April 7, 2013

Allen Afield: Bless the black flies who soon will bring about brookie season

By Ken Allen

This coming week in Maine's bottom third, brooks with brook trout will start producing decent-to-darned-good fishing unless nature conspires against my prediction with unseasonably frigid weather for the next several days. Even if action remains slow, though, trout streams will surely pick up in late April or early May and continue into the first week or two of June.

Naturally, latitude and elevation dictate air and water temperatures, so in this vast region of the state's bottom third, angling action kicks off earlier in Kittery than in Carthage, north of Dixfield.

However, two natural signs help savvy anglers know when to hit brooks for brook-trout excitement, no matter where they live:

The first swarms of black flies coincide with brookies beginning the season's first feeding binges. These two events go together like hot biscuits and butter.

When black flies start bugging us, the leaves on speckled alders lining waterways reach the size of a mouse's ear, another sure sign that brook fishing will start rocking.

In my humble opinion, Maine's trout streams go under-fished, a thought gleaned after fishing little brooks for dozens of hours every spring. Signs of intrusions are delightfully absent -- human tracks, cigarette butts, beverage containers, worm cups, leader packages and so forth.

I may fish brooks that cross highways, but brooks that begin and end without coming to a highway rank as my favorite destinations -- easy enough to find by studying DeLorme's "The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer."

When fishing a new brook, folks in the know look for features that often attract trout to hide and feed:

Undercut banks on meandering streams can hold brookies, but undercuts with dense ground vegetation growing on the bank indicate springy soil. Cool seeps running into the water create a veritable honey hole.

Pools hold trout, particularly when flows drop later in season, but right now fast runs below pools draw brookies in late April and early May. The best fast stretches for holding trout have springy-looking banks and good depths now, say knee- and thigh-deep, not shallow riffles.

Small tributaries running into streams hold brookies just downstream of where the mouth empties into the larger drainages. Tribs just plain create hot spots, often from late April through the end of September.

Later in the season, springy feeder rivulets draw brook trout upstream, seeking cooler water. And a quick anecdote, one of many, describes what can be in store in tiny brooks running into larger streams:

Years ago, my English setter and I were woodcock hunting in an alder run in New Vineyard, when I stepped over a tiny tributary of Lemon Stream. The rivulet was narrow enough for me to straddle without getting wet feet.

As I was making the quick crossing, splashing water erupted between my feet and startled me. The ruckus was shoulder-to-shoulder brook trout trying to escape the intruder invading their woodland hideaway.

My favorite fishing outfit for brooks begins with a 4-weight, 6-foot fly rod with a 4- to 6-foot leader and nymphs such as Hare's Ears, Soft Hackles or Wooly Worms. Pragmatic anglers, however, recommend a short, ultra-light spinning rod with 4-pound test and Trout Magnets, tiny Mooselook-like Wobblers or worms -- the latter really effective right now.

The one, true secret to brookie success strikes me as undeniable. Great brook anglers approach each pool, run, undercut bank or any possible honey hole as if they are a bow hunter stalking a whitetail buck.

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