River Valley Outdoors
A season of change; from smallmouth to salmonid
My favorite fly fishing attempts involve catching smallmouth bass on the surface, and it seems that it’s over for this season.
On Sept. 12, as I fished for smallmouth bass on the Androscoggin River, I realized that I needed to move on.
After casting for the umpteenth time without a single take, I decided it was time to change my focus to trout and salmon.
I could still take some great smallmouth below the surface, but that kind of fishing reminds me of dredging – simply dragging my line along the bottom and waiting for a bite. I’m kind of a surface-fishing snob, preferring the smashing, top-water attacks of a smallmouth bass over the more sedate, subsurface form of hooking these aggressive fish.
To make it clearer, I would rather have a day of fighting one big smallmouth on the surface than hooking into several below the surface. That’s just me.
As I put my gear into the truck, I pined for continued smallmouth action, and then came to the understanding that anglers in this region are truly blessed. There comes a time when anglers must transition from one species to the next, and in the Androscoggin River Valley this means fishers can now successfully hook into some of the greatest trout and salmon fishing in all of New England.
When the water temperatures heat up during the steamy summer, bass seem to become more active, attacking top-water offerings. At the same time, salmonid metabolisms slow down, and become harder to catch.
As fall approaches and water temperatures cool, trout and salmon increase their feeding activity. The first cool rains of September seem to bring the ponds and streams alive with actively-feeding salmonid.
At a recent outing to a local pond, the surface boiled with hungry brook trout. Cast after cast had the ravenous brookies lunging at my top-water flies – a good indication that smallmouth fishing on the Androscoggin River was coming to an end.
Instead of sulking, I felt blessed. What a joyous feeling, knowing that I could continue my surface fishing – and hauling in these spectacularly-colored brook trout elevated the angling bliss.
After catching and releasing several smaller trout, six- to eight-inch, orange and gold fighters, I decided to up the ante by searching for a bigger specimen.
As luck would have it, the only other angler on the pond paddled over to my location to offer some advice.
“I have a camp right over there and some big ones have been feeding right out front all morning,” said the helpful fellow.
I thanked him and moved to the new location, as I watched him bring his craft to the shore near his camp. What a nice gesture – this courteous camp owner went out of his way to guide me to better fishing.
The first few casts had several smaller fish slamming the teeny flies I gently laid on the surface. I decided to change my approach, using a trick I learned from a fellow angler years ago.
I tied on a larger fly, a size 14 Royal Wulff, using a Palomar knot. I left the tag end long, about 15 inches, and then tied on a size 22 nymph to the leftover tag. This unique way of attaching a dropper nymph makes tying on the extra fly so much easier than traditional methods, and using a dropper with a big surface fly seems to attract larger fish for me.
I missed the first fish, probably pulling it right out of his mouth with too much vigor – surface hook-ups really get me going.
On the very next take, I calmed myself and let the fish get a good grip on the big fly.
Bringing in the almost-14-inch brookie decidedly ended my day of fishing. To me, it couldn’t get any better than that.
The only thing that could have exceeded my joy that day would have been to take that fine specimen-of-a-trout to the friendly camp owner. The gracious angler must have left the area after giving me the helpful fishing information – he wasn’t at his camp, so I paddled back to the take-out with my trout.
The next time I hit that pond, I will surely look for the informative camp owner. Hopefully I’ll catch another great brookie from “his” pond, and offer the fish as a thankful token of gratitude – a memento of my seasonal, angling transition.