May is a special time of the year for fly fishermen as the winter gives way to turkeys, fiddleheads busting through the forest floor, strippers chasing fish in the mouths of the rivers, black fly season, and fly fishing the sucker spawning season! Every spring around May suckers swim their way from the deeps of fresh water lakes, or rivers to spawn. Suckers can blanket the river so thick it’s heard to wade without stepping or spooking a fish. Suckers consistently return every year to the same location to reproduce which makes us fly fisherman take note and plan for a great day on the water. Us fly fisherman are not there to catch suckers but the trout and salmon love to feed on sucker eggs…
Maine trout and salmon love two consistently recurring natural wonders in Maine waters every spring, sucker spawning and smelt runs. After a long winter of little to no food trout and salmon are hungry and love to gorge themselves on this delicacy. Fly fishing when these events are in full swing and fly fishing could not get any more simple. Grab any egg pattern during these events and flip it out there. You will not only catch a lot of trout but larger beauties as well. I seen three to five pound brookies during these times, with salmon thrown in to boot. The fishing is almost every cast. One time fishing at Harrison Dam on the Kennebec River. I had my fly dangling in to the water while I was setting up and I felt hits from salmon when I was not even ready. When I finally got ready and casted I caught nine landlock salmon all keepers. It was every cast! Just about any water has suckers spawning from Moosehead area to Rangely and all water in-between. I use a round ball of orange or yellow and split shot to get them down in the feeding lanes. Just have to cast the egg behind the suckers all schooled up, where trout and salmon lie and wait.
Maine Spring time brook trout
There is an unnoticed increase in hatches during the sucker spawn, most fisherman could care less about fish gorging themselves on eggs? I don’t use egg patterns when I fish during these times. Nothing wrong with eggs, eggs are very useful, and you can catch a whole fry pan of fish trout or salmon. I tend to use smelt patterns during this time, streamers in other words like the Grey Ghost very productive. These fish are hungry and will chase anything. The Grey Ghost is my goto fly for fishing throughout the year from May to end of November.
Most fly fisherman are dead drifting egg patterns, but I take a different approach. I like to experiment with different approaches to fly fishing. So as I stated before I grab my #4 Grey Ghost and you can use a dropper like a Coper John tied twelve inches back from the curve in the hook of the Grey Ghost. You have to remember that 90 percent of a fishes diet is down stairs, not on the surface and many of the hatches have not even started yet in the colder weather of Maine springs. For the leader I use just monofilament the length of my nine foot rod. The leader is attached to the fly line with a surgeons knot and a modified clinch to the fly. Six turn on each just to keep it simple. The Grey Ghost is also scented to mask my smell. I find that the business end of a trout and salmon is very sensitive to odors especially if you smoke. I also use if the fish are fussy a Golden Retriever #10, last year on the Moose River in Rockwood I had to almost slap the water with the Golden Retriever to get action. I caught two, two in half pound salmon and lost five more. Great fun…
I like to experiment from what I have been taught on what to use when fly fishing. I know that we all probably do. One year in Rangely Maine on the Upper Dam fishing a place that gets a lot of fishing traffic. This was when the piers where in place and you could walk out to fish the fast water. The trout would come up and almost sniff the fly and peel off. I thought wait a minute how smart are these fish? Smarter than me! So I started to experiment with sent because feathers can hold many different smells and oils from you hand. That was a game changer!
Salomon on the fly
One thing I have notice over the years that many fly fisherman try to go by the book or website to catch more fish. But if you watch the world around you what they are feeding on, water temperature, structure in the water, and birds. Yes birds are one of the best fisherman. Eagles, osprey, and other water foul show you the best spots for taking fish and where the spawn may be happening. As a young boy who grew up with a rod in my hands on the coast of Maine. Watching where the osprey flew and dove, I couldn’t get over there fast enough.