By Paul F. Thibodeau

Smallmouth Bonanza

Ryan Stevens is a fly fisherman from Lincoln who chases the trout and salmon near Baxter State Park during May, June, and July. We enjoyed angling together and caught many of those fish along the West Branch below Ripogenus Dam earlier in the season until the water temperatures rose during last month.

One recent evening Stevens called me, and an hour later, we were headed for one of my favorite pools in Winn, where we hoped to catch smallmouths. Almost a year had passed since we last fished that pool We hiked towards the river along a meandering stream and through waist-high ferns. Mud, deposited by the high water of early June, still clung to that shade-loving growth. Large iridescent damsel flies darted about the emerald foliage as we made our way around an alder-adorned bend.
"Hey, Paul. Look at those fish under that branch in the stream. Are those brook trout?" Ryan stated as we stopped and examined the stream-bed.

About a dozen little trout were swimming around under the submerged alder branches. The camouflaged fish blended in well with the brook's sepia-toned stream bottom and we had to be very patient to catch sight of those hidden game fish. Moments later, as we were anxious to fish, we were once again trekking towards the sunlit Penobscot River.

"I'll wade downstream because I've had good fishing in that portion of the river in the past. What fly are you going to try, buddy?" Ryan called as he waded into the slow-moving current and began to make long rhythmic casts with the large heavy mouse imitation.

"Cast a little harder and maybe you can reach Chester!" I teased as I watched the proficient flycaster drive out almost ninety feet of flyline.

The lowering sun reflected diamond-like on the rippling liquid as we presented our flies to the selective smallmouth. Eventually I heard my fishing partner call.

"Got one! That fish struck the fly as soon as it hit the water. It must have been waiting right below the fly when it struck the surface," the angler stated as a massive bronzeback catapulted from the placid surface and sparkling water droplets cascaded around the dark gamefish. "This bass is incredible. I can't believe how hard this fish is fighting!" Ryan continued as the leviathan ran sixty yards out into the river.

The seasoned angler tried to force the huge black bass in, but it made three unbelievable runs before Stevens could tire it enough to lip, and give me an opportunity to snap a photograph. The impressive fish that had fought for approximately ten minutes weighed four pounds or better.

About an hour later, as the sun dropped behind violet and gold-haloed, horizontal clouds above Chester, the hidden bass became more active. While my fishing partner was having great top-water action, I presented wet flies and nymphs to the aggressive black bass. Always wanting to improve my nymphing skills, I cast a Brown Woolly Bugger upstream and stripped the mint-green flyline towards me to tighten it. Suddenly a hesitation in the line prompted me to quickly lift the rod's tip. An irate black bass leaped from the slick liquid and then ran out into deeper water. After jumping and running a number of times, the sixteen-inch bronzeback relinquished the fight, swam into the shallows by an ebony-stoned gravel bar, and provided me the opportunity to free it.

Not long after, a huge immature bald eagle glided overhead, passed us, and landed on a massive maple on a nearby island. We have noticed that young bird of prey every time we have fished that section of the river.

For the next thirty minutes Stevens and I hooked, landed, or lost, several feisty smallmouth bass in the waning light. Several of those strong bronzebacks must have weighed more than two pounds. As we hiked back to Stevens' vehicle we reflected on how much action and fun we had shared on that famous river.

If you want to learn to fly fish, or to hone your skills with a fly rod, try Lincoln's renowned Penobscot River. Tight lines and I'll see you there.

This 19", 4 pound smallmouth bass was caught by Ryan Stevens in the Penobscot River last week. [see Tea Pail]

The warm summer temperatures have prompted anglers to turn to bass fishing in Lincoln waters.
Nate Thibodeau holds up a nice largemouth he recently landed in Mattanawcook Lake.