Smallmouth Heaven on the Penobscot River



I’ve fished Maine’s Penobscot River for over 30 years, although my efforts have exclusively been confined to the few miles of the river’s West Branch south of Lake Chesuncook. This cold, clear, fast-flowing stretch is Blue Ribbon fly fishing water for landlocked salmon, and is also popular among whitewater rafters and kayakers, as it boasts some Class 5 rapids.


As for the several hundred miles of river below the Abol Deadwater, I had scant knowledge. Therefore, I was duly delighted and surprised by my early-August visit to the Lincoln Lakes region, where I fished a slower part of Penobscot with guide Zach Glidden.


We launched Glidden’s Hyde drift boat at the base of a bridge in the town of Lincoln, and drifted for some 8 miles along one of the prettiest stretches of river I have ever seen. This section of the Penobscot is much wider and slower than the upper portions, but the water remains crystal clear. Fish-holding hot spots are everywhere, and so are the bass!


We caught fish almost immediately, on small poppers and soft-plastic Senko worms fished below a small bullet weight. While virtually the entire river holds fish, we mainly focused our casts on the shady banks, where the bass take up station around any type of structure, be it a log, boulder, ledge or beaver lodge. Low, overhanging tree branches also held good numbers of fish, as did aquatic weed beds.


As we drifted silently along, we were occasionally startled by a bald eagle flapping out of the trees. Deer, beaver, mink, otters and various waterfowl are some of the other wildlife you’re likely to see on the river. What you’re not likely to see are human beings. Indeed, we never saw another person on the river the entire day, despite it being the height of summer.


After catching some 2 dozen fish, I switched to an 8-weight fly rod and proceeded to hook a smallmouth on virtually every cast. The aggressive fish couldn’t resist a small, yellow slider, and would often attack the fly as it sat motionless on the surface.



By the end of my 4-hour drift, I had probably landed 50 fish. None were over 3 pounds, but the river does hold smallies up to 6 pounds, according to Zach.


I can’t say enough about the Lincoln-area smallmouth fishery or this section of the Penobscot. The fishing is extraordinary from June through October, and fall offers the bonus of spectacular foliage and crisp, comfortable days.


If you’ve never been to this part of Maine, please add it to your list of must-fish destinations. Bring a kayak or canoe—or hire a guide such as Zach Glidden. He can be reached through Tracewski Fishing Adventures




For more information on guides, lodging, supplies, public boat access and dining options, contact the Lincoln Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce (207) 794-8065;