AS MUCH as I love fishing New Hampshire, there are times where I am drawn to other locations. The deep lakes of Vermont in winter, Yellowstone in Montana/Wyoming in the fall, and giant steelhead of New York around Thanksgiving have all become annual trips.
It’s not that I can’t find satisfying adventures in the Granite State but that fishing in other states always makes me glad to come home. In fishing new water, I discover subtle differences and adjust my approach accordingly. Bringing newly discovered methods back to my home waters seems to make me a better fisherman.
Soon, I will head to the Moosehead Region of central Maine and try to match wits with brook trout and landlocked salmon in some big rivers. There seem to be a million lakes in Maine and most are connected by rivers and streams of varying volumes. The advantage of this type of habitat is that fish often spend different times of their life cyle in different types of water.
To clarify, large lakes in the summer months provide abundant food and acceptable temperature regimes for trout and salmon. In the spring and fall, the rivers that connect them provide spawning and nursery habitat. These trophy fish are free to move about among a system designed to maximize survival and growth.
There are a lot of anglers who pursue these fish when they are most often found in the lakes. Big boats with expensive transducers and downriggers share a lot of success in this type of fishery. My personal interest lies in trying to catch them with a fly rod when they occupy the rivers and streams.
Remember, the fish have been allowed to grow to impressive sizes in the lakes, but also swim through the waist deep, free-flowing water that I prefer. The challenge is knowing when and where to find them. The water that I visit in Maine is ideal for this type of challenge.
My favorite approach in these conditions is casting a large dry fly that barely resembles a natural food source. Sometimes referred to as an “attractor pattern,” the flies are bigger and more colorful than most flying insects. It is this distinction that draws the attention of the trout and salmon that swim under them. The strikes that are triggered by these confusing flies are often explosive as if the fish is finally overtaken by the absurdity of it all and reacts angrily.
Another proven method is to cast large, heavy streamers which imitate the baitfish that are frequent prey of large fish. Streamers are easy to fish and, after being cast and drifted downstream, can be retrieved in a slow serpentine pattern back to my reel. I can actually steer these flies into pocket water or around boulders where fish may be staging, waiting for a meal.
The other pattern that has proven successful in the Maine fall are nymphs. These are the flies which mimic the dislodged and helpless insects that make up the majority of a fish’s diet. The flies are tied to accurately depict the color patterns of aquatic insects with a small amount of flair attached to catch a fish’s eye. Often heavy and fished near the bottom, it can be difficult keeping them from snagging the substrate but a good fly fisherman can make this a very good way to catch fish.
The fall trips to Maine have been part of my annual fishing repertoire for decades. I began fishing there when I was young and will continue until I am old. The opportunities are great and being away from home always makes me glad to come back.