There are some men in Maine who seemed to have been born to fish. Bob Leeman from Brewer is one. His den at home resembles an angler’s museum. The walls are festooned with fish mounts, photos, newspaper articles, many fishing artifacts and some wonderful paintings and sketches by his late friend, nationally acclaimed outdoor illustrator, Larry Largay.

Over the years, Bob has operated a fly-fishing shop, hosted an outdoor television show and fished most of Maine at one time or another. Semi-retired, he divides his time between his beloved Grand Lake Stream, selling seeds for Hart and writing a monthly outdoor column for the Northwoods Sporting Journal.

Recently, Bob loaned me a copy of a book he co-authored with Dick Stewart – “Trolling Flies for Trout & Salmon.” It’s a wonderfully rich book, jampacked with New England fishing history and a lot of how-to stuff for those of us who enjoy fishing streamer flys for salmon and trout. Unfortunately, the last printing of this book was in 1992. You might be lucky to find one on an Internet book sites, but copies are as scarce as surface-feeding brookies in August.

You are in luck, though. While daydreaming about open-water fishing, I spent a snow-spitting Saturday morning sifting through Mr. Leeman’s book and making notes for you and myself. Here’s what caught my attention.

The first tandem streamer was created by a Waterville physician, Dr. Herbert Sanborn. He called it the Nine-Three after catching a 9-pound, 3-ounce salmon at Messalonskee Lake.

The ever-popular Joe’s Smelt was the brainstorm of Danforth’s Joe Sterling. He is also credited with making the first Wood Special.

Guess who created the much-heralded Supervisor and Warden’s Worry? Yes, a Maine Game Warden named Joe Stickney.

As for early ice-out trolling for salmon and trout, here are Leeman’s recommendations. Use a 9-foot fly rod equipped with floating line and a trailing leader made of 30 feet of 6-pound-test monofilament, to which you tie a streamer of your choice (see Leeman’s personal favorites below) with an improved clinch knot.

Troll at the speed of a paddled canoe. Work the fly, either with short jerks or a series of “long sweeps.” Change flies often and vary trolling speeds if the fish are not cooperating.

What about the best flies? Leeman, who ties his streamers from a porch overlooking Grand Lake Stream, recommends a Black Ghost, a Marabou Muddler, and a light Grey Ghost for the stream. For more tea-colored waters he believes that you need darker flies to match the baitfish. Ripogenus Smelt, a dark Grey Ghost and a Kennebago Smelt top his list. For his money, the best bright flies are Mickey Finn, Barnes Special and a Colonel Bates.

In order of priority, Leeman’s all time favorite streamers are: 1) Red & White Bucktail; 2) White Marabou Muddler; 3) Grey Ghost; 4) AA Special; and 5) Nine-Three.

Dick Stewart, co-author of the Leeman book and a nationally-known fishing author, has a favorite that really caught my eye: a Hornberg streamer. The book contains a series of excellent color plates of popular streamer flies, including the Hornberg streamer. Although the Hornberg wet fly has always proved effective for me, this is the first that I had heard of the Hornberg streamer. It looks potent.

And having always caught fish on the Muddler Minnow, I was equally taken with another fly pictured in Leeman’s book: his creation called a Muddler Streamer. Recipes follow:


• Body: Flat silver tinsel

• Wing: Sparse yellow bucktail, flanked by four grizzly saddle hackles

• Shoulders: Mallard flank about half a wing length

• Collar: Grizzly hackle collared and tied back

Muddler Streamer

• Tail: Long section of mottled turkey quill

• Body: Flat gold tinsel

• Wing: Four long cree neck feathers flanked by two grizzly neck feathers

• Head: Spun natural grey deer hair, front part clipped to bullet shape leaving a collar of hair at rear of head.

V. Paul Reynolds 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, WCME-FM 96.7) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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