Magalloway River
Craig Raleigh/Visit Maine

Cold Weather Fly Fishing on Maine’s Magalloway River

In the northwestern corner of Maine lies one its many pristine wild trout rivers, which the Pine Tree State offers to anyone with a fly rod and a hankering to catch some fish. The difference here is that this river shares a border with New Hampshire and criss-crosses back and forth into Maine from its beginnings in the mountains along the Québec border. The Magalloway River is a fantastic example of what you can find in this area, and it's full of landlocked salmon. Whether you are a novice fly fisherman or a veteran, the Magalloway offers up some of the best trout fishing you may run into in your angling life, but it does require a little homework. I was able to dial up one of the many trout fishing guides that the region has to offer, and I was able to glean pointers like the best times of the year and the best flies to use, plus I learned all the vital information on seasons and creel limits.

Most, if not all, trout anglers in this region prescribe to a catch and release only attitude that keeps this wild trout population robust. It's also a fly fishing-only area, that doesn't allow traditional gear or live bait. To get a first-timer's perspective on the experience, read on for more on some great brook trout and landlocked salmon fishing in the state of Maine.

Fishing the Magalloway River

Magalloway River

Craig Raleigh/Visit Maine

The Upper Magalloway River above Aziscohos Lake is a wild and sometimes turbid home for large brook trout and landlocked salmon. It is best fished in the spring and fall when water temps are lower, but much of the lower river contains cold, oxygen-rich waters throughout the summer months. Below the Aziscohos Dam runs some beautiful and classic tailwater with cold water riffles and some amazing pocket water that just begs for a fly. For nymph fishermen looking for big brookies and landlocked salmon, this is a cold water species dream, but dry flies and streamers should be in your fly box as well.

Our guide told us that the section of the river from the dam to the Route 16 bridge is the easiest to get to and the most heavily-targeted by fly anglers of every skill level, but that there is plenty of room in many of the most fishable spots for multiple anglers at once. As it was, we started at the well known #10 bridge, but we weren't the first anglers there. It still didn't feel too pressured, and we were able to get on some fish right away.

The Tools

Magalloway River

Craig Raleigh/Visit Maine

Depending on who you ask and what you are fishing for, most anglers suggest a simple 3W or 4W fly rod, but a decent 5W would be ideal for just about anything that swims in the Magalloway River. The four of us who joined in on this trip used 5W line attached to a tapered leader with a 4- to 6.5-pound tippet. I had the pleasure of using the Maine Fly Company Kennebec 5W, which is an absolute joy to fish with. It is light as a feather and has a quick action that fly anglers will thoroughly appreciate. I also had a nice, affordable Cheeky 300 that was preloaded with line and leader to perfectly match the 5W rod I had glued to my hands.

Fly Patterns

The patterns are many, but fairly simple and familiar to any veteran fly anglers.

Spring: Nymphs work well in this neck of the woods including Copper John, Cased Caddis, Beadhead Pheasant, Green Rock Worm, and Barr Emerger. The list of dry fly patterns is a long one, but a few of the favorites are Blue Wing Olive, Deer Hair Caddis, Hare's Ear, Parachute Adams, and Klinkhamer.

Summer: For nymphs, the recommended patterns include Copper John, Black Stonefly, Zebra Midge, Hare's Ear, and Caddis Larvae. The summer dry fly patterns can be Deer Hair Caddis, Adams, Royal Wullf, and Klinkhamer.

Fall: The ideal patterns for fall in this part of Maine are the Zebra Midge, Barr Emerger, Brassie, Beadhead Stonefly, and Copper John. Some dry flies are common as well and definitely catch fish in the fall, like the Deer Hair Caddis, Griffith Gnat, Adams, and Hornberg.

The Experience

When I fished the Magalloway it was 28 degrees when we arrived, and it felt like it. I was ready with my quilted Blocker Outdoors top, waterproof gloves, and a pair of seriously warm Simms Fjord Under Wader Pants, and I'm glad I had gear that helped me stay comfortable in such cold conditions. Even with the water temperatures right around the 40-degree mark, you could see steam rising off of the water, which lasted until the sun started to come up over the trees. My group and I began on both sides of the river trying obvious areas of backwater along with off-current flows, and we weren't disappointed. One of our group started right off with a couple of decent brook trout, and I landed my first ever landlocked salmon shortly after.

After some time in the area, we moved on to a spot I was unsure about. It was right along the main road, had an overused parking area, and seemed to be consistently fished by everyone and their brother. Interestingly enough, no one was fishing there at the time, and after a great shore lunch provided by our guide, we proceeded to hook up with several brookies in this unassuming spot, and a few chubs for good measure.

One of the highlights of the trip was our final destination below the Aziscohos Dam tailwaters. After crossing the river, we each set up along sections of super-fast water with plenty of places for a fly. I landed one decent brook trout and the others followed suit with their own. I took a moment to consider the new fly rod and reel in my hand, the exceptional location I was fishing, and the cooperation of the trout under the surface. It was a fantastic experience.

All in all, it was more than worth it to take the time to travel to the Magalloway River in northwest Maine. Even though there are creel and size limits in place, I didn't see any anglers take any the fish they caught, and that instilled a strong desire to catch and release myself. The guide services that fish the Magalloway are excellent and very knowledgable, but most importantly can put you on trout and salmon. You, your gear, and your own skill level will ultimately determine the success you will have, but it's a great place to tally time and experience fly fishing in one of the country's quality corners.

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