Well we are just past peak foliage here in the mountains. I have been on the water every day for the past three weeks. Either exploring or guiding, so I am sorry for the lack of reports. While this season has provided some of the most breathtaking foliage I've ever seen, we have been finding more than just brightly colored leaves. The fishing has been outstanding.
One thing I love about guiding, and being on the water every day is that I get to see the subtle changes that the river and her surroundings go through on a day to day, week to week, and month to month basis. As I drove through the notch every day over the past few weeks I could see the colors continue to brighten. Then over the past few days they have begun to dull a little. As for the fishing the changing of the seasons causes many behavioral changes in trout. Browns are in pre spawn and moving to their spawning grounds. They have been aggressively chasing streamers, and hitting dries and nymphs...if you can find them. Brook trout have just about finished spawning in many of our mountain streams and are in spawn in our lower elevation streams. (Most waters containing brook trout closed on October 15th) Rainbows, who are spring spawners are only concerned with fattening up for winter at this moment.
In rivers like the Androscoggin that are nutrient rich, fish have been very active at some points of the day and almost completely inactive at other times of the day. This is a common pattern in the Fall. During the summer months bug activity tends to be more consistent with at least some insects hatching or falling into the water all the time. As hatches become more pronounced and concentrated to certain days and certain times of day the fish wait for their opportunity to feed and then do so with reckless abandon. This weeks trips will provide a great example of this phenomenon. I'll explain them here for my own future reference as well.
On Saturday I guided Matthew Martin and Thomas Karens. Neither had ever fly fished before and the forecast called for a stiff breeze throughout the day with sun and temps in the 50's. I knew this was going to be a challenge as sun and cold temps can make for some of the toughest days on the water in the fall. This is because the most prominent bug this time of the year are BWO's. BWO's hatch best on overcast and calm days. With wind and sun, even if they do hatch they get blown off the water and the fish can't take advantage. On these day's nymphing is usually your best bet.
So we began with nymph rigs and both Matthew and Tom missed multiple fish in the first two pools. I find that teaching the hook-set can only be done through first hand experience. Although neither had landed a fish I was happy that they had both missed fish before lunch. After lunch the fishing really slowed. After nearly two hours without another bite I told Matt and Tom to remain patient as the fishing could turn on at any moment. One that should present it self as the sun dropped and the bugs popped. Minutes after this explanation I noticed a few BWO's float by the boat. I mentioned them to Mark and Matt and told them to stay focused. As if on cue Matthew's indicator went under and he came tight to a fourteen inch rainbow. From there we hooked half a dozen or more fish and landed three more. It was a pleasure to see the look of sheer gratification on Matt's face when he caught that first fish. And I could tell that he completely understood the need for patience on the water.
On Sunday I guided Andrew Hodson and Thomas Hodson for a half day float. We started around two pm. Although we were on a different stretch of water the fishing was very similar to Saturday. We missed a few fish in the first few runs and then the action slowed to a crawl. Then as the sun dipped the fish went crazy with three landed and many lost in the last hour of the float. Fish were taking dries and nymphs indiscriminately.
On Monday I guided Bob Norton. Bob floated the Androscoggin with me this spring and had a banner day fishing emerging caddis. With a weather forecast of sun and high sixties I was curious how the fish would respond. Bob seems to have a four leaf clover tucked in one of his pockets because the fish were crushing nymphs and dries throughout the float. We landed a healthy fifteen inch wild rainbow on a size twenty emerging BWO and many more rainbows on both the BWO and a larger purple haze.
So it seemed that the high temps had gotten the bugs and trout active a bit earlier in the day. But what would Monday hold? Forecast: Wind 5-10 mph chance of showers in the afternoon. A tough forecast to figure out. If the wind stayed down and the clouds hung in without too much rain it could make for a great day. However if the wind blew at 10-20mph and the sun came out the fishing could be slow. I was guiding Penny Lindsay and Donna Vann of Panama City FL. I wasn't sure how either would like the cool New Hampshire weather but these women were both tough as nails and loved every minute of their adventure. Luckily the forecast was way off and we had calm wind with partial clouds and temps from 55-65 degrees all day long. We were on the water at 11 am and the fishing was slow for the first hour...then both women hooked up at the same time. In that instant I knew it was going to be a great day. We hooked, caught, and lost fish for the next four hours straight. It was a half day trip but I think we may have gone a little long. There were just too many big noses rising for me to leave too soon. We never got any of the monsters to the boat but both Penny and Donna landed some beautiful rainbows. Ladies, I'll send you what I got for pictures. Please send me yours!
Wednesday's forecast looked suspect as well. It seemed the weatherman took what he had predicted for Tuesday and simply moved it to Wednesday. I was scheduled with Bob Norton for another half day. With rain and wind scheduled for Wednesday afternoon I called him to suggest we get an earlier start. I woke up at 6 am on Wednesday and checked the forecast. They had dropped the wind speeds down from 10-15 to 5-10 and the timeline was 25% chance of showers with consistent wind all day long. I sent a text to Bob explaining that we might as well start a bit later as the fishing had been better later in the day. We met at 10 am and were on the water by 11am. I had chosen a stretch of water that had more islands and side channels where we could hide from the wind. We landed our first fish, a brown, around noon in the first side channel we came to. From there on we landed rainbows, browns and even a nice brook trout from side channel riffles and slow foam pockets. Bob got another fifteen inch wild rainbow on a large dry to end the day.
Thursday I was scheduled to guide Mark Hogopian a regular client of mine. We were considering searching for Landlocked salmon but with a chance of sunny weather we opted for the Andro. Landlocked salmon tend to go lock-jaw in sunny weather while with trout you can at least get some on nymphs through the faster water. And we did miss a few fish on nymphs through the first half of the day with one fish caught on a swung dry fly. However it was not the same fishing that I'd had with Penny and Donna a few days prior. With a high sun and slow bite we decided to take an early lunch with hopes that we would not skip too much good water before the hatch started. After lunch we made our way to a slower stretch of water where I had seen some large rises two days before. At first we saw nothing but glassy water in the last of the days bright sun. Then, just as the sun fell behind the first tree there was a rise,, and then another. I handed mark the already rigged dry fly rod armed with a size 16 purple haze. Mark cast and I studied the trout. The fish were not touching the parachute dry and their rises looked like boils (mouths sucking bugs in from just under the surface) I dug through my fly box for a floating nymph and tied it behind the purple haze. On the first cast there was a boil behind the purple haze. Mark came tight but lost the fist fish...then landed the second. We took two more rainbows and had one beast slash three times at the nymph before becoming educated. We worked down the river and found another pod of risers that struck our flies until darkness made them impossible to see.
So what is the moral of this story? If you are fishing in the fall be persistent. Know that just because the fish are not biting doesn't mean that they wont. This weeks trips presented different scenario's and the fish fed in different ways at different times of the day. The important part is that even on the toughest of days we had at least a few hours of very fast action.
So what is to come? Although many waters closed on October 15th our float stretches are still open for the rest of the year as are all ponds and some other rivers in the state. Look for ponds to fish well until they ice over. Here midges and streamers are your best bet. As with the rivers fish will be very sporadic in their activity levels. On the rivers look for fish to continue to feed on hatches of BWO's, midges, a few Iso's and perhaps even a swarm of lady bugs (if we get any unusually warm calm days). As Fall progresses egg patterns will become important especially in waters that contain brown trout. Look for rainbows to take advantage of their spawning behavior. As the hatches become more sporadic be sure to transition your focus to streamer fishing. Large trout can't pass up a big meal to help hold them over through the long New Hampshire winter to come. Late October and November represent one of your best chances to get a true beast on a streamer. That being said always be prepared to switch to dries or nymphs. Under the right conditions BWO's and midges will hatch throughout the fall and into the winter months.
If you haven't been out fishing in a while and think that you missed your chance, think again. It is not too late to get your fly fishing fix for 2015. We are booking trips through October and November. Let us know of any dates of interest.
See other catches from this month below!