Maine is the largest state in New England but has the lowest population density. It stands to reason that it would be an exceptional place for fly fishing, and indeed it is. I’m a transplant New Englander, and Maine has been my playground for many summers.
Fly fishing in Maine has deep roots. Many streamer patterns were developed there to catch the state’s monster brook trout, like the Gray Ghost tied by Carrie Stevens. Undoubtedly, no state gives you a better chance of catching a brook trout that’s better weighed in pounds than inches.
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If you’re looking for a wild experience, Maine is the best state on the East Coast for finding it. It’s easy to get away from the crowds. If you seek solitude, you’ll enjoy fly fishing in Maine.
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Why Go Fly Fishing in Maine?
Whether you seek a wilderness experience, giant brook trout in rivers and lakes, or hard-pulling striped bass in the ocean, Maine will provide a memorable experience.
There is a lot to experience in just one fishing season in Maine.
Maine Fly Fishing Species
Maine provides a plethora of species to target with a fly rod. Brook trout and landlocked salmon are the most famous, but striped bass, muskie, and pollock are also exciting fish to catch while fly fishing in Maine.
Although the days of filling stringers with six-pound brookies took a toll on the state’s iconic fish, there is still no better place to go in the United States to catch a large brookie. The Rangeley Lakes and Moosehead Lake and their tributary rivers still produce brook trout in excess of 20 inches.
Dry flies in the summer, streamers like the Blacknose Dace and Gray Ghost in the spring and fall, and even mouse imitations and small poppers could land you the brook trout of a lifetime while trout fishing in Maine.
Use a 5 or 6 weight, and those bigger flies would work well on bigger rivers like the Rapid or Magalloway.
Landlocked Atlantic Salmon
Maine’s state fish, the landlocked salmon, is a hard-fighting and accessible species. Fishing small streams gives an angler the chance to hook one of the hardest-fighting fish in fresh water.
In the summer, size 12-18 Elk hair caddis will catch as well. 4 and 5 weight rods work well.
Striper fishing in Maine is excitingly varied, so whether you’d like to sight cast shallow flats near Portland where stripers tail like bonefish, or throw big streamers from the wave-beaten rocky shoreline, there is something for you.
Flies like the Merkin Crab, Deceiver, Hollow Fleye, and Dave Skok’s Mushmouth are important to have in your box when you go striper fishing in Maine. My preferred choices for this fishing are 8-10 weight rods.
Smallmouth bass are not native to Maine, but when they were introduced they found many of the state’s waters to their liking. Poppers and streamers, like rabbit Zonkers and small Clouser Minnows, could catch smallmouth over 3 pounds. A 5-8 weight rod is ideal.
Although bass fishing in Maine is fun, it is important to note that bass can be detrimental to the native brook trout. To preserve the unique native trout fishing in Maine, I recommend that anglers fishing the Rapid or Magalloway rivers or other streams in the Rangeley Region kill the smallmouth they catch.
Pike and Muskie
Although pike fishing in Maine isn’t as famous, Maine is probably the best New England state for muskie. Muskie fly fishing in Maine is a backcountry experience.
Flashtail Whistlers, Drunk and Disorderlies, and Double Deceivers would be good flies for pike and muskie fishing in Maine. An 8-10 weight rod and big flies are perfect for these fish.
Pollock and Mackerel
Fly fishers can catch these species with a 5 weight and some small streamers, even just a simple white Woolly Bugger.
Although it is not a famed fishery, spending a couple hours on the rocks fly fishing for pollock and mackerel is a lot of fun.
Sharks and Tuna
In Southern Maine, some saltwater charter captains will take clients out to fly fish for sharks and bluefin tuna in the summer. If you’re willing to take the gamble, this could be a thrilling experience. A 12 weight fly rod is the smallest I’d recommend.
Some tackle shops in Maine even carry hand-tied shark flies!
Best Fly Fishing Spots in Maine
Maine holds a huge variety of fishing spots, from small meandering meadow streams to big rapid-filled rivers, and from deep clear lakes to rocky ocean shores. There are opportunities to fish very remote ponds and easily accessible rivers near towns.
Fly Fishing Rivers in Maine
Many miles of fishable river grace Maine’s mountains and lowlands, holding brook trout, landlocked salmon, and even bass and pike. Each has a character all its own.
The Rapid River is one of the best places for brook trout fishing in Maine. It’s remote but accessible on dirt roads that are suitable for most SUVs. The closest accommodations are Lakewood Camps at the very beginning of the river where it leaves Lower Richardson Lake. Trailheads on Carry Road give anglers access to the river.
The Rapid is not for the inexperienced, being that it is miles down dirt roads, requires a hike in, and is full of fast pocket water and big boulders. But for those willing to take the trek, the possibility of catching a brook trout over 20 inches long is thrilling.
The Magalloway is the more easily accessed counterpart to the Rapid River. The tailwater below Lake Aziscohos, near Lincoln, is easily accessed from the parking area south of Route 16. Although it’s easier to get to the Magalloway than the Rapid, it’s just as big, fast flowing, and intimidating. Be very cautious wading these rivers.
The Magalloway provides anglers with the opportunity to fish dry flies, nymphs, and streamers for trophy brook trout and landlocked salmon. It’s some of the best trout fishing in Maine.
Grand Lake Stream
Grand Lake Streams flows out of West Grand Lake. The town of Grand Lake Stream sits right at its start. The river is a mix of riffles and pocket water and is comfortable wading with a lot of casting room.
Grand Lake Stream is one of the most famous landlocked salmon rivers in Maine. Early in the spring, streamers like Blacknose Dace and Hornbergs will work well, but as the water warms they may be taken on dry flies.
In the summer, the water is usually too warm to fish for salmon. Grand Lake Stream is a good smallmouth bass fishery in the summer months.
The Kennebec is a large river running all the way from Moosehead Lake to the Gulf of Maine, a distance of more than 150 miles. It has tailwater sections that provide excellent trout fishing near the towns of Bingham, The Forks, and Caratunk. Much of the river is accessible along Route 201.
Stretches near the towns of Augusta and Waterville are productive for smallmouth bass fishing. This is big water and is best fished from a small boat. The lower Kennebec also holds striped bass, so having an 8 weight and some big Deceivers or poppers is never a bad idea.
Saint John River
Remote stretches of the Saint John River provide the best muskie fishing in Maine. The upper reaches of this river, where the muskie are, lie miles down a network of dirt roads. There are no towns near these waters.
Because of the remoteness, the Saint John might not be for everyone. But if you’re an angler with a 4×4 and backwoods experience looking for a rare New England muskie, this river needs to be on your bucket list.
Fly Fishing Lakes in Maine
Maine has many lakes and ponds full of trout, landlocked salmon, and bass. Many are big and require boats, but some are small enough to be fished from shore or from a canoe.
This huge lake is one of the most famous places for freshwater fishing in Maine. Its massive size makes it intimidating for inexperienced anglers, but many charters offer trips here. Moosehead is famous for landlocked salmon and large brook trout. There are plenty of small towns and lodges around the lake.
In the spring and fall, salmon and trout gravitate to where streams and rivers enter or leave Moosehead Lake. This provides fly fishers with some of the best fly fishing in Maine. Giant brook trout and landlocked salmon can be caught on streamers at these times.
Kennebago is a small lake in the Rangeley Region near the town of Kennebago. It holds large brook trout. Big hatches bring fish to the surface here in the spring.
Kennebago Lake can be fished from a canoe. During June, the famous Hexegenia hatch brings some of the biggest brook trout to the surface. Big Parachute Hex patterns and 5 weight rods will catch these fish. The hex hatch provides some exciting Maine trout fishing.
West Grand Lake
Some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in Maine exists in West Grand Lake. Cool waters and rocky structure provide ideal habitat for smallmouth.
Although it can be fished from shore, a small boat is the best way to reach the reefs and islands where smallmouth up to 5 pounds live in West Grand Lake. Poppers, Clousers, crayfish imitations, and 8 weight rods could tame these giants.
Just northwest of Portland, Sebago Lake offers a lot of variety with easy access to boat anglers. Trout, bass, and panfish are abundant in Sebago. Fly fishers casting heavy sinking lines may have the opportunity to tie into a big lake trout or smallmouth bass, and evening hatches can bring a number of species to the surface.
Like many Maine lakes, the best shore fishing for fly fishers is found around the tributaries and outlets. Fish these spots in the spring and fall for trout and salmon. These are also great locations for bass in the summer months.
Sabbath Day Pond
South of Rangeley and off of Route 17, Sabbath Day Pond is a great place for fly fishers looking for good stillwater trout fishing on foot. The Appalachian Trail runs the edge of the pond and offers easy hike-in access.
Dry fly fishing to rising brook trout in the spring is a great way to fish Sabbath Day Pond. When a hatch isn’t on, a wet fly like the Kate Mclaren fished deep and slow might fool some beautiful wild brook trout.
In the middle of summer, this pond will be too warm to safely catch trout, so consider somewhere else in July and August.
Saltwater Fly Fishing in Maine
Saltwater fly fishing in Maine gives anglers a chance to hook into big striped bass, as well as fun little pollock and mackerel. The varied shoreline scenery and extremely clean water make it a rewarding endeavor.
Acadia National Park
At first glance, the rocky shoreline of Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island may not seem like a great place for a light fly rod, but these waters hold tons of mackerel and harbor pollock during the summer. A 4 or 5 weight rod is all that’s needed. Floating or intermediate fly line and small wide streamers will catch these species.
Fishing the ledge areas where the water drops quickly right off the rocks is the best way to encounter pollock and mackerel. They can also be caught in the harbors of each town on the island.
The long rocky jetty in Rockland, Maine is a good place to encounter stripers and mackerel. Most fishermen use bait at this spot, but stripping a big white deceiver on a sinking line is a great way to fish it.
Stripers and bluefish move into Rockland in the summertime. Casting flies on the breakwater for the hard-hitting fish is a pleasant way to spend a hot day. There are often a lot of sightseers at this spot, so be careful with your back casts.
The islands and rocky shorelines of Casco Bay are a fantastic place for striped bass fishing in Maine. Fishing from the rocks, from a boat, or from a kayak or SUP are all excellent choices for exploring this area. Poppers, game changers, and deceivers will bring violent strikes.
Hiring a charter is a good idea in Casco Bay. They’ll be better able to put you on a striped bass blitz in this large area in the summer and fall. Don’t worry though, DIY anglers: Casco Bay has plenty to offer. I caught stripers there on my first trip without any assistance!
Saco Bay offers excellent sight fishing for stripers. Maine’s clear ocean waters run over white sand flats here. Visibility is great, providing an experience like that of the Florida Keys or Bahamas, but with striped bass instead of bonefish or permit. Stripers will tail and feed on shrimps, crabs, and sand eels in this situation.
Hiring a guide is even more important here than in Casco Bay. Sight fishing is a very difficult game. Crab and shrimp imitations fished on clear intermediate lines with an 8 weight are recommended. These stripers are often said to be more difficult to fool than bonefish.
In the area around Kennebunkport, many small rivers create tidal estuaries that are havens for baitfish. This life attracts predator fish, including striped bass. In the summer this is a great area to swing flatwing flies on floating lines for stripers at night .
Be prepared with 30 pound test leaders and 10 weight rods, because this type of fishing has the potential to produce stripers in excess of 20 pounds.
For the bravest of anglers, rumor has it that these same estuaries are home to sea-run brown trout in the fall and winter. It is often cold, so dress warmly. And don’t expect to catch a fish on every trip.
These sea-run browns are extremely ghostly. Much lighter tackle is preferable, and 5 weight rods, 12 foot leaders, and small bonefish flies work well.
Maine Fishing Season
Maine fly fishing is more seasonal than some other states because of the long harsh winter. Black fly season is also a concern, so knowing when to go is important for a pleasant fishing season in Maine.
There’s not much worse than going into a day unprepared when biting insects are abundant.
Maine Fly Fishing in April
Trout season opens on April 1st. Ice out typically occurs in April, and it’s a key time to fish for big brook trout and landlocked salmon around creek mouths on the big lakes.
Maine Fly Fishing in May
May ushers in good dry fly fishing as many of the hatches begin. This is a great month to fish for brook trout with big dry flies that imitate stoneflies, caddis, and mayflies. Landlocked salmon are also willing to rise to hatches in May.
Maine Fly Fishing in June
June is a busy month for fly fishing in Maine. The black flies and mosquitoes are at their peak, so pack lots of bug spray. Dressing in long sleeves will also make time on the river during bug season more bearable.
June is a fantastic month to fish for trout, smallmouth bass, muskie, and striped bass.
Maine Fly Fishing in July
By July, many trout waters have become too warm to fish, so stick to tailwaters. Saltwater fly fishing is at its peak, however. Striped bass, mackerel, and pollock fishing in Maine is great in July. Sight fishing in Saco Bay is also at its peak.
Maine Fly Fishing in August
Striped bass and shark fishing in Maine can be really good in August. Brook trout and landlocked salmon start moving back into the rivers from the lakes and will eat streamers, nymphs, and dry flies.
August is also a great time for smallmouth bass fishing in large lakes.
Maine Fly Fishing in September
Brook trout and landlocked salmon are moving into creeks and rivers to spawn in September. This might be the best month for trout fishing in Maine. Brightly colored streamers, poppers, and mice could catch a trophy brookie. These fish are also at their most colorful this time of year.
Maine Fly Fishing in October
The general trout and salmon season closes on September 30th, but some rivers remain open. Landlocked salmon fishing in Maine on Grand Lake Stream is very good in October.
Best Fly Shops in Maine
There are many fly shops in Maine. They often carry unique and unusual flies you might not see anywhere else.
Rangeley Region Sport Shop
Rangeley Region Sport shop in Rangely, Maine is a necessary stop before any trout fishing in Western Maine. They have a fantastic selection of locally-tied flies and are always prepared to help anglers with a Maine fishing report.
All Points Fly Shop
All Points Fly Shop in Portland is a good place to stock up before a day of Saco or Casco Bay striper fishing. They are well-stocked with saltwater flies appropriate for striped bass fishing in Maine.
Hachey’s Rod & Fly Shop
This small shop in Veazie is a good stop on the way to Grand Lake Stream or Moosehead Lake. It’s known for the owner’s exceptional rod repair services. It’s great to support a small shop like this if you’re in the area.
Fly fishing in Maine provides countless exciting opportunities. From rugged shoreline to sand flats to big Western-like trout rivers, Maine fishing has so much to offer.
Saltwater and freshwater fishing in Maine give fly fishers shots at many different species. Some are unusual, like pollock, while others are better known, like smallmouth bass. But each offers something unique.
The state is so huge and there is so much to explore that it wouldn’t be possible to get to all of it in just one trip. Maine begs you to come back again and again. A giant wild brook trout could be holding around the next creek bend. You never know!