Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The West Branch of the Penobscot River

Just mention the words "West Branch" to a Maine fly fisherman and he knows you are talking about the West Branch of the Penobscot. One of Maine's premier land locked salmon fisheries, the west branch of the Penobscot is also one of Maine's most beautiful and rugged rivers. Mount Kathadin, Maine's largest mountain , stands like a sentinel overlooking the river. Driving along the Golden Road and catching your first glimpse of Kathadin will quicken your heart beat, you are in God's country.

Moose, Black Bear and Deer are abundant, it is not unusual to see a half dozen Moose in a single day. On a recent trip along a five mile stretch of the Golden Road we saw two Moose, two Bucks and three Black Bear. Moose photo safaries bring as many people here as Salmon fishing

The West Branch is a big, brawling river in a hurry to get downstream. The river is peppered with class IV and class V rapids, the cribworks below the Telos Bridge are something to behold. All this fast water and rapids bring rafters. Whitewater rafting is big business on the west branch, somehow rafters and fishermen peacefully co-exist here. The spectacle of a raft full of teenagers crashing down the river can provide an entertaining break in an afternoon's fishing.

This is McKay Power Station, below the Gorge, this pool can give up some very nice Salmon. It can be fished from either shore, Where these anglers are fishing requires a bit of a hike and a climb down a fairly steep drop. Smelts can be swept through the turbines and dumped, dazed, into the out flow where large salmon await their arrival. I used to fish here a lot when I was a younger man, nowadays I leave it for the younger guys. A word of caution, flows from the power station can raise the water level very quickly here, if you hear the sirens you'd better get out of there pretty quick.

This is my friend Jeff Bellmore, a Master Maine Guide, netting a salmon for a client on a downstream section of the river

This is Little Eddy, I caught my first west branch salmon here about 17 years ago. this is a wonderful pool but difficult to fish from shore. The opposite shore is easier to fish and is accessible by a trail. The best way to fish this pool is from a canoe but it can be very dangerous. If you venture out here you better know what you are doing. The current is fast and strong and the section below is a boneyard of rocks. That being said, an evening on Little Eddy with rising Salmon is other worldly. Not for the inexperienced or weak of heart. (I haven't fished it in years)

As I mentioned, the west branch attracts not only fishermen but occaisional beautiful young ladies. Here an angler tries to concentrate on fishing while a young lady relaxes on a rock at Sourdnahunk Falls.

This is the ledge above Holbrook Pool, this is a very good spot for drifting a nymph or floating a dry fly. salmon lay in the glassy pocket water behind rocks.

Another view of Sourdnahunk Falls, This is a spectacular and beautiful pool, a nice pebble beach and good riffles and pocket water downstream. A good pool to swing a wet.

Another view of Holbrook Pool, this is my old friend Jim McLarty, now deceased, fishing his favorite pool on the river. Jim's ashes were sprinkled here. Jim liked this pool for good reason, he once landed a seven pound salmon here. While we scrambled for a camera, Jim landed the fish, slipped it quietly back into the river, tapped his forehead and said "I don't need a picture, I'll have it forever in here"

This is me a hundred years ago, in a nice baby blue wading vest, what was I thinking?

And this is what brings us here, beautiful land locked salmon.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Another Bass trip on the Penobscot River

This is my friend Paul McGurren. Paul and I fish the Penobscot River every year for smallmouth bass. Paul manages the flyfishing department at Maine Sports in Rockport Maine. The smallmouth fishing on the Penobscot is outstanding, Paul is a registered Maine Guide and has been guiding this section of the Penobscot for 20 years. Paul is kind of a mentor of mine and a good friend, he has helped me with my casting skills and got me into serious fly tying. He is great company and a delight to fish with. If you are interested in a guided trip on the Penobscot you can contact Paul at ""

This is Paul's most productive fly on the Penobscot, a black bead head chamoise leech. I have seen him catch some of the biggest smallmouth on this fly, in fact, thats the fly he caught the bass on in the picture above. We had tough conditions that day, high winds and high water, but Paul still nailed them on this fly.

Richards wet fly, the man, the fly, the legend......

This is my friend Richard, he is a retired flyfishing photographer. His work has appeared in all the major flyfishing magazines and books. Having spent the past fifteen years photographing other people catching fish, Richard now spends most of his time with a fly rod in his hand instead of a camera. We have fished together all over, Alaska, Labrador, Canada and all over the great State of Maine.
This is "Richards fly". A simple hares ear soft hackle wet fly, but in Richards hands this fly is a fish catching machine. Everyone we know carries a few "Richards flies" with them and we all catch some fish with them, but Richard simply shines with this fly. We could be standing side by side, fishing the same run with the same fly and he would outfish me 3 to 1. This says a lot about having confidence in a particular fly, if you really believe in it, it will perform for you. Last week we were fishing the West Branch of the Penobscot River, Richard was doing his usual wet fly swing (it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing) picking up fish after fish. Soon all the hackles were worn off the fly, leaving only a hares ear body with a red head. Still it continued to catch fish, Richard speculated about stripping the fly to it's simplist form, it might catch fish with a bare hook and just a few wraps of red thread. While I go fishing with dozens of different patterns, Richard is a minimalist, he does fish other flies but generally works from an arsenal of less than a half dozen different flies, they all seem to work for him.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Some flies that have been good to me lately

Head: Glass bead
Body: Olive copper wire
Thorax: Burgundy dubbing
Head: Gold bead
Tiemco 2487 size 20
Tail: Pheasant Tail fibers
Rib: Copper wire
Body: Pheasant tail fibers
Thorax: Peacock herl

This fly worked well during an Olive hatch
Tail: 3 Dun Microfibbets, split
Wing: Snowshoe Rabbit foot
Body: Olive Turkey biot
Thorax: Olive dubbing

Tiemco 2487 size 20
Body: Fish hair strands
Wing pad: Diamond braid
Head: Black Bennechi thread 12/0

These flies produced very well at the west branch of the Penobscot River last week.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Let's Go Bass Fishing

Maine has great river smallmouth Bass fishing, my friend Richard and I took a trip to the Penobscot River above Bangor last week and had some great fishing.
We caught a lot of fish, Richard had two fish over 18"
I had to settle for the smaller fish, but I made up for it in numbers.

This is our guide Kevin McKay, . Kevin was great, we had a lot of fun with him and he worked hard to keep us on fish. I am an avid flytyer, and I had tied a lot of flies for this trip but Kevins flies were the top producers. He knows what these fish like to eat. A very personable young man too. In case you're wondering why Kevin is standing in the water, we lost our anchor so we tied a rope around Kevins waist and tossed him overboard!
Thanks for a great day Kevin.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Some dry flies

This Caddis fly is tied on a Tiemco 100BL, a great all purpose barbless dry fly hook.

This CDC emerger is tied on a Partridge Oliver Edwards K14ST, I love this hook for emergers but it is very hard to find, may be discontinued.

I like hooks, this is tied on a Tiemco 206BL black finish, barbless.

Cast of characters

Bob Keane with a nice fish in the Hatchery Pool.

Three old friends hanging out at GLS. Don, Terry and Scotty

Gary Betz, our host at Grand Lake Stream Camps.

Bob Leemans, outdoor writer, radio personality, and author of "Trolling flies for trout and salmon" Bob is a regular at GLS.

Bob Upham, owner of "Uphams Corner" and long time flytyer. Bob ties all the streamers for the Pine Tree Store. Bob is a year round resident of GLS and an awful nice guy.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Out and about on the river at Grand Lake Stream

Tying on a fly in the Meadow, this is at the lower end of the river, a good trail from the Picnic Area will take you here

Looking down into Little Falls and the "Bathtub" one of the best spots on the river. You have to wade across to the little beach to where this angler is standing. Be very careful, it can be treacherous. A wading staff is a must and at higher flows it can be very dangerous.

My buddy, Don, fishing from the trail side of Little Falls, this side can also be productive.

A view from the beach below Little Falls at the "Bathtub"

Drifting a nymph through a productive run in the Picnic Area. This angler is on the opposite shore which is accessible by wading across or walking up from the beach at Little Falls. Once again, wading here can be treacherous even at moderate flows.

Did I mention that it can get crowded? This is the Hatchery Pool with a mere five anglers, I've seen at least twice as many in this pool at times. The Hatchery pool is almost always crowded, and with good reason, it always holds fish.

A view over my shoulder at the Dam Pool, the next most popular pool on the river, a longstanding opening day tradition. This pool always has fish and can provide some of the best fishing on the river. I am standing close to "Uphams Corner" named for Bob Upham, long time resident flytyer. Before the reconfiguration of flows at the Dam, which scoured out the bottom, this spot offered a great swing on streamer fly's that could bring jarring strikes from Salmon.

A view of the lower end of the Dam Pool with an airborn salmon, there is a walking trail on the opposite shore visible here. That shoreline also offers good fishing.

Finally, a view of West Grand Lake from the dam, the docks here provide good casting opportunities and the opposite shore has a nice gravel beach from which to fish. This area is popular in the fall as salmon prepare to spawn in the shallows.

My thanks again to Richard Procopio, for these great images, please remember that they are all copyright and cannot be reproduced without Richards permission.

Some Nymphs

I would never go fishing, anywhere, without Pheasant tail nymphs. Perhaps the most productive nymph of all time. Thanks to Frank Sawyer. This variation is tied with a green flashback and epoxy shellback.

Bead head nymphs work very well, gold and copper, this fly has a glass bead and an epoxy shellback, much like a "Copper John" which is also a very popular fly at GLS.

Caddis patterns are most productive, but mayfly and stonefly nymphs are also very effective. This is a simple caddis pupa tied with V Rib and a sparkle underbody.

This fly I call a "Waydowner" I first tied this about 10 years ago and it was published in "Trout Flies of the East" it is very productive. I tie it with twisted Antron yarn. It works well at GLS.

So what flies are good at GLS?

This little fly is a real favorite of mine. A "Bleeding Minnow" or "Red and White" I tie this in small sizes, 8 and 10 mostly. It is tied from Polar Fiber, a synthetic material and is so translucent in the water it is almost ghost like. A couple of years ago I caught 19 salmon between the Corporation and the Picnic area on this fly without changing it once.
This is a Black Ghost, a Herb Welch pattern (thanks for the correction, Chris). Possibly the most popular and widely fished streamer fly in Maine. This is the featherwing version, it also fishes very well as a marabou variation.
This fly is a Colonel Bates, a long time favorite of mine for GLS. I caught my first GLS salmon on this fly about 16 years ago, a Carrie Stevens pattern, named for Colonel Joseph Bates, noted Salmon angler and author.
A Barnes Special is by far the most popular streamer used on Grand Lake Stream, this is not the traditional dressing but works very well. This fly is tied on a Daiichi 2370, a straight eye 3XL hook, size 4.