October is a special time for the local anglers of New Hampshire, especially within the White Mountains. Most of the foliage crowd is gone, temperatures begin to dip into the thirties, and most important of all (to me anyways), brown trout become extraordinarily vicious. Autumn is by far my favorite time of the year to fish. Although I love brook trout fishing all over the White Mountains and North Country, by this time I have usually netted a few garishly colored brookies and am satisfied. The season for taking brook trout from small streams, ponds/lakes, and rivers here in New Hampshire ends on the 15th of October, but other larger bodies of water remain open to the taking of trout, mostly rainbows and browns.
As mentioned earlier I am very fond of the fishing here in the fall, but trout certainly do not come easy. Most days an angler is lucky to land one exceptional (15” +) trout this time of year. Some days no fish are to be found although a streamer or nymph may have been placed in nearly every square foot of the river within reachable casting distance. This is something that I had discussed with Austin Green and Katie Blizzard; two anglers who I know are dedicated to their pursuit of fish. After driving to N.H. from Maryland, Austin and Katie loaded their fishing gear into my living room, which would serve as their luxury fishing accommodation for the next two days. Soon after, the grill was lit, beers were cracked, and fishing talk began to sputter into conversation. After experiencing high quality fishing at a favorite location of mine here in New Hampshire earlier this spring, Austin was back again to fish and photograph the spot. I feel it necessary at this point to mention that Ian Doig (Bad to the Bobbin) was unable to make the trip, which was a bummer.
After a solid dinner of cheeseburgers and fries, we set our alarm clocks and hit the hay. We were all sure that tomorrow would bring a day of good fishing in pleasurable fall weather. We couldn’t have been more wrong about our day to come, which brought a heavy downpour right as our alarms began to wake us. Knowing the distance that we had to travel gave me confidence that the rain was not going to reach the area and destroy our day of river fishing. Driving through heavy rains to reach a fishing destination is never a good feeling. Some anglers have good luck fishing in the rain, some swear by it, and others hate it. I am somewhere in between these three types of anglers. As we drove towards our fishing destination the rain continued to pummel the windshield of my Subaru. At this point I was preparing to hate it.
Luckily by the time we reached the location we had planned to fish the rain was a mere drizzle, ideal weather for casting to aggressive Salmo trutta. The fall is when large male and female brown trout begin to feed heavily in order to prepare for the spawning season which occurs in late fall (November/December) here in New Hampshire. Early to mid October is a great time to cast large streamers such as Zuddlers, Sex Dungeons, and Slump Busters to large browns that prowl looking for a pre-spawn meal. The vivid colors and spot patterns that are associated with any spawning trout are in full swing for the browns in New Hampshire by mid October. These revered brown trout were what Austin, Katie, and myself were after this day.
The fishing started off slow with only one missed trout on my first cast. After fishing another hour or so with no signs of any trout actively feeding we decided to try another location. After trekking along the river for some time we reached our venue. It is a place I fish often, but do not always catch fish when I do. The landscape is something that I enjoy just as much as the angling that the location provides. We rested and observed the water and some caddis activity that was bringing some smaller fish to the surface. This area is abundant with insect life, but it is not something that I focus on often when I fish here. I typically will strip a streamer through the current, but I know a handful of people who enjoy fishing the numerous hatches that occur on this stretch of river. There also is an abundance of crayfish within the waters, therefore a large brown or black articulated streamer does its work well. A wide variety of baitfish, sculpins, and small trout are also a primary food source for the big browns and rainbows. As I began fishing my favorite fly, which does have some weight to it, I noticed the clarity and low level of the water. I knew it would be a tough day and that I must present my fly with some delicacy in order to catch a fish, not spook one. This was a challenge I had forgotten about during the spring when the waters tend to run high and off color. Summer tends to run an average level, but not discolored.
At this point Austin, Katie, and myself were fishing hard. We continued this casting craze for sometime. It was around 10:00 a.m. when I chucked my fly sixty feet into the middle of the river and an explosion occurred out in a section of riffles. I suddenly felt a heavy pull on my line and immediately set the hook. “Fish!” I yelled to Austin and Katie who were both upstream of me. Excitement took over, as I knew that a large trout was on the other end of my line. Austin quickly pulled out the camera and began to capture the battle as Katie got the net ready. The fish was in the middle of the river still and was giving some serious head shakes desperately trying to liberate itself. To my relief the fish was on the reel quickly due to the fish slamming the fly within seconds of hitting the water. As the trout began to rip line out I knew it had to be a large brown. The head shakes, non-aerial battle, and strong runs were clues to my speculation. As the fish came closer to shore Katie readied the net and I held my breath as the fish began to thrash heavily in the shallows. Finally I got a glimpse of the fish, which was in fact a big trout. Seconds later Katie made the move and scooped the fish from the frigid waters. At last we all were looking at a beautiful 22” male brown trout within the net.
Since the sun was out in full force at this point the colors of the trutta were vivid. Pristine golden hued with large black spots covering its body like a cheetah, the brown rested in the net as Austin diligently took some photos to capture its beauty. After a few more shots the fish was ready to be released. I carefully hoisted the trout out of the net and rested him in the water until he gave several thrusts of the tail and carried himself back into the cold current.
By Jonathan Zukowski