It's that time of the year again. Kids are headed back to school and the fall hatches have begun! This year I will be taking advantage of the fall fishing and guiding as I have opted to continue guiding full time through the autumn. So if you haven't booked a trip yet for this fall be sure to contact me, I still have many weekdays and even some weekend days still available. There is a lot to be excited about in terms of trout fishing in the Whites right now. Over the past week I have seen many changes both in fish activity and bug activity. Despite the impending heat wave we have seen a shift to fall weather with cooler night time temps and shorter days. This heat wave looks to be a good thing as flying ants began to pop. I write about these ant swarms every year as they represent my favorite dry fly fishing of the season. The ants swarm on warm humid days from late August through September. Expect the larger female ants to appear earlier in the afternoon in moderate numbers. The females are usually between a size 14-18 and can be anywhere from a cinnamon to honey in color. The males which range from a size 20 to 32 will coat the water in the early to late evenings and make for some challenging but very exciting dry fly fishing. Tie your male ants in a dark chocolate brown with white to silver grey wings.
With the impending heat wave these ant swarms should be at their zenith over the next few days. If you'd like to book a trip to catch the swarm I do have this Wednesday and Thursday open. Let me know asap if you'd like to experience the magic of the ants.
Over the last week I have seen a multitude of other hatches beginning on our local waters. Last Monday I had the good fortune of guiding my brother, Jordan and father, Jim. The fishing started slow but my brother soon landed a nice rainbow on a grasshopper.( Right now grasshoppers are a huge food source for trout looking to fatten up for the winter. When no hatches are on I often switch to the hopper in order to entice a surface strike.) With my brother on fish I shifted my focus to my father, moviing him downstream to a stretch that I suspected would hold some large rainbow trout. As I approached the pool I saw a large rainbow wavering in the crystal clear flow. I stopped moving and watched. The fish wavered but did not dart. As my father approached the fish rose from the bottom and sipped a small bug from the surface. Instinct told me to tie on a small cinnamon flying ant. My fathers first cast was a bit short but his second cast landed at the perfect distance and I instructed him to simply follow the fly downstream with the tip of the rod. He did and the fish rose confidently engulfing the size 18 ant. "Set!" I said and my father was . The fish turned on the hookset revealing her large size. With a broken finger on his right hand my father struggled to keep tension. he stumbled backwards shreaking with excitement and I gently took hold of the line, letting it slide through my fingers when the fish ran but keeping tension when it bolted back towards us. Finally I was able to slide the net underneath and we managed a few pictures of this eighteen inch beauty.
The rest of the day progressed with similar moments of excitement as my brother landed three more rainbows and three more browns and my father managed another bow and a large brown before his hand made it too hard for him to set the hook. The day ended at a secluded pool where my brother insisted that we fish side by side. The fishing had been slow so we took a break to light some cigars. As I took a pull I saw a fish rise. I let out a cast and hooked a fat sixteen inch rainbow. I yelled to my brother but he said, " Hold on a minute." As I fought my fish he took one precise cast to a large boulder and hooked a twelve inch wild brown trout. We got both fish in the net, took some pictures and pounded fists. I told Jordan to hook another one. On his next cast he was tight to a 13" rainbow. We hooked but lost a few more fish to end the evening.
As a fishing guide I spend many days fishing with fathers, sons and brothers. But rarely do I get a chance to fish with my own brother and father. To watch my brother and father hook large trout by my side is a moment I will never forget, and one I hope to re-live in the coming years.
Over the week I did four floats on the Androscoggin. I won't detail every trip here but overall, the fishing was phenomenal. The isonychia mayfly hatches began this week and were the most important bug to imitate all week long. In their nymphal form isonychia swim rigorously to the edges of the river or centers of riffles to hatch, either on rocks or through the surface film. The "Isos" represent one of the fastest swimming nymphs out there. Thus it is often effective to strip your nymphs or wetflies back up stream at the end of a dead drift. This technique often bewilders fishermen accustomed to the importance of a motionless dead drift. Some even suspect that the fish are simply dumb to be eating a fly that is moving upstream. This is not the case, in fact an actively retrieved Iso results in some of our biggest wild rainbows of the season.
When you hook a large wild rainbow it can often be a challenge to land. These fish react one of two ways once hooked. Scenario one: On the hook-set the rainbow takes off pulling drag and jumping. In this scenario the fish can often break the line on the hook-set or will throw the hook during an acrobatic leap. The best reaction to this scenario is to point the rod tip at the fish during his initial run and turn the rod down and to the side to prevent jumps. Scenario two: On the hookset the fish swims directly towards you, at a moderate speed. These are often the hardest fish to prepare for as we often believe that we have a smaller fish on the line. After swimming right towards you a large rainbow will suddenly change directions and break your line or throw the hook. If you are ready you can soften the inertia by letting line out and quickly getting the fish on the reel. If you are fighting a large rainbow on the reel always be ready to strip line if the fish decides to run straight towards you. Even with a large arbor reel these fish swim too fast to keep line tension through reeling line.
I included this quick instructional piece because we have lost two large rainbows over the last week due to scenario two. The beauty of these fish is that when you do land one it is a great achievement. Even a fourteen inch fish will test your fighting skills and an eighteen inch fish will have your heart pounding out of your chest.
Yesterday I guided a wade trip with angler Ashby Miller of Virginia. Ashby was a Tenkara enthusiast. We began our day on the bigger river and I was surprised to see a Yellow Sally stonefly hatch coming off. We landed three on the sallies before the fish switched over to BWO's. After hooking a few more fish on the five weight Ashby asked if we could try some mountain streams with the Japanese technique. Never having tried Tenkara I was curious to see how a long rod without a reel would work on our mountain streams. I have to say that I was very impressed. The light weight line and long rod length allowed Ashby to fish micro currents and tucked away pockets with deadly effectiveness. Within a 200 yard stretch of river he must have landed over 20 trout.... all on the same orange stimulator dry fly.(I chose the orange stimi because I saw October Caddis casings on the rocks. Along with Isos October Caddis will be important into October.)
Anyways, Ashby was gracious enough to let me take a few casts with the Tenkara rod and I was impressed enough that I will be purchasing one for next season. I will be offering Tenkara lessons next year. While a traditional fly rod can probably catch just as many fish the delicacy of presentation achieved with these rods is worthy of experimentation.
So what is to come? The fishing will continue to improve as fall temps begin to dominate. Look for flying ants, beetles, and hoppers to remain imporotant through our remaining warmer days. As temps cool be prepared for Iso's and BWO's. BWO's are also important on many early mornings and some evenings. As Fall progresses the BWO's will become the predominant hatch with midges also becoming more important. Along with nymphs, emergers and duns, do not forget to fish spinner patterns in the evenings for both the isos and BWOs. As for caddis, the October Caddis will be important. Fish orange stimulators, breadcrust soft hackles, and birds nest nymphs to imitate this bug. I also like to use an orange foam caddis to float above a dropper. Rhyacophillia or green caddis will also be important through the fall.
Personally the next two months represent my favorite time to fly fish. The days are cooler, the fish are brightly colored and hungry and the crowds are low. If you'd like to experience Autumn fly fishing in NH be sure to book soon!