Tips and Techniques

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.

Fullsizeoutput_12b4

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.

Fullsizeoutput_12b7

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.

Fullsizeoutput_12b8

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.

58134151954__0FE178BB-E19C-4583-BFA6-C38507B55A0E

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


Fishing Charters For Striped Bass in Phippsburg Maine

Maine Saltwater Fly Fishing Charters For Striped Bass ~ Kennebec River, Phippsburg, ME

Thanks for visiting Maine Saltwater Fishing Reports. Here you'll find updates on striper fishing around Maine and beyond, insights into how I chase these fish, suggestions and techniques that may help you become a better angler, and recaps of recent charter trips. Scroll down for the the latest posts.

I specialize in shallow water sight casting to striped bass and chasing false albacore with fly and light tackle spinning gear. The only thing I love more than the challenge of hunting for these fish is sharing the elation that comes from playing this game. I guide a lot of experienced striped bass anglers who've never cast a fly or a top-water plug to a striper on a shallow flat that is pushing water like a redfish or bonefish. Watching the bass track the baitfish pattern or tail slap the spook and then (hopefully) eat your offering is incredibly satisfying and addicting.

I live in Phippsburg, ME on the banks of the Kennebec River, and guide full-time from May into November. Striper fishing in Maine starts in mid-May, with fish usually showing up just south of Portland before they start to fill into the Kennebec. To get a jump on the season I head south to Massachusetts to get onto bass before they arrive in Maine. I also plan a couple of weeks during May and June to target large stripers in Cape Cod Bay and around Martha's Vineyard. This is big water fishing and where I grew up and first started running charter boats. If I had to pick one week to fish the flats in midcoast Maine, it would fall in early July, depending upon the tides. Fortunately, our fishing holds up all summer and every year we have outstanding days when anglers to our south are lamenting the "dog days". By Labor Day I'm packing up to spend most of September and October fishing the south side of Cape Cod for False Albacore. 

If you're looking to improve your striper skills, or want to try to target them on the flats, or just become a better angler, I hope you'll read on and if you like what you find here, give me a call. Let's get out on the water together this season.

You can also see more frequent updates on Maine Saltwater Fishing Reports Facebook Page.

See the fish. Cast to the fish. Catch the fish.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com


Become A Better Fly Caster - Tips And Techniques To Improve Your Fly Fishing Skills - Keeping A Rod Strung Up

So you've decided that you want to become a better fly caster and you're looking for tips and techniques to improve your fly fishing skills. Right? You did click on the link to bring up this post. Ok, lets back up a bit. If you like to fly fish, you owe it to yourself to improve your fly casting skills. You'll have more fun on the water, you'll catch more fish, you might even find yourself fly fishing more often and it's a really enjoyable process that's rewarding on it's own.

I'm not a great fly caster. I'm a good fly caster who gets to work with some amazing fly casters. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to learn from the likes of Macauly Lord, Craig Ucker, Sam Flick, Dave Jacobson, and Rod McGarry. I've worked to become a better caster and to be able to demonstrate effectively the casting techniques that I'm trying to teach and here's the single most significant thing I've done to improve my own casting. Practice.

You know it would help your casting and it can be fun, so how do you practice more often? Keep a fly rod strung up and someplace visible.

AymHcEmkSiGxXLx8SqjEpg

If your fly rod is broken down and bundled neatly in it's sock, secured in it's tube, and tucked behind your waders and boots in a basement closet, how often are you going to go through all the steps of digging it out, putting it together, stringing it up, tying on a yarn fly, and making a few fly casts? Make it easy and accessible and you'll practice far more frequently.

You don't need water to make the basic fly casts (roll and spey casts are exceptions), just some open space with cut grass. I have room in my yard to practice and can even make short casts off my deck. If you don't have space in your yard, keep the rod in your car and stop at the soccer field you drive by every day or step outside at lunch time and cast for ten minutes in the park or on the lawn next to the building. Is there a golf course where you go for a walk? Or an open space where you let the dog run? Right now my driveway has a nice snowpack and is perfect for a few minutes of casting practice after work.

Ideally, you'll use a fly line that you won't fish if you are going to practice frequently. There's a good chance that you're fishing with a line that should be retired because it just doesn't shoot very well anymore, even after cleaning it. Do you have a reel or spare spool that has been on the shelf or in a vest for years without use? Perfect. If not, don't fret. Cast on the grass and then just clean your line before you fish it.

I have two rods that I keep strung up. One is an old Orvis 4 weight that I "caught" on the Moose River in 1995 dredging a nymph at the bottom of Attean Falls. That rod owes me nothing and I don't worry about it sitting outside for seven months of the year. The other set up is an Angler Outfit from L.L. Bean that is on sale right now for $75 for rod, reel, and line. During the guiding season I will grab a rod out of the Maverick, snip off the striper fly, tie on a piece of yarn, and wander around the yard for a few minutes making some casts just to work with an eight, nine, or ten weight for a bit.

If you have or get a rod that can serve this purpose, tack three nails into the side of your porch or shed and keep the rod handy and in sight but out of harm's way and ideally out of the sun. It helps to have the rod up off the ground. I can attest to the rod-shortening ability of a lawn mower that picks up a bunch of slack fly line nestled into the grass. I turned a nine foot, six weight into a four foot, eight weight before I could get the blades to stop spinning and that rod wasn't found and wasn't inexpensive.

Grab your cup of coffee in the morning, step outside to greet the day, and make a few fly casts before you get consumed. Come home from work, visit the beer fridge, make a considered selection, and head outside. The beer sits in the snowbank well while you double haul for a couple of revolutions. In five minutes, you'll make 100 fly casts. And your day will start or end a little brighter. 

Fullsizeoutput_121a

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service

824 Main Rd

Phippsburg, ME 04562

(207) 522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com