Carp-tastic Fly Rambling on the Lower Magalloway, Maine

Set out on an overnight boat trip on the Lower Magalloway River starting at Wilson Mills, Maine (quick water) and ending just north of Errol, NH (wide flatwater).

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In our search for trout, we failed. In the absence of them, we were able to embrace the reeling of the feisty river carp that were hanging over grass beds. Almost like sight casting, we were able to see them holding and cast woolly buggers to their immediate liking. I was surprised to see these fish rising and even more surprised to experience their spirited play on the reel. Sam caught the largest fish, peppering his stash with perch and a solitary smallmouth bass which he was very pleased with.

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So we meandered down the river on day two looking for anyone willing to take a fly…hoping that we would be rewarded for our sportsmanlike adaptability and willingness to embrace the carp-copia…rewarded with one large brook trout who missed the let’s-get-to-cooler-water memo. But no such luck.

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Carpe Diem….and don’t forget the s’mores.

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4 thoughts on “Carp-tastic Fly Rambling on the Lower Magalloway, Maine

  1. Note: what you refer to as “river carp” are actually fallfish, also known as chubs.

    I feel the need to bring this up, because fallfish are native to Maine, and quite common all over the state. Fallfish are in the same family as carp- Cyprinidae, “minnows”- but the resemblance ends there. Carp are a non-native fish, and their presence in the Magalloway would be bad news. The various European and Asian carp species (like common carp, rudd, barbel, silver carp, grass carp, bighead carp, and goldfish) typically grow much bigger than fallfish, they reproduce faster, and they compete for a lot more food and territory.

    We don’t want anyone to get the idea that there would be no problem with using carp or goldfish as bait or otherwise releasing them anywhere that they could get into Maine waters, because they think that carp are already there anyway. That could lead to disaster, which is why doing so has been made illegal.

    fwiw, Smallmouth bass aren’t native to Maine, either, although by now they’re well established in many lakes and streams in the state. I think they’re great gamefish, and I’m happy to have them in the warmwater lake where I have a summer camp. But when it comes to coldwater trout and salmon habitat, the introduction of any new fish species is bad news- whether the species is carp, perch, pickerel, northern pike, bass, or whatever. Especially in Maine, which is the remaining home base for the brook trout and the landlocked salmon, the only two salmonid species native to inland waters east of the Misssissippi,.

    So although I rarely kill the bass that I catch, I make an exception when I find any invasive warmwater species in Maine trout and salmon habitat- like the Magalloway River. Bass have only been in the Magalloway since the 1980s or so. Whatever their size, when I get them, they don’t go back in the water.

    The chubs get to stay, though. Like the brook trout, they’re natives. And definitely not carp.

    End of finger-wagging lecture.

    • Thanks for making the distinction. It was pretty difficult to find anything written on this as I searched on line when we returned from the trip. My nephew and I were sure they were in the carp family and assumed they might be similar to the river chub that hang out in the sandy waters of the Saco River here in NH- which are often upon first glance mistaken for “big browns”.
      There are lots of non native fish in our New Hampshire fisheries which have certaily impacted trout populations. In fact, NH Fish and Game just held a forum on introducing walleye to Moore Resevoir. It seems that we will be discussing these issues as an angling community without end.
      Thanks for the background and good luck preserving those tender trout fisheries in Maine. And no need to wag fingers…any and all information is useful!

  2. If you want to get into some trout on the lower Magalloway in the summer, you need to get above Wilson’s Mill bridge for best results. ( I assume that you can fish there legally with a NH license, because it’s a border water.) Because the Mag is a cold-water release dam, the water stays cool enough for brook trout all through the summer for a couple of miles below the dam outflow pipe. Check the river flows, to see if they’re in reasonable shape. The dam releases can raise the river to levels that are difficult to fish and downright unsafe to wade, especially on the weekends in summer.

    From Wilson’s Mills, hike upstream overland. It’s usually way too tough to wade near the bridge. Use your head about hiking, for that matter. Seek out the places where the water is flowing at a reasonable clip (there isn’t a whole lot of it, above the WM bridge- even at average flow levels, most of that river is roaring off the line). Commence to angle.

    I was there a little over a week ago. Trusty water thermometer showed 67 degrees at the bridge. Although the legendary trophy size Magalloway natives were apparently on summer vacations of their own, I found plenty of brookies in sizes that qualify as “nice fish” by more normal standards for wild brook trout fishing in Eastern streams. I used a Montana rig as a searching pattern set- big weighted stonefly nymph, with a little #16-20 nymph or wet fly tied 15″ off of the hook bend of the larger fly. Threw a short line, cast upstream and drifted on a tight leash, let it swing downstream and swam it a little; lifted and repeated. Since I got all of my takes on the smaller fly, after a while I got rid of the clunky stonefly and swung a little beadhead wet on a long 4X leader.

    If you get there an hour or two before dark, you may find risers. Lucky you. The rising fish seem to be sort of selective, though, so carry a range of sizes and colors. When I was there, the trout started going after a little yellow caddis. I had no luck with dries until I found something close to it- a #20 cream deer hair thingie that worked pretty well as an imitation, Got four on top.

    Bittersweet note: my best fish was my first- a 15″ smallmouth, taken from what was probably the best holding lie in the short stretch of water I fished. I would have kept the bass to eat, but I didn’t have my cleaning knife or cooler with me, and it was a long drive home on a late night. So the fish ended up on the bank, after a quick neck snap. A sad decision. But I had to do it, for the sake of the native Magalloway brook trout. Beyond the competition by bass for food and territory, consider that the seven brookies I caught and released that same evening all ranged less than ten inches- each one basically a square meal, for a fish as voracious as that 15″ smallie. Next time I’ll be better prepared for the possibility of taking some fish home to eat. No size or bag limit on bass in the Magalloway River.

    • So here’s my burning question…do trout from Umbagog move upriver in the earliest days of the season? Reason being, I would like to access with a drift boat and my tendency toward self preservation prevents me from putting any type of boat upriver from Wilson Mills…;-)

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