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Penobscot River Fly Fishing

Penobscot River Fly Fishing

Maine is home to some of the best fly fishing in the country, and the Penobscot River is no exception. With its crystal-clear waters, breathtaking scenery, and abundant fish population, the Penobscot offers a truly unforgettable fly fishing experience. The Penobscot River splits into the East and West branches which are similar but also offer different opportunities for visiting fly fishermen.

Fly Fishing the West Branch of the Penobscot River

Located in northern Maine, the West Branch of the Penobscot River flows for over 70 miles, from its headwaters in the mountains to its confluence with the main stem of the Penobscot River near the town of Medway. The river is a favorite among fly fishermen for its pristine wilderness, challenging fishing conditions, and the variety of fish species that call it home.

The West Branch is a coldwater fishery, with a mix of wild and stocked fish. The most common species found in the river are brook trout, brown trout, and landlocked salmon. These fish are known for their hard-fighting nature, making them a challenge for even the most experienced anglers.

One of the best times to fish the West Branch is in the spring, when the river is running high and cold, and the fish are actively feeding. During this time, anglers can expect to catch a variety of fish, including  brown trout and landlocked salmon. Brook Trout remain active and plentiful in the river throughout the fishing season. The fall is also a great time to fish the West Branch, as the water is cools, and the fish are more active as they feed up for winter. Seasonal Landlocked Salmon will be migrating and for their Fall transition. 

Fly Fishing below the Ripogenus Dam

The stretch of the West Branch that flows beneath the Ripogenus Dam or "Rip Dam" is likely the most productive section of the river. Wading access is feasible at a couple campgrounds on this section, but floating the river is the best way to run into brook trout and Atlantic salmon in the trophy size ranges. Deep pools, and turbulent runs are common but provide adequate cover for trout on this section which runs for just over 10 miles. 

West Branch Penobscot Fly Hatches

The West Branch is a classic fly fishing river, with deep pools, riffles, and runs that provide a variety of fishing conditions. The river is also home to some of the best hatches in the region, including mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies. These hatches provide excellent dry fly fishing opportunities, and anglers can expect to see consistent hatches from late April through October. Blue Wing Olives start and end the fishing seasons. Spring hatches will last through may and begin again in late September and October. Hendrickson's can be found toward the end of Spring and into early summer as well as the more abundant caddis hatches.

Fly Fishing the East Branch of the Penobscot River

The East Branch of the Penobscot River is a pristine wilderness waterway that flows through some of the most beautiful and remote areas of northern Maine. The river is a favorite among fly fishermen for its unspoiled beauty, challenging fishing conditions, and abundant fish population. Like the West Branch, Brook Trout, Landlocked Salmon and Brown Trout are all present.

The East Branch of the Penobscot River is a tributary of the main stem of the Penobscot River, and it flows for over 80 miles from its headwaters in the mountains to its confluence with the West Branch near the town of Medway. The river is a classic freestone stream, with fast runs, riffles, and deep pools that provide a variety of fishing conditions.

The East Branch is a coldwater fishery, and it's home trophy sized brook trout, landlocked salmon, and smallmouth bass. This makes it a popular destination for anglers looking for a challenge. Hatches and effective fly patterns remain consistent on both rivers.

Fishing the Penobscot River Headwaters

The upper portions of both the west and east branches flow for over 100 miles, draining much of Maine's backwoods and creating dozens of small lakes along the way. Native Brook trout can be found throughout each of the upper mainstem branches and their tributaries. In late summer an into fall, cooler temperatures and rains push the Atlantic Salmon that summer in these larger lakes upstream on their annual spawning runs. These fish will stage below dams and deeper pools throughout the upper sections. This make finding these fish much easier to find versus scouring the hundreds of miles of stream. Brook Trout and Fall fish will stack up in these areas as well providing good action for fly anglers using small streamers. 

In addition to fly fishing, the West Branch offers a variety of other outdoor activities. The river is ideal for canoeing and kayaking, and there are many hiking trails in the area that provide stunning views of the river and surrounding wilderness. The West Branch is also home to a variety of wildlife, including moose, black bears, and bald eagles, making it a great destination for nature enthusiasts.

When planning a fly fishing trip to the West Branch of the Penobscot River, it's important to keep in mind the local fishing regulations. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife sets regulations on bag limits, size limits, and fishing methods. Visitors can find many lodges on either river section. For a guided fly fishing experience, reach out to Maineiac Outfitters. For more information on nearby fly fishing destinations, check out our articles on Fly Fishing Maine, Fly Fishing the Allagash Waterway, Fly Fishing The Kennebec River, and Fly Fishing the Moosehead Lake Region.

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