water. Not all fish exit the river but we’ll see numbers fall off as water temps rise. This time of season the best area on East Outlet would be from the dam to the Beach Pool. Early morning and evenings are the most productive and when you’re likely to find caddis hatching and feeding fish.

There are exceptions to everything. One of those exceptions is the West Branch of the Penobscot below Ripogenus Dam. They make power there so the flow of water comes from deep in the lake and diverted into the powerhouse, McKay Station, where it goes through turbines before reentering the river. The West Branch is a very unique system were fish, both trout and salmon, are born and live their entire life in a river system. There is no fish ladder so they can’t leave. The entire river is loaded with fish and every big fish big fish lives somewhere in that river.

The game is the same wherever you choose fish. We are well along the caddis hatch cycle. Instead of all day hatches it’s more mornings and evenings. A lot of caddis have come and gone. Olive, green, and brown-bodied caddis are over. Fish even stopped eating the Nancy’s Prayer just the other day. On the menu these days are the Kennebec Caddis (burnt orange body) and tiny black caddis. It is also Cheeseburger Season when big golden stones are out so Stimulators and Golden Stone patterns get a lot of attention. Cover every square foot of water and every now and then you’ll bring up a big fish up and when they show they mean business.

This time of season you can eventually get sick of trying to fool very finicky fish that refuse to participate or even worse flat out refuse whatever you are offering. It ‘s time you might want to let your mind wonder over to the “Dark Side” also know as BASS angling. They like warmer water and are rarely finicky. We know it might be a hard pill to swallow for some but while I’m catching smallmouth on poppers I can’t help but image how I would be doing if I were trying to catch brookies on some trout pond where every fish is tucked away is some spring hole somewhere in the pond. If you can wrap your head around a warm water species, fly fishing fun can last all summer. The list of smallmouth spots is extensive; Prong Pond, Indian Pond, Moosehead, Brassua and the West Outlet of the Kennebec. A couple of different color poppers, a couple different color rubber legged woolly buggers and maybe a crayfish look-a-like is about all you’ll need. There was a guy in the shop a while ago that was one happy camper boasting of big smallies he had caught this morning that jumped sky high. BASS can be loads of fun. You just have to get past the fact that they don’t have colored spots.

Have loads of summer fun and the best of luck fishing.

 

 

14th Annual Project Healing Waters Outing

July 17-20, 2019 – Seven vets and two counselors from Massachusetts and Vermont attended this years fishing trip. They arrived the afternoon of July 17th and stayed at Kokadjo Sporting Camps on First Roach Pond. Dinner the first evening was provided by the Rod & Reel Café.

Everyone meet at the Maine Guide Fly Shop the morning of July 18th where the guides (Chad, John, Wayne, & Dan) from the Maine Guide Fly Shop were ready with their drift boats in tow to take the vets for a day of fly fishing on the East Outlet of the Kennebec.

The vets had a grand time drifting the 3 ½ mile river and had lots of fun teasing trout and landlocked salmon to their dry flies. We all gathered at the Beach Pool and set-up for a mid-day cookout provided by Indian Hill Trading Post and told morning tales of fish that were caught and the big ones that got away. Following a great day on the water the vets dined at Kelly’s Landing on Moosehead Lake.

Their second day was reserved for another drift on the West Branch of the Penobscot River. The guides launched at Chewonki‘s Big Eddy Campground. After a morning of fishing the Big Eddy we had a great lunch at the campground then got back in the drift boats and fished our way downstream to Salmon Deadwater. Fishing was good on both days and everyone caught fish using dries flies.

The last evening our local American Legion went to Kokadjo Sporting Camps and put on a barbeque for the vets.

Before the vets departed for home the morning of July 19th the vets had breakfast at the Kokadjo Store. We look forward to the Annual Healing Waters Outing and taking the vets fishing. They are always amazed and so appreciative of the generosity of the Greenville people. Everyone has such a wonderful time.

We want to thank each and every business and the many individuals involved in this and every Project Healing Waters Outing for the last fourteen years. They have all been a huge success. Please go to our “Photos” page and see all those smiling faces.

Better Late than Never

The highly anticipated Drakes (Hexes) are finally beginning to show. The West Branch ponds and Big Lyford are perennial favorites. There’s easy access, lots of eager brookies and liberal laws so folks can take a few for the frying pan. Some of the more remote higher elevation ponds should also begin any day. Most have fewer fish with tighter regulations but have the potential of producing much larger fish. Wherever you choose be sure to bring your sinking line so you can fish a maple syrup along the bottom before the hatch begins. Once drakes hatches are in full swing fish begin cruising coves where hatches happen looking for these mud nymphs as they crawl out of the mud and head for the surface to hatch. Drag your nymph along the bottom before the real ones start to emerge and you should start to see some action long before the main event.

Case in point… As I’m typing this, a gentleman came in the shop, who was on a trout pond last evening waiting for the drake hatch. The hatch didn’t begin until after sunset but they watched a couple other guys catching fish long before the hatch started while they weren’t getting any action on their dries. Once the hatch started they did do well on dries. He said they looked like they were fishing something subsurface and if I might know what they were using. I rest my case.

Now for moving water…rattle any riverside alder and you’ll likely cause a storm of displaced caddis looking for another leaf to lite on. There will be tan body caddis, brown body caddis, olive body and even a few black body caddis. They’ll range in size from 12 to 18. One fish wants the size12 olive body caddis, another will only eat a size 14 brown body caddis, and the biggest fish in the river may have an appetite for a size 18 black body caddis. And that is just for starters. If you watch the water for feeding fish you’ll see fish picking bugs off the surface but you’ll see just as many swirls, which indicate fish feeding subsurface. Those fish have an appetite for crippled caddis. And so it goes, you can only hope what worked yesterday will work again today but you know that may not be the case and you begin cycling through what you have seen when you rattled those alders. We as guides use the process of elimination in order to figure fish out. First in line on the leader is likely going to be an elk wing caddis of some body color. Then we’ll tie on a caddis emerger as a dropper about two feet beyond the dry that lies on its side in the surface film. That way we cover two potential feeding activities. Ideally the first pair work but if we are fishing over feeding fish or water where we know fish are holding and no one makes an attempt to eat our offering we’ll begin cycling through what is in season and what we believe is the next caddis species on the ever changing menu. And if that’s not enough on another rod we’ll fashion a set of soft hackle wet flies… partridge and olive, partridge and orange or the current favorite fish food, a Nancy’s Prayer. These small, size 12-16 wet flies are fished just under the surface and often get a lot of attention simply because they are an easier tidbit for fish to sip.

This time of season our policy is, if it’s not interesting fish change it. Fish can be fooled you just have to find the right fly. Once you do you’ll bring your share of fish to net. And don’t forget to twitch your dries about. The twitch is a biggie that convinces fish to make the trip to the surface for a snack.

Cheeseburger season is about to go into full swing. A couple days ago Golden Stones began show in good numbers. What that means is fish will begin coming to the surface for big dries, flies you can easily see… Stimulators, Tarantulas, and Bugmeisters soon be on the menu.

Have a great time on the water.

The Cycle of Caddis Continues

Aquatic insect hatches are like a garden growing. Once all the seeds are planted things begin to grow over time and eventually harvest season arrives. Radishes are likely you’re first crop. You can hardly wait until you have the first bunch for your salad. But after you’ve eaten radishes everyday for a week you are not as excited about eating the last of the crop. All of a sudden the lettuce is ready so you move on and so it goes… peas, then beans, spinach and corn and tomatoes.

The same goes for fish and their garden of aquatic insects. Mayflies are the first to show and fish go wild over them but after the Blue Wind Olives have hatched for a few days they get sick of them and quickly move on to the newly hatched Hendricksons, then Red Quills and March Browns. These days the Cycle of Caddis has begun so fish want nothing to do with your mayfly imitation that worked a couple weeks ago, they want the current crop of caddis.

Fish also begin to recognize imposters. If your fly isn’t the right size or body color they might have a look but they may not eat it. Fish will also key on a stage of a particular hatch. When you spot a splashy take a fish is probably trying to grab an emerging caddis before it flies away. A simple swirl of water with not splash and a fish could be eating a submerged adult drifting with the current. If you spot feeding fish it’s a good idea to observe how they are eating so you can figure out how they want a fly presented. Your fly needs to look like it came from nature. The last few days both trout and salmon have been looking for caddis bouncing around on the surface. A simple twitch of your fly as it drifts along on the surface can provoke a take. At times we had to skip our flies up river a few feet then drift back over the same area to get fish to cooperate. And we had quite a few takes when we were reeling in to move and the fly was moving fast and bouncing on over the surface. How fish want a fly presented can get complicated but once you figure out what they are keying on your luck will quickly change.

Fish often key on subsurface bugs drifting with the current. They’re an easy meal. Caddis become adults subsurface, the process isn’t without it flaws. Most make it through the surface film and fly away but many fail and are left to drift away in the surface film. When you find fish making only a swirl of water there are eating crippled caddis. Your tactic will change from flirting a fly about on the surface to using soft hackle wet flies just under the surface. They are easy to tie and easy to fish. Their names are simple, Partridge and the color of the body… Partridge and Olive, Partridge and Orange, Partridge and Brown… the partridge part of the name is the hackle used for its wing and the color in the name would be the body color.

Now is the perfect time of season to use them. In a fishes mind they look like a dead caddis just beneath the surface. Begin with a couple rod lengths of line. Cast 45 degree downstream and crosscurrent. Mend upstream and swing them slowly across the current. If they swing too fast like you would fish a streamer fish will likely ignore them. It’s unnatural, bugs don’t move that fast. Add a couple of feet of line to the next cast and repeat. It’s a good idea to loosen your drag and keep your index figure off the line. The strike is usually a gentle take leading you to believe it many be a small fish but when a fish feels the hook it will take off and your drag will take over. If you try and hold a fish but using your figure you are likely to either straighten the tiny hook or break it off. Swinging soft hackle can be extremely productive and far less intense as trying to fish tiny dry caddis on uneven water and currents. Caddis will be the predominate hatches throughout the month of July. The more you know about these bugs the more successful you’ll be.

Drake (Hex) season is a bit behind this year. Shallow, low elevation ponds should have already had Drakes hatching by now but rainy, cool weather hasn’t allowed trout ponds to warm enough for hatches to begin. This week’s stellar weather forecast should change all that. It’s finally time to start babysitting your favorite pond. As with all hatches the first couple nights are magical, you can do no wrong. Trout have been waiting for these cheeseburger size mayflies and when the event begins trout can’t get enough of ‘em. Stashed canoes get flipped, and launched in hopes of hitting the main event of the season. A quick paddle around the shore will let you know if anything has been going on. When drakes emerge they leave big shucks (exoskeletons) behind that float and wash up on the shore. No shucks showing translates into maybe tonight is the night.

The photo above is Geo Matteson with a fine East Outlet salmon caught on a caddis emerger.

Have a memorable Forth of July week. See you on the water. We’ll be closed on the Forth.

 

 

 

Dries all day!!!

June 20, 2019

We have been talking caddis for some time now. Maybe tomorrow, then tomorrow will be the day, then todays the day. This went on for a while. Then the day came and that day was yesterday June 19th when bright green-bodied caddis hit the scene as well as dark brown and tan caddis, a nice way to begin caddis season. Two day ago there wasn’t a caddis to be seen but we still teased fish to the surface all day but nothing over 16”. Bigger fish wouldn’t come to the surface after one tiny caddis flirting about on the surface. Yesterday that all changed when there were lots of caddis bouncing about. The small fish must have been hiding because we saw few fish under 18”. In the morning big salmon meant business. The takes were deliberate and most takes ended with a bent rod. It’s a beautiful sight when you get to watch a salmon or trout start up from the bottom with your fly in its crosshairs. It’s what we wait for each season. It’ll be dries all day long for days on ends. But they don’t always come easy. At times there will be a number of different caddis species hatching at the same time. Species overlap and one fish wants one species and another wants something different.
 
Feeding fish are often after crippled caddis drifting on the surface, or caddis bouncing about trying to take to flight, or dead adults in the film of the water, and even emerging caddis. The trick is figuring out what exactly are fish feeding on and how they want your caddis imitation presented.
 
One sure fire way to get a fishes’ attention during caddis hatches is by twitching your bug just a bit as it drifts along on the surface. Make your best cast, mend your line if needed then keep your rod tip high and flip the tip slightly every now and then so your fly scoots an inch or two as it drifts downstream. It’s that tiny scoot that convinces a fish it needs to eat it. We’ve watched crippled caddis flopping about along with hundreds of motionless caddis and it’s the cripples that get eaten every time. Also at the end of the drift skip your fly back upstream 5-10’ then dead drift it back over the same water. If you pick your fly off the water and dead drift it back over the same water they will often ignore it. The SKIP gets the fishes’ attention and the drift back that gets the fish.
 
Also a splashy rise often indicates a fish going for a caddis as it becomes an adult just under the surface. Pay attention to where the splash was. There is probably a rock just beneath the spot. That fish is always in a sweet spot right under the splash. Try skipping your fly over that spot a few time and you’ll probably fool the fish into making a grab for your caddis imitation.
 
If you spot fish just making a boil of water and no splash they are likely feeding on crippled caddis in the film of the water. These are fish you want to swing a soft hackle by, the slower the swing the better your chances. Cast 45 degrees drown stream and across the current then mend upstream to slow down the swing. We fool some of our biggest fish swinging soft hackle wets just under the surface.
 
Drake (Hex) season is just around the corner. Everything is happening a little later than usual this season so probably expect the drake to be a bit late as well. A few hot days could bring things back in line. We have always said “If you plan your vacation around Drake hatches the week of the 4th of July is a good bet. Hatches are always happening somewhere around then, we’ll keep you posted.
 
The photo is of Tom Mackey, winner of this years, Bangor Daily, Win a Drift Boat trip with John Holyoke and Dan. Tom took his game to another level and fooled a number of nice fish ending his day with a great drift of his caddis to a feeding fish, which he is proudly holding in the photo. We all had a lot of laughs and a wonderful day on the East Outlet of the Kennebec.
 
It’s a grand time on season to be on the water chasing feeding fish. Hatches have every fish looking up on both moving or still waters. There are lots of smiling faces in the fly fishing community.
 
See you on the water.

The caddis are coming, the caddis are coming

Caddis hatches haven’t kicked in just yet so it takes a mixed bag of tricks to fool fish.

Mayfly hatches are about over but they convinced fish to begin looking up which is a good thing. At this point in time we say “They’re in transition”. There are always a few transition days every season, between major mayfly hatches and the start of much anticipated caddis hatches when fish seem to lay low and aren’t feeding on any one thing or on a regular schedule. Anglers say, “You can set your watch by the mayflies hatches” so when they’re hatching you settle into a routine of nymphs & streamers all morning and dries all afternoon. At 12:01 you can count of seeing the daily cycle of mayflies hatches begin like clockwork. But once mayfly hatches fade away fish seem to be in a funk before the caddis blizzard hatches begin. They’ll pick at this and that but don’t seem to be focused on any one activity or time of day.

You’ll get one fish to chase after a streamer dancing around out behind a floating line, another will sip a soft hackle wet fly fished meticulously just under the surface, yet another may choose a bright green body nymph or black stone bounced along the bottom and or another will grab a royal coachman parachute fished dry. If it’s not working trying something different, is the best answer when  transtion days are on. But the indecision fish are experiencing is about to end end as soon as caddis season kicks in, which is any day now. Once caddis appear in earnest the perfect drag free drift isn’t always the answer for fooling fish.

If you get the opportunity to observe a mayfly hatch you’ll see mayfly after mayfly sitting atop the surface film drifting along motionless while their wings dry then pop off the water and take to flight. Caddis on the other hand are tiny explosive canisters that blow open just under the surface and the winged adult takes to flight as soon as it breaks through the surface film. It’s like they magically appear. The issue with hatching subsurface is there are many malfunctions in the system. Adult caddis make it to the surface but can’t that to flight because a wing got wet so they flop around on the surface trying desperately to fly. Sit back and observe a caddis hatch and you’ll see lots of cripples flip flopping around on the surface. Many times fish key on cripples, they’re easy targets and easily spotted bouncing about. Many times your key to success is make your fly imitated one of those crippled caddis. It’s easy enough to do. As your fly dead drifts along on the current give your rod tip a tiny twitch so your fly scoots a couple inches then let it dead drift and more available for a fish to grab. There are many times, especially during major caddis hatches the twitch draws way more strikes than the dead drift.

Around these parts the sequence in which caddis hatch happen begins with a bright green bodied elk wing caddis. Until they start we’ve been fooling fish with chartreuse nymphs, bright green soft hackle wets and green streamers. Next in line are the olive body elk wing caddis, then tan, then dark wing caddis like the west branch caddis. That should take us into July and summer caddis hatches.

Caddis season is a fun time when all does not have to be perfect to fool fish except the correct color body which means everything. Start by rattling river side alders before you step a foot into the river. When you spot a caddis on a leaf, the bug with a pitched roof for a wing, grab it and flip it over to see the body color. Match the color and the size and you’ve quickly solved what you should be using to fool awaiting fish.

River flows could not be any better all around. It’s a majically time on moving water. Don’t miss out.

Bugging for smallmouth is top shelf. The spawn is over and they’re on the stumps, but don’t tell anyone.

The fish on the eye high leap photo above took the lead fly with the dropper visible on the short leader above the salmon. Very cool.

Everyone’s Lookin’ Up

June 6, 2019 – Everybody is looking up.

Water flows in all the rivers are finally down to manageable levels. Hallelujah!!
And the Hendrickson hatches are in full swing. What could be better!

Once mayfly season kicks in, fish begin looking up. Translation… sinking lines become far less important in the quest for catching fish. Now you can tie your favorite streamer to your favorite floating line and fish it over your favorite water and fish will come roaring to the surface to grab it. Continue fishing them in the traditional way… 45 degrees cross current with an upstream mend them let-em’ swing with a twitch of the rod tip every now and then. Start with a short line and slowly add more to each cast, covering as much water as possible. The strike is at the surface and violent. Make sure you use a good stout leader or that big salmon or brookie will be slowing his buddies the fly he stole from you. We also like to make-em’ chase it but casting 90 degrees cross current then throwing a downstream mend to make the streamer head downstream faster than the current. Fish often boil behind it and miss it but they give you their location. Our belief is once you interest a fish in your streamer they will likely return and mean business.

This is the time of season when we’ll fish streamers and nymphs all morning and dries and emergers all afternoon. Just remember when it comes to mayflies… a good drift is better than a good cast. Once mayflies begin to appear don’t be in a big rush to get your fly on the water. Watch what’s going on. When you find a feed fish, which is a fish that appears more than once, put him on the clock. You’ll often see a number of naturals go over him without a rise. Once a fish rises to the surface and takes a bug it takes time for him to get back to his lie and begin looking up for another morsel. Your watch will often show you it’s been 3-4 minutes between eats. The more you know about a feeding fish the better your odds of fooling him. And there is nothing more satisfying than finding a feeding fish, making the perfect drift and fooling that fish.

Pond fishing has peaked. Fish are keeping bankers hours and surface feeding often lasts all afternoon. If you aren’t seeing any mayflies or surface feeding going on, that doesn’t mean trout aren’t looking to the surface for their next meal. They have been feeding on mayfly hatches for some time. If activity seems to be slow try traditional wets flies fished just under the surface. Old timers use to build leaders that had three flies attached, it’s still legal today. To the trout they are the emergers of the adults… Blue Dunn, Adams, Quill Gordon, Black Gnat and the like. Give one a nice long cast then work them with a slow retrieve. A traditional roll-of-the wrist retrieve works the best. You’ll likely see a nice swirl and tug on your fly when a hungry trout blasts to the surface for the take. Fishing will hold up until the ponds heat from long hot days under the sun. That won’t happen for some time given all the cold weather we’ve been having.

The old timers always called it bog laurel and claimed when the Bog Laurel is in bloom the bass are in the shallows and taking poppers. It’s still true today. If you know a good smallmouth place you may what to pay it a visit and toss a popper around. Yellow, white and chartreuse are our favorites. We have been having some wonderful days casting bugs to shallow water structure. The photos speak for themselves. Have a look but don’t tell anyone.

So as we said earlier “Everyone is looking up” and if you do as well you just might see an eagle or two looking back, giving you a high for a grand day spent North of the Monson-Dixin line folks like to call the North Maine Woods.

The photo above is Brea Hatch with a 22″ brookie caught while on a drift boat trip with Chad Cray. Congratulations Brea!!