BETHEL — More than 300 fishing enthusiasts attended Saturday’s Western Maine Fly Fishing Expo despite a full-blown afternoon snowstorm and sub-freezing temperatures.

They didn’t seem to mind that Maine’s fly-fishing season will start much later than usual because water bodies are still buried under several feet of ice and snow.

It was the third year that the Mollyockett Chapter of Trout Unlimited has run the fly-fishing exposition at The Bethel Inn Conference Center.

“It gives people hope,” Steve Wight of Bethel and the Mollyockett Chapter said of the all-day event.

“Fishing season’s going to be a little late this year,” said vendor Marty McDonough of Peru and The Fly Pack. “People are so tired of winter that they can’t wait to get out.”

This year’s crowd was bigger than last year, Wight said. “People seem to be really enjoying it and we’ve had a steady crowd right from the beginning of the day.”


Turnout was “outstanding,” said Scott Stone, expo coordinator. “I’m very, very pleased with the enthusiasm, you know, of the vendors and that’s really a lot of the deal.”

Organizers had so many interested vendors this year that they had to turn some away, Wight said. Many had signed up to return next year.

“It’s a hot thing,” he said. “And there’s lots of people poking around wishing they could go fishing but knowing they will eventually, someday.”

There was no shortage of fly-tiers in the room. Many vendors had fly-tying operations underway, with some tiers selling their flies.

Fishing guide Nathan Hill of Conway, N.H. and Hill Country Guide Service attracted attention while tying a flashy fly he invented on the spot. He dubbed it a Sex Cougar Fly, calling it a cross between a Sex Dungeon Fly and a Zoo Cougar Fly. He said it’s for catching senior-aged trout.

Hill said he guides anglers on the Androscoggin, Ellis and Saco rivers “and everywhere in between.”


“The rubber legs give it a more reflexive motion when you’re twitching it,” Hill said while tying the fly. “It can really drive a fish to bite. Did you ever watch a fish in clear water chase a fly? They really react when there’s a sudden movement.

“They’ll kind of just be following it, thinking about it, and then they nail it when they see it twitch,” he said. “It just adds that little extra flair that triggers their instinct.”

Maine and New Hampshire fishing guide Rick Estes of Owl’s Roost Outfitters in Ossipee, N.H., was busy tying dun varia flies that imitate isonychia lead-wing nymphs.

“This festival is nice because it’s short,” Estes said. “Lot of folks today.”

Fran Dube of Lovell brought his grandson to the event. They chatted with several vendors, including Estes.

“We come every year,” Dube said.


McDonough gave a demonstration of the new Tenkara fly-fishing rod, a 12-foot telescoping rod that includes a braided line and fly. There is no reel for it.

“It goes down to about 20 inches, so you can throw it in a backpack,” he said.

McDonough said he didn’t expect to sell any of the $200 rods at the expo. But he said they are becoming popular in the U.S. and that he has been selling “quite a bit” of them on his website.

He said he mainly came to the expo to market his business.

“I don’t sell a lot at these shows, so it’s all about getting the word out, and I love seeing the kids that come out,” McDonough said. “It’s a good crowd today. Lot of anxious people.”

That’s because Maine ponds, streams, rivers and lakes remain buried under ice and snow. So, what used to be the traditional start of open-water fishing on April 1 is going to come and go, fisheries biologist Francis Brautigam of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said.


“I think what will happen is people who enjoy ice fishing, they’re going to get to do it well into April,” Brautigam said. “That’s the bottom line, right? For the open-water anglers, we’re going to have to be patient, where everything’s locked up tight.”

Wight said Ron Fournier, who works for the local 4-H camp and runs a guide service, has a little family ice-fishing operation going at the end of North Pond by Route 26. Fournier told him the ice was still 32 inches thick there. So, it’s a long way from fly-fishing season.

“Well, that’s why they’re here, just getting charged up,” Wight said of the crowd.

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