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Dumb Luck

01/14/10 – We’re heading for camp this weekend. No – we didn’t just flash back to mid-summer. This trip is a winter vacation and there will be little to do with fly fishing while we are up there. There will be maps, planning hike-ins, fly tying and book reading but that’s about it pertaining to the fly fishing world. We’ll be back here February 16th at 10:00am so you won’t see another Thursday Review until a few days after that.
Mountain ViewOne of my favorite streams near camp is Nahmakanta Stream which flows from Nahmakanta Lake into Pemadumcook Lake. It’s about 5-miles as the crow flies but for those of us without wings it’s about a 7-mile hike. And hiking is a big part of my stream fishing of Nahmakanta. Fortunately the Appalachian Trail runs along side all but the first mile of the stream. So I often pole and paddle my canoe upstream for that first mile, which is deep and pond like due to back flow from the lake at normal levels, and then hike upstream and fish my way back.

I’ve learned the stream pretty well and here’s how I did that. This stream is one place where I honed my observation skills. Having spend many hours on the stream I’ve had plenty of downtime while there. Lunch while perched on a log or large boulder, rest times when I’ve fish hard and need a break or just plain kicking back to enjoy the spectacular views of OJI, Katahdin and Double Top have provided ample opportunity for streamside observation.

And it’s as simple as that. Want to learn a water body – take time to look. Most everyone knows that trout hold facing upstream and that trout can’t maintain a holding position in fast moving water. So, unless there were obvious rises telling me where fish were I looked INTO the sheltered water lies seeking holding trout. Guess what – I found some.

One thing that helped was where I choose to look from. As you can see from the “leaving camp” picture there is no lack of boulders in the area. The top of a big boulder is a great viewing point. However, being perched on top of a boulder will often put you in the trout’s view – it’s a two way line of sight – so don’t move around a lot while up there or you’ll spook fish into hiding.Streamside ledge

Streamside ledges or high banks are another option. When I look at a pool or run one of the things I do is mentally fish the pool. I figure out where the fish might hold. At the tail of the ledge in this picture there is an eddy. A big eddy and when the fish hold in it they are facing downstream. Not down current – but – downstream in the overall scheme of things. And yes that did figure into how I fished for them. All that’s well and good but there have been many days during which I’ve never seen a holding trout. So I search.

When searching while moving either upstream or down I don’t pound the water. I move along looking for a likely spot and make a few casts. If I don’t move a fish I hike on. I’ve found on small to medium sized streams trout will investigate almost anything that looks edible. They may not hit but they’ll move to check it out. It’s easy to miss that movement if you’re just lollygagging along and not watching your fly do its work. It pays to concentrate on your fly when you’re search casting a stretch of water. If you want to gawk at the mountains or bird watch – stop fishing and gawk or bird watch. Then when you return to fishing concentrate on your fly. It will move fish and you’ll see them if you’re looking.

Cold Water StreamAnother thing to consider on Nahmakanta and other streams is water temperature. Until mid-June I’m apt to find fish in most any section of the stream. But come July that luxury is gone. The surface water flowing out of Nahmakanta Lake is just too warm for trout. July and August force fish into cold water seeps, spring fed pools and areas just below small cold feeder streams. The rest of the stream is barren – you just can’t catch trout there. So I look for cold water and spend little time fishing between known cold water sites.

And then there’s my favorite way of finding and catching trout – dumb luck. I’ve often said I’d rather be lucky than good. Many times I’ve followed my own advise and stopped casting to watch a bird doing it’s thing or to gawk at mountain views and caught fish while do so.

How? Well by just by leaving my fly in the water dangling downstream in the flow while lollygagging and doing my sightseeing thing. Yep, taking the time to observe the water, its flow, cold water sources, current seams and looking for rises are all well and good but a little dumb luck goes a long way.