Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bass Masters Classic

The trout fishing is really good right now, and after a week in the Moosehead region chasing squaretails and landlocks it was a fun change of pace to link up with my brother at 5 am on Saturday morning and hunt down some largemouths. This is the Central Maine version of fishing the flats.

Fly rodding for bass is an absolute riot. Mongo flies, heavy leaders, and vicious takes are what it is all about. We spent the morning poling around a big grass flat, filled with downed timber, old stumps, and floating grass islands. Find some fishy structure, cast, strip, strip, BOOM!

The flies don't need to be complicated, poppers, gurglers, and Clouser's will usually get an eat. Just because the flies aren't complicated doesn't mean that bass fishing isn't without it's challenges. Dead accurate casts are often necessary when fishing in heavy structure environments with a lot of vegetation. Often times you are dumping a popper into 3 foot circle in the weeds at 4o to 50 feet. With that said, really fast rods that produce super-high line speeds allow you to punch really tight loops, which are necessary for accurate presentations.
One of my favorite bass flies is a foam popper tied with craft-foam from the local mega-department store. The the foam is tied to the hook facing forward and folded back to form the body. Leave a pocket on the top piece of foam so that the fly works like a popper. Add some rubber legs and a marabou and grizzly tail, and you are in business. The fly rides low and makes some nice bubbles and chugs when stripped sharply.

Kermit the Frog
Hook: 1/0 Owner Cutting Point
Thread: Yellow 6/0
Body: Craft Foam (Green Back, Yellow Belly)
Eyes: 3/16 Yellow "Stick On Easy Peel" - superglued to the foam
Rubber Legs: Montana Fly Company Centipede Legs (yellow/black) and Spirit River Silicone Grizzly Leggs (pumpkin/green/black)
Tail: Yellow Marabou with 2 Olive Grizzly Hackles splayed out at 45 degree angles

Have fun out there!


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Page Six Chix

Fishing on the K is red hot right now. Look for the Hendrickson hatch mid-afternoon and spend the rest of the day fishing for sippers! Fish a CDC wing emerger dropped 24" behind a visible dry fly. It is nearly impossible to see a CDC emerger fished in the film, so use the dry fly up front as your indicator. Your emerger will out fish the dry 10 to 1.

Don't be afraid to ignore the hatch and strip streamers to to risers either. The water temp was 52 degrees yesterday, so fish metabolisms are in high gear. They are acting like a bus load of teenagers who just hit the buffet line at a Golden Corral. Often times a streamer stripped through the feeding window of a rising fish will get a take.

This is a shot of a sculpin eating Kennebec brown taken by our buddy Andy Molloy on a float earlier this week.

Screaming Reels!


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Strip Steaks

Okay, so dry fly season is about to be in full-swing as water temps hit the sweet spot. But I can rarely resist the temptation of stripping big tricked out streamers, looking for a toad to get up off the couch and eat. One of my favorites for browns, brookies and bronzebacks are wool head sculpins. I tie these in a few colors including brown, olive, and yellow. The brown and olive are definitely more natural, but yellow sometimes has near mythical abilities to excite fish, especially browns for whatever reason. I like the wool heads better than spun deer hair because it absorbs water and sinks quickly, yet it still pushes a bunch of water (which helps predatory fish detect it with their lateral line) while still giving the fat head profile of the natural.

When the rabbit strip is wet it slims down and creates a realistic body profile. The deer hair collar and rubber legs add a little more motion and imitate the dramatically large pec fins of a sculpin. The other key is the that the rabbit strip wing is left unsecured in the back and has a white calf tail underwing. By leaving the rabbit strip untied in the back it allows more side to side motion as well as up and down. The multi-directional motion adds realism and gives multiple trigger points for strikes. The calf tail underwing helps to keep the rabbit wing "up" and reduces fouling around the hook bend. The marabou tail adds a little more movement while the pearl sparkle braid imitates the white belly of a natural. Finally, the eyeballs are superglued to the wool, on top of the head. Sculpins are bottom huggers and their eyes are set high.
The fly is unweighted, so it is best fished on a sink-tip of even a full sink. Fishing full sinks in moving water is a little unconventional, but it works to get the fly down quickly, especially if fished from a boat when you are moving with the current. I like to pitch these into riffles and let them roll down into the bucket at the bottom of the riff. Another good bet is to sweep them along the banks into fishy looking lies. It seems like most strikes come when the fly is retrieved cross current, giving a side profile view to the fish.

If you're worried about short strikes, forget about it. Big fish usually don't short strike. Big fish aim for the head to intercept their prey. The theory is that if trout (or bass) ate spiny backed fish like sculpins from behind, they would likely choke to death as the prey lodged in the throat. The eyes act as a target for predatory fish that move to intercept their prey head on. If you feel the bump, it's probably not a short strike, it is likely a fish hitting the fly with its body or tail to "stun" it so that it is more easily caught. I have seen more than one brown trout end up foul hooked in the shoulder on flies like these. It's easier for the fish to hit the fly with the mass of it's body than to intercept it with it's relatively small mouth. Once the prey is stunned, and on the dead drift, it's easy pickins'. If you feel the bump, STOP! Let the fly go on the dead drift because he might be circling back for the eat. One last tip, just because you might be fishing "traditional streamer" water, give sculpins a try. Brookies love them. Remember, the muddler was originally tied to catch big Canadian brookies. Guess what... they work really well on big Maine brookies as well!

Tie some up, and have fun.

Here is what you will need (as shown):

Hook: TMC 5263 Size 4
Thread: Black 6/0
Body: Pearl Sparkle Braid
Head: Montana Fly Co. Olive Sculpin Wool
Legs: Spirit River Silicone Pumpkin Grizzly Leggs & Montana Fly Company Speckled Olive Centipede Legs
Collar: Olive Deer Hair
Underwing: White Calf Tail
Wing: Hairline Yellow and Olive Barred Magnum Rabbit Strips
Tail: Sculpin Green Marabou

Now go see Selene at M-Flies in Brunswick and tell her Wild River Angler sent you!


Sunday, May 16, 2010

River Drivers

The last time logs were driven down the Kennebec River was in 1976. Pulpwood, cut in the headwaters of the Moosehead Lake region, was driven downstream to the Scott Paper Company plant at Winslow. Thirty-four years later there remain signs of the past, although they can be subtle.
This log was stuck in the mud of a back eddy located in the Kennebec near Solon. Close inspection reveals that both ends are sawn even. Although it's hard to tell in the picture, the log is just about 4 feet in length. It's most likely a piece of spruce or fir, since only softwoods were driven down river because of their buoyant characteristics compared to hardwoods. It's a piece of pulpwood that is at least 3 decades old. Millions of these 4 foot logs were driven down the river for over 170 years from the early 1800's until 1976, and they can still be found today. My dad, who grew up on the banks of the river in the 1950's, tells stories about collecting stray wood with his friends that would lodge on the banks. They would stack the wood in a pile 4 feet high and 8 feet long (and 4 feet wide per the cut length- which makes one cord) and resell the wood to a timber buyer from the paper mills in Augusta. I guess the paper guys could have just taken the wood since it was really theirs anyway, but my guess is they appreciated the efforts of a band of industrious 10 year-olds who probably imagined themselves a bunch of salty north woods river drivers as they salvaged that wood and stacked it for the mill man.

This is a rectangular island below a braid on the Solon stretch of the river. Nature doesn't make square islands. It's actually a cribwork structure, made of logs and filled with river rocks. These were used to divert logs into or away from different areas. In this case the cribwork was likely used to keep logs out of a side channel off of the river's main stem. These days it acts as a nice structure for the trout that live here to escape the currents and collect food, like this brown.

Chris and Todd and I floated Solon, and it was a blast to fish with these guys. They were catching fish and stoked to be doing it. Here is Chris with a nice brookie that ate a black bugger.

This is a shot of Todd, who was super-psyched to complete a Solon tri-fecta with a brookie, salmon, and this little brown who made three charges and swipes at his streamer before he ate it. He put on a show, and we had a great view of the action from our vantage in the boat. A little brown with that kind of gumption has the potential to grow up and become one of the big boys that make this stretch so much fun to fish.

Water temps were hanging in the mid-40's with good flows. The big hatches of Hendricksons and caddis should kick off in earnest any day now as water temps approach the magic 50 degree mark.

Have fun out there!


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bring out the GINK...

This is no Pulp Fiction... Dry fly season is here! Fished a local stream today and fish were rising everywhere. There were at least 4 different species of caddis, some hatching, some ovipositing. There were also good numbers of spinners, like this one on the inside of my wind shield. Fish of the day was this wild brown that was mad as hell and pulled like an ox. He sipped a tan para-caddis with a bright yellow foam post and a dark sheen wing... my bet is that it mimics a dead egglayer because it rides super low in the film... and that yellow post is really easy to see!
Water temps are steady at 56 degrees... despite the recent cold nights with frost... so much for my predictions about that!
Sure Bets:
Lawson EZ Caddis tan #14-16
Dark Sedge Caddis #18
Elk Hairs #14-18 (to match the egg layers)
Green Graphic Caddis #14-18
Mahogany Spinners #12
Rusty Spinners #14-16
Midge Larvae #14-18 droppers fished deep...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

On the Rise...

Fished a local river this afternoon and found consistently rising fish on mahogany spinners. I nymphed a few early in the deep runs before I found the fish looking up. It was fun to throw dries, considering most of the past month has consisted of staring at thingamabobbers. The water temp was 56 degrees, which is way ahead of normal, but that has been the story of this year. The garden is tilled and we are planting, which we normally don't do until Memorial Day. I have a hard time believing that we will get another frost this spring.