Lou Zambello’s new fly fishing guide is astonishing

Flyfisher's Guide to New England by Lou ZambelloLou Zambello’s new fly fishing guide is astonishing, covering 650 rivers and streams and 500 lakes and ponds throughout New England. As Lou notes in the introduction: “What is included are the best and most popular (not always the same thing) fisheries… (and) lesser known waters that we have fished.”

The best part of the book, Flyfisher’s Guide to New England, for me is that it brought back many wonderful fishing memories. Yes, I have fished in quite a few of the Maine waters featured in this book. And while Lou gave away many of my favorite waters, I am grateful he didn’t include some of my very favorite places, all of which I would put in a category of “lesser known waters.”

As he wrote, “Part of angling fun is to find and explore your own secret spots, so maybe it is a good idea not to catalog and systematically write about every possibility and to leave some uncertainty out there.” Yes Lou, you are right, and thank you for not giving away some of my secret spots!

The book tells you everything you need to know to enjoy a lifetime of fishing all over New England, from maps and directions to the flies to use and the times of the year to fish there. There are suggestions for beginners, families, and old guys like me who need easy-accessible places to fish. It is very thorough. And obviously, you’ll never be able to fish them all, but I’ll bet you’ll quickly build a list of new places you must get to. I did.

I first got to know Lou when he worked at LL Bean. For the last 14 years he’s been a Maine guide in the Rangeley region, and he writes one of my favorite columns in The Maine Sportsman. He also writes a popular fishing blog, posted on his website www.maineflyfishing.com.

In the Dedication and Acknowledgements section, Lou recognizes the folks who provided information for the book (no, he didn’t fish himself in all 500 lakes and ponds and 650 rivers and streams), and I especially appreciated this, which he wrote about my friend John Boland: “And a special acknowledgement to John Boland, long-time fisheries biologist and eventual director of all things fisheries and wildlife related at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. I have known John for 30 years and his contributions to Maine fisheries are incalculable and his infusion of knowledge into this book substantial.”

The Waters

With the heavy 350 page book on my lap, I turned first to the Rangeley waters, where I have spent a lot of time fishing. And I have to report, Lou got it all right. He even included my new favorite spot, the Upper Magalloway, where my friend Bruce Verrill owns a camp on Rump Pond. Lou writes about all of my favorite waters, including the Rapid River, Kennebago River, Upper Dam, and even the short but very fun Rangeley River.

The book includes awesome photos, and you’ll spend some time enjoying those.

I was disappointed to learn that, “In 2014 after a series of heavy rain events in early August, schools of salmonids ascended the (Kennebago) river, and in mid-August the fishing was unbelievable, although few anglers were around to enjoy it.” Man, I missed that! I always try to get up to the Kennebago in September, typically when spawning salmon and trout come up the river. You can bet I’ll be watching for heavy rainfalls in August now.

I appreciated Lou’s report on the Rapid, when he noted, “The fishery is not what it once was because of the invasion of smallmouth bass and (perhaps) stocked fish, but it still gives up some very large trout every year. There are also plentiful landlocked salmon from 14 to 17 inches as well.”

Last year I wrote about DIF&W’s error in stocking hatchery brook trout very near the Rapid, where they were able to drop down into the river and mingle with the wild trout. At first the agency denied this, but later admitted it had been done “by mistake.”

Not every bit of news in this book is encouraging. For example, Lou writes about the Upper Androscoggin River, reporting that, “the best trout fishing on the Androscoggin is in the section from the New Hampshire border to just west of the dam in Rumford.” Indeed, it used to be, and was one of my favorite places to fish. I’ve caught everything from big brookies to rainbows to smallmouth bass in that section.

But as Lou notes, “Today, for reasons unclear to the state fisheries biologists, natural spawning is greatly diminished, larger holdover fish are fewer, and the fishery is maintained by stocking. While the river isn’t as good as it once was, anglers still fish the river regularly because of the spectacular scenery and conditions.”

Perhaps, but many anglers don’t like to fish, they like to catch. I have written about the Upper Andro a few times, noting the long and fruitless effort of local folks to designate this section catch-and-release and market it as a fishing destination. I’ve also noted that, when I fished it, many of the best fish dropped down from the river’s New Hampshire section.

Now, if I had room for 50,000 words in this book review, I’d tell you my stories of fishing these wonderful waters. Lou also covers my favorite waters in the Baxter Park area, where I have a camp on Nesowadnehunk Lake. Interestingly, when he wrote about all the access points to the famous West Branch of the Penobscot River, one of my all-time favorite waters, he didn’t mention the trail I hike to one of my favorite spots. And I’m not telling you either!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.