William Clunie of Dixfield has earned a reputation as a fly-fishing guide on the Androscoggin River, where he floats a rubber-raft drift boat to get clients over smallmouth bass or salmonids such as browns, rainbows, landlocks and occasional brookies, depending on season.

Clunie, an accomplished fly rodder, loves fishing with the slender wand, so it surprised me to learn about his intense fondness for worming brooks small enough to hop across in most places.

“Brook trout run from 6- to 12-inch lengths in these brooks,” Clunie said, before adding with a chuckle, “but a 12-incher is a monster.”

Clunie admitted that a foot-long brookie proved uncommon and the average was much smaller.

Some of his pet brooks in the Androscoggin River drainage include brown trout, not a common brook species in Maine. Browns generally grow larger than brookies, though, so they spice up his day.

According to Clunie, two reasons contribute to size difference:

n Genetic traits help browns attain greater lengths and weights than our brightly colored native char.

n Browns tolerate warmer water better than brookies, giving them more time to grow larger.

Clunie grew up in Michigan and learned similar brook-fishing tactics as Mainers living several states away, intriguing me.

For instance, like lots of Mainers, Clunie prefers an ultralight, 5- to 51/2-foot spinning rod, tiny Daiwa spinning reel and 4-pound test line for tributaries flowing into rivers like the Androscoggin, Webb, Bear and Ellis.

When this normally avid fly rodder switches to worms, he avoids adding weight to the 4-pound line so the bait drifts more naturally and enticingly with the current a la Maine brook anglers.

He might use split shot when needed, but his presentation seldom requires additional weight — just a free-drifting angleworm. This typical worm-dunker approach mimics nymphing tactics with a fly rod.

Typical of Mainers, Clunie digs his own worms from a family garden rather than buying them, claiming his worms possess a more organic smell.

They might be fatter and livelier than the commercial variety, too.

“Brook fishing is like hunting,” he said. “It requires great stealth.”

Good bait anglers like Clunie carry furtiveness to an extreme. He chooses drab attire such as camouflage clothing and avoids wearing a white hat. Trout may mistake white clothing for a predatory bird’s underside.

Along with clothes that blend with bank cover, Clunie claims consistent success demands sneaking with great care toward a hot spot — say a deep pool, undercut bank or rising fish.

Often, during his approach, this Dixfield man crawls to stay below the fish’s sight line and utilizes bank cover such as low shrubs and trunks for hiding. He agreed with me that brook anglers should move toward a trout-brook hot spot as if it were a trophy buck.

When Clunie slips toward a fishy-looking spot, he avoids making noise and subtle vibrations on the ground that telegraph his presence. In short, careless anglers frighten brookies as much with sound and ground tremors as folks who waltz up to the water in full view of the quarry.

This guide offered yet another tip: He often goes well upstream of a trout lie to stay beyond the fish’s sight line. He then lets his bait drift way downstream to a waiting maw, a deadly tactic.

Clunie admits it may be better to cast from downstream because fish hold in the current, pointing upstream. Conventional wisdom dictates that casters should stand behind fish, where they’re less apt to be seen.

However, sometimes when casting upstream, Clunie cannot reel fast enough to keep tension on his line to feel the strike. Because of that, he relies on a downstream presentation so the current pulls the line more taut (but not tight). A dead drift without lots of slack line leads to success.

This thoughtful man finds fly rods cumbersome for his tiny brooks. Also, the tight confines force him to present the fly like a worm anyway, so he just said to heck with it and fishes worms with a spinning outfit.

Clunie wears waders in early season to beat the cold, but in summer, he loves wading wet. Smart Wool socks and wading shoes work well for wading in brooks often in the 60-degree range. The socks keep feet warm.

When planning to kill fish, he brings a soft-sided cooler with ice to keep the brookies cool for the trip home. He also uses zip-lock bags for storing trout to keep his cooler from smelling fishy.

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

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