Here in New England we have 4 distinct seasons. Each season represents change. Most people associate change in seasons with the weather. Fly fisherman will often associate the change in seasons with the change in fishing conditions, techniques and species to target. New England, and especially Maine sees as much change in fishing conditions as it does weather with each passing season.
Let’s start with spring, as it is often associated with birth and new beginnings. When I think about spring I think about the “start” of the fishing season. In Maine, many of the natural reproducing trout water is closed from October 1st through March 31st. April is seen as a time to get back to my favorite waters. Spring can be tough in Maine as winter can hold on through the end of May, but the fishing can be fantastic. Trout are normally hungry after the winter but sluggish as the water temps are still in the 30’s-40’s well into May. June sees the full blossoming of trees and insect life. The smelt and sucker spawn happens which coax the big trout out of the larger watersheds into the rivers where we enjoy targeting them. For saltwater fly fisherman, June is typically when the big stripers start to show along the New England coastline.
Summer can really be broken out into early and late summer. Early summer can be great fishing, with weather playing a large role. July brings the big bugs to the surface – big stones and the fabled Hex hatch. This can be some of the most exciting fishing of the year on rivers and ponds. Watching large trout sip on big dry flies has to be one of the highlights in fly fishing. Late summer can lead to slower trout fishing while most rivers get too warm and the trout will drop back into the big lakes for thermal refuge. During these times, not only is the fishing slow it can be unethical to stress the fish by fighting them in low oxygen level water. When this happens we seek out the warm water species such as smallmouth and largemouth bass. In addition the salt water fishing stays hot all summer long.
Fall is a special time in New England. I will admit I am including late September in “fall”. The trees are a blaze of red or orange and so are the native brook trout. The air is cool again and the bugs are mostly gone. Trout begin to stage for the spawn at the mouths/outlets of their chosen rivers in mid to late September. Water flows and temps are paramount to being able to enjoy this fishing. I believe that a male native brook trout in the fall is the most beautiful fish. The trout are not the only fish getting ready to spawn, the landlocked salmon also do their dance in the fall and the fishing can be outstanding. The fall run of false albacore and stripers is also happening down on the coast. This is when many salt anglers have their best fishing and have the chance at a 30-40 lb. striper from the surf. It is a wonderful time to be a fly fisherman in New England. It is my favorite time of the year.
Winter is spent tying flies and trying to stay warm. New England has some great winter fishing, mostly over fish that were stocked in the fall. Maine and NH have a great stocking program which can keep us busy in the slower months and thinking towards spring. Make sure to dress accordingly as the water and air temps are frigid.
Up here there are great opportunities to fish year round. Make sure you take advantage of the fishing opportunities in your area!
Words + Photos By: Tim Ervin