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June 2009

Same to the West

I worked the New Meadows Wednesday and Thursday. looking for cleaner water. We followed the same logic that Gordon posted in his Dirty Water Tips, spending most of our time down at the mouth of the river where the water was clearer. The fish that we found in shallow water on Wed. were active as the water started to flood the flats. They were chasing small bait (brit herring I suspect) which is often welcome news to flyfishers. The fish on Thur. were there but less aggressive, which surprised me given the slight south wind, rising barometer and thick fog cover. The flats that we poled upriver were covered by milky green water.

I resisted the urge to fish the Kennebec by myself last evening. Again, following Gordon's lead I choose to mow the grass. I won't make that choice many times in the season but the yard was perfect grazing pasture and the forecast calls for a return to the east wind/showers pattern for the coming days.

Time to hitch up the boat,check the weather radar and run Popham to pick up my afternoon clients. I'm on the water everyday until July 4th and will try to get back to posting more regular updates, even if very brief. Like Gordon, I'm optimistic about the coming days.

Capt. Peter Fallon


Dirty Water Tips

After this much rain we have very strong 12 foot tides and that translates into very dirty water. I had trouble today finding suitable venues for casting there was so much flotsam on the surface and, more importantly, the water looked like swirling barley soup.  In these conditions I had no choice but to:

   1. fish as close to the mouth of the river as possible so as to avoid the thickest goop

   2. return to the ramp at a reasonable hour so that I could fire up the Briggs & Stratton and mow the lawn

We caught fish but I'm not bragging about the count.

I predict that Saturday will be a breakout day.  

Capt. Gordon M. Gillies


Ready About?!


The Kennebec is flowing mud right now. We had impressive rains here on Friday. The forecast is calling for more showers, more wind and high tides so it will be a while before the river clears up. Yesterday was a challenge and reports from others indicate similar results. I postponed my trip scheduled for today and the winds will keep me off the water tomorrow as well.

There is a part of me that is pissed. I had a number of flats dialed in. There were more fish filling into the river. Wednesday was a very good day of fishing. The timing and strength of the tides is improving. I have a number of very skilled casters on the books. I was ready for it all to come together this week.

So there’s the bad news…

There is also a part of me that is excited. Excited to explore, to fish a lot of water that I haven’t covered much this season, to get to places that I haven’t fished in years and even to specifically target spots and areas that I’ve never fished. Within 30 minutes I can be at 8 different launch ramps that access waters other than the Kennebec. The possibilities are endless and being forced out of my routine could be a good thing. Some of my most significant angling discoveries came as a result of trying plans B, C, D and E when what I expected to work wasn’t doing shit. So there’s the good news.

The weather will play a large part in decisions and so it’s too early to tell where I’ll fish this week. After tomorrow, my alarm will be set for 3:00 AM instead of 3:30.

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


Rain

It rained here yesterday. Hard. All day. The river looks like coffee milk and there's more runoff to come from upstream. I'm headed out today with a couple of really good fly anglers. I'm not sure what to expect but I can't say that I'm bubbling over with unbridled optimism. These guys are still game to check it out.

There have been times (last August) when we saw torrential rainfall and had success getting big fish to eat in shallow, murky water down at the mouth of the Kennebec. Fritz might recall one of those trips. The big tides in the coming days will add to the amount of sediment suspended in the water everywhere along the coast of Maine.

If I feel like the dirty water has put the fish off, I'll be over on the New Meadows this evening. It has very little fresh water flowing into it and clears much faster. Either way, this weather event won't be a game changer, just a delay of game. The bass have continued to fill into the rivers and the bait is as thick as we've ever seen it.

I'll post an update when we get off the water.

Capt. Peter Fallon


Results: Inconclusive

Too late to post much. Need to get to bed. My morning charter doesn't start until 8:00 but I want to get out and pole some more flats for the first couple of hours of the day and then I have a late lunch/early supper boat run over to Five Islands with my wife for fried shrimp. She's amazingly understanding about my schedule from June through October but she gets cranky if she goes too long with out getting out on the water.

Overcast and foggy to start the morning. Found fish cruising in shallow water just as the tide started to drop. Did find some more fish in spots against ledges where you'd get one hit and that was it. The sun was bright by 8:00 and the wind was out of the north. One of those glorious days for a boat ride, if you know what I mean. Watched some birds circling high, took their cue and caught a couple fish from some small groups that would occasionally come to the surface for an instant. Never found the big groups of fish, or at least never found the big groups willing to eat for an extended period with wild abandon. The key was getting down to the fish. All in all, it was a productive morning but not one that will stand out in my memory when the leaves have fallen and the striped bass have departed.

I'll work to add some posts about technique and tackle in the near future. If you have questions for us, please go ahead and post a comment or send us an email.

Capt. Peter Fallon


Finding the Fish

That's the name of the game right now. I really think that the fish are bunched up, especially when the water really starts to move. Cruising from point to point, edge to edge, I find a fish, then nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, another fish, then more empty places. But when you find fish, fish, fish you can keep catching them for a couple of hours at a time...you just have to find the school and then figure out what stage of the tide turns them on.

I fished the same patterns (fish activity, not fly design) during this same stretch of June last season. Where I found fish they would be packed into an eddy or cove. They would be there for a couple of days and then take up a new residence for a couple of days. It was fun fishing and a great gas saving help.

One key last year at this time was being on the water early or late. By 8:00 most mornings, occasionally 9:00, the show would be over and I mean done. We'd work hard from then until noon with very good current flow and catch nada after four hours of the kind of fishing where you get pissed if you don't at least get a hit on every cast. Wait 'till 4:00 or 5:00 PM. relaunch, and the show would be on again.

I'm curious to see if that's the sort of pattern we have right now. The river is load with bait again this season, perhaps even more so than last mid-June. I'm leaning towards fishing the dropping tide for the fastest action, regardless of the time of day, which is why I'm writing this at 5:00 AM instead of out in the boat.

I heard that the DMR was recently conducting angler surveys on the Kennebec. One of the days there were 22 anglers who reported being skunked. It was a day when our clients caught a lot of fish. I say this not to gloat or boast but to illustrate the point that the stripers are grouped up. Find 'em and its great fishing.

Off to launch the boat. I'll post results.

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.MaineStripers.com


Late Launch, Time for Quick Update

We decided to wait for moving water this morning, so we'll launch at 6:00. Wow, what a leisurely start. I already re-rigged leaders, read the Sox recap and did some laundry. It's raining right now and we'll see showers off an on throughout the morning. I'm hoping that the cloud cover brings the fish back to the surface. Yesterday was bright and glorious but the fish stayed deep. We had to go down to get them.

It's been a fun week as I learn more about my new boat. Sorting out gear storage, developing habits, running in different sea conditions, poling in varying wind and current, contemplating modification and additions has me busy and happy. Spent one 12 hour marathon trip exploring water to the west of here. Had some very good charters on the Kennebec and did some local scouting that produced very little.

Herring continue to be everywhere. There is loads of very small bait (herring fry) around the mouth of the river. The macs have arrived. Haven't seen the stripers hitting them yet but the small bait can make heroes out of fly casters. We've seen a recent push of smaller schoolies (19 to 20 inches) mix in with the larger slot and over-slot fish.

Get out there and fish.

Capt. Peter Fallon


The smell of success

Walked into my wife's office after washing down the boat to announce that I was home a full ten minutes before the latest possible time that I said I'd return. As I handed her a seltzer water she said, "you caught some fish today." I replied, "that's right, that's the smell of success."

More good news to report from this morning. We didn't launch until 5:30 but found fish with some consistency until 11:00 when the current slacked off. Sometimes just a fish here and a fish there, other times it was hell for the herring. This was the first episode of truly busting fish that I've seen here on the Kennebec this season. When the bass were coming up in groups it was usually away from the ledges and right in the deeper, faster water. Occasionally we'd see bait driven up on to the rock weed, but it was more productive by 5:1 to cast away from the rocks. Lots of fat 24 to 28 inch fish. Nothing BIG to report for us yet as the best fish of the day was about 32 inches. Headed out this afternoon/evening to work the flats as the water drops out again. Hopefully this wind will slack off by then. Once again, Robert Redford has nothing on us, as we were in effect fishing private water all morning. Didn't see another boat until we got back to the ramp.

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.MaineStripers.com


Okay pookey, do the honors!

I fished out of my new boat yesterday morning for the very first time. Stunning day, crisp, bright, ultra clear, vibrant, not so fishy. Driving up to Morse Cove I was debating my plan – explore some areas that we didn’t fish over the weekend or go directly to the spots where we were catching fish. I decided on the latter. Exploring made more sense from a guiding perspective, but I thought it would be fun to just go fishing (well, really I mean to just go catching). On my first cast I landed a nice chubby 26 inch striper. Now that’s the right way to christen a boat.

At each stop I was able to tempt one or two fish to come to the surface, much slower than what we found on both Saturday and Sunday mornings. A 400 grain line and a large herring fly would pick up another fish or two along the ledges. As the tide dropped out there we fish hugging the bottom in 15 to 25 feet of water. Occasionally one fish would surface to chase a herring but I never saw anything even approaching a flurry of activity. Drifting and jigging a picked up a couple more fish.

As the striped bass continue to move up the Maine coast we'll see more fish filling into the Kennebec and New Meadows Rivers. Water temps in the rivers are ideal, ranging from a low of 56 to a high of 63 degrees. The amount of bait that is here is hard to comprehend until you witness it first hand. Things should really take off in short order. I expect that the cloudy weather of the next couple of days should also help bring more bass to the surface.

Having sated the need to land a few Maine stripers I poled across a couple of flats just looking for fish moving up with the rising tide. I spotted countless sturgeon but nothing with stripes on its side. I finished the morning by taking my wife for her first ride in the new boat. She approved. Her poling lessons start tomorrow.

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.MaineStripers.com


Should I stay or should I go?

I really respect the knowledge, experience and insight of tourney bass anglers. There is an incredible amount of competition twelve months of the year that drives innovation in tackle development and fishing tactics. Many of the saltwater lures and techniques that we use for striped bass, redfish, snook and sea trout have their origins in freshwater bassin'. There is also an amazing array of media coverage of the tournaments, personalities, tackle and skills. I've been listening to various podcasts this spring while waiting for the snow to melt, working on the boats, cutting the grass. My friends and clients who would never stoop to tie on a gummy minnow would be dismayed, but I subscribe to podcasts of Bass Champ Journal and Bass Edge.

Bass guys are always talking about trying to pattern the fish - where are the fish and what are they doing now - based on season, water temp, forage availability, weather, fishing pressure, water clarity, reproductive cycle, currents and more. We do the same thing when we fish for striped bass but we just don't have a hundred anglers on the same watershed being interviewed by every imaginable media type after each day on the water. Repeat this event in multiple states (really around the world) and then do it again next weekend and every weekend throughout the year and you really start to collect some information. Maybe the most amazing thing about this whole phenomenon is that guys in the same tournament (same watershed, environmental conditions, seasonal influences) can be successful with wildly different techniques and tackle all on the same day.

There are times when I've been cleaning the shed, listening to an interview with some recent winner when I've said out loud, "YES." The striped bass and the largemouth bass aren't even in the same family, but there are plenty of lessons to be learned from the guys you see on Saturday morning TV. As anglers we try to figure out a pattern or patterns while we're on the water but we also try to predict a pattern while we hitch up the boat, make sandwiches, check the weather, rig rods, select a launch ramp, review charts, tie up something special. One of the things that a client is paying for is the guide's experience on the water yesterday and the day before and at this time last year and the year before. Some nights I set my alarm and fall asleep reviewing my plan for where we'll fish at what time and what we'll use and what we'll try. Other times I've got all sorts of alternatives and possibilities and I don't know which way I'm going to head as I pull away from the launch ramp.

The easiest decision is to go where the fish were yesterday (well, more specifically, where you caught fish yesterday) or not go where the fish weren't yesterday ( or where you didn't catch them yesterday). That is certainly better than someone relying on memories of where they caught fish two years ago (in a different month,  during different weather) but it isn't always the best decision. Most of us will start with the belief that past performance will predict future earning despite the disclaimer that we hear from our broker. More often than not, that's a good decision. But on the days of "not" how long do you stay with your faith in a pattern and how quickly do you discover a new pattern? What will be rewarded, persistence or innovation? What is needed, a subtle shift or fresh approach? Should I stay or should I go?

I can't recall if I was cleaning up the lawn scars from the plow or packing away our ski gear and I can't recall if it was Kevin VanDam, Alton Jones or Gary Klein but I do remember hearing some pro say "you can't fish yesterday's bite". The phrase has stuck with me since then and I think about it almost every day now that the fish are in. These are guys who spend significant time, energy and money to develop a plan for the next tournament stop but they get paid to catch fish today. I share that economic reality and my clients don't want to hear about the epic day we had in this spot when they weren't in the boat so I go to bed thinking should I stay or should I go? When I pull out of Morse Cove in six hours which direction should I head and when the plan doesn't go as planned do I need to change flies or change my mind set?

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.MaineStripers.com