Maine occupies a very special place in the history of fly fishing and tying. For more than 100 years, inventive Mainers have developed some of the sport’s most enduring fly patterns. These feathered creations are among the favorites of trout and salmon anglers worldwide.
Perhaps no one has garnered more recognition for her flies than Mrs. Carrie Stevens, of Upper Dam, in the Rangeley Mountains. Many authorities credit Carrie with having invented the modern streamer, a style of fly designed to imitate the small baitfish that are the preferred food of trophy trout and landlocked salmon.
By David Klausmeyer
A Famous Fly Catches a Legend Brook Trout
At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, anglers from the across the United States traveled by train and steam launch to fish the remote waters of Upper Dam and the surrounding rivers and lakes. Meeting Carrie and fishing with some of her flies was an important part of the pilgrimage. Mrs. Stevens used many exotic eye-catching feathers to create her beautiful flies. She also named many of her flies in recognition of the anglers who visited her at Upper Dam. But make no mistake: her flies were designed to catch fish. In 1924, Carrie used her most famous fly, the Grey Ghost, to catch a 6-pound 13-ounce brook trout. With that magnificent fish, she won top honors in Field & Stream magazine’s annual fishing competition. Almost overnight, Carrie Stevens became a fly-fishing celebrity and anglers from across the country wrote to her requesting flies.
The legend of Carrie Stevens lives on today. When visiting Upper Dam, be sure to view the plaque that was erected in her honor, and spend at least a few minutes casting a fly into the fabled, swirling pool below the dam. You should also plan a visit to the Rangeley Lakes Historical Society, in the town of Rangeley, and examine their large collection of flies tied by Carrie and other Maine fly-fishing personalities. And in addition to fishing in the Rangeleys, Maine has more than 6,000 lakes and ponds, and 32,000 miles of streams and rivers teeming with trout, salmon and bass, making the Pine Tree State a fly-fishing paradise.
Find a multitude of fishing opportunities in the Rangeley Lakes region of Maine.
Maine’s Fly Tying Tradition
Today, Maine fly tiers carry on the traditions of Carrie Stevens and her contemporaries. Young tiers such as Joshua MacDonald, of Mexico, Maine, specialize in recreating vintage flies and developing new fishing-catching patterns.) And Selene Dumaine, a young woman from Readfield, is a registered Maine Guide and leading authority on Carrie Stevens and her flies. These tiers, and many others, are keeping Maine’s fly-tying traditions alive and well.
Looking for ties, tackle and fishing gear? Find resources for outdoor and fly fishing gear by Maine region.
Learning the Perfect Cast
Casting a fly line looks like poetry in motion. Catching a fish with a lure made of feathers and fur seems like magic. With the right instruction, you too will be able to enjoy the magnificent sport of fly fishing. Whether you still need to learn the basics of how to cast and hook a fish, or you are an experienced fly fisher who would like to polish your skills, Maine businesses, sporting camps and guides offer schools and private instruction that help anglers of all levels. Many businesses and sporting camps even offer schools designed just for women.
L.L. Bean Fly Fishing Outdoor Discovery School
The L.L. Bean Fly Fishing Outdoor Discovery School offers a full program of fly-fishing instruction for anglers of all skill levels. Start by learning the basics of casting, and then progress to learn how to “read” the water, present a fly to the fish, and then hook and land that trout or salmon. The L.L Bean Fly Fishing Outdoors Discovery School offers both group and private instruction at their store in Freeport and on the water.
Fly Fishing Private Instruction
Many of Maine’s smaller fly shops also offer group and private instruction. Aardvark Outfitters of Farmington maintains a full slate of classes. At Aardvark Outfitters, you can learn how to cast and fish, tie a fly, or even navigate a drift boat down a churning river. The Maine Guide Fly Shop, located in Greeneville, is one of the Pine Tree State’s oldest fly-fishing retail stores. The Maine Guide Fly Shop specializes in private lessons, and with the help of their competent instructors, you’ll learn to catch trout and landlocked salmon on the nearby Roach, Moose and Kennebec Rivers.
Lodges, Sporting Camps and Wilderness Camps
And finally, many of Maine’s sporting lodges offer structured classes that help eager students quickly succeed at fly fishing. Weatherby’s Lodge, located in Grand Lake Stream Plantation, offers both mixed and women-only classes. At Weatherby’s, you’ll be able to immediately apply what you learn on Grand Lake Stream, which is one of the most famous landlocked salmon rivers in North America. Grant’s Kennebago Camps, situated on the banks of the legendary Kennebago River, offers classes and is an ideal destination to learn the fine art of fly fishing. The Lodge at Moosehead Lake also offers classes and private instruction for anglers of all levels of skill. Outside magazine named The Lodge at Moosehead Lake one of the “Top 100 Great Wilderness Lodges in America.”
Visit Maine Sporting Camp Association for more information.
These are just a few of the many Maine businesses that offer opportunities to learn how to fly fish. Almost all of Maine’s lodges and fly shops can arrange group or private instruction led by qualified instructors. And remember: fly fishing is a great activity that can be enjoyed by the entire family. Maine is an ideal classroom for your family to learn how to fly fish and enjoy a memorable vacation.
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