Never posted on here before, just found the place. I need some help. I'm a lifelong fly fisherman from West Virginia, but I'm moving to Cape Cod for the next few months on a temporary job. In early May, my wife and I are thinking about heading up to Maine (and maybe other New England states) to do some fishing, camping, and canoeing for a couple weeks before coming back down south. I went up there a couple years ago to do the same, but crazy amounts of rain blew out all the rivers and we couldn't find fishable water -- so this will be round two.
My main question is about the vicious BLACK FLIES. Okay, we're young and broke, so hotels are out of budget -- we'd have to camp. If we go up there in early May, are we missing the brunt of the assault, or are we stepping into the thick of it? If we do, I think my wife would revolt.
Welcome to the forum, I hope you'll stick around and get some chat going with some of our members who live up there. I used to go into the area a lot and my experience was this: May June & July are the worst of it. June into July was always bad when I fished anywhere from Upstate NY all the Way to Jackman Maine, start stocking up on bug dope and get head nets, at least head nets but more netting if you are not into sprays.
Welcome to the site. You have found a place with friendly people who are eager to help other fly fishers.
I have never fished in New England but have been lunch for a few black flies. They bite hard. The head net is the best protection along with a long sleeve shirt. You might consider some of the sun gloves used by saltwater fishers. They are light and go up over the wrist. Between the long sleeve and the sun gloves there won't be much for the flies to bite.
The Countrey is strangely incommodated with flies, which the English call Musketaes, they are like our gnats, they will sting so fiercely in summer as to make the faces of the English swell’d and scabby, as if the small pox for the first year. Likewise there is a small black fly no bigger than a flea, so numerous up in the Countrey, that a man cannot draw his breath, but he will suck of them in: they continue about thirty days say some, but I say three moneths, and are not only a pesterment but a plague to the countrey.
~~ John Josselyn, Two Voyages to New-England (1674).
Well time to stock up on the head nets....thanks for the advice, guys. We'll just have to tough it out. Maybe if we hit it early enough, we can miss the worse -- bugs don't bother me too much but my wife really draws the bloodsuckers (I know, I know, insert joke here).
As far as saltwater flyfishing goes, I'm way out of my territory on that. My biggest rod is a six-weight, and I don't have the shekels to buy a new rig right now. I've got a reel full of rocket taper full sink, might be able to get the fly out to them, but the rod probably doesn't have the backbone for stripers. But I'll be way out on the Outer Cape, near some supposedly great striper fishing, so I'll have to keep my ear to the ground. I have a friend who has family in New Bedford, and he's a serious saltwater flyfisherman -- if he can be lured away from waterfowl hunting, maybe he can show me the ropes. The kettle ponds are probably more my speed. Are they big enough to boat? I've got a 16' Old Town canoe. Worth taking up there?
Nickerson SP in Brewster has 5 (?) ponds and some of the best fresh water fishing on the Cape. The larger 2 have boat launches and another is canoe-able. My favorite is wade and C&R only. There's actually around 300 of these kettle ponds on the Cape left over from the last ice age.
My buddy and I have camped there at the SP for a week or more each June for the last 16 years to fly fish the salt and we run into many of the same folks out fishing. There's a group of 20 or so based in Oregon/Washington and one, maybe two groups from Great Britain. One a guided tour and one that needs guidance
Definitely "world class".
May can be bad in the southern half of the state....but getting really bad all over by June. Now up north the water is still high..the air is cool and the bugs are less of a factor in May than one would think. I'ld try North for a week and south for the latter week.
A dryer sheet tucked under your hat like a bimini hat will keep most blackflies away from your face quite effectively. Just change often, like once daily. Original scent works best, unless you want bees and hornets buzzing you.
Columbia Sports makes a really cool shirt called the BUG SHIRT, that has natural bud repellers in it's fibers. Works really well. Then there is the Thermacell device. Very cool tool and Highly effective!!! Citronella candles and tiki torches are ok around camp.
Be prepared and you should be ok!!!! Fishing is slow in May up north...but better by june!
I'm in a little late on this thread, but for anyone who is interested, its very important to have some kind of fingerless glove available for when the deerflies are out. They will eat the backs of your hands up. Its been an annoyance for me to get repellent onto the backs of my hands, and then off my fingers so that I dont smear it all over my flies and my rod. As pernicious as blackflies can be, the deerflies are much worse in my opinion, and sometimes you get swarmed by both... AND skeeters too!
When is “Black Fly Season”?
There is actually no single, uniform “black fly season.” The maps in the Maine Nature News archive are based on scattered local observations. But, there is enough information there to draw some tentative general conclusions for some locations in Maine.
Do the black flies persist after July? What is the best time to camp and hike in Maine and avoid the flies?
Black fly larvae, which hatch in clear running streams, do not hatch until everything thaws and the water temperature has also risen a bit. The black fly season moves, in general, from South to North and simultaneously from the coastal plain to inland areas and from lowest elevations up to the highest. So there is no precise “end” to black fly season in Maine. However by mid-July in most places after the birds have start gobbling them up, and after the black fly adults have bred for the season and go into “dormancy”, the numbers dwindle drastically almost everywhere. During wet summers like 2009, the black flies can still be prevalent in late summer.
Here are some more key pieces of information, as a further general answer to your question:
Black flies breed in running water, unlike mosquitoes, which breed in still water. Because there are about forty species, not all flourish at the same time.
Black flies can travel several miles from their breeding site, so those environmental rules cannot be counted on completely, as a means to avoid them.
Strong breezes tend to disperse them, as they are a very small insect.
I have found, and others confirm, that black flies are generally inactive until the air temperature has risen to at least 50 degrees F., even in black fly season.
I have also found that they seem less numerous at higher altitudes, probably because of a combination of the above three factors: the lack of expansive breeding sites, cooler temperatures and the more consistent presence of breezes.
“Black flies are strongly influenced by color — they find dark hues more attractive than pale ones, and blue, purple, brown, and black more attractive than white or yellow. A light-colored shirt, therefore, is a much better choice of clothing than a dark blue one. It is a moot point, however, whether blue jeans might not be better than pale trousers: if they are carefully tucked in at the ankles and are without holes, jeans may help to attract the flies away from the head region.”: Courtesy Rocco Moschetti, IPM of Alaska.
“Black flies often swarm around a person’s head because they are attracted to carbon dioxide in the breath. … Bites are concentrated on exposed areas of skin, especially along the hairline, feet, ankles and arms.” Courtesy Jeffrey Hahn, University of Minnesota Extension Service.
“The bites can produce a variety of reactions ranging from little or no irritation to considerable irritation and swelling. Sensitivity varies from person to person.” Courtesy Jeffrey Hahn, University of Minnesota Extension Service.
In general, unlike mosquitoes, they will not fly at night or penetrate most clothing.
Local variation is the rule. Local people are usually the most helpful resource, as they observe these things very carefully.
Head nets and body nets really work, if one takes care to leave no gaps where the netting meets the shoulders or the ankles. Head nets can be draped over the hat you usually wear, or a version with an internally attached cap can be purchased. When used without a cap, care must be taken to leave a small space all around the head that the insect cannot penetrate.