June the Best Fishing of the Year


There is no way around it, as hard as we try to rush it the best time of year to fish the Saco is in June. This year is no exception. In a column I write for our local paper I fearlessly predicted that we would have good fishing in the Saco by the 17th of May. That Saturday the river came up to around 15,000 cubic feet per second in a matter of hours. The day before the river was at a comfortable 1600 cfs. The big problem with the Saco is that it drains a vast amount of area on two sides of Mount Washington and is prone to flooding at the drop of a hat. Even a good thunderstorm, in one of the notches, can discolor and raise the river in a very short time. Depending on what type of winter we have had and the amount of snow pack in the “Whites” the Saco is just about always too high to fish in April and May.

Just about every year there is a short window, usually in the middle of May, when the river has come down to a reasonable level and the day is so nice that I am tempted to fish it. It happened again this year, just before I made my prediction. Rarely, if ever, is the Saco stocked before Memorial Day; flooding and cold water keep the stocking truck at bay. However, you never know there just might be that elusive holdover. I spent over three hours covering about a mile and a half of river without a touch. The one interesting part of the afternoon was that I witnessed a small spinner fall of March Browns. These big, early spring mayflies were mating and both males and over depositing females were landing in the water. They were going about their business totally unmolested. In years past I have witnessed these same mayflies both hatching and during the mating rituals and never once seen a trout take one of these flies.

Another reason that the Saco doesn’t turn on until June is the lack of bugs. Yes there are those March Browns and there are other similar hatches that fishermen never see, but it isn’t until the first week of June when the big spinner falls of Gray Drakes occur. The Gray Drake is by far the largest concentration of mayflies on the river. Fly anglers from all over New England come to fish the Gray Drake spinner falls. For those who prefer the Latin the correct name for these insects is Siphlonurus.  The spinner fall is the important part of the hatch as we never see the dun. It is thought that these mayflies swim to the banks and crawl out of the river, unlike other mayflies that hatch from the nymph in the river and float down stream drying their wings before flying off.

There is a secondary hatch that occurs at the same time as the Drakes, that is also a part of the Siphlonuridae family. The Mirus spinner fall will happen during the Drake fall causing a masking hatch. For whatever reason the big brown trout in the Saco will ignore the Drakes and key in on the Mirus and feed exclusively on them; without the right fly pattern you might as well go home.

From the first of June up until the schools start letting out anglers pretty much have the Saco to themselves. By the time July rolls around you might as well give up on fishing the Saco during the day. On any warm day throughout July and August the Saco becomes a major highway for canoes, kayaks and rubber tubes. The good news is that these folks generally don’t get started until after 9:30 in the morning and usually are off the river by 7:00 in the evening. In September the river regains its sense of normalcy and once again we fishermen have the river to ourselves, unfortunately the Saco has never been a great fall river. There are some years when we have a cool summer and as a result we still have a lot of fish. At this point these fish have become very skittish and any unusual disturbance sends them running. Small flies are the name of the game in the fall. Midge hatches are quite common and the fish will greedily feed on them. Having the right fly is very important, but presentation is of the upmost importance; the slightest drag will put these fish down. It is a lot of fun to fish over these trout, but it can be frustrating.

Even in June the Saco will test the best fly fishers. The river is known for its large Brown trout and as most anglers will tell you Browns can be difficult to catch. In June the river offers some of the best sight fishing with dry flies in the state of New Hampshire. I wouldn’t compare the Saco to the Henry Forks, but it can be very technical. Having the right fly is important, but so is the ability to read the water and being able to cast.

The Saco is a destination river and fly fishermen do travel great distances to fish here; however I can honestly say I have never seen the river elbow to elbow. Popular pools fill up early in the evening, but if you are willing to put in a little effort and walk a little you will find place where you can be alone.

June is a month in which a great many events take place. Graduations and weddings are always a problem for fishermen; however it is also the month in which Father’s Day falls. My theory is whether you are a father or not it is important to take some time off and smell the roses, which loosely translated means go fishing.



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