Click any blue-bordered photo on this page to enlarge it.
by Peter Kallin
So far this has been a cool and windy transition to summer. The fishing has continued to be productive, especially early in the morning and late in the evening. I love fishing these crepuscular periods when the lake is typically dead calm, and it is easy to spot fish feeding on or near the surface.
Recently, I was heading down the lake shortly after sunrise in about 45 feet of water when I spotted some riffles on the surface and slowed down. There was an insect hatch taking place and some fish were grabbing breakfast. I grabbed my 6-wt. flyrod and cast a big brown, bead-headed, woolly bugger into the middle of the action. (For my non-fly fishing readers, the woolly bugger is a big ugly fly that doesn't really look like anything in particular, but looks enough like almost everything fish eat that they can't resist it.)
I immediately had a hard strike and suddenly a huge rainbow trout that thought it was a salmon jumped three feet in the air trying spit out my fly. And then it did it again and again making seven water-clearing jumps, two of which were at least three feet high before I finally got it in the net. After a battle like that, I decided it had earned its freedom and I gently unhooked the 20"+ fish while keeping the net in the water and reached into my pocket to take a picture before releasing the fish.
Just as I got my camera in my hand, the fish made jump # 8 up and out of the net, totally drenching me in the process before I got a picture. I laughed out loud and realized why I love fishing so much. Even without the picture, I now have an indelible memory etched in my brain that will last as long as I have a brain. I headed down to the dam in the Village and took a few more casts with the woolly bugger, catching two nice bass before losing my woolly bugger to a snag on the bottom.
Yesterday, I was again out early and spotted a school of alewives at the surface being chased by larger fish. This time I had one of my flyrods rigged with a White Zonker, a streamer that nicely mimics the landlocked alewives in the lake. I quickly caught several nice smallmouth bass and then tied into another nice fat 20" rainbow.
Soon the wind picked up and the baitfish went deep as the sun rose higher. I headed for some weedbeds near the lee shore and switched to my 9-wt. flyrod with a wire leader and a Todd's Wiggle Minnow fly that has been productive for both northern pike and crappie this summer. I soon landed a nice 30" pike that provided a real battle on the flyrod.
By the time this article is published, the water temperatures will be around 70°F in the lakes and the bass will be in the shallows, either sitting on their own beds or chasing the sunfish on theirs. It is a fun time for fly fishermen to catch a lot of fish on streamer flies or surface poppers, especially at dawn or dusk. Spinning gear also works well with surface lures, especially at dusk. It can be a great time to teach a youngster how to fish because the action is fast.
Every spring I act as a Fish Friends mentor for the Atlantic Salmon Federation. I work with several schools (and the Maine Lakes Resource Center) to help students raise Atlantic Salmon fry in refrigerated tanks in the classroom from eggs we receive from the National Hatchery at Green Lake in Ellsworth. The students study salmon life cycles and migrations and the fish are eventually stocked into the Bond Brook in Augusta to help restore this federally-listed endangered species.
This year with the schools teaching virtually, the kids missed out on stocking the fry, but they got to watch videos of their teachers doing it while properly socially distancing and masked. Lauren Pickford (7-Lakes staff) and I stocked the MLRC and Winthrop High School fry after carefully equilibrating the temperatures and pH between the cooler and the brook. This is a great program and gets young people (and their parents) excited about these critically important fish. Maine is the only U.S. State with reproducing native Atlantic salmon and is trying to restore these once thriving fisheries.
During the sunny windy days, I have been doing a lot of hiking on 7-Lakes Alliance properties and conservation easements where we will be constructing new trails. The wind helps keep the bugs away. I also recently hiked our Mount Phillip trail and just as I was starting out, I met a young woman named, Bronwyn, and her roughly year-old daughter who were just finishing up their hike. They currently live in Bingham but Bronwyn grew up in Mount Vernon and "loves to hike in this area." She and her daughter had hiked French Mountain earlier that morning.
I encourage everyone to take advantage of the wealth of recreational opportunities this area offers. With COVID restrictions in place, some of your family's normal summer activities like organized team sports or going to indoor movie theaters may not be an option. Do like they used to in "the good old days" and take a kid fishing, hiking, or paddling in a canoe. It's how memories are made. Or take a parent, so he or she can become a kid again.
Pete Kallin is a past director of the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance, which merged with the Maine Lakes Resource Center in December 2017 to form the 7-Lakes Alliance.