Days of Summer

Fishing the HEX hatch at dusk

Somehow time slipped away and it’s the end of July. Every year is different and so far the rivers have been holding up better than the past several years. We have not had an extended heat wave; some years we have several. Every week or so we’ve had enough rain to keep the rivers refreshed. Flows have been good; sometimes to good making wading or drifting impossible for a few days. That seems to be the pattern we’ve been in since spring. On my last trip to the Pemi the water temperature jumped up to around 70; the highest it had been before that was 64. Some of the tributaries have been in the 50’s. One of them made it to the mid 60’s. Then it rained again; a foot or so in the main branch; enough to cool it down and there’s more rain in the forecast. That being said it has not been a great year for trout but we’ve been able to find a few and sometimes more.

In late May we received an email from Erin Fehlau of WMUR_TV; they were interested in doing a segment on fly fishing courses. We have eleven beginner classes and one intermediate class during the year; the beginner class is a day and a half. The evolution of fly fishermen must go from beginner to expert because we don’t end up with a lot taking the intermediate class. I’ve thought about offering an advanced expert class; we would probably be overwhelmed with inquiries. Our classes are on weekends. Erin wanted to know if we could put something together for Monday June 9th. With the classes we have a two student to one guide ratio; Gerry had a couple booked for the 9th and I asked a woman who had a trip on the 11th if she would join us. Erin was joined by cameraman Chris Shepherd. Chris lives in Vermont and has fly fished; we had hoped to get him on the water but it didn’t work out. I’ve watched Chronicle for years; the original show on Boston’s WBZ-TV aired in January of 1982. One of my favorite segments added somewhere along the line was Peter Mehegan’s Main Street and Back Roads with his 1969 Chevy. Peter was a fly fisherman and had some great shows not only on fishing but of the people he encountered along the way. I had the opportunity to attend a function where Peter was the speaker; it was an interesting evening. His knowledge of the people he’s met was fascinating. When WMUR-TV started the Chronicle show I became a follower and have watched the show evolve through a series of hosts.

White Mountain waters

White Mountain waters

I met Erin and Chris late morning at Morse’s in Hillsborough and after getting licenses we headed to a pond for casting. Erin had never fished but from years of watching Chronicle I knew she was pretty coordinated. On the pond she picked up casting pretty quick; most women do. Casting is not power; it’s coordination. We moved to the Contoocook in downtown Henniker.

Looking at the river you’d never know the town was a few hundred yards up river. Gerry worked with Erin on the water. One of the things we cover in the class is Think like a fish act like a bug. Erin and Chris had talked about going until 1:30 in the afternoon. As the morning anchor on at 5am she must be up by 3am or earlier. She was still going strong around 3:30 when we packed it in. Unfortunately she did not end up with a fish; everyone else did. That’s the way fishing goes.

Here’s a link to the Chronicle show.!blim64

My last trip was with a couple from Los Angeles. He had fly fished and she never had. We started at a spot on the Pemi where the casting was easy. Going with the act like a bug I started them out skating caddis. Within a few minutes he had a small wild brookie on. About the time I got over to where he was she had trout on. It was a larger stocked fish; although I did not have the time to go over the basics of keeping the rod tip up she managed to bring the fish to the net. The water was low so we basically stuck with dries; caddis, stimulators and a few casts with streamers. We worked down river stopping at different locations. Even with no hatch activity they managed to get fish to come up. With the warm water I decided to hit one of the tributaries. Even with the low flow they managed to land a few; loose some and have a few strikes. Not bad for the end of July.

Evening found us on a pond waiting for the HEX hatch to start. It’s one thing to describe the size and color of the mayflies but actually watching them hatch and fly brings a different prospective. The woman had done very well skating caddis and stimulators. We did a little line mending on the river but nothing compared to what would have been required if there was a good hatch on like Hendrickson’s. When the Hex’s started to emerge she said they don’t move and to imitate them takes a lot of patience. I guess standing and watching a fly on the water and occasionally giving it just a little twitch may have seemed a little dull compared to working a fly on moving water. He landed a few and she had one to the net. Setting the hook on a pond is a little more time sensitive than hooking one skating a fly; it’s easier to set the hook when the fly is moving.

There’s no place I’d rather be when the Hex hatch is on than on a pond. The action starts with the fish taking the nymphs before they get to the surface; swirls; subtle takes and splashes. Eventually the Hex’s will start popping to the surface and it’s a cat and mouse game if the Hex’s wings will dry and it can fly before a trout takes it. When the hatch is at its peak the sky is filled with Hex’s. Years ago bats would be swooping in gathering the Hex’s in the air. The White Nose Fungus has whipped out the majority of the bat population. It’s very seldom I see a bat.

Sometimes just after sunset a light breeze will kick up rippling the water. Whether it’s the darkness; ripples or the increased hatch activity the time between sunset and total darkness is usually peak. If you’re in the mountains the ridge lines become very prominent around sunset and gradually fade away. On remote ponds the sounds of coyotes had put a chill in more than one client thinking about hiking out. Everything is different after dark. So far this year I haven’t had to turn on a light while on the water. A half hour after sunset is usually the witching hour when we’re with clients. We’ve been on ponds an hour after dark when you’re reacting to sound or just slightly moving the fly to feel the slightest take. Returning from remote ponds rabbits, deer and moose are often seen on dirt roads. Some years we’ll see foxes in the same general area. Everything changes at night.

As I was working on the column I received an email from the friend I mentioned in last month’s column on wader repair. It was too good to pass up so here it is. HALP I’ve had a few woodchucks around the barn – and have live trapped – and relocated 3 this season. Even got one opossum. So – this morning – while checking the two traps – I find a mature – and – so far – docile – skunk in one trap – who knows how to get it out of the trap – this one is NOT going in my car !!! Who knows how to deal with this ?? I do not have any – high velocity lead poisoning agents here.


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