Fishing in Maine

By Thomas R. Dempsey, M.D. CCI

Just returned from a fishing trip back in time to the way it was done years ago in northern Maine. There’s something about preserving the traditions of hunting and fishing in “ the old days”. We flew into Bangor and drove about 2 hours north through thickly forested country along winding roads with NO billboards – billboards are illegal in Maine. The camp, Wheaton Fishing Camp is located in the hamlet of Forrest City, maybe 6 or 8 houses. Built in 1921, it is a series of cabins on the shore of East Grand Lake, 8000 acres of smallmouth paradise. Patrick and Sandy Patterson bought the operation from Dale Wheaton, the son of the founder. Dale and his brother Art are still around, in fact Art, at age 78, guided us on Spednic lake, a lake he has guided since he was 17.

We started on day one with a hardy breakfast, typical of the north woods, and then paired up with our guides who had discussed the agenda for fishing based on more reports from fellow guides and the prevailing weather and winds. Grand Isle 20 foot ash and cedar canoes are our rides. They are as traditional as the waxed coats, fedoras, and high boots the locals wear. Powered by 9.9 hp outboards and paddle manpower, they can cover the lakes very, very well. All the spots on the lake looked the same to me, clear water with automobile sized rocks sticking up. The fishing seemed best in these rock gardens. The smallmouth come up over the rocks to warm themselves in the 60 degree water.   We fished the St. Croix, between the US and New Brunswick. Then Lake Spednic,16000 acres. Get the picture? Many, many glacier carved lakes, all with fish waiting for you. You could fish a lifetime on one single lake and not make a dent in covering it.                                                                                                                          

June is spawning time in Maine for smallmouth bass. That’s when you can really hammer them. Seven wts., floating lines with 7 1/2 ft 15 lb. leaders will do it. They hit streamers and top water, but the way to really experience the moment is to cast, very little popper movement, not like with largemouth, then just wait, and wait, then, BOOM !!, fish on.                                            

Besides the smallmouth, there are lake trout, sun fish, pickerel, and non-native largemouth bass illegally introduced and not welcomed. They compete with the native smallmouth and will wipe them out. But they did taste good at the shore lunch. I have never had the guides put on a feed like they did on the shores, potatoes and onions always with beef, or pork, or sausage and of course, lobster and corn. The lunches were a ritual at which all the guides and anglers gathered together at noon with all present.        

We have our no-see-ums, Maine has black flies. Nothing keeps them completely at bay. On the water they are no problem, but once you hit land, bring out the Thermacll. No snakes, too cold. Moose and bear, plentiful. These people enjoy a freedom with nature that is slowly dwindling away. Most of the guests were older, except the ones there whose parents were regulars at Wheaton and were introducing their children to this unique way of life. Glad I got †o go before it is just a memory of ‘How it was back then.”

Fly fishing Victor, Idaho

Fly fishing Victor, Idaho

North America By Tom Dempsey 09/2016

Just returned from a 4 day trip to Victor, Idaho. Made two float trips and two self-guided excursions with fellow instructor, Dino Frangos.

The first day was a trip down Henry’s Fork. Found some nice sized rainbows and white fish. White fish are often ignored because of their “blue collar” appearance, but I can tell you they are fighters just like more glamorous game fish. All were caught on double and triple nymph patterns in the 20 to 22 size.

The next day we visited Fox Creek and Nickerson Bridge. There  were few rises on the Fox, probably a result of the 40 knot winds. Caught one good rainbow right in the middle of the only rise I saw. Then on to the Nickerson Bridge and more wind, but also more fish. Gives a whole new meaning to casting in the wind. Also it makes it difficult to see the dry fly floating.

On day three we floated the South Fork Thrush Canyon, 28 miles. Good thing we had a motor assist. Nymphs first then dries. Dino hooked a good rainbow and cutthroat on a purple dry. What a beautiful run and the rain gods were good to us.

Day four started with rain, 41 degrees, wind and snow in the pass — but by the time we got to Flat Creek the heavens smiled on us, but the fish gods didn’t. We saw a ton of troops sized cutties at the first bend and they had no interest on anything in our bag. Still a great venue and we’ll get them next time.

Victor, Idaho is situated thru the pass from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, smack dab in the middle of some of the best trout fishing in the US. The fly shop in Victor is first class. World Cast Anglers fly shop has over 40 guides that filter out to some 20 different rivers, offering the angler an endless supply of fishable waters. With so many spots to fish, crowds are rare, I like that. Overall a great trip

Of Muskellunge and Tennessee Tarpon

Of Muskellunge and Tennessee Tarpon

By Tom Dempsey

I was recently forced to change plans when Hurricane Matthew interfered with my fishing trip to Paradise Lodge in Mexico. So I decided to go to Nashville and fish with good friend Chris Nischan, who is a full time fishing and hunting guide. 

Since the Mexico trip was a vacation we were both going to take, we decided to fish together for something that he does not fish for every day. Normally, he guides on the Caney Fork River and other rivers around Nashville for trout and bass, but on this occasion I said, “Let’s walk on the wild side.” 

The first suggestion was to go toward Chattanooga to the town of McMinnville, which is about 60 miles outside of Nashville on what is called “The Plateau.” We met up with Dwayne Hickey of the Tennessee River Fishing Association outside of town at the local filling station and followed him to the Collins River. The Collins River is unique in that it holds muskie, a pretty uncommon quarry this far south. 

This pristine river drains six middle and eastern Tennessee counties and runs free. The water is crystal clear and it was not long before we started seeing log-sized muskies. Traditionally they are called the “fish of 1,000 casts.” I was lucky enough to hook up prettty quickly. The fish initially broke the water a couple of times and then took a nosedive into the bottom of our boat. We all jumped onto the seats as we watched it snap at us; these things have teeth and can bite! They are a beautiful fish and I was lucky to have the opportunity to catch one. 

The next day we went to the bottom of Cheatham Dam. This place is notorious for the “Tennessee Tarpon” or “Freshwater Ladyfish.” Once the dam begins to generate electricity the fish go into a frenzy and will hit almost anything you throw at them, including a beer can. We had fun taking the hooks off the poppers and watching them dive on top of the poppers.

Also at the bottom of Cheatham Dam, a major dam on the Cumberland River that runs straight through Nashville, there is a hang-out for large striped bass and alligator gar. On my last trip to Nashville we caught alligator gar on hookless polypropylene rope flies, allowing them to tangle in their teeth and then “set the hook.” The stripers are a little harder to catch. They will readily hit a fly that is put in front of their face, but it has to be in the strike zone. 

This trip to Nashville saved our vacation. It allowed me to fish for a couple of species I have always had fun fishing for and to catch one species that I had never boated. 

If you are interested in a great fishing trip, fishing with Chris Nischan on the tailwater rivers around Nashville is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The trout fishing is excellent, and it is not unusual to catch 50 to 100 trout per day on these beautiful pristine rivers. Chris has a website called “Rod and Gun Guide Service.” He can be contacted at 615-975-2766 for his schedule and his rates. Below are some of the gorgeous views along the rivers.

 

Bluefish off Montauk, NY

Bluefish off Montauk, NY

By Tom Dempsey

A visit to New York in August would not be complete without a trip off shore for a chance to catch monster Blues. Their Alabama cousins are mere babies compared to the Big Apple strain. About 90 miles up the Long Island Express is Montauk, landsend and the jumping off spot for some great fly fishing. After meeting my guide, Merritt White, we took off in his 21ft. center console Hell’s Bay bay boat [not made any longer but perfect for the chop around the tip of NY].

The water is clear and it takes little in the way of excitement to coax these big guys to your fly. A streamer or a popper stripped across the surface fast, and I mean fast!, is all it takes the get some action. They often appear from the deep, slamming the fly so hard that a hook-up only occurs about 25% of the strikes. But that’s okay because once they are on you are in for a ride! Beware, if you bite tip is not wire the ride is furious but short lived. These guys have big time teeth, so no lipping here. A 10wt. with a floater and a short, stout leader finished off with wire is the way to go.

Close to shore over the big rocks is where the hang out along with their buddies the stripers, but these blue fish are so aggressive in order to catch the stripers you have to have a totally different plan. I’ll report on that after my next trip to N.Y.

Fly fishing around Nashville, TN

Fly fishing around Nashville, TN

North America By Tom Dempsey 09/2016

When it gets too hot on the saltwater to sling a fly, a short hike to the Nashville area (what’s a 6 hour drive if you are going fishing?) will put you in  beautiful surroundings with several rivers to tap into. I had the opportunity to fish with my good friend and hunting/fishing guide, Chris Nischan on the Caney for trout.

The Caney is about 1 hour from Nashville with 22 miles of fly fishing friendly waters that hold monster rainbows and browns. Since it’s a tailwater river (with a dam) the fishing is dependent on the generation schedule, which controls the water level by releasing water through the dam to create electricity. Fishing is wading from bar to bar in crystal clear water that tantalizes you with a close up view of your fish.

Chris has been fishing these waters for 25+ years and shares a wealth of knowledge on trout fishing to his clients. Close to Nashville are several other rivers that are worth a visit to the area. The Cumberland runs right through downtown and offers great fishing for large Stripe Bass. For a walk on the wild side, try fresh water Ladyfish, the Tennessee Tarpon, or better still, Alligator gar on a hookless fly made of polypropylene rope, intended to tangle in there teeth. The Duck, the Elk, and the Harpeth have bass, bream, and smallmouth bass.

A true Mecca for the fly fisherman, Nashville is not just noted for it’s county music!!

Fly Fishing on Flat Creek in Jackson, Wyoming

Fly Fishing on Flat Creek in Jackson, Wyoming

North America By Dino “Doc” Frangos

Located a few miles from the town of Jackson, Wyoming sits the National Elk Refuge. Established in 1913, the refuge spans almost 25,000 acres and supports a “wintering” population of around 7,500 elk. More importantly to the fly fisherman, this wildlife sanctuary is home to a premier stretch of “spring creek-like” water called Flat Creek. The fishing season is open from August 1st through October 31st.

Flat Creek meanders through a valley floor of meadows and marshes. The flow is generally slow, although there are some interspersed riffles. The grass bordering the stream offers the fly fisherman little opportunity to hide from the fish’s field of vision. When fishing Flat Creek I often feel if I get too close to see fish they are also seeing me. After sighting an actively feeding or holding fish, a stealthy approach in a low stance or even walking on your knees may be necessary. These fish also have a keen sense of hearing and vibration, so walk quietly.

Flat Creek is an incredible venue for dry fly fishing. Blind casting does not do justice to the stream or the fish. Most of the time is spent locating and sight-casting to a particular fish. These “educated” fish are very selective and picky. If the fly is presently properly a trophy size Snake River Fine-Spotted Cutthroat may be your reward.

I have had the most success using a long 5X leader and small mayfly patterns including PMD’s or Blue-Winged Olives. Terrestrial patterns are also effective. Towards the end of the season I go to 6X tippet. In the absence of active surface feeding or difficulty spotting fish, I have also had success working a streamer such as a Zoo Cougar along the banks or through a pool. Although there is no absolute approach to this stream, I work downstream because I feel I can be more accurate in placing my fly in the correct feeding lane to the targeted fish.

Overall, the fly fishing on Flat Creek would be described as “technical.” For success plan on a stealthy approach, an accurate cast with a drag-free drift, small flies, and a long fine leader.

Dino “Doc” Frangos

November 2017