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Slow Fishing got you down? Check out Up'North's Essential Tips for Spring Fishing!

April 7, 2009

-With April now well underway, there is a good chance that more than 90% of the northern Maine population has yet to cast a line. I can’t say I place blame, not everyone is as crazy or obsessed as I am. The fact of the matter is, Ice and Snow are still covering many of the rivers and making it difficult to get to some of the best fishing spots. Fishing during the early Spring in Maine can be extremely challenging and dangerous, which probably explains why so many fisherman opt to just start their fishing well after the snow is melted away. Well, BIG MISTAKE! While difficult, fly fishing in the spring can be incredibly rewarding and even relatively safe if the proper precautions are taken.
This article will discuss the techniques and strategies for staying comfortable while fishing during early Spring in Northern Maine, all while catching more fish.

Grey Ghost

Grey Ghost

Before I get into the meat of the discussion regarding techniques, I would first like to note that no matter how well you follow these tips, or any for that matter, Spring fishing in Northern Maine is usually very challenging and getting skunked can be common. Their are exceptional days that come along if your lucky, but for the most part high waters and limited access make Spring Fishing very difficult. While the following tips have worked for me in the past, they are by no means a guaranteed way to catch more fish, simple personal strategies that have caught me fish during previous Spring Fishing trips. Enjoy!

Tip number 1: Keep your cool

  • The biggest key to success that I’ve found is simply to keep your cool and just try not to get frustrated if your not catching anything. If fly fishing was easy and constantly productive it would lose it’s excitement. In the Spring it’s easy to make excuses when your not catching fish, which is always a plus. Just be patient and persistent and sooner or later the river gods will have your back.

Tip number 2: Put your Dry Flies away Sally!

  • I don’t care what you saw on TV, or what your best friend’s brother’s uncle’s grandfather told you, Salmon and Trout in Northern Maine Rivers are not boiling in the rivers during the first weeks of April. Fish a wide variety of streamers on a sinking line and I can guarantee you a more productive outing. This can be difficult for some people, including myself, who like to fish dry flies and a floating line. The simple truth is that trolling MOST rivers in northern Maine during the early Spring is the tried and true way to catch fish. There will be plenty of time to fish that mayfly or green drake in a few months, for now break out the Grey Ghosts, Joe Smelts, and a sinking line. You won’t be sorry.

Tip Number 3: Make friends with someone old.

  • You might be laughing, but this really is an essential tip. Fly fisherman of generations past could tell you more about techniques that work and spots that produce more than any book ever will. The problem is, if your not friends with these veterans of the fly, there is no way in hell your getting any directions to where they caught that 5 pound salmon. The things I have learned from grandfathers and other old timers have greatly shaped my style of fly fishing and my general attitude towards the sport. Tap into this extensive database of fly fishing knowledge and I promise you’ll be the wiser for it. The past generations of Fly Fisherman are always willing to help out younger generations of fly fisherman and pass on the tips and tricks they have learned over their many years out on the water.

Tip Number 4: Do some preseason scouting.

  • In the past few years, God gave fly fisherman a gift. This gift is commonly referred to as Google Earth. If your too much of a pansy to walk into the fly shop and ask for directions to a spot, or even complete Tip Number 3 above, Google Earth can be extremely useful. It allows anglers to explore their surroundings from the comfort of a computer, and is essential for locating rivers, streams, and even boat landings. In fact, The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife even has a template for Google Earth that points out numerous boat landings throughout Maine. The moral of the story? If your early season spot just isn’t working out, it’s easier than ever to find a new one. Get crackin’ Junior!

Tip Number 5: Change Streamers often!

  • Whenever I’m out on the water I always try to pre-arrange at least 4 or 5 streamers I plan on fishing during the course of the day. These streamers are usually ones that have served me well in years past, and most of them range between size 8 and 2. The faster rivers around Aroostook County tend to produce better with a larger fly, while the more gradual moving shallow rivers produce better with a 6 or 8. As the season wears on into May, I usually opt out of using the large streamers and switch to a size 6 for most of my choices. See the Fly Recipes page for some ideas on what might work for you!
Google Earth!

Google Earth!

As always, Safety should be the primary concern during any fishing, especially in the Spring months. Remember to always wear a life jacket, and if possible fish with a buddy. If you see ice on the water, it probably isn’t safe to venture out in a boat. When the ponds and lakes break up the ice can run down rivers very suddenly, and being trapped can be deadly. No fish is worth drowning for, so in this case finding a safer alternative is always the best bet!

Best of luck in this young season, and Happy Castings,


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5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 11, 2009 2:55 pm

    Nice, i agree with you completely

  2. April 8, 2009 5:32 am

    The salmon here are mostly caught swinging ugly streamers… for the Atlantics usually Orange and White marabou things and for the Kings (stocked in the bigger lakes west of here) its … anything bright or black. Never a dry fly, though, thats cool!

    Thanks for the advice on a book – I’ll grab it. This isn’t a fishing trip per say but we’re staying right on the lake shore with private access so fishing will occur.


  3. April 7, 2009 8:22 pm

    Great post! This applies to everywhere, not just Maine and not just for Salmon and Maine Trout. Though the season turns on a little earlier down here, its still tough these first few weeks.

    I hope you post a guide to Maine fishing in the early summer (July). Purely selfish reasons as I’ll be staying on Moosehead Lake from the 4th to the 11th.

    Also, did I read that right? Salmon on a dry fly?


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