Book still holds water for ice-out anglers

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For northern New England anglers, who count down the days until spring fishing, that wonderful moment when the gear is assembled and the boat is launched, seems a way off. But the day will come.

Among anglers, the die-hard fisherman is the guy who insists on being on the water the day after ice out. He knows that, invariably, he can expect a slicing, cold wind and plenty of wave action. But he also knows that the ice-out event will turn the lake over and in so doing will stir the schooling smelts, which will move to the lake’s tributaries for the annual smelt run. And, as sure as night turns to day, the ultimate angler’s quarry, the coveted landlocked salmon, will follow close behind the spawning smelts.

It’s quite a wonderful thing, this salmon fisherman’s annual ice-out ritual. Indeed, it is a traditional ceremonial occasion that is as much a part of Maine’s angling heritage as the famous Rangeley boat or Flyrod Crosby. There is no better prescription for curing a bad dose of cabin fever than fighting a feisty “silverside” on a light line as it dances across a frothy salmon chop. Bob Leeman, in an excerpt from his newly revived book, “Trolling Flies for Trout & Salmon,” really captures the magic moment: “The vicious strikes of this magnificent fighter, combined with its spectacular leaps, hard runs and glistening colors rank it a top prize with fishermen.”

Speaking of the Leeman book, it is truly an angling classic worthy of your consideration, especially if you are a member of the aforementioned breed of hardy ice-out anglers.

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Let me be up front with you. I have a personal interest in this book, financially and otherwise. Here’s the deal. “Trolling Flies for Trout and Salmon” was first published in 1982. Co-authored by Bob Leeman and his friend Dick Stewart, and illustrated by artist Larry Largay, the book was very well received. The publishing company sold a bundle of the books, which were offered in both hard and soft covers. Although the book had two printings and sold out, the publisher (as is often the case) elected not to do a third press run. Over the years, there has been repeated demand for the book.

I agreed with Bob that his book was still useful, timely and eminently worthy of a publishing revival. The co-author Dick Stewart and Gracia Largay, the wife of the late illustrator, graciously gave their permission. Bringing the book back to the market started as a labor of love, but, quite honestly, was ultimately fraught with delays, miscues and frustration for Bob, his wife Alice and for me, the publisher.

But that’s history. The book is here for you, salmon angler!

When it comes to trolling streamer flies for trout and salmon, this book is a classic that, in my opinion, deserves a place of honor among Maine’s salmon and trout angling heritage and literature. Insofar as I know there is no other publication that so thoroughly covers, not only the historical evolution of salmon streamer flies and the habits of cold-water game-fish, but also the inexact art of fly selection on any given water. One particular chapter of the book is devoted to trolling tips and tactics that you will find useful and enlightening no matter how many hours you have on salmon waters.

Readers will really appreciate the 32 color plates of more than 90 New England streamer patterns and their respective tying recipes. For all of the book’s informative style and practicality, it also rises to the occasion as a reference manual for anglers who sometimes wonder about the name of a fly’s inventor, or how a particular fly became a “must have” in any salmon angler’s fly book. For example: Myself, a longtime fan of a Joe’s Smelt, discovered that this fly was the handiwork of Joe Sterling from Danforth, Maine. If you tie your own streamer flies, you will be fascinated to read, in step-by-step detail, how the fabled Grey Ghost inventor Carrie Stevens assembled her famous streamer flies.

“Trolling Flies for Trout & Salmon” by Dick Stewart and Bob Leeman, published by Maine Outdoor Publications, is available in soft cover for $21.95 and in hard cover for $29.95. To purchase this angler’s classic, send a check to: Bob Leeman, 22 Alan-A-Dale Road, Brewer, Maine 04412. Prices for both the soft cover and hardcover books covers postage and handling.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His email address is paul@sportingjournal.com and his new book is “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook.”

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