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With Memorial Day behind us and summer’s sultry days still to come, this is the time of year anglers dream about. Pick your species; the odds are that the best fishing of the year occurs in June. Water temperatures and depths are ideal, the fish are hungry and aggressive and no matter where you decide to drop a line you are more than likely to receive an answer.
My ideal fishing day begins at dawn on a secluded forest trout stream where the biggest fish of the trip might reach 10 inches. I have always been a fan of small, native trout and the waters they call home. The fish themselves are beautifully colored, eager to take a bait or fly and are unsurpassed in the frying pan. Fishing for small stream trout is more work than most folks care to invest, so I invariably have the entire waterway to myself. Fortunately trout brooks are abundant in central Maine and finding one is as simple as driving around till you find a culvert crossing. Fish upstream or down for as long as it takes to catch your limit; and don’t be surprised if you catch the most, biggest trout in the pools just above and below the culvert. Trout are drawn to the cool, deep water in these pools, which often provide good fishing through most of the summer. Typically crowded by alders, birch and cedars, these pools are dark and cold, ideal summer haunts for the stream’s biggest trout.
My plan is to fish all morning, keep a few trout for lunch and be back home in time to launch my canoe on the nearest bass lake. In June Maine’s bass are easy pickings as they guard their spawning beds. Simply drift along shore, cast small lures in toward the shoreline and hang on. Bass are likely to be found near any rock, log, stick or overhanging limb, so be patient as you cast to each and every one. It doesn’t take much cover to attract and hold a bass, so don’t ignore even the tiniest twig or rock. Work both sides of every obstacle and if you happen to miss a strike or two, remember the spot and come back later to try again. Bass either have short memories, short tempers or both, but they are one of the few fish that can be goaded into a second or third strike even after having been hooked and lost a few times. In fact, bass lead the pack when it comes to second chances. I have caught more bass with lures already in their jaws than any other species. Sometimes I’m able to get my own lost lure back by resting the spot for a few minutes and then returning with another, similar lure. My all-time record is a bass that had two lures dangling from its lower lip – and neither one was mine. These fish have serious attitude issues, if nothing else!
Another great midday option is river fishing for bass. All of the rivers in our area (Piscataquis, Sebec, Sebasticook, Pleasant and others) contain good numbers of bass and the fishing is easy among the shoreline rocks. At this time of year the bass are close to shore and easy to fool with spinners, minnow imitations and even fat deer-hair flies. If salmon are picky and selective, bass are comparative brawlers. If you throw it out there they will take it. I’m not a big fan of novelty lures, but I did catch a bass once on one of those miniature beer-can plugs, if only to prove that it could be done.
One good thing about river bassin’ is that the fish are always on the move – if you look close enough you may see one swimming past while you cast to the rocks and logs that dot the river bottom. For this reason it’s a good idea to stay put and cast in a wide arc to all the places you can reach with your tackle. Expect a short lull now and then but eventually new fish will move in and present new targets. This is a great strategy when walking the river bank is dangerous or difficult. “Rest” the water for 30 minutes or so as the action slows down and then go after them again, perhaps with a different lure or fly.
What’s so great about June is that the various insect hatches begin this month, which means I like to spend the end of the day paddling around a small pond casting to rising fish that, just a few hours earlier, were disinterested in any bait, lure or fly. Near dusk the surface of the water looks like it is being peppered with raindrops yet the sky is clear and bright. Those are trout sipping insects off the top, and if you are quick enough to drop a dry fly or nymph into the ring of the rise, you will be rewarded with a hook-up and the makings of a succulent shore-side dinner.
I’m not the greatest of fly-fishermen but I know that there are times when a trout won’t accept anything else. Rather than cast to rising fish in the traditional manner, I let out about 30 feet of line and let it drift behind the canoe as I paddle around the shallows looking for rising fish. When I see one close enough to reach with a quick forward cast, I just flick the rod tip ahead, sending the fly straight to the feeding trout. Nine out of 10 times I’ll place my dark nymph or high-riding dry fly where it needs to go, and just like that it’s fish on!
This technique works very well on small ponds, particularly near stream inlets or over springs that, in the evening quiet, are revealed by the whirling, swirling action of the surface. Insects abound in these areas and the trout are drawn to them – fishermen, too. Don’t be surprised to find yourself competing with loons, otters and ospreys.
Our best fishing takes place from now through the end of July, when summer’s heat drives most fish into the cooler depths. For now, however, all is good in Maine’s angling world. The only thing missing is you!
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