Brown trout fishing on the Presumpscot River in Windham, Maine (May 14, 2016)

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The access point on the Presumpscot River by the Babbs Covered Bridge

The access point on the Presumpscot River by the Babbs Covered Bridge

The Presumpscot River represents the outlet of Sebago Lake. It flows for about 25 winding miles through the towns of Standish, Windham, Gorham, Westbrook, Falmouth, and Portland before reaching the Atlantic Ocean in Casco Bay. The river drops an impressive 270 feet through a series of falls, many of which lay submerged behind numerous dams. This waterway is richly stocked each spring and fall with a smorgasbord of salmonids, consisting of thousands of brook trout, brown trout, and landlocked salmon. The goal, of course, is to find the spots to catch these fish. Click here for more information on the fishing regulations that pertain to this river.

 

 

 

 

This stretch of the Presumpscot is quite wide. In fact, one could never tell that this is a river if it weren't for the slowly-moving water.

This stretch of the Presumpscot is quite wide. In fact, one could not tell that this is an actual river if it wasn’t because the boat slowly drifts downstream with the current.

 

I’m focusing my attention this morning on the stretch of the Presumpscot River which runs between the island below Dundee Falls, located about 1 mile downstream from the Dundee Pond dam, and the Babbs Covered Bridge (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 5 D2). To reach this picturesque bridge, drive south from North Windham on River Road, go through the traffic circle, and continue driving for another 2 miles or so on River Road before turning right on Hurricane Road (a.k.a. Covered Bridge Road). Babbs Covered Bridge will appear within half a mile. Only hand-carried craft can be launched from this spot down a set of steps that descend to the water. Note that the river by the bridge is considered a prime spot for catching landlocked salmon from shore using live baitfish and a bobber. This part of the river has an average depth of between 2 and 6+ feet. The substrate consists entirely of gravel, cobbles, and boulders. The crystal-clear water flows downgradient so gently that it is difficult to know one is actually floating on a river… The waterway is also a generous 50-100 ft wide, making it an ideal section for drift-fishing from a canoe or kayak. This stretch of the river is too deep to use with waders.

 

This brown trout fell for a #2 Mepps spinner. I know that the Presumpscot River grows them much bigger than this little guy!

This brown trout fell for a #2 Mepps spinner. I know that the Presumpscot River yields much bigger ones than this little guy!

I arrive at the Babbs Covered Bridge at 6 am and push off in my canoe 20 minutes later. I’m fishing alone this morning and also have this part of the Presumpscot River all to myself. The weather is gorgeous: temps in the high 50’s and forecast to rise into the low 70’s later on today, with full sunshine and no wind! I first paddle upstream for about 20-25 minutes to reach the island before drifting back downstream. I’m enchanted by the environment: the dense surrounding woods, the enumerable singing birds, and the general lack of visible human intrusions, all of that within less than 30 minutes of several major population centers. The unusual conditions created by the deep and slow-moving water in this stretch of the river also allow for the use of live minnows attached to a bobber (a.k.a. “passive trolling”!). This approach places a squirming baitfish 3-5 ft below the surface with the aim of enticing a salmonid hiding on the bottom to strike as the minnow and I slowly proceed downstream in tandem. In addition, I use my ultralight spinning rod to cast a #2 Mepps spinner. Note that the general lay-out of this stretch of the Presumpscot River is also ideally suited for fly fishing.

 

Ain't she pretty!

Ain’t she pretty!

My first two fish are small yellow perch caught on live bait within the first half hour. Argh, that’s definitely not what I’m here for… Things are quiet for the next 30 minutes or so until I hook something lively on my Mepps spinner. It’s actually a fat smallmouth bass full of eggs looking for a quick snack. I observe my first rise a little further downstream which occurs within striking distance of my spinner. I make several casts towards it and soon hook and land an 11” brown trout. Great, that’s the idea! The bite quiets down again until I get closer to the covered bridge when I notice several rises against the shoreline in the shadows along the bank to my left. I turn the canoe around 180° and reposition it downstream of that shoreline, letting the bobber and live bait drift further downgradient. I’ll worry about them later. I make several casts to the rises with my spinner and hook another small brown trout. Then I notice that my bobber line is suddenly straining. Shoot, the baitfish must be stuck on the bottom. I grab the rod to try to unhook the thing when I feel serious resistance at the other end. Holy sh*t, this is a BIG fish!!! I fight it for about 15 seconds before it unhooks and disappears. My goodness, that was no yellow perch! UnfortunateIy, I don’t know what I hooked because the fish never breached the surface during the fight… I continue drifting downstream and fish the deep pool by the bridge using my baitfish placed way down low but get no bites. I decide to end this trip by checking out the previous spot with the rises. I sneak up slowly in my canoe and notice that the fish are feeding on the surface again. I catch three more brown trout (all 10” to 12”) in about 15 minutes using my spinner before the lot gets spooked and the bites stops once more.

 

Overall, I rate this stretch of the Presumpscot River as a definite A+, even though it requires a hand-carried craft to be properly fished. The slow current, depth, and width are designed to accommodate drift fishing, including fly fishing. In addition, the feeling of remoteness and lack of human intrusion only adds to the overall attractiveness of the place. As a serious bonus, the river is also stocked multiple times each year with thousands of salmonids. From hearsay, some of those fish grow quite big, as I (almost) found out this morning…

The results: I caught five 10” to 12” brown trout in about 3.5 hours of fun fishing and missed a hulk of a fish.

 

Was the information in this blog useful? I invite you to share your thoughts and opinions. Also, feel free to discuss your fishing experiences at this location.

 

This stretch of the Presumpscot River is wide enough for serious fly fishing from a boat while drifting downstream.

I’m enchanted by the quality of the environment surrounding this stretch of the Presumpscot River..

 

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