Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Pittsburg, NH area fishing

I finally got some fishing done a week ago, up in the Pittsburg, NH area.  I picked up a friend on Saturday morning and we headed north and east.  It took a couple hours to get there, and we did a quick drive through Pittsburg and up to First Connecticut Lake before picking our first spot to fish.  We decided to start at a bridge about halfway through the Trophy section (fly fishing only) between First Connecticut Lake and Lake Francis.  We were camping at Lake Francis that night.

We did check out the upper end of the trophy section before we fished downstream, but it was crowded and the two most obvious holes were being used to teach some young kids to fly fish.  We saw one of them catch a small wild rainbow before heading downstream.

I enjoyed the pocket water we were fishing.  But, my fishing companion apparently didn't.  I had settled in on a handful of flies I wanted to use for this trip, and I didn't change up very often.  I was using a hopper up top, a size 14 Batman Prince Nymph and a size 18 purple Juju Baetis as my droppers.  Walking was challenging, but there were fish in that pocket water and I caught a couple small wild fish early on.  The biggest excitement was a large brook trout following my hopper for 10 feet or so before declining to eat it.  It would have easily been my biggest brookie ever, but no luck.

After a couple hours in the midday sun, I felt like I was dialing in the water and I had a few things figured out.  The takes were subtle.  They almost always came on the first or second cast into an area, so the best strategy was cast and move, cast and move.  I'd missed a few fish, caught a couple, and was having fun, but my friend was catching nothing and complaining.  Eventually, he insisted it was time for lunch.  We went to the campground, set up our tent, got some food, and he then wanted to drive to Colebrook to fish.

I had my best day of last year in Colebrook with this person, but I much preferred to stay in the upper water.  But, there were 2 of us, so I gave in.  Unlike a year ago, the fishing was very challenging at Colebrook this year.  I got one strike and one small wild fish.  My friend got 2 fish.  And suddenly, darkness was approaching, so we called it a day.  We had access to so much water full of big wild fish in NH, and I knew I didn't want to return to this site the next day.  The bridge at Colebrook can be very productive.  But, it's open to bait fishing and lots of people fish there simply to catch their limit and go home.  There is nothing wild or remote about it, although there are some wild fish in the area.

I suggested an early start for the next day, and suggested we fish the top of the trophy section, before it got crowded.  We were the first people there, and within a couple minutes, I had a nice 12" rainbow on the Batman Prince.  I continued my tactic of cast and move on.  I went downstream and caught another fish right below the previous fish, this time on the Juju Baetis.  By now, some other fishermen were showing up, so I headed downstream even more.  At the next hole, I was fishing some small water that had just been abandoned by another fisherman, but on my second cast, I landed a 10" landlocked salmon on the baetis nymph.  This was my first landlocked salmon ever -a fish I have never really targeted even in VT.  I leapfrogged the fisherman below me, and caught another small rainbow just below him and some downed trees.  I fished a handful of holes on the way downstream, and then realized I was getting away from my buddy.  So, I circled back around and found him.  Somehow, between my 4th fish and the time I found him, my net disappeared, but I didn't notice right away.

I also changed flies, tying on a size 16 Psycho Prince nymph - still purple.

As I resumed fishing with my friend, he moved downstream quickly to some bigger water.  I worked slowly through the pocket water and at one point, I waded halfway across the river to put a fly in front of a very fishy looking rock.  And, it paid off as I hooked a nice rainbow on a very subtle take.  This is when I noticed that my net was gone and I had my buddy net the fish.  The fish was a bit lethargic with warm-ish water temperatures, so I released him immediately with no photo.  So, you'll have to trust me that it was a beautiful 18" rainbow.  I went off looking for my net after that, and my buddy caught a second smaller fish where I'd just taken the big fish.  By the time I returned, he wanted some coffee, so we headed back to the campground.

We packed up everything, got some coffee, and headed to a fly fishing only section above First Connecticut Lake.  I thought this water was close to a mile long, but the river dropped into the lake after maybe 1/4 mile.  My friend worked this water more slowly, and it paid off with a nice wild brookie (this water holds mostly brookies and salmon).  I had no strikes and I fished the entire FFO section.  By now, it was noon and we had time to fish one more area before we had to head home.  Plus, rain was in the forecast for the evening.

I suggested below Murphy's Dam, the outlet of Lake Francis, just above the village of Pittsburg.  This water was being released towards the bottom of the dam, and was clearly below the thermocline.  I measured the water at 54F, and we knew there were big browns in this water.  But, to be honest, fishing had really slowed down, I hadn't had much sleep, and I was getting pretty tired.  I fished a big white streamer trailed by 2 tiny nymphs, but after half an hour, I'd had enough and called it a day.  I told my friend I was done, but told him to keep fishing.  I went back to the car for something to eat and drink, and I listened to the Tigers pummelling the Red Sox on the radio.

After an hour or so, an older gentleman with a fly fishing license plate showed up at his truck, which was parked right beside me.  We talked for an hour or so, and he told me he'd lost a brown he estimated at 8 pounds on a tiny fly.  He had actually hooked a small brown, and the bigger brown attacked the smaller fish and managed to get hooked.  After a 20 minute fight, the fish threw the hook, and he reeled in the dead carcass of the baby brown he'd originally hooked.  This was the second time he'd hooked this particular fish (although he said it's possible 2 huge browns are in the small pool where he hooked it), and it got away both times.

He turned out to be a guide, and he was very willing to share his knowledge of this stretch of river.  I'm hoping to go back in September and maybe fish with him for a day.  I told him that if we fished, my goal would simply be to have a shot at a big brown.  Numbers are meaningless, but give me a shot at a big eastern brown.  I'm hoping to do that in 3 weeks or so, when I've got a week off work to go fly fishing.

Even if I don't fish with him, I will fish in the Pittsburg, NH area again this season, despite the high pressure that anglers put on the Connecticut River through that area.

I did some stream measurements this past weekend, and some local waters are cooling down.  The Little River is cool enough to fish all day, and the Dog is cool enough to fish in the morning.  But, after a tough hike with my wife and friends on Saturday, I slept in on Sunday and never made it out fishing.  I probably can't fish this coming weekend, but I'm guessing that water temperatures will be much better by the time I can fish 11 days from now.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Not much to report

We don't have a lot of tailwaters in VT, and most of them are a long drive from my home.

I managed to fish a couple weeks ago near Rochester, VT, along Rt. 125, upstream of Texas Falls.  It was 66F up there.  I got a few very small wild brookies that day.  But, other than that day, I haven't been fishing.  Here are some recent water temperature readings:

White River - Main Branch - 76F
Locust Creek - 75F
Stony Creek - 72F
Barton River, near Glover - 71F
Black River in Irasburg - 75.5F

We need rain and we need cooler temperatures.  Until then, I either have to travel to fish or just do something else on the weekends.  I kind of doubt that my wife would support me getting a fishing boat to use on Lake Champlain, but it would sure be nice to have this summer.

On 4 of those waters listed above, I have never recorded a temperature above 70F before this season.