Fishing the Kennebec last week - Fly Fishing Forum
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Old 06-15-2004, 05:04 PM
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Fishing the Kennebec last week

Denise surprised me for Christmas with a guided trip on the Kennebec (with a service that will remain nameless to protect their identity on the forum, for reasons that will become apparent as I progress), and to say the least, I was thrilled. I had never been on a guided fly fishing venture, though I've been on a few guided outings with spinning tackle so I figured I knew what to expect. We set the date for last week, which was during our week-long stay Downeast in Maine. Denise was going to come out with us, and though she doesn't fly fish yet, she's a very good photographer and was interested in getting some good shots of the local wildlife and scenery. My guide was a nice guy who had been in the profession for five years or so, and at the shop where we met I explained to him that I had done little fishing for trout with a fly rod (most of my fishing is in saltwater or for bass and pickerel) and was probably a bit rusty with dry fly fishing, and that I'd like to fish streamers as much as possible, even if the fish weren't hitting very often. What followed out on the river was the most frustrating fishing experience in my memory...

We got out on the river and fish were rising everywhere, and after figuring out what the hatch was we hopped out of the boat and waded up in some shallow water to get a good shot at several fish that were better approached "on foot". I was casting up-current to fish and no matter what I did, I couldn't have bought a strike with anything. My guide believed that I was spooking the fish or not getting the fly close enough, or so I figured by his snatching the fly rod out of my hands every so often to show me how it was done (casting 6-20 times in a row to try and hook a fish (one small rainbow, one small chub), then hand me the rod). Needless to say, I was fuming, and I think he got the hint because eventually he wandered back over to the boat and remarked to Denise that he "might have overdone it". What upset me so much was that even though I had communicated my desire to fish streamers to these fish, knowing full-well that I might not catch any of the rising ones, I'd likely catch something nonetheless. So, after 45-minutes of placing some very good casts in front of these fish and having no luck, we moved down the river. In the interest of saving anyone reading this the experience of re-living this day (and keeping it buried in my mind, rather than getting mad about it again), I'll just say that this was the tone of the day from around noon to 7 pm; same casting to rising fish, no takers, all with a dry fly because "the fish are so keyed in on the hatch that they'll ignore anything else". Around 7, the hatch had been in a lull for an hour, and I picked up my other rod and started tossing an olive matuka near some large boulders just for fun... and hooked a nice smallie. No trout, but honestly I couldn't have cared less. I had several more strikes using this streamer until the hatch started again and I spent the next hour and a half getting turned down by trout with my dry fly, placed right into their feeding lanes, imitating the current hatch, drag-free. Well, those fish were certainly "keyed in on the hatch", alright.
When we came in off the water, I was really disgusted. I didn't say anything to the guide, but I think he could tell I wasn't a happy camper. I tipped him, thanked him for his hard work, and we left to drive the two-hours back to our place on Cape Rosier... where I caught plenty of stripers to make up for my earlier frustration... all on streamers that I had tied . If I ever pick up a fly rod to fish a dry fly again... it will be a very cold day you-know-where indeed.

It would have been fine to fish that day the way that I wanted to, since it was our money that paid for the trip and the tip, and not caught any fish. But to fish in a manner that I really didn't want to (and the shop knew about my intention to fish streamers months in advance) and get skunked, have the guide hook a trout, hand me the rod and say "good job"? Never again.

I will fish that river again, but not with a guide.
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Old 06-15-2004, 06:41 PM
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Chris- your guide probably should have had you switch to some pupae/emerger/nymph patterns when the dries didn't pan out. They tend to outfish dries alot of the time anyway, and especially on days like the one it sounds you were having. My biggest rainbow to date was on a stonefly nymph. Better luck next time!
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Old 06-16-2004, 09:21 AM
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Good Point, Flydoc.

In my limited experience, I've found guides to be frustrating if you consider yourself a good fisherman, or if you enjoy the challenge of "cracking the code" as a solitary pursuit.
Guides can be really valuable when learning or accessing new water (it is often worth it just for the use of their boat), but it may be best to say something at the beginning of the trip. Like - "look, I know what I'm doing. I wouldn't mind a few suggestions, but please just let me fish how I want to fish". That can be hard to do with a worked up guide.
If your guide ignored your request, that's pretty unprofessional.
Sounds like a tough day.
I recall a similar day of "fly-fishing" for steelhead - only it ended up being "Chuck n Duck" fishing with noodle rods, splitshot, and mono line. The guy had us on the same egg pattern all day - and the only fish hooked was by the guide, who took the first five casts through every hole. Eeesh.
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Old 06-16-2004, 09:32 AM
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Yes, it steams me to think of it even now, and I imagine that it will continue to do so for some time.
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Old 06-16-2004, 09:39 AM
dewey dewey is offline
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bummer that the experience has soured all dry-fly fishing for you.

You should try it again some time. It's fun. I suggest hopper fishing in late summer, because it combines the search tactics of streamer-fishing with the visual element of dry-flies.
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Old 06-16-2004, 09:45 AM
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I should probably have said that the only dry fly fishing I ever intend to do is with terrestrials, hoppers and ants specifically. I love fishing those patterns, and no bad experience will likely every change that. I suppose that I draw the distinction of "true" dry fly fishing to be using something other than a terrestrial. It's a state of mind, I suppose, that I'm always very relaxed when I've got a hopper or an ant tied to my leader.
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Old 06-16-2004, 01:24 PM
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Chris,

That sorry excuse for a guide didn't deserve a tip, regardless of what "convention" says one should do. Good guides don't do stuff like that when they know full well the fisherman wants to fish differently. There is a big difference between a guide insisting you "must" fish only this way with this fly to catch fish and having you give it a try for 30 minutes or so, followed by having you fish with the streamers you desired to fish with.

I'd have told him to bugger off, especially when he took your rod to "show you how" for as long as he did, even though doing so would have p****ed him off. Afterall, it wasn't his nickle paying for the trip down the river, it was yours.

You live within 2 hours of some pretty good trout water. You ought to go out to the state park on the island, North Jersey (the Raritan for instance), Port Jervis area, or to some of the fine water north of the city and try fishing dries on your own. I will also wager that if you do this, you will find folks on the stream who are catching trout on dries that would be willing to help you. IMHO, catching trout on dries is not nearly as challenging as catching them on nymphs; but it is fun to see the fish take your fly. And dry fly fishing with mayfly, cadis, or stonefly imitations is no different than fishing dry ants.
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Old 06-16-2004, 02:49 PM
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I share your sentiments regarding the guide. I was uploading the photos that Denise took and was reminded of the amount of time that the guy was fishing with my rod. I wavered on offering him a tip, as I figured that I could be partly to blame for the lack of success. I can tell you that I got into the car in a pretty foul mood that night.

I will certainly be trying some of the local waters in short order. The whole thing about fishing ants and "not dry fly fishing" is merely a state of mind. An ant is an ant; match the color (black or red) and the size, and you're in business. It's more relaxing to me, and I think it will be a while until I can look at a comparadun without feeling my blood pressure escalate.
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