Incredible fishing can mean a lot of different things to different people. It can mean huge numbers of fish caught, a few large individuals brought to net, or perfectly matching a hatch and landing some tough fish; however you want to define it. Whether incredible or not, to me going fishing is always worth the effort, no matter if I catch fish. Maybe an outing is worthwhile because the fishing is good but more often the fishing is tough and I learn something new, add another piece to the puzzle.
Even though learning on the water through struggle and perseverance is rewarding I really fell in love with fly fishing because of those occasional epic days where the fish are big and numerous and you can do no wrong. Every year I seem to have that one fishing day or fishing trip that really becomes the definitive outing of the season. It’s where everything seems to come together and the fishing is incredible. Sometimes this happens early on and some years I’m still waiting until late into the fall for a trip like this. I’ve fished a good amount this year – maybe 70-75 times – but have not had a truly great day. I’ve really good days, so-so days, and bad days fishing but I’ve been frustrated that things haven’t really come together like I wanted. That is until this past week.
My schedule finally allowed for a few days off and I took advantage. I drove about 4 and 1/2 hours north to the fish the Rangeley area of Maine. The conditions were not ideal for fall fishing for pre-spawn Brook Trout and Landlocked Salmon moving out of the area’s lakes into tributary streams and rivers. Less than ideal conditions included low water and warm sunny weather. These fish are triggered to make a spawning run from the lakes into the tributaries when cold fall rains raise flows. There had been rain in the area a couple weeks ago that brought fish up but no rain since had dropped flows, pushing fish back into the lakes or trapping fish in pools upriver where they were spooky and not active during daylight.
Finding fish was the tough part. I hiked over 25 miles in 3 days, mostly in my waders, searching for big, active lake-run fish. Some rivers seemed almost devoid of life while others harbored numbers small resident Brook Trout while still others had Brook Trout and salmon piled up in pools where anglers were unsuccessfully (for the most part) flailing the water with flies. With a little luck, and some hiking and serious bushwacking I ended up finding some truly incredible fishing for large, aggressive lake-run Brook Trout.
Two of the evenings of my three day trip arguably make it into my top ten of all time best fishing days. Big (14-18″) Brook Trout absolutely crushing stripped dries. It was one of the few times I really wished I had someone filming. Not another person for miles. After some trial and error, where I caught fish here and there on standard dry fly fare, I discovered that these brookies went completely nuts for my biggest deer-hair-and-foam stonefly pattern or muddler (dry) fished in short strips along the surface. Basically mousing. I really don’t know how to describe it. The ferocity of the strikes, the fight, the beauty of these fish. I was standing in the middle of a river, no one around for miles and just laughing and talking to myself about how awesome it was.
I must’ve landed 100 brookies including beating my personal best dozens of times. The biggest one is the fat girl in the second picture above. I don’t usually measure my fish or keep count but she was a tank. Altogether an great trip. Can’t wait to go back and catch more. I’d also like to get into some salmon.