Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fly Fishing Lessons in New Hampshire: Summer in the Great North Woods of New Hampshire

Since June 1st of 2010, I have had the pleasure, and fortunate experience of living in and exploring the Great North Woods (GNW) of New Hampshire.  Specifically, I have spent much of my time in the Colebrook, Pittsburgh, Columbia, Strafford and Errol area.  On a day to day basis, my time has been split between teaching fly-fishing, guiding, exploring rivers, and house sitting/painting.  For the first official season of First Cast Fly Fishing, it's been a very rewarding summer.  For those interested, I would like to share my experience with you.

For many NH folk and seasonal visitors, travel rarely extends beyond the +/- 30 miles of NH seacoast, the abundant lakes region dominated by Lake Winnepausakee, and the scenic Mt. Washington Valley...home to the highest mountain in the Northeast and windiest recorded spot on earth (Mt. Washington).  These areas offer people a chance to see some of NH's best scenery, but they are also dotted with the comfort and convenience that most of our society has come to enjoy...Walmart, McDonald's, Outlet-Shops, etc.  However, for those of you who may not enjoy or need such conveniences, a trip to the GNW just might be the place for you. 

Things to do in the GNW:

Errol: is a very small town with no commercialism and no traffic (unless there is a snowmobile/motorcycle rally or a 4x4 mud-bog race).  However, what Errol lacks in infrastructure, the general area more than makes up for it in outdoor seasonal activities.  For example, if water recreation is your game then the Adroscogin River and Umbagog Lake are calling your name.  The "Andro," as the locals say, offers opportunities to fish, kayak, canoe, swim, picnic and watch wildlife.  In fact this summer, while fly fishing on the Andro, and as a full moon was rising just beyond the mountains, a HUGE bull moose crossed the river just 50 yards up-stream.   The Errol area also boast one of the few fly-fishing-only sections.  In the fly fishing-only section, dry-fly fishing during the Alder hatch is second to none.  During this hatch, come prepared to catch Salmon, Brook Trout, Rainbows, Brown Trout, and very healthy Smallmouth Bass.  If you happen to forget something at home, whether for fishing, hunting, camping, etc., you'll be happy to know that Cote's has it all.  Finally, if you have the time and the means to travel by motor-boat or Kayak,  Umbagog lake is an amazing area.  You may want to think about reserving one of a few campsites on the lake and immerse yourself into a place that time forgot.  Changing direction...if your heading West out of town towards Colebrook,  drive slow and look to your left...you may get a glimpse of a Bison herd! The Errol Bison Farm is owned by my former Trinity High School football coach Nick Vailas.  The last time I drove by, Nick was at the farm and he gave me a tour.  He shared his vision and future of the farm.  It may involve Eco-tourism...a great opportunity to see Bison up close.  Speaking of,  I was able to see newly born baby bison...very cool! 

1st Smallmouth Bass on Androscogin River: 4wt Scott...took me 40 yards downstream!


Dixville Notch (DN): is not a town, per say.  However, every 4 years, it is arguably one of the most important political hot spots in the USA.  DN, believe it or not, is the first voting station for our nation's presidential primary.  Seriously...every four years, roughly 25 people in DN cast their votes via hand written ballot and box style process.  To see the voting room/box, be sure to visit the Balsams Grand Hotel.  This is an amazing hotel complete with a golf course, trout stocked lake, 300 miles of walking/nordic trails, alpine ski resort, full day spa, and a restaurant/golf club house that, at one time during prohibition, was one of Al Capone's stop-overs for poker and lady entertainment.  Finally, if your legs need a stretch and you want to take a quick hike to see a panoramic view of the valley/hotel, then the 30-45 minute Table-Top trail-hike will bring you to the very top of the notch...once at the top, be mindful of the edge and deathly vertical drop!



The Balsams Hotel: Dixville Notch, NH.


Colebrook, Columbia, Strafford: of the the three, Colebrook is a city.  However, Colebrook is far from the likes of Concord/Manchester/Portsmouth, etc.  For me, Colebrook is home-base form guiding operations because it's a place that offers several things that you can not get in Errol, Dixville Notch, Columbia, Strafford and Pittsburgh...cell phone and satellite service, grocery store and pharmacy, banks, more than one restaurant and hotel, 9 hole golf course, library, farmers market, the best muffin's at Mostly Muffins and NH's best homemade bread/pastries at Le Rendez Vous.  But, from the anglers point of view, Colebrook is perfectly nestled between the best fishing the GNW has to offer.  For example, the Mohawk and Connecticut River runs though town and down to the Columbia/Strafford area.  The Androscogin River is a 25 minute drive over the notch, and Pittsburgh, NH- Connecticut River is 30 minutes away.  Not to forget, some of the best pond/lake fishing are minutes away at Little Diamond Pond and Big Diamond Lake.

Pittsburgh:  the end of the line...next stop Canada!  There is no doubt that people come to the Pittsburgh area for the following reasons: Moose-Deer-Grouse Hunting; Fishing the CT River, Lake Francis, 1st-2nd-3rd CT Lakes, local back-country ponds, and to simply get away from mainstream life/people. Arguably, the Pittsburgh area is known to be the best outdoor/sportsman's area in the state.  Over the years, record moose and fish have been taken from these lands/waters, and daily bag limits of Grouse are easily obtained.  However, I must offer a warning...at times, expect to see lots of sportsman.  The GNW has been discovered and it is used by many!  Despite this, a trip to Pittsburgh is well worth it because there is no other public access land/water like it in NH.  For many this is as wild as it gets and you are sure to see or do something that will make you forget about life back home... they don't call Rte. 3 Moose Alley for nothing!  

If you plan to visit Pittsburgh, the village highlight is the food at Dube's Country Store..it does not look like much, but they have one of the best breakfast/lunch menu's in NH, and be sure to grab a few pastries for the road...you will not be disappointed!  Area accommodations are spread throughout the area and they range from camp grounds, cabin/cottage rentals, B&B, and fishing specific lodges such as Tall Timber located on Back Lake. Speaking of, Tall Timber is an excellent choice for a person/group/family who desire a full service restaurant-bar, fly shop, rooms/cabins, and boat rentals...and the prices are vey reasonable.  Further, Back Lake has the best Hex hatch fishing in New England...at times, on a sunny day, it looks as though it is snowing!  In fact, one of my clients caught the largest fish on Back Lake this year...a +20"Brown Trout.  Even a river snob like myself can't pass up the Back Lake Hex hatch...you can catch 20 fish per night, then dock your boat, walk 40 feet, grab a beer and talk the talk with fellow anglers/guest.  But, if river fishing is your thing, the trophy section of the Connecticut River is just minutes up the road...heck, a lot of my clients and I fish both the lake and river in one day... and still have plenty of time for a mid-day retreat with the family.  

Red Merker +20"Brown Trout: Back Lake, Pittsburgh, NH.


As for the Connecticut River...The trophy section (upper, middle & lower) and parts in the Colebrrok/Columbia/Strafford area, especially during the Spring and Fall, are known to be the best fishing in NH.  During these times you are likely to catch larger fish moving from lake to river.  He are a few pics from the CT River -First Cast Fly Fishing Adventures.  


CT River TU student.  Brookie as long as my forearm.
CT River Brook Trout. TU student was on fire with Elk Hair Caddis!
Early Summer CT River Brown Trout: Location?


In closing, I would like to share a personal message with all of you.  Much of my summer in the GNW would not have been possible if it were not for the generosity given by Craig and Alison Jewett.  They provided me their vacation home as the 1st Cast base camp without reason or cause.  THANK YOU VERY MUCH!  In return, you should know the below picture/experience would not have been possible without your support. The expression says it all, and this is one of the main reasons why I started Frist Cast Fly Fishing.  Again, many thanks my friends.

Xavier's First Fish...An Unforgettable Life Experience



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