During my recent visit to Pittsburg, NH, I learned quite a few things. Landed over 80 fish in four days and am feeling grateful. I’ve fished that stretch of the Connecticut River before, but walked away with five valuable lessons learned.
LESSON #1: WALK FARTHER
The river was at 300 cfs, which is a bit high. I saw that most guys hugged the bank and swung streamers. Or, they drifted nymphs with surface indicators in the same few runs, close to the bank. All day, I saw the same pieces of water get pounded.
Since I have cleats on my wading boots, I was able to go out towards the middle of the river. The five to ten yards made a big difference. In one stretch, I caught a fish every other cast or so. I also was able to cross the river and fish from the other side. Again, many fish.
LESSON #2: FISH THE “B” WATERS
A big chunk of the river is pocket water. The water looks too shallow or too fast to hold much fish. Here’s a video, from Cabins at Lopstick, of a stretch that most anglers skip:
This stretch in fact had the most fish during my outing. I landed a fish every other cast or so on my way to a 32-fish day. It’s water very much suited for the tightline nymphing I like to do.
I’m always shocked how water may look fast and shallow, but there’s a rock below before which a good fish holds. And, if you look carefully, there’s always a slow seam somewhere. In fact, I landed a 15″ landlocked salmon that was holding in a quiet seam that was about 12″ deep and two feet long.
LESSON #3: SMALL FLIES FOOL PRESSURED FISH
There’s a gorgeous nymphing run on the river. It’s only about three feet deep, but the surface is very noisy as multiple currents collide, and so, the trout feel safe. Two guys were fishing it. They were catching fish, and one guy even waded through it when he finished.
When they left, I decided to give it a go. Nothing.
Then, I wondered if the trout here were like the Swift River trout: highly pressured and focused on small flies. I put on a #20 WD40 fly and a #20 La Fontaine-like pupa. Let them rise after the drift. First cast: wham. Second cast: another wham. And, so on.
I landed six big trout in a ten-yard stretch. All of the fish had been in the river for a while, as they had lost their silvery-hatchery sheen.
LESSON #4: YOU CAN PUSH HARDWARE TO THE MAX
I fished my 3- wt. rod and used my usual 6x fluorocarbon tippet. The current was very strong. Fish would streak into the white water to escape.
I just pinched my line, refused to let them take any line off the reel, and slowly walked upstream to play the fish in quieter water; I didn’t want the fish dropping over to the next run down below and have to chase them down river, given the intensity of the current.
The tippet always held. The rod was more than adequate. I was able to aggressively pull fish to the shallows and then tire them out quickly. And, some of these currents were rip-roaring fast with white water all around.
LESSON #5: FISH ARE ALWAYS EATING
I used to hate high water. Or, bright days. My view was that fish don’t eat much when the water is high and that the sun makes them spooky.
I’ve fished in Pittsburg during a variety of conditions and water flows. I’ve found over time that fish are always eating. With a properly presented fly at the right level in the water column, they will either take a fly to eat it, or mouth it because they’re curious about it.
There weren’t many people fishing the river in Pittsburg. I think the high water scared them off. I don’t prefer to wade in very fast-moving water, either, but the benefit was that I had whole stretches of the river to myself.
The fish most definitely were eating.
I learned a lot during my outing. It was really fun.