Monday, October 13, 2014

Fly Fishing New Hampshire: Floating the Connecticut River

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Just downstream from the Route 26 bridge, in Colebrook, NH.

CT River Facts: Colebrook to Columbia Covered Bridge

Location:  Colebrook, New Hampshire area.  Google Maps:
Fishing Season and Special Rules:  Please see interstate rules and regulations at
Licensed Required: Yes, general fishing only. If you have a NH license, you can fish on the Vermont side (New Hampshire owns the river).
Floating:  Yes.  Professional guide services and DIY (do it yourself).
Walk-Wade: Yes.  There are many sections for DIY walk-wade.  
Entrance Fee: No.
Camping: Yes, you can camp on the river.  More info at
Length:  410 Miles (the longest river in New England).
Origin:  Rises on the USA/Canada border.  Think 4th Connecticut Lake.
Tributaries:  148 tributaries, of which 38 are major rivers.
Access: On this stretch, there are more pull-off's and access points on the Vermont side.
History:  I highly suggest reading any book detailing the logging history of New England.  If you do, you'll be pleased by the vast amount of information pertaining to the CT river.  Also, for a quick read, check out

CT River Brown Trout.  PS. I no longer take photos of fish this way.  Please practice good CPR (Catch-Photo-Release). To learn more about CPR, visit this link:

Why Fish the CT River from Colebrook to Columbia Covered Bridge
  • Native Species:  The list of native species that once lived in the entire CT river system is vast. For example, near Long Island, think sturgeon, flounder, and herring.  Atlantic Salmon once spawned in this river system.  However, in this stretch alone, the only native wild specie you will find is Chub/Fall-Fish. 
  • Non-Native Species: Rainbow and Brown Trout.
  • Stocked Fish:  NH Fish & Game stocks EBT, and Rainbow and Brown Trout. Holdovers are known to occur in this stretch.
  • Structure: Much of this float is wide, slow water.  As a result, the river floor is mostly sandy, or a mucky sediment type floor.  There are at least five known pools/runs in this section.  At these sites, expect to see gravel, and jagged granite boulders.
  • Location: Very easy and safe to DIY float this section. Colebrook offers modern services (lodging, hospital, gas, food, etc).  Plus, the trophy section of the CT river is minutes up the street ,and you are not far from the Androscoggin River = lots of fishing opportunities within a short distance/time.
  • Communications: You'll have service in/around Colebrook, and the entire length of this float.
  • Experience:  If you are not expecting to catch world record fish, add up your time, energy and cost = a good time to be had and good river to learn how to float and fish. 
  • Scenery:  Bordered by roads on both sides, it's not the wilds of Alaska, but seasonal colors are good, especially in the fall.

Half float tube and half inflatable drift boat = more stable than a canoe; stop any where and fish; foot fins allows you to hold your position; oars allow you to navigate rapids; walk-wade downstream inside the tube (extreme safety); pack it in your car and weighs 50 Lbs. 

How to Fish the CT River from Colebrook to the Columbia Covered Bridge

Option A:  You could hire a licensed guide who offers float trips.  The cabins at Lopstick Lodge and Osprey Fishing Adventures offer classic drift boat services.  Throughout NH, on select rivers and ponds, First Cast Fly Fishing (me) offers single man float boat fishing programs.  

Option B:  DIY (Do it Yourself).  If you plan to float and fish  this section on your own, your best bet is:

  • In my opinion, early season produces the best fishing.  As summer approaches, water warms and water flow, in many areas, is poor. 
  • DIY Floating: Put in at the Route 26 bridge in Colebrook, NH.  Put in spot is underneath bridge.  Also, upstream of the bridge there is a local fellow that will allow you to put in.  This adds an hour to your float, but the extra hour might be worth it (I don't know the fellow's name).
  • Take out options: A) Columbia Covered Bridge. Steep embank will cause problems with all boats.  B) +/- 500 yards downstream, on the Vermont side, is the best place to remove all types of watercraft.  
  • Shuttle Service:  If you floating alone, in Colebrook, Ducrets Paint and Sporting Shop provides shuttle service for a minimal fee.  Contact Info:
  • Class 1-5 Waters: Generally, this stretch of water is safe and harmless.  However, for the DIY angler, be cautious about spring run-off's and fast  water flows.  Late summer and fall, when water levels are down, represent the safest time to float.  If you plan to DIY float this stretch, practice on smaller, safer waters.  There are a few spots on this river that may cause problems for inexperienced oarsman. 
  • Recommended Watercraft:  Canoe (motion stabilizers recommended), Inflatable Drift Boats (Rafts), Classic Hard-Bottom Drift Boats.  A float tube or belly boat could be used, but it is not the the safest and most efficient means of travel. For example at certain points, especially during low water, the angler may have to exit the water (think rocks, etc).
  • Time:  For DIY floating, give your self plenty of daylight, especially in the late fall, when it gets dark around 6:30pm.  Paid professional floats run about +/- 5 hours.  
  • Transportation: For DIY anglers, you'll need two cars.  Parking is available, both in Colebrook and the covered bridge area.  Parking area is obvious and easy to find.
  • Fly Rods:  Depends on your strategies, but 3wt to 6wt, should get the job done. I use my 10'6" 3wt switch rod.  I don't necessarily catch more fish with this type of rod, I just like it.  I would bring two fly rods and have them ready to go.  Think nymphing runs/pools and then dry fly fish slower water, or target rising fish.
  • Fly Line:  there are plenty of deep runs and holes that warrant the use of a sinking line.  But, I have fished this river plenty of times with only floating line.
  • Techniques: Don't over think it.  There will be sections of this stretch that will be ideal for nymphs, streamers and dries. 
  • Trophies:  This is New Hampshire premier river, but don't expect an abundance of fish, or state records.  However, each year, a few anglers hook a few large fish; enough to keep people coming back and the legacy alive. 

Final Word

Personally, I am not overly impressed with the CT river; based on history, the river has seen better days.  But, as they say, "it is what it is," so, I make the best of it.  If you are just getting into DIY float fishing, this stretch of river should be on your to-do-list. If you like to DIY walk-wade, there are some nice run/pools, starting just downstream of Colebrook. Don't expect pristine, poetic moments; this stretch gets fished hard by fly fisherman and worm-bobber anglers.  However, there are a handful of spots, that offer less pressure and good scenery. Go explore and have fun.

Thanks for reading.  We hope you enjoyed this post.

Gone Fishing,