NH Weekly Fishing Report - July 26, 2012

Final fish stocking report for the season: www.fishnh.com/Fishing/fish_stock_current.htm.

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North Country

I have been fly fishing for a long time and feel like I have experimented with, or at least been exposed to, almost every variable involved therein. I have used most every type of equipment in pursuit of almost every type of fish. Anything I haven’t tried myself, I have at least seen or read about.

Nonetheless...I feel it important to mention my complete ignorance on the subject of wet-flies. As you probably know, dry flies imitate those recently hatched or flying insects that float on the water’s surface. Streamer flies are typically designed to look like smaller baitfish and are fished under the surface. Somewhere in between are nymph flies which imitate anything from emerging insects to leeches and crayfish.

Wet flies, however, seem designed to mimic nothing. The designs, patterns and names may date back a hundred years or more, and some seem more like works of art than fishing tackle. What sets wet flies apart from the others is that in using them, an angler is not attempting to accurately imitate anything that would otherwise be found in a fish’s natural habitat. For these reasons, I simply do not use them, though I’ve cast them at Atlantic salmon and steelhead -- fish not likely to be feeding, as their reproductive and migratory instincts supersede hunger. I own very few wet flies and never tie them.

But last weekend on the Connecticut River, my friend Kyle handed me a wet fly -- and it fished so well that my attitude has changed.

The greatest advantage to fishing a wet fly is that it cannot be done incorrectly. Anyone who has ever tried to place a dry fly in front of a feeding trout will admit that presentation is everything. With a wet fly, even a beginning angler can have success, as precise casts and perfect hook sets are not paramount. Considering that the bait is clearly something that does not belong in the water, an unnatural drift or unique presentation may trigger a fish to strike. I learned that casting upstream allows the fly to sink deeper and I started getting strikes immediately. In pool habitats, I was casting at a 45-degree angle downstream and retrieving as if I were fishing a streamer. Brook, brown, and rainbow trout all responded, and we landed them in good numbers.

Fly fishing for trout and salmon can be difficult. When fishing on a hot, sunny day with a bright sun overhead, the challenges seem to increase. My experience over the weekend was so rewarding, that I feel like there is another option when nothing seems to be working. I have been exposed to an entirely new approach to fly fishing. Between my time on the water and this writing, I have tied two dozen wet flies, and will never again venture riverside without them! – Andy Schafermeyer, Fisheries Biologist

Lakes Region

Our long, hot, dry summer continues. Lake levels remain low, and flows from all the big lakes have been reduced to near-record levels. Spotty thunderstorms have supplied little relief to central NH. I recently hiked in the White Mountains and noted that the Pemigewasset River is a trickle coming down through Woodstock to Plymouth. There are fishable stretches of this river; you just have to travel a bit to reach them. Deeper runs and pools are the spots to fish now, especially where a coldwater brook enters the river. Brooks in the White Mountains are low, yet have good fishable water. I hiked in the Hancock Notch area, and the streams there have wonderful little brook trout in them. I enjoyed just watching these little jewels as they jockeyed for position in the current and rose to grab small terrestrials that fell into the stream. My next trip into the mountains will find me carrying my 4-weight fly rod and a few grasshopper imitations. I may even try a few ponds, such as Black, Greeley and Guinea Ponds. I’ll need my headlamp, because the best fishing will be at dusk.

With the surface temperature of the big lakes in the mid-70s, coldwater anglers are finding the trout and salmon down to the 40-foot depths. Early morning surface activity is evident, but these fish are hard to target as they are generally chasing baitfish and quickly descending to colder water. With temperatures what they are, it makes sense to limit your excursions to early AM and PM and let the mid-day be a time of rest and relaxation.

We’ve had reports from bass anglers that the smallmouths are deep! Many are being caught by salmon anglers at up to 6 colors of lead-core line! I’ve noticed anglers on Winnisquam fishing the drop-offs in at least 30 feet of water with success. – Don Miller, Fisheries Biologist

Monadnock/Upper Valley

No report this week.

Southeast NH/Merrimack Valley

A simple thermometer can be a trout angler's best piece of equipment in the middle of the summer while fishing around the Merrimack River. As water temperatures reach their maximum values in rivers and streams in the southeastern part of the state, trout seek out cooler areas that are more tolerable. Streams with temperatures less than 70 degrees are likely candidates. Brook, brown, and rainbow trout stocked into the Merrimack mainstem will travel to tributaries and areas with groundwater seepage to try to survive this trying time. These streams do not necessarily have to be very large -- we've found trout in tributaries only a few feet wide. They will ascend these streams as far as possible looking for cooler water with habitat that offers protective cover. Usually, they encounter a perched culvert at a road crossing and cannot travel any further. This is another reason why we should protect these smaller streams and ensure that fish can move freely in and out of them. Groundwater seepages along banks can offer a constant supply of cooler water for trout to still reside in mainstem sections. Trout may be found very close to shorelines in these areas, so be careful not to "walk over" these areas to try to access fish towards the middle of the river. – Ben Nugent, Fisheries Biologist

Seacoast Area

It was a pretty slow weekend for having so many fish in the water. Many striped bass anglers reported unsuccessful trips, partly due to the abundance of baitfish. If you’ve been down to the coast recently, you may have seen birds diving and schools of juvenile herring everywhere! With so much food around, it’s difficult to entice a striper. What we heard from most of the successful anglers this weekend was the need to chum. Take that mackerel you would normally throw on a hook live and chunk it, throw in lots of chunk mackerel to attract the stripers, then toss in a hook with a piece on it. This technique worked for anglers in the river and a few outside of Rye Harbor as well. – Becky Heuss, Marine Biologist

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