Fly Fishing Maine
Where To Go Fly Fishing in Maine
Maine does not receive the praise it should for its unique trout fisheries and beautiful landscapes throughout the state. While tourist flock to the coasts, the real adventure for anglers start in the pristine lakes, rivers, and creeks that flow through the backwoods along the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. Maine's backwoods see very few visitors. Loggers and outdoorsmen are just about the only individuals you will find while driving the endless forest service roads in the upper part of the state. Maine does have populations of rainbow trout and brown trout, but the real draw to the state are their brook trout and landlocked atlantic salmon fisheries. These fisheries are quite unique to the state. Alongside the brook trout and atlantic salmon, you can find splake, lake trout, and the even more rare sunapee/blueback trout in a handful of lakes and ponds. The Sunapee/Blueback trout is a subspecies of arctic char that can be found exclusively in Maine and a small stretch of land across the Canadian border. Overall it is found in less than two dozen lakes in the world and is under intensive management from the Maine Fisheries and Wildlife Department. The most common target for anglers in Maine is the brook trout. Growing to trophy sizes in Maines lakes, ponds, creeks, and rivers, it is not uncommon to find brookies reaching lengths of 20" or bigger. While brook trout in the southeast need the most pristine water in the area, brook trout in Maine can be found in roadside ditches or just about anywhere else that might hold water year round. Picking a specific location to fish can be difficult as there are many opportunities around the state and narrowing down to one is a challenge. Depending on the time of year, targeted species, and whether you want to look for numbers or size are the largest factors to understand where you need to be fishing.
Where To Go Fly Fishing in Maine
As the snow begins to melt as the weather warms in Spring, several opportunities arise for fly fisherman visiting Maine. Brook trout will begin feeding more in the larger rivers and tailwaters throughout the state. The most prolific of these fisheries being the Penobscot River and Kennebec River. You can learn more about Fly Fishing the Penobscot River, Fly Fishing the Kennebec River, and Fly Fishing the Allagash in our American Trout Stream articles. The West Branch of the Penobscot River and East Outlet of the Kennebec River being the major tailwater fisheries that see the best activity in the early season. Along with these two are the Grand Lake Stream, Rapid River, Aroostook River, and Roach River. All of these rivers hold brook trout and will have Atlantic salmon coming and going throughout the year. The shoulder months of spring and fall will find salmon moving in and out of the rivers while they retreat to the deeper waters of the lakes in the coldest parts of winter and warmest months of the summer. As spring progresses and ice recedes on the ponds and lakes throughout the back country, the best fishing of the year begins during the spring turnover. Though spring turnover typically only lasts for a couple weeks or so, the mixing of the water in the ponds and lakes will push all species of fish shallow and trigger a feeding binge until the water begins to stratify once again. This feeding frenzy will start along the shorelines of the lakes and move outwards. If your timing is right, this is the best opportunity of the year to land a trophy fish. For shorebound anglers look for smaller lakes and bigger ponds for the most success. For those with access to a kayak or canoe, the medium size lakes may offer more opportunities. For a bit bigger challenge and reward, target the lakes with populations of lake trout, salmon, and blue back trout. Munsungan Lake, Big Reed Pond, Telos Lake, Wadleigh Pond, Spider lake, West Grand Lake, and Moosehead Lake are among countless others. The Rangeley as well as the hundreds of lakes in the Allagash provide endless opportunities for anglers. Summer and fall mean lowering water levels. Many of the small streams will see slower fishing but the action on many of the tailwaters will improve until the lowest water of fall. Summer is also a great time to get on the lakes with the best bites occurring in the low light hours. Hatches happen at dusk and dawn and find trout up by the surface. During the middle of the day, trout will often back off the surface and patrol deeper water for food. The bite in the river slows dramatically toward the end of summer until air temperatures begin to drop with the return of Autumn. The fall sees the most movement of fish as the atlantic salmon return from the lakes to spawn. Before they hit the redds, they will feed heavily on their migrations. The Fall may very well be the best time for a visit to Maine as the fall color change, the salmon spawning migration, and the brook trout feeding up for winter all occur simultaneously as the fishing season comes to an end. Better understanding of these cycles and the resident fish species will give you the best idea on finding the optimum fishing in Maine.
Fly Fishing for Brook Trout in Maine
Brook Trout are the primary target of fly fisherman visiting Maine. Here they can reach trophy sizes exceeding twenty inches commonly. You can find these trout in the rivers, lakes, and even small ditches across Maine. While the larger rivers such as the Penobscot River, Aroostook River, and Kennebec River do produce trophy sized brook trout, these fish can grow much faster in the small lakes and reserviors scattered throughout the state. From ice off in the spring to ice in late fall and early winter, small streamers are great flies to target large brook trout with. Woolly buggers in still waters, and ghost patters in the rivers will attract plenty of attention. Look for brooking in the small ponds to school up and make plenty of repeat casts after locating trout. From late spring through summer hatches of caddis and larger mayflies will bring brook trout to the surface for a feeding binge. Be sure to match your fly size to that of the hatching insects as the brook trout can get picky after seeing the same flies for an extended period. Into summer the hatches move to the low light hours of the day, and the trout's activity level will sync to this pattern. The mid day bite during the summer can be difficult and covering plenty of water with streamers can be your best bet. Fall brings the spawn and a heavy feeding binge from the brook trout that will begin preparing for winter. Again, small streamer patterns will shine as the trout look for higher calorie meals.
Fly Fishing for Landlocked Atlantic Salmon in Maine
Historically Atlantic Salmon made runs in four of Maine's river systems. Sadly these sea run salmon are essentially gone with some restoration efforts being taken present day. Landlocked Atlantic Salmon however, have been stocked in many of Maine's lakes for quite some time. The first stocking occurred in 1868 on Cathance Lake. Currently, over 300 lakes possess or are stocked with Atlantic salmon, along with better than 320 miles of rivers. Western and Northern Maine are the most common areas to find these lakes and rivers. Each year from the middle of October through November these landlocked salmon run to the inlets and outlets of lakes to spawn. Juvenile salmon spend about two years in the rivers before heading to the open water of the lakes to feed on schools of smelt.
Best Places to go Fly Fishing For Atlantic Salmon in Maine
The West Branch of the Penobscot, Kennebec River tailwater from Moosehead Lake, Grand Lake Stream between West Grand Lake and Big Lake, Fish River, and the Rapid River below the Lower Richardson Lake Dam. Each of these rivers will see runs of salmon each fall and have easier access for wading anglers. Drifting eye catchy fly patterns is a good way to elicit bites along with swinging flies on any of these waters. Regulations can change at time so be sure to consult the Maine Fisheries and Wildlife Department website before hitting the water.
Fly Fishing for Lake Trout in Maine
Maine is home to modest populations of native Lake Trout, locally referred to as Togue. These lake trout inhabit the larger reserviors such as Moosehead Lake and Chesuncook Lake, and Twin Lakes, to the smaller lakes such as Spider Lake, Munsungan Lake, and Allagash Lake. FLy angling opportunities are best just after ice off and last for about two to three weeks until the Togue move to deeper water. Baitfish imitations are the best bet to land one of these fish on the fly. A similar bite occurs in mid to late October before the ice comes back and Lakers push shallow onto points and shoals to spawn. Late evening or overcast days find more of these trout concentrating in the shallows. Maine does not yield some of the monster sized Lake Trout seen in other states but is second to none in numbers of fish.
Fly Fishing for Sunapee or Blueback Trout in Maine
The Sunapee or Blueback trout is not only a rare gem in Maine but one of the more rare salmonid subspecies in the world. This Arctic Char subspecies can only be found in less than two dozen lakes in Maine and just across the border in Canada. Fishing for the blueback trout is similar to that of lake trout. Though most blueback live in much smaller bodies of water than the Lake Trout, they still occupy the darkest depths of the lakes for majority of the year. After ice off and during the first hatches of spring, blueback can be found cruising the shallows, close to deep water, looking for an easy meal. At these times it isn't uncommon to land a fish or two on a dry fly. As the temperatures rise, blueback retreat to the cooler water depths and baitfish imitations become anglers best options. The char will stay deep until late fall and ice on when they begin their spawn routine and cruise the shallows looking for food. This happens around the end of the fishing season in Maine, so timing can be a problem for visitors this time of year. If timed correctly anglers have a chance at an incredibly colored ice age relic. Where to find these fish can be the toughest task for visiting anglers.
Where Can You Find Blueback Trout in Maine?
Deboullie Pond, Wadleigh Pond, Black Pond, Big Reed Pond, Gardner Pond, and Wassataquoik Lake all support healthy populations of carefully managed blueback trout. After the blueback trout struggled for year with habit and the introduction of exotic fish species the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has done an excellent job protecting the species and their future.
Maine Trout Fishing Rules and Regulations
Lakes, ponds, and still waters in Maine are closed to fishing from October 1st until March 31st in the Northern Zone. The southern zone opens for ice fishing during the closed season.
Catch Limits Differ by species:
Brook Trout, Splake, and Blueback Trout (charr) limit are 5 fish (cumulatively) and must exceed 6".
Brown Trout limits are 2 fish per day and must exceed 14" in lakes and between 6" and 25" in rivers/streams.
Landlocked Salmon limits are 2 fish per day and must exceed 14" in lakes and between 14" and 25" in rivers/streams.
Rainbow Trout limits are 2 fish per day and must exceed 14" in lakes and 6" in rivers/streams
Lake Trout limits are 2 fish per day and must exceed 14" in lakes and rivers/streams
Check this link for stocking reports on Maine's lakes and rivers. For more information about America's best trout streams and others in the area, check out our articles on Fly Fishing Vermont, and Fly Fishing New Hampshire.