It’s hard to imagine that we’re already halfway through the year and, in a few days; we’ll begin losing daylight time by a few minutes each day. I’m not sure why we’re all “amazed” at how fast the living year goes by – it’s been doing this for eons so it should not come as a surprise to anyone. The older one gets the faster the years seem to stream by, but one tends to keep better track of the days when we suddenly realize that there are much fewer of them available to us.
All the more reason to make the most of these glorious days of summer. I’m not a fan of heat and humidity but lately we’ve had long strings of bright, sunny days with low humidity and a brisk wind that, thankfully, keeps most of the biting bugs at bay. I have had far more encounters with ticks this year than with mosquitoes or black flies, but so far I’m winning the battle by using repellents when I’m outdoors and paying close attention to things that seem to be crawling up my leg when I’m not. I’ve gotten to the point that I have to prepare to go outside just as I would if it were the dead of winter. In summer, however, the routine revolves around long sleeves and pant legs, everything tucked in that can be tucked, and then spraying a liberal dose of DEET over any and all places where a persistent insect might gain access to my tender skin. Being that the worst of these blood suckers creep, crawl, fly and drop out of the trees it’s best to sally forth fully protected and prepared. On the few occasions I go out unadorned with bug-proofing clothes and spray I inevitably end up with a few bites or, worse, a tick crawling around on me somewhere. Fortunately, I’m ultra-sensitive to touch so I’ve yet to have a tick attach itself to me, but I find anywhere from one to five ticks on me over the course of a day’s mowing, gardening, watering or woods walking. Call me crazy but given the choice I’d rather deal with snow.
All of this, of course, leads me to think that rather than expose myself to potential disease-carrying bugs I should get away from the yard, the garden and my daily survey of blueberry bushes and . . . go fishing. Shoving off in a canoe or kayak reduces contact with biting insects by about 90 percent, although there are plenty of mosquitoes and black flies anywhere there is water. A light coating of DEET will keep the worst of them away for several hours, certainly long enough to allow my entire focus to be on fish instead of blood-thirsty bugs.
One advantage of mid-June angling is that there’s still a choice between trout fishing and “pond fishing,” which generally means bass, pickerel, bluegills and perch. The challenge now is in finding a trout stream that is cold enough, shaded enough but open enough to allow some semblance of productive casting. Once the leaves are out the area of open water an angler can target is reduced by about 75 percent. It’s difficult enough to fish alder-choked streams in early spring when there are no leaves, but the foliage factor is such that many of the best pools will be impossible to fish because there is so much brush in the way. It can be done and, in some circumstances, must be done, because there has to be a giant trout lurking beneath all that greenery. However, it may require several attempts, a few lost hooks and even more lost bait before victory is achieved. Alas, as summer progresses all that effort may only produce a big, fat chub, but that’s what stream fishing in June is all about!
I’ll make the effort to catch a few brookies early in the morning (anything to avoid yard work!), but if the battle does not go well I’ll head for the nearest pond and ply the shoreline for bass, which are still in spawning mode and ridiculously easy to catch. I’ve mentioned many times how simple it is to drift along shore, cast lively lures into the shallows and take bass after bass almost non-stop all day.
Years ago bass were as unpopular as chubs and many a 5-pound fish ended up on the bank as raccoon fodder, but now that bass have been elevated to “trophy” status more anglers fish for them and, miraculously, throw them, not on the bank, but back into the water to be challenged again and again. Thanks to the current catch-and-release ethic Maine’s bass population is growing, expanding and providing continuous sport for anglers statewide.
There are those who lament the decline of the state’s once-venerated trout fishery but those who caught and kept are as much to blame for that decline as are habitat changes, global warming and whatever else they claim caused the demise of trout and salmon in the state. It seems only logical that if you spend 100 years catching and keeping canoes full of 5- and 10-pound fish the supply is going to dry up, and that’s exactly what happened. We still have plenty of trout in Maine but nowhere near the number or size that used to exist throughout the region.
All of this is good news for bass anglers, who now have the sense to release most of what they catch. For this reason anyone can go to any river, lake or pond and catch bass all day, come back tomorrow and do it all again, and never have to worry that one day the water will still be there but, sadly, the fish will be gone.
In fact, not long ago I returned to the Pleasant River in Milo and fished many of the same stretches I first tried over 50 years ago. Every pool was full of bass, some over 18 inches long, and I didn’t meet another angler all day. The fishing was great, the bugs were few and I didn’t think about yard work all day. Now that’s what a sunny day in June is all about!