By this time of year, high water can slow down fishing, even in an unseasonably warm year like this one. Time will tell if my forecast hits the mark.

If fishing remains sluggish until later in the month as it does in many years, we need not despair. Every trout or salmon that comes to hand now offers us a certain bonus and a promise of what’s to come sooner rather than later when two quintessential signs promise red-hot fishing — black flies swarming and speckled-alder leaves growing to the size of a mouse ear.

A sane tip for success works in the coldest years, so it should really produce action in mid-April 2010:

Anglers should hit small brooks fed by underground springs. These choices can offer solid angling because after soaking rain, flows return to normal within two or three days. Any trout brook bubbling from the ground rather than from a lake or pond often produces April action.

A perfect example lies in the Belgrade Lakes close to my home. A small brook originates in a swamp where surprisingly pellucid, cold water wells from springs, even in summer and early fall droughts. After a deluge, it returns to normal flows within a few scant days and produces a little excitement for anyone willing to spend enough time there to learn its secrets.

Not to belabor the point, but this small water offers a lesson about trout brooks in early spring.

If a brook or small stream runs from a pond or lake, then it requires a considerable amount of time for the water to drop to fishable levels because the larger, still-water reserve feeds the outlet below it, sometimes for weeks.

A brook or small stream bubbling from underground springs drops to fishable levels in no time, even after spring snowmelt or heavy rain.

This year, open-water fishing started March 25 in lakes, ponds and brooks (not in rivers and streams) after Gov. John Baldacci signed an emergency bill to allow a one-shot bonus for 2010, catching us by surprise.

Friends took advantage of the season’s addition and did well, catching fish in rivers like the St. George — the latter open year-round — and in brooks.

I bicycled in March and now regret not taking advantage of the early angling-season fun. You know the old saw about 20-20 hindsight.

Fishing in early spring before action picks up has everything to recommend it, so I love this time of year, a leisurely time on the water.

Here’s how it often works:

One recent year on April 1, Jolie, my intrepid companion, and I fished the upper reaches of the Sheepscot River, but the flow had hit flood stage. We’d cast weighted flies upstream, and within seconds, the offerings would rush by us, barely sinking below the surface.

For success now, anglers must get on bottom, so we quickly abandoned the river in favor of a nearby spring-fed brook, giving us an opportunity to bounce flies along the bottom for trout.

Once on the brook, I cast a No. 10, 2x long Red and White bucktail toward an undercut bank that has offered me spring trout for 50 years. Within seconds, a 7-inch brookie hit the offering, and for the first time since December, I felt the throb of a native brook trout.

As I fished down around the corner of the tiny spring brook, a few more brookies hit, so that first one was no fluke.

Catching fish on April Fools’ Day amazes me because of typical snow and ice on that date, but it should surprise no one to have action, a common enough start in a good brook-trout brook. This coming week, it’s less amazing, but the landscape still looks drab, so success often surprises me.

A few years ago, I bought an Orvis 6-foot, 4-weight fly rod for small brooks, illustrating my seriousness about small brook magic. This little tool casts 15 feet, counting the leader, perfect for a sport that demands short casts because of lack of room. In short, this rod is soft enough for ultra-short casts yet strong enough to derrick a 10-inch brookie over alders — just perfect. A 5- to 6-foot ultra-light spinning rod with 2- to 4-pound test line and worms or little Trout Magnets work even better than a fly rod, but fly-fishing is my thing.

If folks have never fished brooks, they should grab DeLorme’s “The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer” and look for brooks that flow from nowhere. That’s a good place to start.

Also, IFW fisheries biologists can direct folks to waters that have good concentrations of brookies.

 

Ken Allen, of Belgrade Lakes, is a writer, editor and photographer. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]