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By Bill Thompson

It was nice of Mother Nature to provide some needed rain last week. Okay, it might have been a little too much. It might have been better if it had been spread out a little. The Saco River hit 13,000 cubic feet per second last Thursday and was the color of chocolate pudding; not the best conditions for fishing. The good news was that the river was back down to a reasonable level allowing good fishing for the weekend.

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By Bill Thompson

So far, this season, Janet and I have been sticking close to home and, up until last week, we had not ventured out of the valley to fish. High water had kept us from heading up to the Androscoggin, but tales of big salmon below the Pontook Dam enticed us to find out for ourselves.

We had a few errands to take care of in the morning, so we were off to a late start. We arrived in Errol a little after one so we picked up a couple of subs at the Errol Country Store and drove up to the dam to enjoy a picnic lunch. The river was quite low and there were the occasional splashy rises prompting us to wolf down our sandwiches. A fellow angler passed by and talked to us for a few moments. He had been having a good day and filled us in on his morning activities. Our plan was to fish just below the dam. When we told our new friend this he mentioned that the dam now had barrels strung across the penstock preventing fishermen from getting a good drift downstream.

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By Bill Thompson

One of the most iconic fly fishing books is "Fishless Days, Angling Nights," written by a fellow who used the pen name Sparse Grey Hackle. His real name was Alfred Miller. The book was written long before the other book that went on to be a movie, "A River Runs Through It" came on the scene. If you have not read it you should. The title "Fishless Days, Angling Nights" just about sums up what is happening on our own rivers right now. Those of you who fish during the day, especially on the Saco, are going to have a lot of casting practice. Those who fish the evenings or the very early mornings are going to experience "Angling Nights" and catch trout.

Nothing in fly fishing is carved in stone and it is possible to catch trout during the daylight hours. Fishing nymphs or streamers are both very effective ways to catch trout even on the brightest of days. However, if you want to dry fly fish and catch big trout you will have to be patient and wait until dark.

I took a fellow out last Sunday from the Great Bay Chapter of Trout Unlimited. He had won the trip in a fund-raising event held by Great Bay. The trip was to have taken place last summer, but a broken leg forced a rain check until this year. The accident happened while walking his dog along the Saco. He slipped on some rocks and broke his femur in four places. It happened after dark and there was no one where within shouting distance. Fortunately, he did have a cell phone with him, with just enough battery life left to get a text message out to his girlfriend. His girl had just enough information to know where to look for him but had no idea of what had happened to him. She found his truck in the parking lot at First Bridge and then, luckily, found him and the dog. A quick call to 911 and he was rescued. Cell phones can be life savers.

We hit the river just after 4 p.m. It was a very nice sunny afternoon. We met a young family coming out who had had zero luck; not a good omen. We hiked quite a way down river until we came to a spot where there is a lot of structure in the water and along the bank; perfect cover for sulking trout. I rigged up a quick sinking line and we began to cast some large streamers into the downed timber. We probably spent 45 minutes working our way along, until my friend finally had a hook up. It was a good strong fish, but we never got a look at it as it brook off. Part of the problem of fishing large streamers is that the fish can easily get leverage on a long shanked hook and break off.

Back upriver, we tried a section that for years has been one of the best pools on the Saco. Here two fish were hooked and two fish were lost. This spring, the annual flood took out a very large submerged log that has served cover for trout for as long as I can remember. The hydraulics of this pool and down river has changed dramatically. A new channel has been created and a large amount of sand has accumulated. This sand is like quicksand and can be dangerous. My client managed to step into a hole and immediately sunk in up to his hip. Not a good situation to be in with a leg still on the mend. Anyone fishing the Swallows Bank Pool should take note and wade with caution when fishing this area.

After a couple of hours of fruitless casting, the sun finally began to set. The magic hour had arrived and the trout started to rise. The sky above was filled with mating mayflies and the trout were feasting on their spent bodies. The trout were no fools, but when the artificial fly made a good drift they were all over it; proving once again that the real "angling" happens at night. The spinner fall ended as suddenly as it started and the trout stopped rising. It was time to call it a night and we headed back to where our trucks were parked.

See you on the river.

Bill and Janet Thompson own North Country Angler in North Conway.

 

By Bill Thompson

Did some guiding this past weekend; I don't do a lot of guiding anymore, so it was fun to get out again. Guiding is a lot more fun when you have a good client and this weekend I was fortunate to have three great guys. Nate Hill does just about all of the guiding for the shop now and I just fill in the gaps once in a while, which is how I happened to be guiding on a weekend as Nate was away at a wedding. It still amazes me why so many people insist on getting married in June when the fishing is at its best.

My sports were a father and his two young sons. When Nate asked me to fill in for him he neglected to mention that two young kids were part of the deal. I have guided families with children before and there are times when this has been a recipe for disaster. To be honest just about all of my trips with kids have turned out fine, although there have been a few exceptions. It doesn't take long for kids to become bored and this is especially true if the fishing is slow. Bored children rarely make good fishing companions. Needless to say upon learning about the kids I had my doubts about taking the trip. Turned out I could not have asked for a better group.

These guys were real troopers and hung in there long past the time when many adults would have thrown in the towel. On Sunday evening we fished the Saco and didn't get off the river until dark. I had enlisted Janet as a back-up guide so I could spend some time with their dad. The boys fished for a while and then turned their attention to rock skipping and dam construction. They were content to hang out with Janet while their dad and I chucked streamers down river. On the way out, in the dark, the boys were in charge of the flashlights and led the way. The youngest boy asked if there were any bears in these woods. I answered that there were, but that they posed no threat. The other boy asked if I was carrying a gun. I said no as there was no reason to and that local bears were pretty harmless. For the rest of the walk out he stayed close to Janet.

A few years back, I wrote a column about fishing with a dad and his two sons; the outcome of that trip was completely different. All went well for a while and we were even catching a few fish and then everything went south. It was obvious from the moment we got on the water that the two boys would rather have been somewhere else. When one of the boys caught a trout it set off a fierce brotherly rivalry. Fortunately, the second boy caught a fish and things settled down. As the evening wore on the fishing slowed, it suddenly got colder and the mosquitoes came out in waves.

The younger boy desperately wanted to go home, and so did I, but dad insisted that we stay until the bitter end.

After that trip, I vowed never to take kids out, but, a few days later, I took out another family with an entirely different outcome. To this day I still have nightmares of the "disaster trip," but when you have great guys like Dean and Owen for sports it makes you forget the bad times.

See you on the river.

 

Bill and Janet Thompson own North Country Angler in North Conway.

 

By Bill Thompson

Happy days are here again, at least for us trout fishermen. I have not seen the movie and the book doesn't shed a lot of light on the subject, but I am betting that even Noah would have been depressed after all the rain we have had in the last 40 days. At last, the Saco is at a fishable level and it has been warm enough the last few days that we are starting to see some of the good bugs. The Gray Drakes have been showing up in the evenings giving the trout something to rise for. I like the feel of a heavy strike on a streamer fly, but after a while I grow tired of chucking heavy weighted flies. Nothing beats catching trout on dry flies.

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