June 18, 2016
I planned a business trip to Boston months in advance and that meant getting Kelly free flights on points because she had never been to Boston. It also meant ending the business trip in a long weekend in New Hampshire at our friends, Pat and Sabine Hynd’s house who live in Derry, New Hampshire.
And I knew full well, there was outstanding fly fishing in New Hampshire. I just had two obstacles:
- Kelly, who is never happy about me stranding her all day while I fly fish
- The research I needed to do to figure out the closest river to Pat’s house that held trout
I never did overcome the first obstacle. But, I did overcome the 2nd one by doing something really smart: I went to the New Hampshire Trout Unlimited Website where the officer’s email addresses were listed. Fly fisherman are almost always helpful to outsiders so I wrote a simple email to the president, Ron Sowa. Well, almost immediately Ron Emailed me back suggesting I fish the Contoocook River in Henniker, New Hampshire. Ron and I went back and forth in email a few times where he provided great info for me before I realized he was a guide! And he was so generous with free info. At that point I felt badly. So badly I said to myself “Screw it; I’m going to hire him for a full day and if she’s pissed so be it.” Then I chickened out because of the sheer agony I’d have to endure, and thought about a half day guided with Ron. At that point, to my extreme pleasure, Pat showed interest in joining me for some fly fishing. Pat had never fly fished before and like many of my friends in the software world I was really looking forward to us fly fishing together, guided.
Then the wives got wind of it and totally put the kibosh on the idea. But, the wives were willing to give us a morning. So, it was going to be me and Pat leaving early, driving 45 minutes, gearing up, my teaching and guiding & fishing for 1.5 hours, and drive 45 minutes back in time for lunch and a big hike with the wives. I have a goal of fly fishing in every state in America and New Hampshire was on the list so I was still very excited to check it off the list.
Well, I owe Ron big-time and I will repay him if he ever gets to the sierras in California…. Or I’ll just figure out how to get to New Hampshire again and hire him to guide me and Pat.
We fished the Contoocook river. At first it was a bit of a challenge because we went upriver on the college side when we got to Henniker and it was froggy, big and deep. I said, “hmmm”… Then we went back over the bridge and downriver. Immediately, there was a huge dirt parking lot with a dam looking structure, but I could see pocket water in the distance. But, there was a big swamp in the way. I said, “hmmmm…” I’m a bushwhacker, but, Pat was a first timer; I didn’t want to drag Pat through that mess. So, we continued another ½ mile down the road to the next pullout and I almost fainted from what I saw: Pocket water, riffles, multiple runs, tail-outs. This had it all in a 200-yard stretch. But, no one was there so I said to myself, “Hmmm”. It just seemed too perfect. “Why were no other fly fisherman here? It’s a Friday. If this place were good then there must be something wrong.”
We’ll I geared us up and we wadered up there on the side of the road. We wandered into the water. It was a coffee stained clear that in the shade provided zero visibility; even with my Smith Chromopop polarized lensed glasses. But it was not a slippery river like I’m used to in the East. So, it wasn’t difficult to wade at all; you just had to go slow because you couldn’t see. I did my lecture to Pat on where trout hang out and rest / feed and pointed out a few places. And as we did I noticed a number of different bugs in including large Caddis and Yellow Sallies. I said to myself, “hmmmm”… We staged ourselves 20 feet below two large boulders where I knew Pat could make an easy beginners cast. Then I started on a casting lesson for Pat. On my second “10-2” thing teaching Pat to cast, I caught a small brook trout not even trying. I said to myself, “hmmmm”… Then I saw a large fish rise on the other side of the river and I said to myself, “hmmmm”… I said to Pat, “Hang on one second I want to catch that rising fish.” And I did. and I said to myself, “hmmmm”…
And it was just one of those days; a day that you remember forever. But, a day I haven’t had in a while. In fact, I believe the last time I had a day like that was on Lake Crowley close almost 20 years ago. And I only fished for an hour and a half on the Contoocook River. I think if I had all day I would have caught and released more than 50 trout.
- I had a Grand slam with multiple brooks, rainbows, browns, & smallmouth
- Most of my fish we caught on dries.
- I caught 2 brookies at the same time (one the dry and one on the dropper)
- And this was a first in my fly fishing career: I hooked a fish…well he caught himself… that jumped out of the water from between my legs to get my dry…through my legs and up a foot out of the water like shamu while I was releasing a fish from the dropper he was hooked on!
And we only got 1.5 hours to fish! 45 mins up and back. In that 1.5 hours I caught ~20 and I was “guiding” a beginner! I have never ever left a river when the fishing was so good. Even Pat caught fish! As a first timer! To his credit I have never had a beginner wait like you are supposed to when loading the rod. He was the quickest study I have ever guided. He figured out how to fight fish without me even helping.
The fish I caught went 6” to 14”. I’m sure there were larger fish in that river. I caught one fat rainbow jumper that was worth taking a picture of under water. And many of the fish I caught had to be wild because I got a lot of jumps. And every fly fisherman knows how fun Brookies are…
How we fished
I put Pat on an indicator (New Zealand wool style indicator) dropped by a large, size 12 bead headed black midge. Dropped from that was a bead headed birds nest I tied.
And here’s where it’s really interesting: I did dry/dropper. My dry was a size 12 bullet head skwalla (Montana fly company’s version). I don’t even think they have skwallas (a huge stone fly) in New Hampshire. But, it killed. Just like my buddy in montana, Mike Hillygus, said it would. Mike swears bullet head skwallas work all over the world because of the size and profile. And I most certainly proved that in Poland last week. And I proved it in New Hampshire yesterday. This weekend I’m going to prove it on the Upper Kern river in the sierras where I am really curious to see if it will work.
So, if you want to fly fish in New Hampshire I strongly suggest you hire Ron Sowa from Reel New Hampshire Fishing Guide Service to guide you. That would help repay my debt to him. He’s headquartered in Manchester, NH 603.493.3857.