There's pleasure in the journey ...
One of the first things my now husband brought me out to do when we began dating was fly fishing. I had never been, and though it was sort of a strange alternative to the usual dinner-and-a-movie kind of wooing a girl comes to expect, it was pretty cool and certainly helped to set him apart from other suitors. While he was a natural at the sport, I wasn't.
I didn't catch many fish when I was out on the stream, but I really didn't care because I loved being on the water, watching my fly float downstream in anticipation of that moment of the strike. I felt peaceful during the long stretches of silence with only the soft whip-whirring of my husband's line as he made a cast or the occasional trout breaking the water's surface. The pleasure of fly fishing is as much in the journey as in the destination and is a great experience whether you're reeling 'em in or not.
And in New Hampshire, if you can't find somewhere to fly fish, well, you're not trying very hard. There are a seemingly endless number of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams (and don't forget the ocean!) teeming with many species of fish including three varieties of trout, large and small-mouthed bass, landlocked salmon, whitefish and pickerel, just to name a few. So if you're hoping to learn a new skill this season while enjoying the great outdoors and have an adventure not too far from home, then fly fishing just might be the thing you're looking for.
The state of New Hampshire maintains 31 fly-fishing-only ponds that are kept well stocked with brook, rainbow and/or brown trout from the end of April to mid-October.
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You can spend a fortune on a nice fly rod, but for beginners this Orvis brand Streamline can be yours for just under $100, and a complete package including reel, line and backing can be had for $159.
This Trout Unlimited Clearwater Vest (orvis.com, $49) is a convenient way to hold all your flies, extra tippets and maybe a small can or two of bug spray while out on the water. If you plan on catching some fish from the shore, you can plan on getting your feet wet. That is unless you come prepared with some waders.
They vary greatly in purpose, style and price, but for a beginner a pair of hip waders is a good bet, like these Hodgman Hip Casters (cabelas.com, $49.99). And of course you will have a hard time fly fishing without any flies. Depending on the waters, time of day and weather conditions, the hatches will change, so you will want to have different types at the ready. You can purchase various assortments of wet and dry flies, or of a certain type like in this Caddis 18-Piece Dry Fly Assortment ($19.99-$24.99) from Cabelas.
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Lisa Savard was taught to hunt and fish by her grandparents at a young age. She and her husband Tim have owned and operated The Cabins at Lopstick in Pittsburg, N.H., since 1991. She has been a licensed upland hunting and fly fishing guide in New
Hampshire for nearly 15 years. As an Orvis Endorsed outfitter, the Savards offer free casting clinics on Saturdays in May and June.
What's unique about fly fishing in New Hampshire?
New Hampshire has a wonderful and diversified fishery. One day you can be reeling in a big striped bass just off the coast near Portsmouth and the next day you could be watching a landlocked salmon tail dance all over the water in the Great North Woods. In New Hampshire you can catch cold water, warm water and saltwater fish species. My favorite fishery is, of course, the Connecticut River and the Connecticut Lakes Region.
Is fly fishing more difficult than bait or spin fishing and, if so, what makes it worth the extra effort?
Initially, fly fishing is more difficult. Learning to cast, learning knots to tie and learning to "read" the water is challenging. Once you are comfortable casting and have a basic understanding of the bugs in the water and where the fish hide, it is easier than bait fishing (in my opinion). All the clues to which fly to choose are all around you. If there are bugs in the air and the fish are rising, choose a fly that looks like the bugs. If no fish are rising, then turn over some stones and see what insects are creeping along the bottom. Then choose a nymph pattern to imitate.
What is the basic equipment needed for someone just starting out in fly fishing?
A 5 weight rod and reel with 5 weight line is a good start. With this rod you can fish for trout, landlocked salmon and small-mouth bass. It's a good all-around rod. Next you should consider waders if you plan to do some fishing "in" the water. My favorite type of waders are lightweight, breathable waders. Next you'll need somewhere to put all your "stuff." I wear a fishing vest that has lots of pockets for my fly boxes, weights, strike indicators, sunglasses, sunscreen, bug dope, gadgets and fishing license.
What are the benefits to using a guide for my first fly-fishing excursion?
There are lots of benefits to having a guide. I have been a fishing guide in New Hampshire for nearly 15 years and every time I go somewhere new to fish, I hire a guide. I know that I will be shown where the fish are and what to use. Vacation time is short and precious so finding the fish right away is important to me. If the guides are all booked the next best thing to do is find the local fly shop. Often they will have suggestions of flies to use and other helpful information. At our shop we post the river flows and have a list of flies that are working. We also put this information on our Web site for planning purposes and have video fishing reports done by our guides. Getting as much information before your trip will help if you choose to go it alone.
What kind of hatches should I be looking to imitate during spring
Spring hatches on the Connecticut River include Blue Winged Olives, Hendrickson's (Light) and Caddis. Caddis hatch from late May to early October on the Connecticut River so having patterns in your fly box that imitate the larvae, the emerging and the adult caddis is a good plan. Our water stays cool all summer because the dams on the lakes that control the river's flow, discharge from the bottom keeping the river water cold and the fishing great all summer long. Summer hatches include Stone Flies, Sulphurs and Cahills.
This article appears in the May 2009 issue of New Hampshire Magazine