Writing on the Fly: Great Fly Hunting in the Washington Valley

The dog days of summer are approaching, making fly trout fishing a challenge on the seacoast.

Trout like cold water, not bathing water, which is what most rivers on the seacoast look like. I’m going to sign up with Captain John McKiernan for two Striper rides to Great Bay, Portsmouth and Rye Harbors because Stripers are fun and I know they’re going to bite, but I needed to scratch the salmon itch.

Then, last week, I got a call from my college friend Jim Van Yperen. Jim and I played college football together and talked about getting together to fish. Jim mentioned that his son was coming for a visit and wanted to find some trout. I told Jim that he would have to head north into the Valley of Mount Washington if he had any hope of catching trout. I mentioned to him that Steve Ingres of the North Country Angler fishing shop had posted a video on his Facebook page stating that the Saco and Ellis rivers fish well.

Jim said it would be a ride from his house on the other side of Concord, but I told him it was worth the trip. I didn’t hear how he and his son acted until he called two days ago and asked if I’d like to meet him in North Conway for Sacco fishing. I couldn’t say “yes” fast enough. So we met the next morning at the agreed place.

I got there early and was checking out the river when another fisherman came to do the same. He had a place in the city and fished sacco regularly. He said that because of the previous day’s rain, the river was running fast and a little murky and that he would wait until evening or the next day to catch. For being a good sport, he pointed out a few spots on the river where he would usually have some success. He wished me luck and stated that if I caught anything I would do just fine.

Jim arrived shortly and we headed to one of the points the man had indicated. I started by choosing a size 16 hornberg just to get out the kinks. Jim went with a dry fly. The Saco River is a beautiful river and some sections are very popular with families, kayakers, boaters, and pontoons in particular. The joke in the flies shop is that you have to go to the river early to beat the “Tube Hatch”!!!

Since the river was running fast, I suggested Jim use the Woolly Bogger’s head bead to get to the bottom where the fish was holding. Jim added that he and his son did really well last week crossing banks. Jim went to a bank with a tree in the water. A few minutes later, Jim caught a brownfish and a brook trout.

I fished a close area and was too quick to get me back and I missed another area. The sun was getting close to 90 degrees, and then it happened. The “hole tube” began to come out on the water. Jim and I looked at each other and decided to hit the Ellis River. There may be a swimmer, but no music and no tubers.

We traveled north along the Ellis River and stopped at two places. I switched to a light Orvis 3 weight Superfine and put on a size 18 Bead Head Caddis and found two cute Wild Brook Trout in a small pool. We checked a few other locations and decided to go back where I left my truck.

I never cease to admire the beauty of the White Mountains. There are a number of rivers that are prime trout habitat and with the most coveted prize in the valley, if not in the Northeast, are the wild wild trout. So stop by the North Country Angler, get your free fishing map, and enjoy fly fishing in North Conway and Mount Washington Valley.

Jeorge Liset of Dover is an award-winning outdoor writer and avid fly hunter who shares insights from his time on the water exploring the New Hampshire streams and rivers as well as those around New England. George graduated from Wheaton College, Illinois and the University of New Hampshire. His column “Writing on the Fly” has been honored by the New England Press Association and the New Hampshire Press Association.


This story was originally published by InDepth NH.

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