Creepy Highway Drifter or Fly Person?

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It’s the end of the Alder cycle and I am hell bent on experiencing it again before they wrap up their lives on the river.  Today, I head out with all versions of the alder fly in my fly box; two nymph versions, a wet, and two stages of the dry alder.  Thank you, Art!  We arrive at our launch site and it is immediately apparent that the Alders have wound down.  There are less of them fluttering and fewer excited fish piercing the river’s cieling.  What there are decidedly more of, however, is people.  This is the first time I have been on the river on a summer weekend day in a some time and I had forgotten that it is a pure luxury to be able to take up residence in a trout spot for hours.  Today, I will need to have my fly fisher manners on and move down the river succinctly.  It’s a bluebird day with little wind so I am feeling no worry about how the fish will behave.  It’s going to be picturesque ride, with or without trout on my leader.

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After some lack luster rises at the early stage dry alder, I move down a bit to open up space for those fly fishers that have come to try their rod wading from the launch area.  We pull into one of my favorite little “micro” holes where we land a couple of little rainbows who take a submerged late stage dry on the strip.  The fishing,all together, is slow.  I am just about ready to call it a river day as my boat mate today is not a fisher.  She is patient, but if the fishing isn’t special, I can’t help but feel a little selfish as she bakes in the sun waiting to move downriver to the next point of interest.

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I climb a rock to get a look at the upcoming current and take another distracted cast which, to my surprise, results in an undoubtedly much bigger fish.  Problem is, I’m perched high on a boulder with deep water all around and can’t get enough leverage or reach with my net to get this guy on board.  And I WANT to see this fish!

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Angus, I hear you!

I’m not confident that I will land him given the restricted ability to adjust my angle and the lack of a barb on my Alder. I can hear Angus now…”side pressure, Stephanie!”  After 4 or 5 swings towards the net combined with advanced yoga  moves, I contain him.  And he is beautiful.  I love brook trout.  No other fish triggers such wonder and amazement as this fellow does with his Kodachrome dots.

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After his successful catch and release, we enjoy a snack and a little coffee before heading out.  At this point, the sun is bearing down on the water pretty hard, dashing my hopes for subsequent exciting catches.  We enjoy the remaining quick water and take notice of herons and loons on our stillwater paddle to the take out.  And since we wanted to drive together, we now have the last leg of the trip…the walk to retrieve the vehicle.  At this point I am always dishelved, hungry, thirsty and beginning to feel the scorch of the sun.  Shortly after taking to the pavement, I am in receipt of many very strange looks from oncoming drivers and passengers alike.  As I walk, I wonder what is so interesting/compelling about me that so many people are taking notice.  I am also very careful to be sure that I avoid any interaction with persons who might have murderous intentions (because, as you know, the cautionary tales of people with hatchets waiting under your car at the mall told to all youth by nervous parents die hard.). It’s in that moment that I realize, IT’S ME!  It’s me, in fact, that looks like the creepy ax-murdering weirdo!  So as a public service, I felt it prudent to put you at ease.  Should you see a person who looks like this:

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Ax murderer?

DON’T WORRY!  The person will be unsteady, dehydated, wearing multiple pairs of eyeglasses and other sundry headgear. He or she will be wearing clothing that would seem to be incongruent with the current weather conditions.  This is to avoid being baked any further.  Rest at ease, you are not in danger!  This Creepy Highway Drifter is just a tired fly fisher fetching transport after a long day fishing. The little grin you observe is not her responding to comical internal voices.  Rather, it’s a welcome residual symptom of a day spent falling in love with brook trout …all over again.

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Flying Zebras: A magical hatch

Fly Fishing: Photography, Flyfishing Photography, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Brook Trout, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Brown Trout, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Rainbow Trout, Uncategorized


The Alder Hatch.  Wow.  There are few things this special that can be experienced without going to a whole lot of trouble.  Its cast, drift, and set a rhythmic fly fisher’s dream sequence…on a loop. 

Thanks for alerting me, Chris!

A Pheonix on the Andro

Flyfishing Photography, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Rainbow Trout, Uncategorized

Well it’s another early winter morning…wait, no. It’s not. It’s 39 degrees at 9:30 am, but it’s Late June?  With gusty winds and no sun, my day on the water requires full winter dressing  including hot hands in the wool lined hand warmer pockets of my waders.  As I pull into my launch area I find one other vehicle. Doors swung open resembling a majestic Phoenix with wings spread, its presence seems a foreshadowing of something epic.  The Phoenix, with its symbolism of renewal, cyclical rebirth, and strength is a relevant symbol for all of us who long for the outcome of a vibrant, self sustaining trout fishery.  But until then, at least in the New England, we have “the truck”.

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Phoenix

Of course, only fisherfolk have such a metaphorical/emotional response to a NH Fish and Game stocking truck.  To the average person, it might be mistaken for a septic truck with its ample tank.  We know better.  As I ready my boat and gear, I listen to the officers chatter as they dump nets of trout into the river.  Now, this is not the first time I have been in this scenario. The time previous, I was already in the lake when the trout truck pulled right up to the bank and commenced shooting fish out of a water cannon in a trajectory that seemed to be ridiculously close to my boat. It was like a feverish dream, or perhaps a nightmare.  I was literally sitting on top of hundreds of fish. I could see them, smell them, hear them. And do you know, I couldn’t catch a single trout!  I did, somehow, manage to catch a bass in all that trouty mess. Needless to say, I left that lake dejected and having a serious feeling that I should hang up the rod. I mean, who can’t get a trout to bite in those conditions?  So, long and short, while a was marveled by the perfection of timing this morning, I prepared myself for a potential total devastation of confidence.

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Pinky

Once on the water, I could see fish snacking in the slow current. An 88 revealed a couple of stocker sized rainbows within the first 15 minutes.  As the nibbles slowed, I moved downstream to a more shallow narrowing section of river with quicker currents and subtle elevation variation. Here is where the rodeo in earnest begins. Just about every cast, these newly re-homed fish are spunky and consistent taking a swinging 88 just about every other cast.

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Standard Fare

I’m simple.  The catching never bores me. No matter the size or variety.  However, I will admit that my focus heightened after hooking a larger rainbow who gave me lots of smile worthy trouble on his way to my net.

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Feisty Sprinter

The 88 doing all of the work today is one of the first I tied. My friend Art has provided me with a generous supply in the past, but he is a real fly tier and needs to focus on tying other inventories that, well, are too challenging to be fun in my opinion. So, I made a commitment to learn the 88 as a production tier for our season. This scene is essentially a quality control laboratory for my first production line and, to my disappointment, he loses his wing at around fish #30.  Don’t tell Art!  His 88’s last years.

An interesting aside, as these rainbows are feeding on my 88, there are 3 fishermen across the river cranking spinners. Only one trout is interested in their metal. I think this is the first time that I have been the “catching” fisherman in this equation.  I’m usually the fisherman trying to manage my rising frustration as I work my tail off to get some interest as smiling folks with spinning gear pull up handfuls of fish all around me.  I think that these gentlemen today might suspect that they are on Candid Camera. I mean it’s so ridiculous. Every time they glance over, there’s another fish on my line. Of course, they also don’t know the stocking truck came 2 hours earlier!  After an hour an a half, they retreated to their truck to have beers and conversation about “what the hell that lady is using”, I imagine.  Luck, gentlemen. She’s using the classic and under-recognized pattern of good fortune.  I, Phoenix-like, have risen from the ashes and will leave the river today with my fisherwoman self-esteem intact.

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Androscoggin Gauge

Because of the wintery feel, I decided to stay upriver of the quick water and wade/paddle back up to the launch. After all, I had the gift of certainty that there were fish here.  The rest of the lower river has been strangely quiet so far this season. I missed the sounds and motion of the float, but greatly enjoyed not walking the 2 miles back to the car when I finally came out of the water at 4:30.  After removal of my 2 insulating layers, winter hat, wool socks, and jacket, I reached over to escalate heat to full throttle as I settle into the seat.  I barely have the energy to raise my arm to wave to the Fish and Game officer who is turning in as I am turning onto the highway. Perhaps he is coming to see how his school is adjusting to their new habitat. They are safe and sound, Sir. Doing just fine.  I will return home to the warmth of the inside until summer returns.  It will give me time to address the poorly tied lot of 88’s that came off of my production line and, for god’s sake,  avoid supplying my teacher with a fly of marginal longevity!

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Does this look like Summer Fishing Apparel?

 

 

 

 

Tiny Crapshoots: Dead Diamond/Andro Doubleheader

Fly Fishing: Photography, Flyfishing Photography, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Brook Trout, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Rainbow Trout, Uncategorized

Gauge Pool


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Tiny Brookie: Andro on an 88

I’m experiencing a tiny streak. No matter the body of water, I am hooking minute trout. Infinitesimal, these brookies are rather exciting in their possibility of being born and raised in the river. That said, if I am going to keep catching fish with these physiques, I will need to consider switching to my 3 weight rod to experience some resistance upon reel in.

This Memorial Day weekend I combined a solo day of fishing on the Androscoggin and a trip with Art to the Dead Diamond River in search of large brook trout. The plan is as follows: I will float the Andro on Friday, spend the night camping in Wilson Mills, and meet with Art the following morning to tackle the paddle upriver to the Dartmouth Land Grant to fish the Dead Diamond and its confluence with Magalloway.

Androscoggin River

My day on the Andro is unexpectedly warm and bright. Taking my time, I present a range caddis flies (and nymphs) with no interest. So, out comes the eighty-eight which reveals several little brookies hanging in small eddies behind the protection of rocks.  There is much time in between catches. This common scenario is why I have devoted one of my side pockets to coffee holding.  Coffee on the river is a treat like no other.

I do find one smallish (definition=a little bigger than tiny) rainbow trout on my ride down. All said, it was a bit of a confusing day. I found fish in sections I don’t usually find them and no fish to speak of in the sections that usually produce. It’s a long walk back to my car under relentless sun, so I am ecstatic when 2 friends pass me on the highway. Amazingly, they recognize me despite my dehydrated, wobbly amble and save me the last half mile.

At this point, there is a bit of an emergent situation unfolding. So, before I even remove my waders, I am already taking inventory of burger possibilities. I land a totally satisfying cheeseburger in Errol on my way up to Maine.


What began as a camping plan in Wilson Mills required adaptation due to the multitude of black flies. Scoot over Watermaster, I’m coming in! And you may wonder why bug spray was not effective. Ummm, forgot it. Yep. But remembered just about EVERYTHING else.

Rav 4: Anti-Bug pod, boat tower, changing station, food prep zone.

After sleeping through various waves of thunderstorms that evening, Art arrives in the morning with freshly baked cinnamon rolls from the Polish Princess in Lancaster. We split one. And then, split another. We make a little coffee on the camp stove and take off to launch onto the Magalloway River.

Lower Magalloway River

Once we arrive at the river, we experience a rather eventful “launch” which entailed attaching a rope to our loaded rafts and kicking them over a steep river bank. I think this may be the closest I will ever see my very composed friend, Art, come to having a “fit”. His raft requires 4-5 very serious karate moves before it makes its plunge into the river.  I have video of said event, but remember, this is a man who brought me hot cinnamon rolls just hours earlier.  So, I will refrain from posting his martial arts demonstration here.  Art does an excellent job containing his total dissatisfaction while reeling in a collage of other-than-trout. He is trout loyalist. I, however, am less picky and find myself totally willing to brag about my 3 pound other-than -trout. No congratulations from my counterpart on this catch, though.

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Carp/Sucker/Other-than-Trout


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transition to foot travel

Once we reach the main stem of the Dead Diamond River, we park our boats on a gravel bar and begin hiking upriver in search of large brook trout that swim up from Lake Umbagog in search of carp caviar.  The timing of this run is variable and brief.  While this is the right time of year, it’s a crapshoot in earnest. Not a huge deal for us, though. Art and I both find crapshoots to be extremely worthwhile activities; always allowing for discovery, adventure, and laughter. This crapshoot leads us to an epic pool. Unbelievably, there are no signs of trout here today. I suspect the timing of our visit is either too early or too late…such is the nature of a crapshoot.

Searching for Umbagog Trout

After lots of hiking, plenty of fishing, and many bugs, we depart the banks of the Dead to reclaim our boats – if, of course, they are still there. On our way back we notice one last pool. Art grabs a seat under a tree and explores the emerging caddis larvae, of which I avoid inspection as to curtail wormy nightmares. So I enter the river at the top of the pool with a woolly bugger and catch…yep, one tiny trout. I tell Art that this little brookie is dedicated to him, the trout loyalist. Now, we can officially finish our excursion with all of our boxes checked.

Art, retrieving his boat…it’s been a long day.

By the time we reach the shores of the Magalloway and heave our selves and our boats up the wall of a bank, we are both exhausted.  Having had two days one evening of crapshoots, I am ready for a little sitting in the comfort of shelter. This level of exhaustion is proof that, if you are willing to appreciate the adventures at the scale that is accessible to you, tiny trout and crapshoots can meet the test. Choose a lighter fishing set up, hike a little more, make room for a coffee holder on your boat, find a thoroughly entertaining fishing mate…you will need to be creative about the elements you use to design your crapshoot.  Of course, the other option is to fly out west every other weekend and try to grab a spot in line on “real” trout river. You’ll catch special and amazing un-tiny trout, to be sure. But, I dislike standing in lines at airport security just as much as I am not keen on standing in lines on rivers.  Scale, whether in pounds and inches or the “adventure” quotient, is like anything else…just a matter of perspective.

4 Miles for a Native

New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Brook Trout, Uncategorized


4 miles of interesting, seemingly trout-friendly water revealed one fish, a little native brookie.  A solo jumper feeding on a hatch menagerie, he was hanging in shallow, slow water. Perhaps it was the beaver dam 5 ft upriver and the confluence of a clear stream just downriver that attracted him to this lackluster spot on the Pemi. As thrilled as I was to catch and release him, I have to confess a certain sadness stuck. With a squadron of bugs around every bend of river, this singular trout is the reality of our trout fishery if not for the support of New Hampshire Fish and Game’s stocking program.  While I am ever grateful that we have a stocking program, I am even more regretful of our impact on their habitat that prescribes such a practice. 

Taking Bets on Deception…

New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Brook Trout, Uncategorized


What do you think…brook trout here?  I saw one fish come to the surface on this little pond fed by Deception Brook beneath Cherry Mountain.  I also met eyes with a brute leech that looked to be large enough to drain my entire blood supply in less than 3 minutes.  Hence, any further inspection will be done by kayak. Ewwwwwww.  Perhaps I will take the leech on an 88.  No doubt, it would be a good fight! 

Nymphing for Whoopie Pies: The Angus Method

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My friend Art is interested in nymphing.  He has invested some serious effort in learning how to assemble knotty leaders of Amnesia.  Wait, what?  I know.  I was not biting upon Art’s first presentation of the seemingly wax figurine posture that is the nymphing stance.

But I have been offered an opportunity to be convinced of its usefulness by the master of making fish play even in the most unfavorable conditions, Mr. Angus Boezeman.  Angus, a New Hampshire fishing guide who has spent many hours on the upper reaches of the Connecticut River with my friend Art, is an interesting flavor of fishing expert. He sports a fiercely practical approach to interacting with water, often producing magical results.  As impressive as his ability to read trout water is his knack for being able to establish what kind of carrot will motivate a person to adopt a more open-minded approach to fly fishing.  Fact is, I am not inclined to drink the nymphing kool-aid.  I think Angus recognized this in me from the first couple of sentences we exchanged that first morning despite my efforts to disguise my lack of enthusiasm.  Angus combated my resistance in the most practical fashion…by employing the Whoopie Pie approach.  So it goes…  “Hey, I know this local baker who I ordered homemade chocolate whoopie pies from, man they are going be amazing, picking them up later, maybe I’ll drop some by your cabin.”  There it is.  I’m going to work VERY HARD for this guy.  He really “gets me”.


Turns out, I am a lucky nymphing student. 15 minutes of lobbing and we find this handsome rainbow 4 feet from where Angus places me.  “Side pressure!  Just wait!  Side pressure!”  Angus knows that if we land this fish there will be a full conversion.


As the fog settles, we end the fishing day looking for large fish with no results.  This allows Angus to spend some time correcting bad fisher-woman habits of which there are so many, he has to use a rapid fire, machine gun approach to address them all before the fog chases us off the water.  “Trigger Finger!”

Our final hour of our final day presents us with an opportunity to fish two productive and lovely pools on the way out of town.  When we arrive at the parking area it is raining and 37 degrees..AND not a single car or fisherman to be found.  Even with the settling chill, on a weekend in Pittsburg, this is something of a paranormal event.  Art and I suit up for a solitary and greedy nymphing session on Judge and Jury.  That’s right, not even a thought of swinging a streamer grazed my mind.  Having ingested the most amazing Whoopie Pie left on our doorknob the previous evening, I instinctively defaulted to the Angus Method.  5 rainbows and 10 cold fingers later, I am now a True Believer.


If you would like to fish with Angus, well, I wish I could tell you how to book him.  The fact is that I was lucky to have had the opportunity to spend time on the water with him.  In all truth, I think that getting a spot in his date book was a result of the friendship that he and Art have developed over the years.  These are two men who have logged mountains of hours building community and advocating for New Hampshire’s trout waters over the past 25 years.  As veterans of this movement, they have a common and unique understanding of the time, hard work, diligence, terrible frustrations and enduring friendships that are necessary to protect and preserve these fragile environments.  We can all be grateful for their efforts as they allow us the joy of casting into a river that holds the hope of a trout.


My best advice for extracting some wisdom from Angus would be to make some stellar whoopie pies and, as soon as they come out of the oven, drive around Pittsburgh and hit all of the most famous pools.  FIll your net with your whoopie wares and wait for some interest.  You just might pull him off the water.  And if you do, you will find him to extraordinarily and surprisingly generous with his knowledge.  He might just be the best catch you have landed yet.

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Mid-day Bends

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imageWhen the fish are decidedly hunkered under mid-day sun, it’s time to explore a different kind of bend.  Along the way there are countless brooks and tributaries that should be noted on your gazetteer once you dismount.   The only thing I’m missing in this scenario is a sidecar for my fishing buddy!