What a trip to Rangeley, Maine. The theme of the trip was dry flies and high flows. It was kind of a tale of two trips as the first three days we saw high flows and few hatches, while the weekend saw good hatches and lower flows on some rivers, though one never became fishable, of course it was the river I wanted to fish the most. The first three pics were taken a day apart on the Magalloway and you can see the difference in flows on this particular river. We definitely had to adjust our tactics to the high water. You can see in the first pic Marie fishing the soft edges where the fish were holding to get out of the swift current. Much to my surprise, the fish still preferred dries over nymphs even in the high water. I actually had trouble nymphing up much for fish the whole week, though we caught way over 100 fish in five days. The only water type I consistently nymphed up fish was in a fast flowing stream with some decent pocket water. This was fine by me however as around here nymphs usually rule. I just love watching a fish take a dry.
As the week progressed water levels on some streams came down, though the fishing did not pick up much when flows dropped until more bugs began hatching. A great example of this was on Thursday. We were picking away at fish here and there on a variety of dries and decided to head up river for the last hour before dark. After a 20 minute hike, we popped out on the river to find a massive swarm of large golden stoneflies around size 8 or 10 laying eggs. Fish were stacked up in an eddy line at the edge of the strong current and we hooked a bunch of fish on large dries. It was a blast, but even moving up river 100 yards only produced a few small brookies.
By the weekend bugs had really started blasting and we hit a good sulphur hatch on saturday morning and caddis were going off throughout the day. On saturday alone we landed around 60-70 fish in 6 hours of fishing. We hit a popular pool below a dam in the afternoon and before I even finished tying on my flies Marie had landed 3 salmon! We did awesome that evening on small stimulators, caddis dries, and one particular caddis emerger pattern I had never seen before and bought at the local fly shop. One of the keys was moving the flies. I watched some other people fishing and some were catching as well but many were not. The two guys below us never caught a fish, but they were focusing so much on a dead drift. This is where understanding how different insects behave really helps. Caddis don't float down a river peacefully the was a may fly does. They skip, jump, dart and slam down on the river both emerging and egg laying. The trout understand this and look for motion. After working the near water I began making super long 70-100' casts in to shallow water on the other side of the run, mending hard and skittering my flies off the drop off where brookies and salmon were slamming them on the move or just after, no one was getting their flies to these fish. It was awesome hooking fish 75' away, but you also miss a lot. I returned by my self the next morning in a torrential down pour for one last hurrah and after making a few fly changes I found a caddis pattern the fish wanted and did very well. The fish on average were bigger than the day before, and I landed a bunch of salmon around 14-18' and got the biggest brookie of the trip at around 18". As luck would have it, the largest salmon of the trip came unbuttoned that morning after two huge leaps, and I flat out missed a monster brook trout on my dry fly. We did not get any of the huge fish this trip, but with the conditions and not being able to fish the best river for big trout and salmon, we did pretty well.
We stayed on a fly fishing only pond and spent a few evenings on the pond. I love to get out the ponds when the winds die down right before dark. Our particular pond did not have any huge hatches but there were enough mayflies and a subsequent spinner fall two nights to bring some fish to the top. The key was covering the rises as quickly as possible. This is because the top layer of water is warm, and the fish will cruise down deeper until they decide to come up for a bite. If you are able to get your flies near a rise before they head back down (less than 5 seconds) you can usually get an eat.
Well we are looking forward to getting back up to Maine again. If you are interested in a trip please give me a shout and we can hook up. If I am not staying up there I only do multiple day trips, but you really need to experience more than a day to even skim the surface of the variety of trout and salmon fishing in the Maine woods. I would also tell you if you have not been up there before to hire a guide. Most all of the rivers are dam controlled and it is important to know the flows, in addition many of the rivers are off un-marked logging roads miles and miles into the woods. To top that off, you cannot drive to many of the rivers because the log roads are gated and locked, so you may not even get to the river if you don't know where to go.
Ben Wilcox Owner/Guide Maple Country Anglers