It’s crazy that I haven’t posted since late September. Life has been busy! It’s late January now and we are cranking along inside. The hopeful completion date is Memorial Day, but we’ll see. Remember, we’re just weekend warriors and not every weekend works.
We have heat and most insulation in now, so it’s no problem staying in there at night. There was a window where we were insulating with no heat and it was only 15 degrees, so that was chilly. We did NOT sleep there on those nights fortunately.
The roof was a bear, but John was a beast nailing in the 22 foot rafters (62 of them) as I sent them up to him from the side staging. My buddy Lane came to help with the roof and helped us get all the plywood up the ladders and nailed on. His shoulders were hurting for several days. We got the Grace (ice and water shield on) just before the first snow. We had some windows in October where it was nice weather and we got the metal roofing on.
After that, it was time to finish the walls up and install the windows. As you can see, the cathedral ceiling is very high about (26 feet from the first floor), so staging work and getting off that fear of heights had to go away quick!
Once the sheathing was on, and we put up the soffits and trim, it was time to put a door on and move inside. That happened in mid November, and then we had to do some interior framing of the bedroom and bathroom. I spent most of early-mid December putting up 2 inch foam board under the floors in the crawl space. That really sucked, but I’m glad it’s done and will be great for not attracting bugs/rodents.
December and January have been insulation months. Electricity was completed, so we have lights and power inside (no more extension cords through the window). Heat was put in just before Xmas with a Rinnai Propane Direct Vent heater. We put it at 75 degrees and ran it for several hours with just wall insulation (nothing on the ceiling) and it stayed 60 degrees consistently with air temps outside in the teens. Now that we’ve put up most of the ceiling insulation, we’re seeing that the propane heater will have NO problem heating up the entire camp.
The ceiling insulation and foam board going over it should be done just before February. February will be drywall month. March will be about putting up the tongue and groove pine ceiling, and painting walls. Plumbing will happen sometime in March. Hopefully April we'll be doing a lot of finish work, with deck and floors finished in May.
That’s the goal! Learning a lot and I’ve added some captions to pictures to detail things that I’ve learned along the way. Stay tuned for more updates!
Working with two guys means that things take time. We've been making great use of our time, but we've had a couple of hiccups which haven't wasted any money, but they've wasted some time. My biggest regret and thing that I missed was framing out a 30" door instead of 36". It's easier to fit bigger stuff through a bigger door, but we're moving in things through our 36" windows before we put the windows in. Other than that, we had some rafter issues, but all has gone well. Since my last post, we've made some great progress, and sleeping has been great with dry nights, no bugs and cool temps!
The sheathing is on most of the camp at this point. We left out the top part because we'll use more sheets to tie into the gable ends on each side.
We framed up the second floor next by tying the floor joists into the LVL in the middle, which was doubled up. We'll have two support walls under this. In the pics below, you can see the joist hangers, then the stairwell in the middle framed up, then some floor sheathing put on and finally the second floor was finished. This goes pretty quick when you have mapped out all of your joists ahead of time. I've quickly learned that a straight line with an X next to it means that's where you put the joist!
Our floor sheathing was hanging over just a little bit so a T-square was a great tool to use to make a straight line for a circular saw cut. The second picture is the top plate that you put on to match the top plate on the front half of the camp.
Next we built part of a support wall, which is also the front wall of the bedroom. This made the second floor bounce a lot less! On the opposite side not pictured is a 30" bump out for the pantry, which is also a support wall. The doubled up LVL is 28 feet long and didn't sag at all even before all of this support! That stuff is so strong!
Before we got started on the roof, we had some small things to take care of. My dad came up for a day and we put him to work! He taped up the seams in the sheathing. Then him and I cut what seemed like 100 sheets of 2" foam board as insulation for underneath the floor. That stuff is nasty to rip on the table saw... it's sticky and particles end up in your eyes, ears and mouth. Our masks came in handy for this step!
Now on to the roof..... we had to get the ridge beam up first. We had to build posts on each end with 2x6's and as you can see we're starting to use a lot of staging. We also put a post in the middle attached to the LVL. This is a tricky process because we needed to know the exact length of the rafters. We had some issues with the rafters that were sent, they were too short. So after some back and forth, we got the right sized rafters sent and then we were able to get the ridge beam up.
The ridge beam and rafter measuring took time to get right, but it was important that we get it exactly to where we needed it to. In the pic below, I spent the first night in the "bedroom"
Before we started the rafter install, it was important that we get our staging right. We bought these wall mount brackets which came in huge for passing up rafters to the ridge.
The first step was to cut 40 rafters. This isn't bad because once you get one made correctly than you use it a prototype for the rest of them. I watched John do this, but wasn't exactly sure how he got the measurements. Putting the rafters up on the back half of the camp was pretty easy because I could stand on the floor and hoist them up to John, who nailed them into the ridge beam.
Once we got the back half of rafters on, we had to figure out a way for me to hoist the rafters up from the staging on the side of the camp all the way to the ridge. These were just over 21 feet long each, so it's not easy lifting them from the top of the outer wall to the ridge. Notice John built a nice railing for his staging at the top for added security.
John came up with this great idea to put a clamp on the board and tie a slip knot around it with a rope. I fed the rafter up the side of the wall from the side staging and he pulled it with a rope. He nailed in the rafter, or used screws when the other side was nailed in because they're easier to angle and can come out, then he put the clamp back on the rope and threw it back to me. This process took a long time, but we got the job done!
We measured out the rafters to include that two of them would be right next to each our LVL beams running across the first half of the camp. This just helps tighten them up a little bit and bring everything together. We through bolted and then shaved off the part of the LVL sticking out to match the angle of the rafter.
All in all, it took us about 2 ½ days to cut the rafters, put the ridge beam up, and nail in all 40 rafters. Not too shabby for a two guy crew with one guy not knowing what he's doing!! Next it's on to the plywood and underlayment. I get to learn all about the world of pulleys and rope safety in a few days :)
So, I've learned that working in the rain really sucks. When all of your equipment and materials are getting poured on and you're soaking wet, it's just not a fun game. We came back on Friday and put up ¾ of the last two walls. It took about 7 hours for us to get the last two walls drawn out, marked off, cut, nailed and framed up. Not bad for two guys, and one who has virtually no experience with building (me)!
Saturday was a washout day, so we decided to do something really important and go drive around looking for ponds and good dirt roads that we haven't had time to discover in the Rangeley area. We found a bunch of cool new places, but sorry guys, I can't share any info!
Sunday we put up the last section of wall and then started putting on some sheathing. The Zip system sheathing is so easy to work with, and it's so cool that each board has markings for all of your studs (assuming you're putting everything 16 inches on center). Another cool tip is measure 47 inches from the bottom of your sill plates and make a mark on each end of the wall, and one in the middle so that you can run a chalkline. This way, your sheathing will be one inch below the sill plate to cover them up. Another thing that we figured out with sheathing is making sure that your partitions are insulated before putting up your sheathing! We use two strips of 2 inch foam board that I ripped on the table size at 5.5" in width.
I had to leave for the day on Sunday afternoon , so instead of finishing the sheathing we decided to put up the two LVL beams that are in line with the two posts in the crawl space as well as the first floor framing for the bathroom and bedroom. These each span 28 feet and are pretty heavy. We had to get it up on staging then get it into place and nail it together, as well as bolt to the front first floor wall. I made a timelapse video for this process and I'll try to post it, but it's nothing too impressive.
See below for some pictures and explanations from our work this past weekend.
The next steps are to finish the sheathing, put on the joists and rimboards in the back of the camp for the second floor, and put a final top plate of 2x6 around the whole border. We'll then put up two more LVLs in the kitchen/living room for extra support.
In this photo, you can see that the back walls were built with 8' studs and the front were built with 8'10" studs. This is to accommodate for the rimboards, LVL and floor joists for the second floor.
Here's another shot of the uneven wall heights for now
I had explained above how the sheathing is put on. I was curious about how you cut around windows and doors. John just made a simple measurement from the inside and cut it with a circular saw. I let him do this work due to his many years of experience and I didn't want to screw it up :0)
Here's a shot of the front of the camp with the doors and windows cut out and the sheathing started
Here you'll see the two LVLs that we lifted up on to the staging. We had originally thought we'd need about 3 guys to lift these, but it wasn't that bad. This LVL will be on top of the first floor interior walls and used for the 2nd floor joists to hang on. We'll measure it out and put on the joists after we get the rimboards up on the back walls. I also never realized how much work it is to get staging put together and set up. On top of that, we needed to buy some extra long (16 ft) 2x10's which isn't super cheap. We're going to need another set of staging once we start getting to the rafters. These LVLs are bolted to the walls at the end also!
Here was the progress that we made on Sunday. John is working by himself this week finishing up the sheathing and starting to put up the second floor joists. I'm excited to get back up there and see the progress. It'll be great once the roof goes on because we can store tools inside, and I might just start sleeping in there. On a side note, my tent, which had a metal cot and an air compressor in it, flipped over from the 40+MPH wind gusts on Saturday. That was fun to clean up..... #troutcamp
As you can see from the picture above, we're all ready to go. The foundation has been backfilled. The electrical, well and septic lines are set. Time to start building up! As a warning, I am NOT a builder. I had never even used a framing nailer before this project. My Uncle John is the foreman and the brains... he just tells me where to nail. I've learned a tremendous amount throughout the process and am excited to see what else I learn. All I know is that I can see how strong people get who hammer nails for a living. Long days, rewarding work!
We decided it was best to put in a turnaround, so one last load of big crushed rock for the driveway was needed!
The first step before laying any wood is putting sill seal around the outside. The pressure treated sill plates sit on top of this.
We measured out the holes and used a 1/2" bit to bore them out. It was pretty easy going down. Once you put them on, you screw the nut on the bolts. Easy as that. Here's John with the first board laid!
Sill plates all laid and it was only 9 am. Unfortunately, there was some mixups at the lumber place so our joists and joist hangers came in, but no LVL floor beam and no rimboards (the next step) so we had to wait until our next trip up!
The next step is measuring out the 2x10 rim joists (or rim boards) and toe nailing them into the sill plate. I thought it was a little weird toe nailing a critical piece.. I thought we'd use L brackets or something, but John assured me that we'd be shoring this all up later as the LVL carrying beam and floor joists were laid.
Next we laid the two 28' pieces of LVL. As you can see, there are two concrete footings for our posts. I was very surprised to find out that LVL is almost the equivalent to a steel beam in terms of strength and this puppy was dead level without any support posts below it!
We decided against using steel lalley columns and went with PT 4x4 posts instead. Later, we used L brackets and concrete screws to really strengthen the posts. The LVL is not in the center of the camp because it marks where the back wall for the loft will be, which isn't dead center in the plans. If you look closely, you can see every joist hanger marking made by John. He was very methodical in marking out every spot and reading the plans carefully. I left this work to him, but I learned a lot in the process. He's constantly teaching me new things and I'm very grateful to learn! He does the measuring and I do the nailing!
Below you'll see the joist hangers and a couple of floor joists hung. A good tip for hanging joist hangers is to mark out exactly where you'll want the joist to sit and also mark out the top of where you want the joist hanger to sit. We cut a small piece of a 2x10 joist out and used it as a measuring piece. We clamped the joist hanger to the test piece of wood which made it a lot easier to hang the joist correctly. Trying to squeeze them together and screwing them in seemed impossible without doing this. I wish I had a picture of the clamped piece of wood... man did this go much faster with one guy holding the joist hanger and the other guy on the drill!
8 screws and 4 nails in each joist hanger times 50 joist hangers was a lot of hammering. I don't know if it was safe or not, but I used the nail gun to put in the nails on the left side. I couldn't get the same leverage on the right side, so I had to hand nail those in. Nailing into that LVL is tough stuff!
The joists are all hung and the door for the crawl space is framed out. We'll make a ladder using 2x4s for this access which will be in the bedroom. There will be a latch that is flush with the floor that will be under a rug, so you won't even know that it's there!
Down goes the advantech sub flooring. We had to use adhesive caulking for the floor then nail them all down. Very cool to see that each piece of subflooring had marks for the joists, making it much easier to know where you're nailing. This part FLEW with 3 guys.
You start to get a feel for the place when the floor is laid. Below you'll see me emulating where I like to spend my time :0)
John's thoughts about all of the little things, like insulating this space that will be covered up by subflooring makes me appreciate the time that he takes to think things through!
Below you'll see the door that I notched out, created and hung. Note to self, I'm a horrible chiseler. I notched out all of the spots for the rungs on a miter saw, but I noticed that flipping the piece around and going all the way to bottom of the notch made it much smoother when I had to chisel out the rest of the notch. Let's just say I'm glad these rung notches are hidden and nobody will ever see them!
Time for the walls! John methodically marked out all of the wall studs, windows and doors on the sill plates, which made it much easier for nailing and constructing the walls. Below you'll see that we started with the corner then worked our way across. It was very easy once we got going. John gives me a lot of cutting to do while he's mapping things out. It's a good feeling to not just sit around and watch. I like being busy! While I'm nailing he's on to mapping out the next thing.
So I've never raised a wall before. It was in 2 pieces, so it wasn't too heavy, but we temporarily nailed in these pieces on the edge so that when we stood up the walls it wouldn't slide off the edge!
The front wall is up! All plumb and braced!
Below is a partition that we built for the back wall. If I remember correctly, this is basically a beefier stud that illustrates the ending of a wall that will be added in front of it. For instance, on the left of this will be the shower and to the right will be a closet that goes to the stairs, where another partition sits. It's important that we insulate the inside of the partition before putting on the sheathing!
Front and back walls are up! Now on to the sides!
I had to leave after the front and back walls were up, but it was a ton of fun spending 3 days putting on the floor and those two walls. Camping out at night under the stars after drinking whiskey around the campfire was just what the doctor ordered during these crazy times. I'll remember this experience for the rest of my life, and I plan on making many memories in this cabin! John is finishing up the side walls and I'll head back in a couple of days to help him raise them. Then it's on to sheathing!
Unfortunately, the footings for the foundation were poured in late June and the frost wall did not go in until August 7. Sore subject, so we won't go there!
However, as you can see below the foundation has been poured. You'll see holes in both sides for screens/windows to promote airflow underneath the camp. We'll have two posts underneath a carrying beam, which will inevitably hold up the loft. We decided not to spread tar on the outside of the foundation for waterproofing because it will just be crushed rock as a basement floor. There will be a "trap door" about 30" x 30" in the bedroom to gain access into the crawlspace if needed. All of the systems will be above the floor so there shouldn't be much need to get down there. Not pictured are just 2'x2' footings that were poured for the two valley columns that will hold up the carrying beam (two pieces of 28' LVL). As a reminder, the camp dimensions are 28' wide and 25'6" from front to back. There will be a 6'6" screened in porch on the front of the camp. The end dimensions are basically 28'x32'.
Here's a shot of the well line. We're putting in a curb stop, which is essentially an outdoor valve that you can turn on and off to drain water back down into the well so there's no water in your well line. I will likely utilize this option in the winter to drain out all of the water just in case power goes out. The plan is to keep the heat around 50 degrees through the propane monitor heater, but drain all of my sinks, put antifreeze in the toilet and drain the well line every time I leave. Until a generator is installed I'm going to play the game of drain the water because frozen pipes are a nightmare!
Here's a better shot of the foundation in with the septic system also installed. We used the 2" foam board on the outside to create extra insulation. Pretty soon this will all be backfilled with loam and seeded with grass. The electric line is dug, but it will take CMP about 2 weeks to come hook it up at the pole so we'll be working through the floor build and some of the wall framing with a generator. Next pictures should have some wood in them!!
It's officially summer, and we have some progress. A LOT has changed since last fall and I'm very excited for the upcoming months to see what will transpire.
The first big change is that we've decided to make the cabin a little bigger than we expected. After working with Rangeley Builders for a camp design, they were awesome to work with by the way, we decided to make some very cool changes. The camp will be 28' wide by 25.5' long with a 6.5' screened in porch, which will make it 28'x32' in total.
The second big change has to deal with systems. Originally, we were going to have an incinerator toilet and a water holding tank. Well, after some discussions over the winter, we decided to have a well dug, and a septic system put in. As of now, the well is in (320 down w/ a rate of 2 gpm) and the leech field has been dug. Here are some shots of the leech field below.
The third big change, and one that I was surprised at the cost analysis was putting in a frost wall instead of using technoposts. It was roughly the same amount to put in a frost wall as doing it on posts, and it will be much more sturdy over the years without having to adjust posts. There will be a gravel floor and a crawl space, but most of my systems will be above ground. There will be vents in the frost wall for ventilation, and insulation under the floor. There will be a "trap door" in the floor of the bedroom to get underneath the camp if necessary.
For heating, we'll install a propane monitor heater that I can control from my phone if I want to keep heat going all winter. The bedroom and bathroom will have electric baseboard heaters to keep pipes warm in the winter months if I want to keep the heat on and water in the pipes. The plumber is going to install a curb stop valve on the outside of the camp for easy water shutoff. We're doing this in lieu of heat tape on the well pipe. I'm still not sure if I'll keep it running during the winter or not, depends on Saddleback opening back up I guess!
Here are some photos of the foundation dig and the footers. The frost wall should be complete this week, and we'll coat it with tar and foam board after for added insulation and waterproofing.
The kitchen will have an apartment sized fridge and a full range oven. No dishwasher, but we'll have a toaster and potentially a microwave. There will be a Rinnai On Demand hot water heating system hung on the wall in the bathroom. We'll have a toilet, sink and shower in there with a whole house water filtration system. I'll have the water tested and decide about using it for drinking water. I may install a reverse osmosis system, but again, we'll see about the water quality. There will be a loft with stairs that will have a queen bed and a twin bed. The downstairs bedroom will be a bunkbed with two full beds. A ceiling fan will be in the living room area, and the screened in porch will have lighting and a ceiling fan for warm summer nights. At 6 feet wide, I'm hoping the porch will be a nightly hangout spot for the adults and we'll have a table and adequate seating out there.
It has been a very busy spring, and COVID is causing some issues. We're having temporary power put in this month so that we don't have to run generators for the build process. I'm building the camp with my friend, Marc, and some other helpful folks along the way. There are currently issues with pressure treated wood supply and prices, so I'm curious to see if that will affect us this summer. The plan is to have the camp framed up with roof, windows and doors on by Labor Day.
I've had more guided trips this spring than ever, and I've been very busy. People have time to fish apparently, as many people have had their jobs interrupted.
Below is a picture from the driveway, and a photo from some camping I did on the lot while I guided a 3 day stretch.
And for the fishermen and women, here a few photos of some awesome fish that clients have put in the net this spring. I also added in a 19" beautiful colored up brookie that I caught on a size 20 bwo nymph, and a great early season brookie caught by my friend, Greg. The fish have been very big this year. I wonder if it's due to the mild winter with early ice out, but honestly, I have no idea. One of my clients, Tony, caught a 23" brook trout on a nymph, and we landed it 80 yards down river from where it was hooked. It was the first fish of the season, and it's safe to say that it's all DOWNHILL from there. What a fish, and a fight that I'll never forget! I just feel blessed to know that brook trout and landlocked salmon are abundant and large in size right here in our great state of Maine.
I've had a very busy summer and fall, and we've had some hiccups in the permitting process. Our design plans were not sufficient, and we're working with Rangeley Builders to give us solid plans that should help us sail through the permit stage. They have been awesome to work with and I'm excited to see the final plans when they're finished in a few weeks. I'll be sure to post the plans on here when they're complete!
We've met some great local folks who will help us with all of the ground work (because I have no idea what I'm doing in that department) and we've decided to go with Techno Metal Posts for the foundation of the camp. After hearing many horror stories about using sonotubes, we've listened to our instincts and the words of experienced builders which have pointed us in the Techno Post direction. They have a plastic sleeve on the post that will most during a frosty period instead of the whole post moving. Folks in Canada use these all the time and don't experience any heaving. It's worth it to pay the little extra so that I'm not jacking up the camp in years to come to keep things level.
When the posts are in (hopefully May), we'll begin the actual building process. I think about this camp almost every day and can't wait to start seeing some building progress!!
I bought land in the Winter of 2018 in Rangeley near a beautiful brook trout pond. My hope is to use this camp as both a family camp for years to come and a spot to host anglers who come fish the mighty Rangeley rivers with me for a couple of days. I bought the lot, which had been mostly cleared, and decided on a build site. I cut down several hardwood trees and now it's time for ground work.
A typical fishing trip for anglers would include coming up the evening before your first day on the water, and potentially popping the row boat into the pond to hit an evening hatch and dust off the casting shoulder. We'd fish all day the following day and clients would have the choice of bringing their own food to cook for dinner or hitting one of the great restaurants in Rangeley or Oquossoc. On the second full day, we'd fish all day and then head for home. I have many clients who spend $300+ on two nights lodging to fish for one full day to bring their total to $700 plus dinner expenses. For that same amount, stay for free and spend your hard earned money on a second day with a guide fishing for beautiful brook trout and landlocked salmon. It's a different style of accommodation, but we're thinking folks are really going to enjoy it!!
We're building a 24' x 28' cabin that will have a bedroom on the first floor that holds a full sized bunkbed, which could sleep 4 people comfortably. There will a kitchen with normal appliances and a bathroom with sink, shower and toilet. The loft will be above these three rooms I just mentioned and will have two full sized beds up there, bringing our sleeping total to a comfortable number of 8. When your wife has 8 siblings, you plan for these things!
The living room area will hold a full sized table for dining, a recliner chair and a love seat, as well as a wood stove for the shoulder months. The porch will be screened in and will hopefully serve as a nightly cribbage area while sharing stories from our day in the woods. There will be a fire pit beside the cabin, and I'm hopeful that down the road we'll build a small bunkhouse with sleeping accommodations for 4 that will not have any systems in it.
We'll be starting the groundwork in July and hope to have the shell up by snowfall (famous last words) Stay tuned for pictures and updates this summer!
Vince and I have been putting together some really great options for clients for this season and for years to come. Piggybacking the idea off our good guide friend, Kevin McKay, we have created options to offer clients FREE lodging when they book two trips with us. Instead of spending money for two nights at a local hotel, why not use that money to spend a second day on the water?
Our main goal is to offer free lodging accommodations to guests in three different parts of the state. Currently, Vince has lodging accommodations for the 2019 season available in two places.
The first location is in Scarborough, which is 10 minutes for downtown Portland, for clients who would like to do smallmouth bass and pike float trips here in Southern Maine. Vince has an apartment attached to his home that he uses for AirBnB, which has two beds, a full bathroom, and a small kitchenette. The beauty of this option is that you can spend the day on the water having a blast chasing smallmouth bass or pike and then have dinner at one of Portland's many amazing restaurants in the evening. You could easily drive or take an Uber ride to downtown Portland. Or bring your own cooler items and grill your dinner right in the backyard. There's a gazebo on site to keep you away from mosquitoes and share your stories while enjoying a beverage or two!
The second location is in a town that you've probably never heard of called Brookton. Brookton is a small town located about 1 ½ hours northeast of Bangor. It's also just thirty minutes from Grand Lake Stream, which is famous for landlocked salmon and brook trout fishing in the spring and fall. If you want to come in the summer, the smallmouth fishing is out of this world. You'll be on the water all day, and most likely not see another person. If you want that remote feeling, this is the place for you. This option includes two beds, a kitchen and rustic toilet accommodations :)
Vince is working on putting finishing touches on these two spots for the upcoming season. We'll be sure to upload many pictures and videos of lodging accommodations in the coming months!
Our second piece of news is that I have purchased land in Rangeley, and I'll be spending most of this season (when not guiding) building a cabin that can sleep up to 8 people. The property is within walking distance of a great brook trout pond, and within 10 minutes of downtown Rangeley. The Magalloway and Kennebago rivers are both within a 25 minute drive. I'm very excited to be able to offer FREE lodging to clients in the Rangeley region. When you fish with me in Rangeley, I don't just have you stay in one spot all day and watch a strike indicator. Don't get me wrong, we will nymph fish, but I'll have you catching fish on dries, streamers and emergers as well. I like to move around a lot and find fish. In other words, I like to help you HUNT for big trout and salmon.
Keep checking back in as I'll be posting regularly as we build the cabin in Rangeley this summer. Check in to see the different stages and progress that we make throughout the season!
We have about ⅓ of our schedule booked up for the season as of today (3/28). Book two days with us and get FREE lodging. We love the waters that we fish on and we know them well. We'll help you have successful days on the water and most likely teach you some new fly fishing techniques in the process!
I've been spending time this winter writing blogs for Maineflyfish.com. It's a great website with a ton of great resources and people who contribute years and years of fly fishing knowledge. It's a great website that you should check out if you live in Maine or are going to visit Maine.
We’re days away from the traditional opener here in Maine, and I totally get it. Like you, I’m getting sick of watching fly fishing films, reading new fly fishing books and rereading old ones, and searching Google Earth to try to find that new secret pond to try out this summer. I’m over the fly fishing shows (except for the Eldredge Bros Expo this weekend) and “winter” fishing, which feels more like just getting out for some fresh air, and dodging ice chunks. I know April isn’t the most productive month, but it beats the heck out of February fishing. You’re probably feeling like sitting at the vise is becoming more of a chore than a pleasure at this point. I get it. You’re ready to go!
My intentions for this article are to point out some of the necessary preparations for the upcoming season. My hopes are that I’ll point out some things that may be new to you or at least a good reminder. If I’m missing something, please feel free to drop a line in the comment section.
The first thing I do every winter is go through every fly box that I have and take inventory. I take every fly out of its slot and check for rust and durability/sharpness. I throw out flies that are chewed up or rusting, and I make a list of all the flies that I need to tie (or buy) to replenish my box. When I discover new flies, I like to add them to the list, but sadly, I probably won’t really try them because I’ll revert to my “old reliables.” If it ain’t broke, why fix it? As you can see from my pictures above, I have a good number of flies and I usually sort this process out over the months of January, February and March. I’m sure there are plenty of you out there though that think I don’t have enough flies!
Rods and Reels
To be honest, I don’t really take my rods out over the winter for inspection. It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to use the wax to clean the ferrules so my rods don’t stick together all season. I do, however, make it a huge priority to give all of my fly lines a good hard scrubbing and change out leaders that are frayed or worn. This year I found that two of my reels had been either stepped on or dropped and they were warped. Both Redington reels… hmmm. I won’t go there, but it was good that I caught it in January instead of getting out there in May with a client and handing them faulty gear.
Waders and Boots
If you put away your waders with no leaks back in the fall, you probably won’t have any issues with them. There’s really no good way to know if you’ve sprung a leak until you get in the water. If you fish in April, you’ll know pretty quickly if you have a leak. For wading boots, I’ve found it helpful to change out laces that are ripping or using gorilla glue if parts of the boots are starting to rip apart. Don’t use too much though or it’ll look like you have spray foam insulation coming out of your boots!
I like to check my fly fishing vest pack and empty all of the pockets. It’s always good to restock things like Ben’s 100 bug spray or small bottles of sunscreen. I always ask for those two things and a fishing license each Christmas. They make great stocking stuffers. Check your floatant options and make sure they haven’t hardened up. Put some fresh batteries in your headlamp. Throw some waterproof matches in your pack and a ziploc bag with bandaids. Restock strike indicators and split shot. Check your nippers to make sure they’re not dull. Make sure you throw some fresh TP in your wading vest or boat.
Lastly, don’t forget your 2019 fishing license. I always feel like a kid waiting for Christmas to come this time of year. I hope you enjoy your season. If you haven’t been fishing a lot in recent years, move it up the priority list this season. You only live once after all!
I'm excited to help others chase some early season brook trout like this one caught on the Magalloway River last year in April.
If you've never fished a Pat's Rubber Legs for trout and salmon then I'd say you're missing a great tool for your toolbox. This fly can imitate a number of bugs, but most notably it imitates a tasty looking stonefly nymph. You can fish this pattern almost year round with success. I almost always start with this fly as my lead fly on a traditional suspension nymph rig. A little secret is tying them in two different sizes and fishing them in tandem.
It's not a bad tie. I taught this pattern in my final class for beginning fly tiers at Eldredge Brothers Fly Shop, and the students did a great job! Start with a size 8 nymph hook that has a 3XL hook shank. Wrap .025 non-lead wire from a hook eye length away from the hook eye back to the hook point. Secure the non-lead wire with black thread and tie in your rubber leg antennae and tail. Tie in the chenille near the bend of the hook and advance your thread forward to the hook point, tie in a set of rubber legs (about 2 inches long) then advance to the front of the non-lead wire and do this again. Wrap your chenille to the head of the fly, build a small head and whip finish. I like to apply head cement just to secure it some more.
Hook: Size 8 3XL nymph hook
Wire: .025 non-lead wire
Body: Medium black/coffee variegated chenille
Legs: Brown perfect round rubber legs
The soft hackle emerger is commonly called the Partridge and Green, Partridge and Orange, or Partridge and whatever you choose for the body. I like to tie these sometimes with a bead and sometimes without a bead. I generally tie these in sizes 14 - 18 to imitate caddis or mayfly emerging from the bottom. I'll fish these behind a strong floating dry fly, often attached by 18 inches of 5x tippet, and you really just dead drift your dry, let it swing at the end, and can even hold your tight line there until you feel a take. It's an extremely effective pattern and very easy to fish. In the old days in Europe, they fished this fly with just thread and some partridge feather wrapped around the front of the fly.
It's a pretty easy tie. Start with the thread color of your choice by the hook eye. Tie in a piece of wire (copper, gold, silver, etc) and wrap over it to the hook bend. Advance your thread back forward to about a hook eye length behind the hook eye. Take your wire and spiral wrap it to your thread then tie it off and cut it. Strip back one partridge chest feather from the base of the quill up until you take off all of the fluffy part of the weather. Tie in the tip of your feather and take two wraps around your hook going towards the hook eye. Hold the feathers towards the back of the fly, tie them in securely, build a small head, whip finish, and add a touch of head cement.
Hook: Size 14 through 18 dry fly hook
Thread: Your choice of color
Wire: Typically copper, silver, gold or a bright green
Feather: Whiting Brahma Hen Hackle or your personal partridge chest feathers
Pink Sparkle Worm
This fly is such an easy tie, and super effective in all seasons. I've caught trout and salmon on this fly in almost every month of the year (I don't fish much January-March). I generally use this fly as the lead fly in a nymph rig, but in shallower water in the summer I'll use a foam dry fly and drop this underneath. Worms are an effective pattern in high water or are a good rain, and this fly is no exception.
As far as tying this pattern, I like to use an emerger hook and an oversized gold bead. It doesn't matter if this bead goes right over the hook eye because you're going to secure it in the middle of the hook shank. Once you have the bead secure in the middle you just tie back to the hook bend and put on a 3 inch section of pink pearl core braid. Tie it in like you would a normal San Juan Worm at this point, and whip finish behind the hook eye. These are an easy tie, and a pattern that you want to have in your box!
Hook: Size 14 emerger hook
Thread: Pink or Red UTC 70
Bead: Size 3/32" gold bead (good for size 14 in this case)
Body: Micro Pink Pearl Core Braid (from Dubbin)
Green Sparkle Maggot
Unfortunately, this picture doesn't do this size 18 gem any justice. It's very sparkly, and acts as a great attractor fly. This nymph is used either at the bottom of the water column or can be used as a dropper from a dry in some instances to imitate a caddis larva or an emerging caddis. If you flip over rocks in the spring time, as water temps reach the mid 40s, you'll start to see what we call green rock worms, otherwise known as green caddis larva. They can be everywhere! And when they are, it's in your best nature to dead drift these guys through a likely holding spot.
The great thing about this fly is that it's an incredibly easy tie. Good thing because I lose a ton of them on rocks or logs. You simply place an appropriate sized gold bead near the eye of the hook and then make a body of UTC 70 black thread. Apply some green caddis ice dubbing from the bend of the hook to just about behind the bead. Leave room for your peacock herl, and wrap a whole piece in behind the bead. Tie it off, whip finish and your down.
Hook: Size 16 emerger hook
Thread: Black UTC 70
Bead: Size 3/32" gold bead (good for size 16)
Body: Green Caddis Ice Dubbing
Thorax: Peacock Herl
I’m calling this a Parachute Ant, but really I use it for a lot of different presentations. I might use it to imitate a black or brown caddis, but I also use it in smaller sizes to imitate midge dries as well. This fly doesn’t sit on top of the water entirely, which I also like. If you grease up the parachute with a gel floatant, this thing will ride just below the surface looking like a struggling bug… right in the trout’s strike zone. The parachute post can be tied in white or orange. I like the orange sometimes because a lot of rivers in Maine are tannic colored and hard to locate white because of all of the foam on the water.
As far as tying, look up a klinkhamer video and basically copy it. The only difference is that you’ll just use dubbing for the whole fly and can leave the peacock herl on the tying bench. It’s a pretty easy tie, and once you get the hang of it you can whip up a couple dozen in 2 hours.
Hook: Emerger hook down eye size 16, 18 & 20
Thread: Black UTC 70
Hackle: Black or tan dry fly hackle
Post: Mcflylon in white or orange
Each year I'm trying to get better at the whole multimedia side of fly fishing. Unfortunately, I'm doing this all with an iPhone, so the quality isn't as good as people who are doing this with professional cameras. One thing I'm learning is that I need as many film clips as possible, and to have a vision before I just start shooting film. I hope you enjoy some of our favorite memories from the 2018 season!!
Pink Sparkle Worm
The Pink Sparkle Worm is what I like to call my "sunny day" fly. This fly works well for trout and salmon in almost every season. I've even caught a couple of fish on it in December. It's a pattern that I'll tie on first on a dropper rig. Sunny days and receding waters are the best times to fish this pattern. I've had particularly good luck with this fly in months like August when trout fishing can be slow in the midday, especially when we've had little rain and low water conditions are prominent.
This fly ties very easily. Whipping out a dozen of these in under an hour is not hard, even for the beginning fly tyer. You just start with a gold bead head (I use a ⅛" bead on a size 12 emerger hook) and tie your pink braid onto the back of the fly. The key is to tie the bead into the middle of the hook shank and then wrap the pink braid over the top. It's really no different than tying a San Juan Worm, you're just adding a bead in the middle. I like to also tie this pattern with the traditional red chenille and tan chenille.
Hook: Emerger hook down eye size 12 or 14
Thread: Fluorescent Pink UTC 70
Bead: ⅛" Gold Bead
Body: Micro Pearl Core Braid Pink (from Hareline Dubbin, Inc.)
We all want to catch a large WILD trout. These are the fish that we have interactions with that keep us coming back for years to come. Whether we’ve hooked into one and landed it or lost it at the net or have seen the angler across the river from you release a hog back into the water, these are the fish that “most” of us are after on a consistent basis.
The point in my blog post is to help you figure out when you should target these fish and what you should use, however every river will be different. By no means do I consider myself a pro on catching large trout. I’ve landed and guided many 18 - 20” trout into the net in Maine, and we’ve lost some that “I swear” are bigger. I know that Maine ponds and lakes hold some large trout, but for all intensive purposes, this post will be about targeting large trout in Maine rivers.
The first question that should go through your mind is trying to figure out what the biomass is (or what the largest current food supply is). Knowing what food sources are abundant around the current time of season is very important. For instance, fishing dry fly caddis in northern Maine in April is not going to yield you any takers. Come back in June, now we’re talking a different story. Understanding the food sources and when they’re abundant takes experience, and you need to spend a lot of time (or talk to a trustworthy source) about what food sources are currently in high demand. These food sources that I list are in no particular order, but they are the ones that I see the most of on the rivers that I frequent.
In Maine, we have several different species of baitfish, but the one that I am the most familiar with are smelts. The smelts spawn right after ice-out and move from lakes into the rivers to do this. Generally, when water temps hit around 40º F is when you can expect them. In some rivers, you can fish smelt patterns anywhere from 1 ½” to 5” long. Some rivers an active smelt imitation works well (think strip, strip, strip, pause then repeat), and in others, a dead drift smelt pattern can do the trick. If rivers are pretty high, I like to fish a sink tip line to keep these patterns down. With low water temps, the fish won’t move a lot so getting your fly down to them is important.
I’ve come to discover some rivers that have a large dam at the headwaters often have smelt that are chopped up in the turbine. This means that dead smelt are just floating down the river, and big fish love to gorge on them. Marabou black ghosts patterns work well for me, but I’ve been doing some fishing with articulated white streamers in recent spring seasons and those have gotten the attention of really large brook trout. In the fall, trout are aggressive due to their own spawning habits and also are looking to fatten up for the winter. Wood Special and Mickey Finn streamers are two fall patterns that I go to in the fall.
If you’ve ever done some river camping in Maine and been on dish duty down by the water, your headlamp would most likely show you crayfish anywhere from 2 inches to 5 inches in link. Heck, some of them look like mini lobsters! I’ve seen crayfish in every single river that I’ve fished in this state. Brook trout love to eat them (as well as many other species) and they’ll attack larger crayfish several times to get them to fit in the mouth. If you’ve ever seen a crayfish flee, they shoot themselves backwards like a squid, so most trout will take them tail first in an ambush attempt. Patterns like woolly buggers (olive and brown) work well in various sizes. I love the Meat Whistler pattern because it’s a jig hook that rides up. Crayfish are on the bottom and they don’t really move up the water column. It’s so important to keep your fly on the bottom of the river. Fishing crayfish patterns late May through July 4th can be very productive, and in some rivers they’re great all summer and fall, also.
If you flip rocks over and you see a ton of small mayfly nymphs, throw a pattern like a pheasant tail nymph on. If you’re seeing many green caddis, throw on a green sparkle maggot pattern. If you’re seeing large stonefly nymphs in abundance, throw on a Pat’s Rubber Legs or your favorite stonefly nymph pattern. The point is that when you’re seeing a large number of the same nymph in the water, there’s a decent chance that fish are keying on that bug. However, there are times (and we’ve all been there) when these bugs are everywhere and the fish won’t even sniff your imitation. I could write pages on nymph fishing (and I do have a planned blog post on nymph fishing for beginners), but the biggest takeaway here is that large fish will just sit on the bottom and let the nymphs come to them. The big trout pick the prime lies and get the first pickings in their feeding lanes most of the time.
I like to compare nymphs to potato chips. Humans love to just sit on the couch and eat a big bag of small chips. We don’t sit on the couch and eat 10 cheeseburgers in a day. Well, the fish are the same way. Sometimes they want a few burgers, but most of the time they want to pig out on small bugs just floating into their mouth. If you get to know what nymphs are in your river, just take a look at what you see for dry flies and this eliminates half of the battle. For instance, some rivers have very few stoneflies, if any, and others have very few mayflies. However, the one bug that seems to be the most common is caddis. They are in most rivers and can be found in the air or under rocks most times of the day. Fish the caddis life cycle in the months of May, June and July, and you’ll entice some big fish.
Getting a large trout to take a dry fly is the ultimate. Seeing the take, and knowing that you got that fish to travel a long way out of their comfort by fooling them is an extremely satisfying feeling. While you have a better chance of doing this on some of our ponds that have Green Drake hatches in late June/early July, there are several times when you get opportunities on Maine rivers to make those big fish move for your dry fly imitation.
The Hendrickson hatch is the first big mayfly hatch of the season, and those big fish that have just moved up into the rivers are tired of smelt and eggs, so they’re onto different food sources. Hendrickson mayflies usually start hatching in the northern part of the state right around Memorial Day weekend. I have different variations of high riding Hendrickson patterns and some lower riding dry Hendrickson patterns because the bigger trout can be really picky. This is always the first shot that I know that I have to land a big brookie on a dry fly each season.
The other very notable event is when the first big stonefly adults begin to shuck their skins and gain their wings. You can fish every day from late June to mid July and maybe hit these hatches once or twice, but when you do it creates one of those “you should’ve been here” type days. Watching trout come up from the bottom and slam your giant, foam stonefly pattern can be just awesome. I remember casting a large stimulator dry fly into a pool and a 17 inch brookie took the dry fly on the first case before it even hit the water! Although I don’t have that on camera, I have that etched into my brain and that’s just fine with me. I know where I’ll start first next season when stonefly hatches come around.
I won’t write much about another big dry fly opportunity each year, but terrestrials (ants, hoppers, beetles, etc) can make some big trout leave their comfort zone. The interesting thing about these bugs is that you often can’t see them with the tannic waters that we have, but they’re all over the place. Make sure you tie a nice parachute post so that when you fish these patterns (often smaller than size 16) you can actually see them!
I wouldn’t call this a big secret or anything, but when low light periods (or even pitch black) come around the big fish start to move a lot. They aren’t worried about predators and they know that they can sneak up on unsuspecting creatures like mice, small birds or big leeches. On a floating line, chuck on a good mouse pattern or a big black leech pattern (think striper flies) and you’ll be amazed at the takes that you will get. I’ve had some really fun days just sleeping during the midday heat, having an early dinner, fishing a hatch until dark, and then staying on the water until 11 p.m. or later fishing mouse patterns. We’ve all fished until we couldn’t see, so why not adapt to staying out just a bit longer and exploring your curiosity about night fishing? I love to sit around the campfire and have a cold one as much as the next guy, but hooking into a big trout when the fishing has been slow all day takes the cake for me sometimes!
Some keys to night fishing are having a headlamp, but not using it when you’re in the water. I like to go to “red light mode” just to make sure my line isn’t all coiled up or in a tree. Knowing your water and your surroundings really well helps you stay comfortable and confident while you’re out there fishing. I had a night last summer where I was fishing a mouse pattern and kept getting strikes, but no takers. I was aggressively swinging it across the current. I switched it up a little and just let it dead drift with the occasional twitch, and that did the trick. I landed a nice 18” brookie on a Morrish Mouse pattern that I’d tied up for an occasion like that. The coolest part of that night was my buddy flashing his headlamp on the rocks and seeing two sets of mouse eyes peering back at him!
So if you’re looking to land the biggest trout of your life in a river in Maine follow some of the tips above and give them a try. A lot of it seems like (and it is) common sense, but sometimes we try to get too technical. Plan your outings so that you’re taking advantage of the best times to try to locate these big fish. Don’t plan your trip for August when you know that most of the time these big fish will show early in the season. But if August is your best opportunity, be prepared to grab your headlamp and tie a big fly on the end of your line.
You have to fish with the mentality that the biggest trout of your life is coming to you on the next cast. Believe in your abilities, have confidence in yourself and learn from your experiences. That’s what fly fishing is all about!
We are trying out something new this year. Each week, we'll post a fly that we use during the season. We'll include a picture of the, a list of materials so that you can tie it, what the fly is supposed to imitate, what species it fishes best for, and sometimes we'll post a video of how to tie it.
Pat's Rubber Legs
The Pat's Rubber Legs fly is deadly in the spring and early summer for trout, salmon and smallmouth bass. Typically the fish that we catch on this fly are not small fish. This fly produces so well for us that we've named a spot on one of our favorite rivers "Pat's Hole". While this fly is known to imitate stonefly nymphs, we've found that on rivers where cased caddis are present in large numbers that it works really, really well.
We fish the Pat's RL dead drift as the lead fly in a two-nymph rig setup. We usually add splitshot about 8 inches above the fly to keep it down. The fly itself is tied with lead wire, so this is clearly not a fly you want to fish in the middle or the upper part of the water column. Clients landed some of the biggest brook trout of the season on this fly. At times, we'll fish two of them in tandem. This fly has quickly become my favorite nymph fly, and has inspired me to tie rubber legs on some of my smaller nymph patterns!
Hook: Any 3 or 4XL nymph hook sizes 6 - 10
Thread: Black UTC 70
Weight: .015 or .020 lead wire
Body: Variegated Medium Chenille in black/coffee
Legs, Antenna & Tail: Black or Barred Brown/Black Crazy Legs
The month of April is gone and over with. Before the lakes lower their levels, there's a small window where fish start to come up the rivers as the temps rise. This is usually mid-April in the southern part of our state and late April in the Western Mountains. It's a REALLY short window. The first fish, usually some of the biggest, come up the river looking for food. The fishing days are long and slow, but you make those 200 casts to have that one shot at a monster. The smelt are starting to run and trout know that. As the water temps hit the lower 40's, the smelt make their spawning run and the trout follow them to corner them in the smaller river setting. Much easier to get them there than in the big lakes.
Then, all Hell breaks lose and the dams rush open. Coupled with natural runoff from the mountains, this can create some really epic flooding events and some really poor fishing waters. As I write this report, the Magalloway is sitting at about 4 times a fishable level, the Rapid is in the woods and the Andro is coming down quickly. The rivers to hit are the smaller rivers running into the big ones. The fish find refuge here and follow the food sources that will be more likely to hatch. Again, this is a REALLY short window, but the bigger fish will take over the prime spots and you have a chance at catching some of the biggest trout of the season. Streamers are the ticket. If you want to target smaller trout, and maybe the occasional larger trout, there are small march brown mayflies hatching right now in the later afternoon. Pretty fun to go from 35 degree air temps to 60 degrees and seeing those fish poke their noses out of the surface.
It's all about the windows. Coming up next we'll have the sucker spawn happening in the Western Mountains. After that, we start to see the first mayfly hatch of the year, the Hendrickson hatch. A Hendrickson Parachute that rides low can be deadly or the emerging Hendrickson or quill gordon patterns work well dropped below the dry. The caddis hatches start next and then we get on to the stonefly hatches in later June. Be ready with plenty of caddis and stonefly nymphs as well as plenty of dry flies. Soft hackle emergers in green are a game changer as June starts to open up in the Western part of our beautiful state.
Put the yard work aside and take advantage of those windows before they close.