Saturday, May 7, 2011

Stalking small mountain streams

We've all passed by the stream I fished on Saturday. It's one of those pretty, small, freestone streams that crosses the road here and there, maybe parallels it for a bit and then disappears into our imaginations.

At it's widest it's about five or six feet wide. It runs crystal clear and in the bright light of midday it shimmers in the golden browns and yellows of the cobble bottom. And it has enough features that just scream "holding water" whether that's a beautiful eddy loaded with just the right amount of scum, small pocket water, or beautiful hemlock shaded runs. And it's on a dirt road off a dirt road, so the traffic is light. It's a gem.

And so, I finally pulled over and fished it.

Evening in the forest
Earlier in the day I had spoke to a woman and her father who were fishing the stream's big feature, an eddy the size of a small house (in a neighborhood where a double wide trailer is a big house). They were drowning some worms without luck though she did mention the fish were splashing at some bugs. Bingo!

It was late in the day when I arrived. The sun was already approaching the tops of the high pines that dominate the forest in this section of Southwest New Hampshire. I was intrigued by the spot where the river took a sharp turn to the east, away from the road, so I crossed over a side channel and plunged into the overgrowth (making plenty of noise given the earlier sighting of a bear by my Dad).

A turn into the woods
From the road, the river appears to widen and slow. I expected that I was going to get into one of those marshy spots, maybe even a beaver pond. Instead I found that the river widens against a rocky out crop and then proceeds to plunge down a twenty foot water fall. It was quite a dramatic surprise. However, I would have preferred a something nice to fish versus something nice to look at.

Not having the time to follow the stream further (not even to some inviting pools at it's base) I fished upstream along the road.

As one would guess from the State's name, New Hampshire has a lot of granite. And this particular river looked like a quarry. Granite boulders and slabs are everywhere. It doesn't make for the most fertile streams though I had caught wild Brook Trout previously in streams in this watershed. Picking up a rock yielded many fewer bugs that I would have hoped for but this isn't a limestone stream. The bugs were there. And the trout should be there too...

For water that looked so fishy, it was startlingly devoid of fish sign. As I gazed into the pockets, the eddies and the short glides there was not a subsurface flash or a sip or even a splashy rise. Nada.

I fished every likely spot for a hundred yards getting increasingly more stealthy as I went. Still Nada.

The eddy
I eventually ended up a "Big As A House" Pool. The large eddy was full of scum slow swirly in a clockwise orbit. I fished the back edge for a while with a nymph rig that got me nothing. So, I moved to the head of the pool.

Fishing downstream into the two seams that defined the head of this large pool I hoped to find some fish feeding on nymphs coming through the riffle. No luck. A half-dozen fly changes and working both the inside and outside of both currents yielded not a sniff. I then tried hoping for a fish and even tried to will a fish to strike. Neither techniques worked.

And then a fish made a splashy rise deep in the eddy. It made a small fish rise. But a rise is a rise. I reeled in and dug in the fly box for an emerger. The fish made another splashy rise as I cut off the nymph rig. And at least two more while I tied on the emerger the last clearing the water by a couple of inches and showing me he was a nice sized Rainbow. Sweet!

I'll not bore you with the details but suffice to say that I cast all manner of emergers with stunning accuracy and drag freeity and only got a skunk. I got a text right around then from my eldest son that dinner was waiting on me so I scooted back to the ranch.

Some days you just have to settle for being in an amazing location doing what you love doing.

The impenetrable waterfall of doom.


  1. Enjoyed. Some of the best days spent in a stream were zero days.

    1. Thanks, TTC. Yeah, all these days have something to add.