Aroostook County Ramblins' from a Sporting Journal Columnist

Posts tagged “Landlocked Salmon

Like a Ghost

I’ve been creepin’ some favorite salmon haunts lately, and while the size hasn’t left much to be desired, the numbers are most certainly there. It’s nice to see so many juvenile salmon these days, fish numbers look real healthy headed into the summer months. The weather calls for overcast with a few rain showers this week, so the fish should stay plentiful and hungry. Honestly, I am just happy to be back on the water again. After a full year away from my canoe, few things in this world are more relaxing than cruising my favorite northern rivers without a care in the world. L.L.Beans Gore-Tex Pro Shell Stretch wading jacket has really impressed me in the boat as well as in the water lately. I’d image that it’s probably worthy of a review after a few months of hard use, so look for that this week. On a side note, if you feel like catching fish in just about any northern rivers during these next few weeks, I would highly suggest a Mickey Finn. You’re welcome.

Stand up cruisin’ without a care in the world.

See you on the river!

-Ben


Punching In

The new Helios finally got a workout at the hands (figuratively speaking) of a hefty landlocked salmon measuring at just under 23 inches and close to 4 lbs. He put up no fight, instead opting to put the brakes on my streamer while he held his ground. My first impression was that I had snagged bottom, but a few nasty head shakes took care of that theory. More (and better) pictures to come, along with a full fishing conditions report for early April. Stay tuned!

Tight Lines,

-Ben


Release

Release the stress
Release the tension
Release the headaches we won’t mention
 
Regroup your thoughts
Relive the bliss
Recover time
Release the fish.


Battle Scars

- It’s taken me a while to grasp that for all intensive purposes, my fly fishing season is over. Blame it on the seasons, blame it on school, blame it on my recent move back to Orono. Regardless of where the blame is placed, my days of throwing flies in northern Maine this season are certainly numbered. A few more trips home this Fall before the season ends are certainly on the agenda, but with the hand mother nature has dealt us this season I would not say I hold high expectations where productivity is concerned.
 
While recent rains have certainly helped the cause, water levels in most of the area rivers are still well below normal. Combined with unseasonably high temperatures for August, the last two weeks that I’ve been relying on to “go out with a bang” will probably produce fishing something like what I experienced in mid-July; trout-less and depressing. One thing is for certain, water temperatures need to drop significantly before the trout and landlocks start roaming around more freely in and around my favorite fishing holes. I have a few flies that have produced well in the past, and a couple new ones that I am also hoping will make a positive impact. You’ll likely only hear about them if they do!

The XL Tripper survives Season 1.

So as most of us in northern Maine wave goodbye to an altogether semi-productive/dry/otherwise enjoyable fly fishing season, I, like so many others, will forever hold close the stories that numerous days on the water have afforded me. Most I remember vividly, no matter how shockingly beautiful or bitterly painful those moments weigh on my mind. For those memories that have become foggy, I need only flip my canoe over to retrace the stories scraped across it’s hull. Battle scars from a season past, left behind like a manuscript of my summer escapades.
 
Welcome to my life. It might not be as glamourous or self-glorifying as others before it-but the story I’ve left behind thus far would make one hell of a movie!
 
See you are the Oscars,
 
-Ben


Guessing Game

- Another pretty night fly fishin’ in northern Maine, life is good.

The fish simply did not seem as active tonight, but it still ended up being a fairly successful one. I managed 3 brook trout, all around 10 inches or less, all of whom thought they were much larger. Most fish were caught between 7:30pm and 8:15pm, and all but 1 were on small wet flies dead drifted and then stripped slowly in the current. Most takes were immediately after the fly changed direction.

I’m constantly hearing people say that if the smaller fish like your flies that large fish will as well, but I’m not entirely sure thats true. The largest fish I’ve seen this season have been caught on larger streamers, namely hornburgs, muddlers, and other ghost variations; all fished close to the surface and stripped ever so slowly. Tonight was no different.

Tylor Theriault with a nice Landlocked Salmon

This fly was special, so I’ll let Tylor keep his secret this time. This hog of a salmon was never measured, but my estimates put it at around 20 inches and near 3 lbs. When I finally got him to the net the first thing I noticed was how fat he was. That seems to be a theme this year. Even the smaller fish taking flies are shaped like footballs! After safety removing the hook and snapping a quick photo, Tylor quickly and gently released his beautiful fish to fight another day! What a catch!

Tomorrow morning I wake up early to see if those football landlocks feel like doing breakfast!

Tight Lines,

-Ben


Spring Fly Fishing….During the Dog Days of Summer

- It’s no secret to the people of northern Maine, or everyone in New England for that matter, that this summer can be defined with one simple word; Rain.

While the past few weeks have brought some vast improvements, last week saw the return of the wet weather in Aroostook county, accompanied this time by some fierce thunderstorms.

Rain Totals for July: Fort Kent, ME

Rain Totals for July: Fort Kent, ME

Early reports from a few sources cited great fishing during the end of July, as the waters in local rivers finally started on a downward trend. With such strange weather patterns this summer, water temps are well below average. Because of this, a wealth of large Landlocks can still be found throughout many northern Rivers, providing fly anglers with a unique opportunity to catch quality fish over twenty inches during the dog days of summer.

Landlocked Salmon

Landlocked Salmon

The word on the street is that bright colored streamers around size 6 are drawing the most strikes. Patterns such as the Wood Special or Mickey finn are usually automatic in these situations, but tying anything with bright colored bucktail will usually bring some success. Typically in these situations I fish a 6 lb test leader with 4lb test tippet on a floating line, but experiment with different lengths depending on location and weather conditions. Obviously, in windy conditions it can be difficult to turn streamers over with a long leader, so in that situation it might be beneficial to shorten up. On really sunny days where shadows can spook fish, a long, light leader and tippet are a wise choice. Remember, the fish are deep, but with the water temps jumping so erratically like they have the past month, the salmon are most certainly on the move. Hot, sunny days will usually find the larger fish at the bottom of deeper pools, while the cooler overcast days can be associated with more movement of larger fish in more shallow water. As always, keep an eye out for any sort of life on the surface. Green Drakes and Blue Winged Olives have given me the most luck in the past. And remember, always take serious note of the weather before selecting your next fishing destination!

My limited time on the water this weekend…

Friday afternoon I swung a Grey Ghost over one of my favorite holes and watched as a Salmon the size of my arm casually swam up to it, checked it out, and then calmly drift back down into the depths. I worked that same spot for at least half an hour to no avail, throwing everything I had at it, including various dries and nymphs. With the water so high and dirty after heavy rains only a few days earlier, I cant say I didn’t expect the slow fishing. With the fish so well fed after a heavy rain, these next few days of dry weather could make all the different we need to really get things going. I can only hope my week home before school will have some favorable weather, and some nice opportunities to catch some of these large fish.

That’s all she wrote for now,

See you on the water,

-Ben

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Home Sweet Home

- Almost one month ago I left my home in Fort Kent Maine to begin a summer job at Bushmaster Firearms in Windham. While I’ve settled in quite nicely in southern Maine, the old saying still holds true; “Home is where the heart is.”

JRod and his sweet hat. Unloading the Canoes

This past weekend I finally had the chance to return home. My 5 hour drive was anything but enjoyable as I made my way north via the moose laden Route 11. A few phone calls from some close friends finalized my plans for Saturday, we would start fishing at 6am. Knowing that my time home was limited, I worked some magic and convinced my girlfriend Alicia to wake up at 5am with me to partake in the days festivities. When the morning finally came around, she made it very clear that she was not nearly as excited as I was to get out on the water. Still, like a champ she got ready and headed out to breakfast with the fellas and I.

JRod and Josh Fishing

JRod and Josh Fishing

Alex, Alicia, and the Fish River

Alex, Alicia, and the Fish River

A beautiful day greeted us in Eagle lake, one worthy of it’s very own postcard. I had high hopes for the fishing as we made our way towards the Fish River. I tied on two separate streamers that have brought me much success in the past and let them trail behind, swinging in the current. As the sun rose high in the sky, the clear water made it possible to see the bottom of the river in several spots, reveling some impressive (and incredibly spooked) Brookies. We were trolling with the current, something I hadn’t done in a while but have had success with in the past. It wasn’t long before my rod bent under the weight of a fish, and by the looks and feel of things it had to be a good one. I held the 10 foot rod high above my head and struggled like crazy reeling the line in, doing all I could to keep it tight. For about 30 seconds I did everything in my power to keep tension on the line, but when the fish starting running towards me I knew I was out of luck. A few vigorous shakes and my rod bounced and then straightened, he had spit the fly. I kicked myself, knowing that I had lost a sizable fish. Still, I remained optimistic, hoping that the early hookup meant the fishing would be hot. Sadly, this would not be the case. While the sun reveled several more sizable fish darting back and forth across the riverbed, no fly I threw at the water for the rest of the day produced favorable results.

One fish was taken that day, a Landlocked Salmon of about 14 inches caught by the always entertaining Jared Boucher. He promptly released the fish before we could get in range to take a picture, but I told him I’d take his word for it.

Tying on some magic

Tying on some magic

Still, I was excited to finally be out fly fishing in Northern Maine again with great friends and my girlfriend. After a little over 3 hours on the water we were chased off by some stormy weather. It seems the day’s forecast in Maine really can change on a dime.

After some food and a quick cat nap, it was off to the Saint John River for some Muskie fishing with my buddy Jon. As you have no doubt seen on Up’North before, I have a few friends who take Muskie fishing very seriously. Sadly, none of these excellent anglers chase these giant fish with a fly rod. Sticking to what I know best, I opted for the 9wt Orion and set out to catch a Muskie on the fly.

The previous week I had put in some serious time at the vice, tying large, colorful patterns fit to attract the almighty Muskie. Being completely new to tying this kind of fly, I had no way of knowing what materials would prove most suitable, and which ones would fall short. Most of my patterns were heavy in Marabou, which turned out to be my only downfall. It seems that I failed the realize that Marabou slims down considerably when wet. Because of this, my large streamers were a bit on the small side after some trolling. Chalking it up as a learning experience, I now know to tie my next batch of streamers with bulkier materials.

Some failed Muskie Flies

Some failed Muskie Flies

Jon on the Saint John

Jon on the Saint John

As for the fishing, almost one inch of rain had fallen in the days previous, so none of my friends expected any luck that afternoon. A few hours into the evening my buddy Alex Plourde and his girlfriend Ashley joined us, but the fishing remained slow. At the end of the day, lady luck simply was not smiling down on me. Looks like it’s back to the vice in preparation for my next Muskie adventure!

All in All the long day left me exhausted, but hungry for more. Sadly, my visit would have to be short lived. It’s frustrating to have so little of an opportunity to fish the waters I fished on a daily basis during my previous summers living home. I know that If I only had the chance to really put in some solid time on the water, I would be rewarded for my efforts. Unfortunately, I’m destined to instead sit at my computer in southern Maine, concocting excuses as to why I can’t keep a bend in my fly rod. This weekend I hope to finally solve my Striper problems and land my first ever Salt water fish. I can only hope that my run of bad luck that began in Northern Maine was not able to find it’s way to the coast.

Happy Castings,

-Ben

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Fish On!

-I’ll be the first to tell anyone that catching fish isn’t why I love fly fishing. I couldn’t ask for more than simply being on the water in good company casting a line. Fortunately for me, I get to go fly fishing in one of the most beautiful places in the world. The rivers of Northern Maine are truly spectacular, and no matter where in the world fly fishing takes me, I can say with confidence that I’ll always migrate back to my home waters.

With that said, it’s always nice to catch fish, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t praying to feel a tug on the end of my line. My first morning home started not on the river, but on my hands and knees ripping up rug and old linoleum flooring with my parents. The sun what shining, a slight breeze was blowing, and I wanted more than anything to get out on the river. After a morning full of staples and rusty nails, me and dad finally pushed off from the shore a little after 2pm. The fishing started slow, but me and my father both agreed that a slow day of fishing was always better than a good day at work.

Dad navigating the flowing currents of the River.

Dad navigating the flowing currents of the River.

The afternoon weather was not nearly as sunny, as cloudy skies gave way to intermittent rain. Traditionally we’ve had good luck in conditions like these, so sporting our best rain gear, we slowly trolled our streamers up the Fish River and admired our surroundings. Grey Ghosts, Mickey Fins, Joe Smelts, and a few secret weapons all found their place on the end of our leaders at one point or another. Fishing a floating line, I worked a leader and tippet combination about 14 feet long with two streamers about 3 feet apart. Dad was a little more traditional, fishing a sinking tip line with a leader/tippet combo of about ten feet and a single large streamer. We fished for about two hours, and besides a decent strike on dad’s Grey Ghost, the fishing was great but the catching just wasn’t meant to be….yet.

A quick pass from an old timer brought news of one small Salmon during his two hours of fishing. Bound and determined, we pushed onwards in search of our piece of the pie. Another hour passed and all hope seemed lost. Eventually the silence was broken with the question from dad that I knew was coming, but wasn’t ready to hear.

“Time to pack it up and head for home?”

“I guess” I replied hesitantly, stripping my line and swinging my Grey Ghost into the current.

If this was to truly be the end of my fishing for the day, I was going to make one last push for a fish. I watched the backing knot clear the tip of my Double L, and let my line sway in the current for a few moments before I started my final retrieval of the outing. The fly line had just reached the reel when my streamer got slammed. The 10 foot rod bowed and bounced under the weight of the fish, and I knew instantly that this was what I had been waiting for. I set the hook set accordingly and adjusted my drag enough to let the pig run off some steam. After a couple of minutes my reel stopped turning and I made a furious dash to get some line in. I was able to get the fish to the boat without an issue, but as soon as he saw us he caught his second wind. Tripping over other fishing rods, a net, and our gear box, we fought frantically to keep the fish from breaking my line off against the boat. I loosened the drag enough to let him back out into the current and then took a more direct approach at getting the fish to net. Not wanted to stress it out any more than I probably already had, I gave dad the word and he traded his camera for a net. I pointed my rod to the sky and in a matter of moments my first fish of the 2009 season was in my hands, a fat Landlocked Salmon of over 20 inches. Grinning from ear to ear, dad took as many pictures as he could before I popped the streamer out of his jaw and set him back in the water.

Big Smiles for my first Landlock Salmon of the season. Why I love Fly Fishing

Big Smiles for my first Landlock Salmon of the season. Why I love Fly Fishing

Beauty of a Landlocked Salmon

Beauty of a Landlocked Salmon

No official measurements were taken, but I could honestly care less. Catching (and releasing, sorry Grandpa) that fish could not have possible made me more happy. The proof is in the pictures, and very few things in this world make me smile as much as I did today. Sharing the exciting experience with my father was the icing on the cake, and the day was more of a success than either of us had ever anticipated it would be. The next outing we’ll be looking to hook him into his first Salmon of 2009, and I eagerly await my next journey up the river. This is what Fly Fishing is all about, and I’ll forever be in debt to that fish for reminding me why I’ve dedicated so much of my life to this wonderful pastime.

Happy Castings,

-Ben

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As Good as it Gets!

-Ahoy!
Just got off the Fish River with my father for the first time all season! The day was overall exactly what we expected. We only got on the river after 2pm, but the early bird doesn’t necessarily always get the worm! I’m going out to eat with the family, but when I return expect a lengthy story and some great pictures courtesy of my father. Stay tuned, you don’t wanna miss this.

Here are some before and after pictures to tease you until I return.

Before: The Fight wages on...

Before: The Fight wages on...

After: Giving back to the river. Wait until you see the pictures in between...

After: Giving back to the river. Wait until you see the pictures in between...

Tight Lines,

-Ben

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Up'North Bound with Salmon on the Brain!

-Well, driving is the name of the game this weekend.
This morning I make the drive two hours south to Windham to sign some papers and finalize my summer job at Bushmaster Firearms. After a quick lunch with my aunt, it’s back on the road for a five hour drive to Fort Kent. With the weather promising to be nothing short of amazing this weekend, I’m hoping the water levels are low enough to allow for some decent salmon fishing. I’ve heard some mixed reviews so far this season, but all in all it sounds like the fishing has been great in the past few weeks.

Fish River Classics

Fish River Classics: Photo By Ben Rioux

Unfortunately, northern Maine got dumped on with rain these past few days, receiving just over two inches before it was all said and done. My father said the rivers are rising like crazy, but I’m hoping they can drain out to normal levels before Saturday. Regardless, you know i’ll be out there dragging streamers and praying a nice Landlocked Salmon comes along to make my day. I’ve heard reports of a few fish over 24inches being taken last week, so I’m itching to throw my line into the mix! I have a few nice looking Ghost variations that I’m dying to test, including a black, white and green pattern that I have really high hopes for. I’ll post some pictures of all my recent flies (And Fish Hopefully) later this weekend, with a few more additions to the Fly Recipes page as well. Until then, Wish me luck!

"Stand By Me" Trail Trussel over the Fish River: Photo By Ben Rioux

"Stand By Me" Trail Trussel over the Fish River: Photo By Ben Rioux

Tight lines, and see you on the river!

-Ben

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