Brianna Dostie of Cape Elizabeth prefers using the Grey Ghost Streamer fly because it was created by a woman – legendary flytier Carrie Stevens. Dostie has used it with success in Maine and out west. Photo courtesy of Brianna Dostie

Fly fishing books and seminars will tell you to choose a fly that mimics the insects where you’re fishing, whether it be a river, lake or the ocean. The theory being, these tiny hooks adorned with feathers and fuzz will give the trout, salmon or bonefish just what they’re after. And with the right fly, they’ll buy what you’re selling.

But the truth is that fly fishing comes down to personal preference. For many, sentimentality or even superstition is involved in choosing a fly. If one has worked in the past, why change?

Some give the nod to tradition, keeping with the famous flies passed down through generations. Many more anglers keep it real and go with the local favorites – when the locals will share those secrets. Still others believe if a fly is unlike anything the fish in a particular water have seen, they may just bite for the hell of it.

Here are five stories of favorite flies that have been much loved by avid Maine fly fishers – and the fish they’ve caught.

Brianna Dostie of Cape Elizabeth prefers using the Grey Ghost Streamer fly, shown above on her rod. Brianna Dostie photo

Brianna Dostie, Cape Elizabeth: A Lewiston native, Dostie has been an angler for most of her 30 years and a fly fisher for half of her life. The Registered Maine Guide loves fishing so much, she created a business three years ago called Confluence Collective that is designed to improve access to fly fishing for a new demographic of angler. 

Her absolute favorite fly is the Grey Ghost Streamer – one that was created by a woman who disrupted the traditional demographics in fly fishing. Carrie Stevens created the fly in the 1920s at a time when flytiers were predominantly men.

“Carrie Stevens is an icon in fly tying and fly fishing in the Rangeley region,” Dostie said. “What I love about it is she used chicken feathers. Fly fishing has a dark history of using exotic bird feathers. She used what was sustainable and accessible that anyone could afford. To this day, it still works beautifully. I’ve used it in Montana, Alaska and Wyoming. As long as you have a bait fish that looks like it, it works in a lot of other places.”

The Golden Retriever fly clearly works, as proven by this brook trout that was landed by Chris Hayward. Chris Hayward photo

Chris Hayward, Bethel: A wilderness canoe guide in the summer and the director of experiential learning at Gould Academy during the school year, Hayward’s job is to direct outdoor fun for others. But when he first moved to Bethel in 1999, a Master Maine Guide taught Hayward how to tie flies and, with that, made fly fishing a whole lot more fun for him.

“Probably, now that I reflect on it, that was the moment I made a bigger connection and just appreciated the art of fly fishing,” said Hayward, a fly fisherman of 30 years. “When I tied my own fly, and then caught a fish with it, that was amazing. It was the Grey Ghost Streamer. I caught a great rainbow trout on the Androscoggin River. I couldn’t believe I had tied that fly.”

Today, Hayward doesn’t spend time tying and the Grey Ghost is not his go-to. He has four favorites, with the top two being the Golden Retriever with the yellow body and the olive green Woolly Bugger.

“It’s great to just have four to five good flies in your quiver. But honestly, I catch more fish on those two than anything else,” Hayward said. 

Shannon Leroy, Stockton Springs: An angler for 50 years, Leroy learned to land a fish as a kid in Wyoming from her father and uncle.

After moving to Maine 30 years ago, she and her husband owned Medawisla Lodge before selling it to the Appalachian Mountain Club. Then Leroy helped manage it and started a women-only fly fishing class. In the five years she taught the weekend class, Leroy estimates she helped teach around 100 women to fly fish.

The first fly she used to catch a fish was the Royal Coachman, and it remains a staple in her fly box. But Leroy’s favorite is the Mickey Finn.

“My dad got tired of opening his fly box and not finding flies in it. So he sat down and taught me how to tie the Mosquito, the Royal Coachman and the Bumblebee. Now I always have one of each in my box,” Leroy said. “But if I’m going for a good all-around fly in Maine, it’s the Mickey Finn. It’s got a little bit of red, the attractant to the eye.”

Registered Maine Guide Macauley Lord loves fishing for smallmouth bass, such as in the Androscoggin River, above. And Lord prefers his jig fly that he created to get the fly down deep. Press Herald file photo

Macauley Lord, Brunswick: Lord learned to fly fish more than 50 years ago at age 13 when his grandparents’ friend taught him in Kentucky, fishing for bluegill and bass. Now a fly casting instructor at L.L. Bean, Lord is the author of numerous books and has fished – and taught fly fishing – around the world. 

Lord has cast for tarpon in Mexico, bonefish in Belize, and plenty of crappie in southern and central Maine. His favorite fly is one he created himself – using, very specifically, a nontoxic jig head with a thin feather-like tail and simple flash wrapped for the body.

A jig fly by Macauley Lord helps get the fly down deep in the water. Macauley Lord photo

“Some years ago, I became aware of how many fish I was unable to reach because my flies didn’t go deep enough. So I began tying jigs for fly fishing,” Lord explained while fishing out west last weekend. “Yesterday, I was fishing a lake in Wyoming. The rainbow trout were loving this jig in an olive color. One great thing about a jig is that as soon as it hits the water, it drops straight down to where the fish are. (One) went deep. It was a colossal tiger trout. I estimate its length at 28 inches, which would translate to something over 10 pounds, on a five-weight fly rod.” 

Author, rod-making instructor and conservationist Kathy Scott prefers the Wood Special to any other fly when fishing for wild, native brook trout. She calls it an “explorer’s fly.” Photo courtesy of Kathy Scott

Kathy Scott, Mercer: Scott has promoted her sport of 40 years in many ways: once as a Lawrence Middle School librarian who taught her students to fly fish, as the author of five books, and as a member of Trout Unlimited’s board of trustees. In addition, she and her husband, David Van Burgel, teach a bamboo fly-making class in the Catskills.

Scott doesn’t just want to know where the fish are and how to catch them – she wants to know their personalities. So she uses the traditional Wood Special.

“The wood is a little fly that mimics a brook trout and is a perfect explorer’s fly to use if there are no insects rising and you want to see what’s going on in the water, because you can put it in the water and twitch it along or let it drift, and you really get to find the personality of the brook trout that takes it,” Scott said. “If it drifts over and it grabs it, you know it’s waiting on the other side of the log. It’s an opportunist. If you twitch it fast and it grabs it, it shows off the aggression in the little brook trout. Brook trout, especially wild native brook trout, are characters.”

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