5 Fun Ways to Enjoy New Hampshire Outdoors in 2014

Looking for adventure? In New Hampshire, it’s right in your backyard. From icing perch to lofty perches, here’s a short list of fun things to outside in NH in 2014. [Article for The Wolf Outdoors, a feature I do on-air and online for WNHW-FM, 93.3 the Wolf, a radio station in NH’s Lakes Region]

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November trips: Year ’round Trout Waters

One of my favorite things to do is to search for trout outside of the regular season. First of all, it allows for a lot of quietude – you just won’t find anyone on the water this time of year. Aside from a fishing partner, your only company will likely be a forlorn heron, stalking the shallows or the hello-I-must-be-going migratory waterfowl that zip past.¬†Waterfront homes are shuttered and quiet, save for maybe one still emanating that cozy, pungent smell of a woodstove at work. November’s increasingly fleeting light borders long shadows with a yellow-orange color that looks like it should be warm, but is usually only kidding. If you dress for the chill of the month, there’s much to be enjoyed. And… there are still fish that can be caught. Here’s November, in reverse order, all on year ’round trout waters:

20131124-114057.jpg11/23/13: Pout Pond, Belmont
Conditions: sun and clouds, windy, 35
Equipment: spinning rod, 4# test line, bait setup
Baits: worms
This trip required extra bundling. It was a windy cold day. I selected Pout Pond figuring it’s small size would make it more sheltered. I also figured this would be a shorebank trip – I could pack light and bail if it got too cold. This is another one of the waters designated by Fish & Game to be open year ’round for trout. Pout Pond is the public water supply for Belmont – so no swimming or other contact with the water here. It’s located just south of Belmont village, on Shaker Road. There’s a public works entrance – don’t go there – look for a gravel horseshoe drive a hundred yards north on the same side. You can park there. The access trail is at the back. The pond is a couple hundred yards walk in. with no development on the shoreline, it’s a wilderness experience with a broad sandy shore on one side and plenty of shorebank access. There are times I wax poetic about why I fish. It is about more than just catching, but there are times I focus on the experience and times i focus on the pursuit. Yes – this time it was about catching. I used bait. It took some finesse once the fish starting selectively rising to a brief evening hatch, but I made it work. Found some little rainbow trout. Made a fine meal of them later that evening.

20131124-114133.jpg11/21/13: Lake Opechee, Laconia
Conditions: sun and clouds, 40, calm
Equipment: flyrod with sinking line for casting streamers
Baits: barred pattern streamer w red flash
This was a break-time visit, more about briefly inspecting the water than making an outing of it. Flow of out Winnipesaukee was slow. I swung a streamer a few times just around the inflow and witnessed some rises further down along the shoreline. Tip: if you want to get an idea of the waterflow rate and temp, call the recorded Winnipesaukee Data Line before going. I check the service regularly to get a perspective of conditions in the Lakes Region: 603 527-0071. Map: Lake Opechee

20131124-114159.jpg11/5/13: Highland Lake, Andover (early AM/afternoon); Merrimack River, Franklin (late afternoon)

Conditions: clear, calm with afternoon breeze, 40s

Equipment: flyrod w sinking line/50′ leader for trolling; downrigger rod

Baits: wet flies – streamers, Top Guns, Guide Specials

Took a day off with a friend to do late fall trolling for trout. We began on Highland Lake, which can sometimes be a decent spot for trout – often better with cloud cover which we did not have the benefit of. One decent rainbow hit a bright Top Gun soon – other than that, just a few strikes made for a quiet but pretty day out.

We decided to try a stretch of the Merrimack in Franklin, as it was on the way home: the area just above the Eastman Falls Dam (map) and below the Army Corp of Engineers dam. It’s about a mile long stretch that doesn’t get much attention. It is very “off and on”, but at times, is an active multi-species stretch of water. The setting was “off” during our visit, but we were out of the building wind, got into some fairly hilarious conversation (another bonus of fishing trips) and had a good time in spite of it all.

Here are the waters open for trout all year long, from NH Fish & Game. Check the regs to see of there are also specific rules for the place you’re visiting.
Lakes & Ponds
Rivers & Streams

 

 

 

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NH Fishing Log: Early October, The Nashua River & Saltmarsh Pond

20131013-100514.jpg10/10/13: Saltmarsh Pond, Gilford
Conditions: mostly clear, calm, 60 >> 50s
Equipment: flyrodw sinking line set for trolling; ultralight spinning rod
Baits: wet flies – stonefly, nymph patterns; Mepps spinners

This pretty trout pond, high on a hill in Gilford, made for a great after-work session as I took the kayak out for an evening paddle. There were several insect hatches going on, including big yellow Hexagenia mayflys. The surface was pocked with sipping fish. On occasion, a more enthusiastic feeder would splash and jump. Given the bounty, I had one brief take… but other than that, no interest in my offerings.

At twilight, a pink glow, the vestiges of a magnificent sunset, shone through the forest, making the autumn colors of the opposite shore phosphorescence. I exited the water as darkness began to win out. I could still see rings of rises on the surface as fish continued to feed contentedly. The sun gone, fog laced the surface of the pond as temps dropped rapidly. It felt fully of October… one of those nights you get as Halloween approaches: quiet, chilly, beautiful and even a bit spooky. In the distance, a couple coyotes yapped and then howled, the sound floating across the water. The effect completed the evening perfectly. Cinching the kayak tight to my vehicle, I crunched slowly up the gravel road and headed home.

 

10/9/13: Nashua River, Nashua

Conditions: mostly cloudy, light breeze, humid, 70s
Equipment: flyrod
Baits: wet flies – stonefly, nymph patterns

Another lunch break casting for sunfish, hoping for some bass, at the Nashua River. Pretty spot with lots of autumn color. Biggest reward: a bald eagle fly-by. It’s wonderful to see such majestic birds, thriving in the midst of civilization. Thinking of returning here with kayak and camera…

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NH Fishing Log: Mascoma River, Lebanon NH

10/2/13: Mascoma River, Lebanon
Conditions: sun and clouds, light breeze, 70
Equipment: flyrod
Baits: wet flies – stonefly pattern

Zen-like beauty: The fly-fishing stretch of the Mascoma River, draped in fall color.

Zen-like beauty: The fly-fishing stretch of the Mascoma River, draped in fall color.

The flyfishing only stretch of the Mascoma River in Lebanon, towards Enfield, is one magical place, running just below the dam from the Route 4 bridge to the Packard Hill Covered Bridge. This is a fantastically handsome spot to fish in the fall: river tucked into canyon-like slopes, trees luxuriously overhanging the river which murmurs as it washes lichen-covered stones. Come here to get your Zen fix and be prepared to wade upstream – it’ll be the only way you can cast without getting hung up. Access is a little tricky: hook onto the gravelly Mill Road adjacent to the Rte 4 bridge. You’ll be able to drive only a short way down, beyond that it’s a bike trail. With extremely steep banks be careful descending to the river; it can be a bit tricky.

Further down, the land starts to flatten into short fields bordering the stony river bottom – this is where you’ll get a little more space for casting and some classic New England views by the Packard Hill Bridge. Grab Riverside Road, off of Rte 4 and drive down over the bridge. There’s a nice place to park just to the right with good access to the river there.

20131005-115847.jpg

Twlight, in the shadow of the Packard Hill bridge on the Mascoma

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NH Fishing Log: Moore Reservoir

Lots of water to cover at the Moore Reservoir on the Connecticut River in Littleton, New Hampshire,

Lots of water to cover at the Moore Reservoir on the Connecticut River in Littleton, New Hampshire,

10/1/13: Moore Reservoir, Littleton
Conditions: fog early, in the 40s; sun later,calm, 70s
Equipment: medium weight spinning tackle, flyrod
Baits: spinners and spinnerbaits, large spoons, swimbaits, bunny-strip pike flies

Took a day off to fish the Moore Reservoir with a friend. We picked one of those glorious fall days that is just a gift: when summer re-appears among fall’s foliage. North of Franconia Notch, the colors were nearly more than the mind could absorb.

The Moore Reservoir has several good accesses. We used the launch on the dam side, leaving 93 at Exit 44 just over the bridge that spans the south end of the “lake”. Actually an impoundment of the Connecticut River, the reservoir holds numerous species of fish: bass, trout, salmon, pike, pickerel and perch.

Mists hugged the water early that morning as the chill clung to my fleece layers. By afternoon, I’d be fishing with my shirt off in summer-like heat. Casting along the shoreline, we hooked smallmouth bass, northern pike and yellow perch. The fishing was not fast and furious… slowing further as the sun grew higher, but I was grateful for the utter silence of Moore’s massive, undeveloped expanse. Save for a couple kayakers, we were the only ones on the water, leaving the reservoir behind for the long drive home around 3:30. On the return, it was fantastic show of autumn color – reaching from the valleys to the imposing heights of Mount Lafayette and Cannon in Franconia. We New Hampshire residents are blessed to live in such a beautiful state.

"Fish of a thousand casts", a Northern pike, about 25", caught and released to jar a rod out of somebody's else hands...

“Fish of a thousand casts”, a Northern pike, about 25″, caught and released to jar a rod out of somebody’s else hands…

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