I’ve been trying to figure out how to describe the change in the fishing in the Kennebec River and keep coming up with conflicting thoughts. This week has been incredible and disappointing. I’ve noticed a distinct difference from last week, when there were lots of active feeds all over the River and we were all raving about the great fishing. Where I’ve been, that has changed and not for the better but on the flats, wow...and come on fish. We’re seeing a lot of bass from 18 inch micro stripers to 40 inch cow bass in water from 6 feet to 12 inches deep. A lot. Sometimes they are hungry and aggressive and cooperative. Sometimes they are incredibly fussy. Early mornings on the coming tide have been generally slow for bigger fish. They just haven’t been waking much and thus sightcasting to them is really tough. You get a swirl, and a short push of water, and often a refusal, then nada for a while. Late morning to early afternoon, under bright sun, the larger bass have been much more cooperative and accommodating. Funny, this fishing.
The morning tide has been weak and I am sure that makes a difference, not in our favor. If you’re planning a striper trip far in advance, you’d be well served to target dates when the tides are at or above normal. In the Kennebec, an 8 foot high tide (or less, as measured at Fort Popham) can be challenging.
My general approach is to start the morning with a spun deer hair slider in a dark color if we’re fishing on a darker bottom flat up in the marshes. The fish are usually “up” in the water column, at least when we can target individual bass or pods. These flies push some water and often illicit vengeful strikes. Once we shift to more traditional “sightcasting” over light colored bottom flats, the trick is to figure out if the fish are looking up or down. If down, it is time for shrimp, crab, or something that combines attributes of both. If they are looking up, we switch to baitfish patterns, sometimes small sand eel imitations and other times larger hollow flyes. You can get some important clues from the way the stripers break the surface when they feed, but we also rely on what worked yesterday on that flat and then changing fly pattern after two refusals on really good shots.
Part of what makes fishing funny is the mix of predictable fish behavior and the ever-changing reaction, location, travel, feeding patterns, of these game fish. Use what you learned last time out, but don’t get stuck in a rut. Be ready to add a lot of tippet as you try fly after fly. While I believe presentation trumps all, getting to watch the reaction of bass after bass after bass leaves me with zero doubt that on some days finding the right fly is key.
As for hardware chucking (which by the way, I’m proud to admit to doing) the standouts in shallow water continue to be the Albie Snax from Fish Snax Lures, the Zipster spook from Lonely Angler, and the small RonZ’s. I’m sure that the Hogy Skinny’s would be well received along with other small plastics. Don’t ignore creature baits if you are fishing the green water rolling off ledges. That largemouth bait also takes big, big stripers in shallow water close to the ocean at times. I haven’t recently tied on any of the small buck tails that I tie up, but maybe we’ll test them tomorrow.
Tides here in midcoast Maine are improving. Fish whenever you can. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be the day that you will recall for years to come, you will learn more. Wear long pants, as the greenheads are just stating to show up. They aren’t out in force yet, but it will only be a matter of days.
I’m booked rest of this week and headed back to the Vineyard for another long weekend of trips there but may have the 21st and 22nd open if you want to get out to chase striped bass here in Maine.
Capt. Peter Fallon