By Stu Bristol
With striped bass still off the beaches in numbers and fall lakes and ponds heating up again, why would any angler in his/her right mind head into the backwater streams in search of a limit of five brook trout? Here in southern Maine anglers are spoiled with the amount of fishing opportunities year-round.
There was a time that all brook and stream fishing ended after august 15. Today anglers may fish brook and streams until October 1. That said, live and natural baits are prohibited so anglers need to rely on artificial lures or flys.
Not a fly angler, you say? Brook and stream fishing in August and September provides plenty of action for even novice fly chuckers. In fact, due to the short casts and abundance of insects that fall of the shorelines the need for anglers to get technical is greatly diminished.
After much searching, I found a 4-foot, 6-inch Shakespeare Microspin P46 ultralight spinning rod with a stiff butt and fast tip. I can see the fly anglers grimace at the thought, but I put together a 5-weight floating flyline and reel with a tapered leader of around 4-5 feet. I’ve searched for a short fly rod with the same qualities but came up empty or with an empty wallet.
I wound a strip of white electrical tape on the rod, 6-inches apart to use as a minimum measuring device. You still have the option of catch and release but 7-10 inch trout make for a tasty meal.
I also have no need for my usual fly vest with a million pockets (and flies). I found a cheap fanny pack that also has a pouch for a bottle of water. In this pack I can fit a couple fly boxes some bug dope, snacks a plastic bag to carry home my catch. There is also room for a small first aid kit, matches and fire starter, Of course, include fly dope although the fall bugs can hold a candle to black flies and mosquitos in June.
I still wear light colored clothing and band the pants leg above the boot to stop ticks from finding their way up my body. Actually, I also wear trousers and shirts that are sprayed with Permathrin to guard against ticks.
Due to the low water conditions in the fall, I employ my usual springtime tactic of fishing up the stream rather than down. Low water allows fish to see predators like me more clearly. Even with my stubby pole I can cast a fly about 15-20 feet up the stream and mend the line as the lure tumbles back toward me. This is similar to nymphing in the springtime.
Back to the experienced fly guys for just a minute to describe some of the flies and lures I use for fall brookies. Bugs that fall out of the sky or streamside are called “terrestrials” because they live on land rather than the bugs trout crave that emerge and hatch from the stream bottom.
I’ve been fly-fishing for decades and I still don’t believe trout are so fussy they eat only one kind of bug that floats by. If your offering looks and acts like food the brook trout will go for it. Other species of trout may be fussier but brookies are known to wolf down anything that looks edible.
The two most important features in a trout stream are the “plunge pool” and the “tail-out.” In the springtime when the water flow is higher, trout will be found under undercut stream banks and logs and in the fast-moving riffles and runs.
Fishing up the stream allows me to toss my offering toward but not into the plunge pool and allow it to float downstream in a natural fashion. Trout waiting in the tail-out have their nose headed upstream, looking for fast food.
Looking into my flybox you will see an assortment of bug imitations, a few small minnow copies and two or three 1/16 to 1/32 ounce Mepps style spinners. Many of these have no name as I tied them myself. Some of the popular Maine fall flies include the Mickey Finn, Maple Syrup Black nose dace, ants, hoppers wooly buggers and muddler minnows.
In larger pools you can search the pool by casting a tiny dardevle spoon or Al’s Goldfish. Remember, most of these streams have not been fished all summer due to the ease of striped bass and freshwater pond fishing so you could hook into a sizeable trout.
Backwoods streams are fun in late summer but don’t overlook the roadside culverts. I do well checking out the many streams that cross the interstate or major highways. Many of the brook trout are stocked at these easy access points and grow all summer unmolested.
Fall angling is like eating at all all-day buffet. So many choices so you just go for your favorite foods and the salad gets passed by.
Stu Bristol is a Master Maine Guide and Outdoor Writer. His columns and features have been published nationwide for nearly 60 years. Inducted into NE Wild Turkey Hunting Hall of Fame in 2019. He operates Orion Guide Service in Southern Maine and makes custom game calls at www.deadlyimpostergamecalls.com
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