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It’s mid-July and already fishermen are giving up on trout for the year. Too hot, no fish, water too low – all that stuff. I used to be among that crowd because, for the most part, brook fishing does tend to fizzle once warm weather comes. It is possible to catch some nice fish in sheltered streams in the deep, dark woods, but for most anglers the season is over, or so they say.
Some years ago I stumbled on a great way to extend my trout-fishing season after a late-season vacation in the Katahdin Iron Works region. Most of the brooks were unproductive, and even the East Branch Pleasant River seemed to be empty of fish. Not wanting to waste my precious few days off, I scouted around for a small pond that I could portage my canoe into in hopes that I could find some trout.
I ended up on Jo-Mary Pond, a relatively small water with a couple of campsites on shore. In the ‘70s, it was rare indeed to find anyone back in that area except loggers, and I had the pond to myself all week.
When I first got on the water I fished pretty much the entire middle section without much luck. I started to think maybe there were no trout in the lakes up there, either!
Late one evening, however, I found myself drifting near shore at the eastern end of the lake and thought, “Holy moly – how can it be raining when the sun is still out?”
It wasn’t rain, of course: it was trout rising all around me!
The old game warden, John Leathers, once told me that you could “fill a canoe” with trout by casting a dry fly to pond trout in the late afternoon, so I quickly switched from spinning gear to my fly rod, just to see of old Warden Leathers was right.
I am not a great fly-fisherman and probably flub 90 percent of the casts I make, but that evening I caught more trout on a fly than I ever had before. They were rising all around me, fat little fish from 8 to 12 inches long, and the fun kept up till well after sunset.
The next morning I was back at it again, this time using nymphs, and had a great time catching fish till around 9 a.m., when the hot sun made it over the horizon and shut the fish down as if a switch had been thrown. Of course, not every fish quit feeding, but the majority of trout were done for the day.
Sitting there in the canoe with my line out behind me, I happened to spot a rise about 20 feet off the bow. I flicked my nymph at the center of the rise and was instantly onto a fish. I sat there a while longer, just looking and watching, and another trout came up to the surface. I tossed my nymph at him and he took it without hesitation. Hmmm . . . a light went on in my head as I started to see the beginning of a trend here!
As daylight came on there were fewer rises, but there were some, often 50 feet or more away, and I could see them occurring at random all over the pond.
After a few successful casts my end of the pond went dry for a while, so I started paddling around in hopes of running into a feeding fish. I let my fly line drag behind the canoe as I paddled as I began what I call “trout hunting.” I’d just paddle slowly along shore, watch for rising trout and quickly cast my nymph into the rise. If I was quick and accurate enough with my cast I’d have a fish on nearly every time. When I missed, I’d just keep paddling till I encountered another rise and just repeat the process.
Just like that, what could have been an uneventful week turned into a great vacation. I caught fish every morning and evening by anchoring in the shallow water near the east outlet, and during the day I’d paddle along shore and catch nearly as many trout by hunting them down in my canoe.
The technique has saved many a late summer fishing trip. When I brought my ideas home to Wassookeag, Sebec, Schoodic and the other trout lakes and ponds in our area, I found that I could catch trout just about any day, regardless of how hot it may be – and the trick even works with spinning gear!
In fact, I have witnesses to show that I was catching trout at high noon on Wassookeag Lake using a gold Mepps spinner. The onshore temperature was close to 90 and the humidity was unbearable, but I paddled around the lake with my spinner ready and every time I managed to cast it into a rise, I’d have a fish on. To make life easier for me (and the fish) I crimped the barbs down on my hooks. I may have lost a few trout as a result, but I felt good knowing all of them would be uninjured and should easily survive.
Over the last 30 years or so I have used the “paddle and cast” method to catch trout on every lake or pond in the region no matter how hot, dry, humid or windy it might be. Doing so has added at least six weeks of fishing time to my summer, and now that we can fish into September and even October, there’s no reason to put that fishing gear away until it’s time to get out there and start chasing whitetails again.
Be sure to check the most current fishing regulations handbook before you go because there are a few local restrictions on summer and fall fishing. In most cases, however, if you use single, barbless hooks and release the trout you catch, you can fish well into fall and you won’t have to worry when you get a surprise visit from the warden!
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