BlogApril 2021

Fly Fishing in Maine: The Top Species, Flies, and Times

Fly Fishing in Maine: The Top Species, Flies, and Times

By Ken Schultz

Apr 08, 2021

Salmon, brook trout, smallmouth bass, and striped bass are iconic species that offer the best of fly fishing in Maine. Here’s info to help plan your visit

No matter what suits your angling fancy it’s hard to go wrong in Maine, especially in freshwater. Fly fishing in Maine is especially productive thanks to an abundance of lakes, ponds, and rivers, which equates with plenty of opportunity, plus generally cool water temperatures. Here’s what to know about the primary fly fishing targets in Maine.

Landlocked Salmon

A stalwart Pine Tree State gamefish, this inland form of the migratory Atlantic salmon is a coldwater species found in some large lakes and rivers. Smelt are their primary forage, and streamers are the most appropriate fly choice. Best time: Fly fishing is best when these fish are shallow, near shore, and near the surface, which occurs in spring and fall.

Brook Trout

Maine offers the best opportunities in North America for catching this iconic native species in lakes, ponds, and streams. Brook trout consume aquatic insects as well as baitfish, which means that a wide range of trout flies may be useful depending on locale and season. Best time: Spring and fall are generally best, as the water is cooler and fish are shallower. Brookies in locations where the water remains cool throughout the season can be caught on flies at any time.

Smallmouth Bass

Some of the finest fly fishing in Maine exists for smallmouth bass, which are abundant in many waters, and especially in the Downeast Lakes region. With generally cold waters throughout the state, these fish are relatively shallow throughout the season, and have a varied diet, meaning that they can be caught on diverse flies, although deer hair bugs and poppers are particularly favored when the fish are shallow, and streamers when they are in deeper water. Best time: You can fly fish for smallies from ice-out to ice-in, but mid-May until late June is prime.

Striped Bass

Striped bass are not only the most prominent of Maine’s many saltwater species, but also the fish most well suited for targeting with a fly. A streamer fly imitating their local prey – herring, alewives, sand eels, and menhaden – is the best choice. The mid-coast region, especially the Kennebec River and estuary, is especially popular. Best time: Stripers are present from late May until October, with May and June especially good.

Other Species

Maine fly fishing encompasses also many other fish. Among coldwater species, brown trout and rainbow trout offer opportunities for fly fishing in Maine, particularly in spring and fall, and with a range of fly types. Lake trout, which are generally a deep lake dweller, are really only accessible to fly anglers while shallow shortly after ice-out, and when using streamers.

Among warmwater species, largemouth bass, sunfish, and chain pickerel, all of which are found in lakes and ponds, offer excellent fly fishing potential from May into October, albeit with different flies. Popping bugs and streamers are mainstays for largemouths, gaudy streamers for pickerel, and dry flies, wet flies, and small poppers for sunfish.

Whatever you pursue, make sure you know state regulations and have a Maine fishing license.

Ken Schultz
Ken Schultz
Ken Schultz was a longtime staff writer for Field & Stream magazine and is the former Fishing Editor of He’s written and photographed nineteen books on sportfishing topics, plus an annual fishing tips calendar, and his writing has appeared on various websites for more than two decades. His author website is