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I Want June To Last 90 Days

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It sure felt like late June on the Kennebec River this week. On Tuesday, we were on fish pretty much the entire trip, from 6:00 am until 4:00 pm, and found the stripers feeding and holding in almost every way you might expect to encounter them up inside the river. Only thing missing for us were bigger bass.

We started on a mudflat that had good numbers of fish very happy to eat on top, although they weren't doing a fabulous job of showing themselves. We kept talking about making a move and another striper would demolish the spook. Our first move ended up being about 200 yards off the flat to spots down the shoreline where the fish kept popping and calling us.

By the time we made our second move, the tide was ebbing nicely and fish in shallow water were gleefully sipping very small bait. I couldn't tell if they were little silversides or something else, but the slender craft fur hollowfleye outfished the the slightly longer, decidedly wider, spun deer hair slider by a wide margin. These fish weren't pushing water, unfortunately, but were rising in the current with frequency.

From there we headed to a cove loaded with bass hugging the bottom and hanging on the ledges when the current moved well past the structure. Then onto a flat that would be uncovered in two hours where we found fish but were working blindly due to the building breeze. A hundred diving herring gulls (aptly named given what they were eating) led us farther downriver to strong current tumbling and roiling over big ledges. Bigger offerings didn't bring us bigger fish, but there were plenty of bass and not all of them were right under the birds.

As the tide started to rise, the wind very cooperatively shut right off, and we poled up an immense expanse of a flat working fish that would reveal themselves with swirls and subtle pushes of water. Oh, what fun, but as is the case in saltwater everywhere, an hour later the conditions had changed enough to change the fish' behavior.

We started back to the ramp but had to check a hump in the middle of the river that had three birds circling high over it as the incoming current built in speed. Yup. Loaded with stripers. After some fun fishing in a completely different way, we called it. Well, we did. But we also made one last stop for a couple last casts and caught two fish in three feet of water that ended the day as we started, inhaling the spook with complete conviction. Whoa. What a trip.

The Kennebec watershed offers an incredibly diverse range of options when targeting striped bass. The rambling recap above of one charter itinerary doesn't even cover it all, as we never fished oceanside ledges or any of the beaches, nor did we get up into the salt marshes.

It feels good to get dialed back into what is happening here on the river after a whirlwind of trips out of Martha's Vineyard, Boston Harbor, a day in the driftboat targeting smallmouth bass, and a quick dash to Barneget, NJ. My only lament is that June is almost over.

Fish more.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestriers.com


Kennebec River Striped Bass Fishing Update - Breaking Fish Bonanza

After what I described as good early season trips all of last week, the striped bass fishing on the Kennebec River here in Phippsburg really lit up this week. We'd all been waiting and searching and watching for big pods of happy stripers busting bait on top and hadn't seen it in the river (although I did get credible reports from around Gardiner about surface feeds 10 days ago) until this Sunday. I was teaching a two-day fly fishing class but a good friend was on a good surface feed Sunday morning on the dropping tide. It's only gotten better since then. Much better.

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Of course it is still fishing, and not always what we expect. I fished Tuesday with my dad and was disappointed by what we found. It was bright, and dry, and cold, and not fishy weather. We got a good early start and had great moving water but were only finding one fish here and one fish there. Eventually we located a good group of bass that we're happy to eat but it was a slower morning than I hoped. Don't get me wrong, it was great to fish together on a stunningly beautiful morning after a fun evening of the season's first lobster feed but I really wish he'd been able to stay one more day. We'd be hearing stories for years about the fabulous fishing.

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I fished by myself on Wednesday. I was wide awake at 4:00 and tied flies for the first two hours of the morning with intensions to get after some desk tasks and house projects. There wasn't a hint of wind on the water and the cloud cover was perfect, so by 6:03 I was in scramble mode, hooking up the Maverick and grabbing some snacks to go. I needed to test out these small hollow fleye variations I'd been working on and I also wanted to try a new SciAngler Amplitude Anadro line that I'd bought for some other purposes. It didn't take me long to find birds working over stripers at the bottom of the out tide. I really, really love to fish shallow water for bass that are visible or pushing water, but after another long winter, I'll take fish going bananas on the surface. I had a blast.

I fished a bunch of different fly patterns, fly line and rod combinations, and connected lessons shared over the weekend with observations on the water. Here are some fly thoughts:

  1. Detecting a hit and setting the hook are learned and practiced skills. Most beginner to intermediate fly anglers would be amazed to learn how many fish have eaten their fly that they never knew about. This early June striper fishery offers an incredible learning opportunity when the fish are on. Ok, a lot of times you could be asleep and hook a striper, but not alway. In perfect conditions it was fascinating to note hw many "takes" would easily be missed - especially when dead drifting a fly pattern with great life. Repetition builds competence. If you go to the driving range, you should be fishing here this week.
  2. Dead drifting. An often overlooked approach in saltwater, especially around breaking fish. If you don't employ this technique very often, here's your prompt to try it. The day before I'd been coaching my dad to make much stronger, more dramatic strips with his herring pattern to elicit strikes from unseen fish. It was working. Wednesday morning, around fish keyed into very small bait, no strip was the ticket. Even with a floating line in reasonably deep water. So much fun. The local warden was fishing a popper on his fly rod over busting bass at the same time and he reported finding best success when he just twitched his fly and then let it sit. He had a great big smile on his face, talking about his morning outing.
  3. Speaking of fun, I really liked the Scientific Angler Amplitude Smooth Anadro/Nymph line. I need to use it more to feel fully dialed in on best applications, but I ended the morning looking forward to using it more. Speaking of more fun, I was fishing it on a Sage X 9 foot 9 weight that I'd only used in heavy wind last fall chasing albies. I like casting and fishing this rod.
  4. Connecting numbers 1 and 2 above, detecting the hit and dead drifting a fly, I was thinking about the number of casts that don't unroll perfectly, even on a windless day, and how often people aren't in touch with their fly. Retrieving with tip at hip level, rod pointed away from the fly, slack in the leader are all streamer sins in most instances. When the fly touches down, get the tip touching the water, pointed at the fly, and strip out any slack in the line-leader...then let it drift.
  5. Fly size and shape matters most. I spent a lot of time answering questions over the weekend about fly patterns, how to choose what to fish, why they are designed as they are, where you start, when to change, and how to fish different types of flies. As I was testing a variety of patterns on Wednesday, it was a perfect reminder that size and shape matter most and that how the fly behaves in the water (inherent movement and as imparted by the angler) comes in at a close second. I loved being in a situation where you could readily discern what the fish preferred. Everything caught fish this morning, but at wildly different rates, and there we're clear common threads.

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Thursday morning was more of the same, kind of old school, Kennebec June fishing, run 'till you see birds, stop, catch fish until they either move on or you decide to see where else the stripers are feeding hard. I got to spend the morning fishing with my great friend Rich Pschirrer and neither of us really noticed the rain we were having such a blast. Just got a text from Rich saying "Let's do more of that, anywhere, anytime." I agree. I'm game.

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One parting suggestion - if you don't have a pair of these gloves for early season outings (or fall tuna runs, December decoy deployment, or mid-winter cash washing), head to your nearest commercial marine supply store, by two pair (your dad, friend, spouse, client, will appreciate it), and stick them in your boat or bag.

Fish more.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

mainestripers.com

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com


May 31 Kennebec River Striper Fishing Update

Last Cast of the Trip

Here's Tim's best striper of the day, but certainly not his only fish. It crushed the Lonely Angler Zipster spook in a shallow backwater cove on the Kennebec River just down current of some nice moving water and rocky structure and came on his final cast of our outing. We were zipping back to the dock at a pretty good clip in the Maverick, working to make time to hit one last location before we had to meet the rest of the charter group. We arrived to find just the current I expected, but no fish (or at least no response) in the ripline. This is a spot where the bass usually key into the sharp demarcation between fast and slow water that is pushed off of a shoreline ledge. There were fish here similar tide yesterday but as we'd discussed early in our trip, past performance is no guarantee of future results. These guys had worked at the SEC and were now involved in futures markets, so they understood the disclaimer. I was hoping for one last eat before wrapping up, so we let the boat drop down with the current to make a couple of quick casts in a secondary lie where a backeddy flows across a mudflat adjacent to these ledges. Eric had pitched his spook into this water a couple of times when halfway through a retrieve, it just disappeared under water in a big gallooop! He landed a similar sized striper to the one in the photo above in some good current to cheers all around. I made the "last cast" call and Tim delivered in similar fashion out of the same water. It was a great way to end a really enjoyable morning.

Striper fishing in and around the Kennebec is improving. It's not yet bananas, but technically, it's not yet June. Every place where we stopped today we at least rolled, saw, or teased a fish and in almost all locations landed at least one. We had a couple of times where we found a good group of fish and landed quite a few before moving on. Once again, best fishing for us was in moving water adjacent to structure of some kind. Yesterday's trip was pretty similar. Both days we started just after high water and fished the dropping tide.

Pretty soon you should be able to run up and down the river, looking for surface feeds and diving birds, but right now I would concentrate on making good casts with decent sized streamer flies, top water plugs, or soft plastics (on a jig or unweighted) in areas where you see current seams close to rocks, marshy points, creek mouths, and other pieces of structure. Keep your eye on the sonar, and have close at hand a jig rod or 400 grain with a Clouser, as you may mark some under you as you drift. We didn't do any dredging yesterday because what we were doing was producing and catching on topwater tackle is too much fun. I don't think I could have pried the spook out of Eric's hands.

On our Thursday trip, we used a similar approach with similar success - fished dropping tide and focused on same type of water but not all same locations. Both outings felt far more productive and consistent to me than my scouting trips earlier this week. We even had a couple of instances yesterday where a fish revealed their presence, we made the cast, and boom. Results.

Tidal height is improving and water temps in the Kennebec were 53 to 54 degrees everywhere we fished yesterday. The water is decidedly clearer, though still quite stained, vs a week ago. I'm teaching all-day, both weekend days, so won't have any first-hand news until middle of next week, but I am in the process of activating my shoreside fish spotting network. It's good to have neighbors who are more excited to call me about breaking fish than to go out at catch them. 

I've got some open days in the beginning of June, so if you'd like to get out, please give me a call or send me an email. 

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com