Spring trolling and river drifting for salmon and trout work well at times, but dropping anchor and pounding spring holes or tributary mouths offer exciting moments. Roaming salmonids invade these honey holes, and at times in April and May, folks can keep a near-constant bend in a rod.

Flies that imitate prevalent baitfish fool salmonids, and in Maine’s bottom third, smelt patterns prove ever so popular now – Jerry’s Smelt, Ballou Special, Gray Ghost, red Gray Ghost, Black Ghost, Green Ghost, Blue Smelt, Magog Smelt, etc.

Other baitfish may interest salmon and trout, even juvenile yellow perch, explaining the popularity of a Barne’s Special streamer, a dead ringer for baby perch. A Blacknose Dace bucktail works in water with this baitfish, Muddle Minnow in sculpin (and crayfish) water, Little Brook Trout bucktail in ponds with native brook trout, Emerald Shiner – Thunder Creek style for an emerald-shiner imitation, Redfin Shiner for a common shiner, etc.

In spring, aquatic larvae congregate where water warms the quickest, so weighted nymphs such as a Casual Dress, Hare’s Ear, Prince, Tellico, Montana Nymph, Zug Bug, March Brown, Hendrickson, black Stonefly, yellow stonefly, Martinez, Bread Crust, etc. have a definite place in Maine. So do Wooly Buggers tied with a body constructed with twisted black herl and ostrich herl body.

For the last decade I’ve heard spin anglers praising really small Mooselook Wobblers, Swedish Pimples and Dardevles. Most days nothing beats small baitfish imitations. And, of course, real bait works.

When fishing with flies from a boat, folks should anchor from both ends to keep it from swinging. That inhibits fly line from sinking.

Why be particular with this point? Sometimes fish hug bottom and the only way to catch them begins and ends with getting the offering down by their noses because they may not look up.

When casting on water, I pretend to be seated in the center of a clock. The first cast goes to 1 o’clock, the second to 2 o’clock and so forth all the way around to 12. The first series around the clock may sink 10 seconds, the second series 15 seconds and so forth until reaching the bottom. In 20 feet of water, it may take 60 seconds to reach bottom. This methodical technique shows the fly to fish at whatever depth they lurk.

When fishing a smelt imitation, I cast as far as possible, wait for it to sink and then retrieve the fly as fast as my hand can move. Smelts have large caudal fins that really zip them around. Other baitfish may move slower, so I retrieve more slowly. The trick is to match the retrieve to the natural movement of the baitfish.

One bottom-dredging tip keeps the fly deep. After a long cast, veteran fly rodders feed out loose line so it makes an L-shape as it sinks. In short, the line extends from the rod tip down, and the bottom of the L lies parallel to bottom. On the retrieve, the fly doesn’t travel diagonally back to the boat, but rather parallel to bottom.

When anglers fish in at a spring hole or tributary mouth, they often do well because their casts concentrate in one area for a longer period, which reminds me of a quick point:

I sometimes drive to the old railroad right of way on the south end of Bingham and walk downstream to Jackson Brook to fish the Kennebec. Some years I have hit this spot six or so times from late May through June and caught trout nearly every trip.

I love drift-boat fishing, particularly as a guest. I think solely about fishing. However, when fishing with guides in drift boats from Bingham to Solon, I often do not do as well – maybe because of the long section near the end when the boat drifts through unproductive water. On the other hand, when wading around Jackson Brook, the action often proves worthwhile.

A watercraft offers one huge advantage, though. It whisks folks away from spots that can easily be reached on foot, making the investment for a canoe, kayak or drift boat a grand investment to get folks away from one another.

Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes, a writer, editor and photographer, may be reached at

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