Pennesseewassee Lake (a.k.a. Norway Lake) is a 922-acre body of water located in Norway, Oxford County, Maine (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 11 D1). Public access is through a high-quality boat launch off Waterford Road. Coming in from Harrison, drive north on Route 117 all the way to the lake. Turn left at the stop sign on Waterford Road, go for 0.3 miles, and then turn right at the boat launch sign. An aggressive annual stocking program has turned this pretty lake into an easily-accessible regional rainbow trout fishery powerhouse, with secondary fishing for landlocked Atlantic salmon and brook trout. The lake is moderately developed and consists of a larger lower basin and a smaller upper basin, separated by several islands. During open-water fishing, most people tend to focus their efforts on the lower basin because of its closeness to the boat launch. One negative about this general area is that the constant traffic on Lake Road (i.e., Routes 117/118) is visible and audible from the water. Click here for a depth map and more fisheries information. Maine’s general fishing laws apply during spring open-water fishing.
I arrive at the boat launch by 5:45 am. Four vehicles are already parked and a fifth one is launching a boat. It looks like the place will be busy today. In fact, I counted 12 boats trolling in the lower bay by the time I left at 9:30 am! The conditions this morning are very much to my liking. The air temperature is 35°F but is forecast to rise into the low 60’s in the afternoon. The water temperature is a cool 45°F. The sky is mostly overcast, with sunshine expected later in the morning. It’s wind still and the lake is flat like a mirror. My strategy is to troll for rainbow trout over 15 to 30 ft of water along the shoreline using an eight-weight fly fishing rod and lead core line with three smelt streamer flies tied to each other in tandem (note: this pond has smelt), and a spinning rod teamed up with a portable downrigger fishing with two Mooselook spoons also tied to each other in tandem. I constantly “rip” the fly rod to cause the three streamer flies to move erratically and draw attention down below. The spoons provide their own inherent action.
Let me cut through the chase. Over three hours of trolling around the lower basin of Pennesseewassee Lake this morning did not result in a single hit… But I did observe a wonderful natural phenomenon worth retelling, and which also yielded a nice bow. I see multiple rises in a specific area of the lake an hour or so into my fishing trip. That gets my full attention and I put-put my way over there. I soon notice the reason for the feeding activity: thousands upon thousands of midge flies have all emerged en masse from the bottom below and are sitting on the water surface ready to take off but too cold to do so. Several dozen fish are rising all around, snacking on the helpless critters. I raise my streamer flies to just below the water surface and troll right through the hatching area, hoping for a strike, but only succeed in scaring away the fish. So, I change tactic.
I always include an ultralight spinning rod (6 lb test line) with a #2 Mepps when trolling in order to take advantage of unexpected situations just like this one. I bring in all my equipment and stay absolutely quiet in my boat until the fish start feeding again. Soon, they forget that I’m there and they start rising within casting distance. When using the technique described below, it is critical to stay seated without making ANY noise in order not to spook the feeding fish. I know from experience that those fish are focused on the flies and may be reluctant to chase a spinner (click here and here for examples). The trick is to wait for a close rise and immediately cast the spinner behind that rise and quickly start the retrieve to avoid letting the spinner sink. The fish will most often ignore the offering, but can be induced to grab the spinner if it is in its immediate vicinity. And that’s the way it works out for me. After multiple casts to nearby rises, a big bow grabs my spinner and gives me a fantastic fight with multiple powerful runs and a jump. What a fun, fun fight on an ultralight! The fish gets photographed and released. However, the struggle and netting commotion has spooked the nearby fish. As I’m waiting for things to quiet down and for the fish to start rising again, the sun suddenly appears from behind the clouds and immediately shines its benign warmth on the water. Within a few minutes, the adult midges sitting motionless on the surface warm up enough, take flight, and start rising all at once. It’s like they all knew in advance that this moment would come… The air magically fills up with thousands of bugs which disperse far and wide in the gentle breeze. The bows below are fully aware of the unfolding situation and disappear into the depths, not to be seen again. This whole episode lasted no more than 20 to 25 minutes, and I consider myself blessed by Nature to have witnessed it!
The results: I caught one rainbow trout (19”) in 3.5 hours of fishing.
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