Maine's Fly Fishing Craftsman: Stevens Nets

fly fishing stuff
Added Date:
Tuesday, 14 Aug, 2007
I love rural Maine, and one of the reasons is the tradition of craftsmanship; they build stuff rather than buy it, and the state's history of "sporting craftsmanship" is strong indeed.

I love rural Maine, and one of the reasons is the tradition of craftsmanship; they build stuff rather than buy it, and the state's history of "sporting craftsmanship" is strong indeed.

That's why I wasn't surprised when I found some killer craftsman at Grand Lake's crafts festival, including a talented wooden net maker whose work impressed the hell out of me.

Stevens Nets logo

Stevens Nets builds a hell of a wooden net right here in the USA.

Located in Anson, Maine (near the Kennebec River), Stevens Nets is the brainchild of Alan Stevens, a retired math teacher and canoe builder who started building nets for his own use. His nets are beautiful, and at a time when industry heavyweight Brodin has moved production offshore, I was impressed with his prices.

Stevens Net photograph

Stevens builds a full range of nets (Stevens Net photo) from tiny to large.

Stevens builds a whole line of nets, but what caught my eye was this oddly curved net. A left-handed landing net??

Stevens Stripping Net

A curved landing net? Huh?

Nope. Once again, the Trout Underground comes up clueless. It's a stripping basket you wear around your waist (your hip fits against inside of the frame near the cutout circle).

I didn't believe it at first, but Alan Stevens gave me a quick demonstration, right down to the potential uses of the cutout (it's there for production purposes, but it happens to be exactly the right size for a shot glass).


It hasn't been fishing yet, but I'll let you know when it has.

Stripping baskets are commonly used in saltwater (and I've got a folding model for that), but I think a stripping basket might be handy when streamer fishing. Will it work?

Who knows, but I'm a sucker for handcrafted things, especially when I can trade jokes with the craftsman (thank god I didn't have $3400 with me or I'd have bought a Fiddlehead canoe, but more on that in an upcoming post).

Stevens builds nets with the new lightweight rubber bags (in addition to the nylon bag shown), and right now they're doing the summer fair circuit, so availability isn't great. Still, if you're interested in a hand-made, USA-built net, visit the Stevens Nets Web site. Tell 'em the Trout Underground sent you.

Shot Glass

Shot glass holder? It is now...

I've got a couple more short posts coming from the Maine file (you lucky bastards), so stay tuned.

fly fishing, fishing, maine, landing net, fishing net, wooden fishing net, stevens net

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Cotter, Arkansas heralds itself as the trout capital of the USA. Nine states including Vermont, NY, NC, PA, and NH, have declared the brook trout as their state fish. And, some folks ... moreup north have crowned brookies the Provincial Fish of Nova Scotia. But ask anyone in Rangeley and they’ll unabashedly tell you that their little town in Maine is the undisputed brook trout capital of America.

No doubt, Rangeley is steeped in fly fishing history. An 1877, 15-page article about the Rangeley region published by Harper’s New Monthly Magazine attracted huge publicity, encouraging railroads to expand and tourists to arrive in large numbers. By 1900 there were already over 200 fishing guides in the watershed. Wealthy anglers acquired land and established homes and private camps, a tradition that to some extent has not been broken. Famous guides like Herbie Welch drew tourists, including former President, Herbert Hoover. During the late 1920s and 1930s large hotels were built and many guests brought their own chefs and staff. It was the “Golden Age” of Rangeley.

Other notables include Carrie Stevens. Born before the turn of the 20th century, she became a milliner before working with her husband/guide throughout the early 1900s from her camp on Mooselookmeguntic Lake. She studied the fish and the waters around Rangeley and applied her millinery skills to developing flies that soon became famous – the Blue Charm, Gray Ghost and Golden Witch to name a few. Still in use today, Steven’s flies and appearances on the cover of Field and Stream helped secure Rangeley’s stature as a premier fly fishing destination.

Today Rangeley is much lower key but the tradition of private camps and limited access still persists on sections of its neighboring lakes and rivers. However, guests arriving now have a wide range of lodging options, from luxury living to tent camping. Restaurants are plentiful, the town calendar of events is full and there is a wide range of activities for anyone coming along that doesn’t care to fish. Opportunities for outdoor sports such as boating and biking are nearly unlimited, while hikers can easily find their way to the Appalachian Trail. Winter skiing remains popular with many ski-runs named after legendary river guides and flies.

There are many options for traveling to Rangeley, including:

Fly to Bangor International Airport and drive for approximately 2 ½ hours

Fly to Portland International Jetport and drive for approximately 2 ½ hours

Drive from Boston, approximately 4 hours

Drive from Manchester, less than 4 hours
Fishing Waters
Like other rivers in the Rangeley region, the Kennabago begins at Big Island Pond near the Maine/Quebec border and ends in a lake – in this case Mooselookmeguntic Lake – about a 25-mile ... morelong run. And, like other rivers in the area, it is chock full of wild brooks and landlocked Atlantic salmon. What’s different is that it is also home to wild brown trout. Ask anyone who has fished near Rangeley and they’ll tell you that the Kennabago is the third best brook trout river in the state and might rank higher if it were more accessible.

The upper Kennabago starts at Big Island Pond and flows for about 12 miles before flowing through the west end of Kennabago Lake. Described as scenic and remote, this section is mostly gated, although you may gain access through a guide or by paying a fee. It is possible to wade at the junction of Little Kennabago Lake and the river, as a substantial sandbar extends several yards into the lake. During the spring and fall seasons, the brook trout are ample and active every hour of the day.

While fish remain in the river all year long, each spring and fall large brook and landlocked salmon migrate out of the lake and into the lower river in great quantity. Here access is very good between Steep Pool Bank and Mooselookmeguntic Lake. Open from April through September, the entire river and its tributaries are available for fly fishing only. Limitations on fish are fairly strict – 2 trout with a minimum length of 10 inches and only 1 can be in excess of 12 inches. The limit on salmon is one. After August 15th the river becomes catch and release only, with its tributaries closed to fishing to safeguard spawning.

Anglers looking for another type of experience will find Kennabago Lake interesting. It is thought to be the first fly-fishing-only lake in Maine (since the 1920s) and is commonly assumed to be the largest east of the Mississippi. Getting there can be a challenge since there are no paved roads and access can be difficult. Deemed a Wilderness Gem Lake, it is one of a mere five in the state with that designation. Brooks range from 10-14 inches accompanied by a healthy population of salmon. Though not as common, wild brown trout, five pounds and greater, are found here as well.
Game Fish Opportunities:
A stones throw from the town of Rangley is what most anglers consider the second best, native brook trout fishery in the country – the Magalloway River. A tributary of the Androscoggin ... moreRiver, the Magalloway begins near the Canadian border and flows south for 30 miles (including distances over intervening lake water) through northwestern Maine and New Hampshire. Like other rivers in the Rangeley area, the Magalloway is interrupted first by Parmachenee Lake and then 2 1/2 miles later, by Aziscohos Lake, a narrow, 15-mile long body of water.

Privately owned property makes access difficult on the northern reaches of the river as it runs through harvested forestland. Where public access is available, it is best fished by wading or by canoe as this section is more of a small stream loaded with rifles and pools. Because pressure here is light, the fish are thought to be naïve and unaccustomed to seeing flies. Beginners in search of wild native brook or wild landlocked salmon should find this a great place to learn and gain confidence.

Magalloway’s mid section is rife with pools that drain into Parmachenee Lake, followed by a mile of deep pools and pocket water before reaching Aziscohos Lake. The dam at Aziscohos provides steady flows of cold water great for trout habitat. But what brings fishermen to the river section between the two lakes, are the extremely large lake fish that appear several times a year to take advantage of spring smelt or fall spawning.

The terrain after Aziscohos Lake is quite steep; the river descends over 250 feet in less than 2 miles, creating fast water, riffles and deep pools. Open from April through September, the entire river is fly fishing only and only barbless hooks can be used below the lake. South of the lake, fishing is restricted to catch-and-release for brook trout; north of the lake there is a 2 fish limit where fish less than 6 inches long and fish longer than 12 inches must be immediately set back into the water.
Game Fish Opportunities:
Short and swift is how many describe this freestone river - and they are not wrong. Although it’s only 6 miles long it is widely considered the best native Eastern brook trout river ... morein the US. Surrounded by dense forest and scores of lakes, the Rapid is part of the Androscoggin watershed and river system, an area known for outdoor sports and recreation. Aptly named, the river drops over 800 feet from its start in Lower Richardson Lake to its end at Umbago Lake, the steep incline accounting for its abundant whitewater.

Despite its short length, fishermen think of it in three sections – the Upper Dam, Middle Dam and Lower Dam. Getting to the Upper Dam requires a half-mile hike but the trek is worth it. Here there are large numbers of both brook trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon to be found in the deep water. Below Middle Dam (below Lower Richardson Lake) you’ll find fast pocket water that can be easily accessed by local roads and trails. At Lower Dam, water backs up into a 500-acre pool known as Pond in the River, providing access to the river’s finest fishing, the 2.5 miles between the Dam and Umbagog Lake.

Once stocked with Atlantic salmon, the salmon have successfully adapted and breed on their own, to the extent that now they are all wild. With the exception of Pond in the River where boats are necessary, the Rapid is a wading river. By New England measures, the season tends to start early, typically opening on April 1 and fully active by mid-May. September is considered the best time to fish. Brook trout in the 12 to 16 inch range are plentiful although 18 -20 inchers are not that uncommon. Salmon tend to average 12-14 inches. Fishing is restricted to barbless hooks and fly fishing only. Brook trout are restricted to catch–and-release only. Salmon is limited to 3 fish with a 12-inch minimum.
Game Fish Opportunities:
Even though our streams and fish are not large, our trout are fiesty, and they will put up an exciting fight. I have fished the Northeast waters of Vermont and New York since I was ... morea kid, and I would love to help you make the most out of your day on the water. The Mettawee river and surrounding streams are full of exciting fishing opportunities for eager anglers.
Our guided Battenkill River wade trips will take you on an adventure to catch wil trout and a mixture of other wild and stocked fish near Manchester, Vermont. The Battenkill is one ... moreof the most famous fly fishing rivers in the area, and other local streams are available depending on conditions. Book your adventure today!
We are a month into the season since the trout opener in April. What started out as an early spring following a mild winter, the later part of April and early May were cool and below ... morenormal temps. Spring definately slowed down till just the last few days. Our water conditions have been excellent for this time of year due to the below normal precipitation this spring. Median flows in most streams have been 60 % of normal till just lately. Rain events on 4/24,5,2,and 5/6 have brought water levels up but only unfishable for a day after the rain. All good !

While I have done some trips since the opener I have had some time to fish and scout myself. Also I have been getting caught up on projects at home which once the season gets going I will not have any time to do. I did have a great afternoon in the lower NY Kill 3rd week in April where I was fishing an area that was one of my primary haunts as a kid. Hendricksons and Blue Quils were coming off sporadically and only the rare splashy rise. I decided to first go through swinging a Hendrickson nymph and olive caddis trailer. Several good pulls and a nice hook up with a 16-17 Brown, however he shook off after a minute. This was repeated again further down and this fish I landed, a beautiful 19 inch female. This stetch is far away from stock points and rarely holds stockies. This was true 50 years ago and is the same today. Took a break and just sat waiting for the surface to get more active but the three fish I saw earlier I hooked 2. Decided to make one more pass, this time fishing a streamer. No pulls or hits till I got almost half way down (this is a big pool). I knew immediately that this was a big fish by the Kill standards. A couple of head shakes deep and then off to the races down the pool once into the backing. I was sure glad I ws fishing 1X tippet. Aftr 10-15 minutes he was begining to tire but still a botttom hugger. Finally I got him on top on his side and sliding toward the net, only to have the hook pull within a foot of the net. A beautiful Hooked Jaw male, definately in the 26 "+ range. It was great !!!!

Back to the report. Stream stocking really picked up the last week of April and first week of May. In VT the Wallomsac got its first stocking in the trophy stretch on the 25th April and yearlings on the May 6th. The Black got 500 Rainbows in the Trophy Stretch the first week of May. As othe 10th of May the Kill and Mettawee in NY have been both been stocked. We are pretty much done with Hendricksons and I am just starting to see Cahills and more and more caddis.This evening I was fishing small water near home and around 7:00 p.m there wer tons of spinners mostly from Blue Quills and a few Hendricksons. It was so neat just to observe. I was successful on the only rising fish where this was happening.
What size is that Stevens net posted above? Would it happen to be the 25R from the Stevens website?
[...] (Hardy) / WagnerRods / Bencanrod (Fun Bambou) / JoelWoodWorks / FlyFishingNets / LumberJocks / TroutUnderground / [...]
Yeah, I was having trouble getting on his site at all today for some reason. The post I mention is in his Articles section. Sorry for the broken link. hawgdaddy
Hawgdaddy; the link was broken, so I removed it.
Zach Matthews who runs the Itinerant Angler website has an article on using a stripping basket while trout fishing. I think it'd really be handy when trying to keep your line untangled from, well, pretty much everything along the stream that the line always seems to tangle around. That wooden version is very stylish. Take care, ... more


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