Tuesday, April 30, 2013

New Hampshire Brood Stock Atlantic Salmon

I have been angling, in New Hampshire, for Brood Stock Atlantic Salmon for many years.  During these seasons I have seen some great days hooking fish, landing a few and have learned a number of successful ways to get them to take a fly. These tactics have changed a great deal from the early days. 

The stocking of these fish, about 750 ranging from 3 to 14 pounds for spring 2013, is part of the Atlantic salmon restoration program for the Merrimack River system.  Before the many dams were built, fueling the American industrial revolution during the late 1700's through 1800's, the salmon and shad ascended together all the way to the confluence of the Pemigewasset and Winnipesaukee Rivers in Franklin.  All the shad went up the Winni and all the salmon continued as far north as Franconia Notch on the Pemi.  A very few of us have been lucky enough to angle a real sea going Atlantic on the Merrimack.  Although many years ago that day remains stuck in my mind.

The easiest way catch brood stock, if it were legal, would be to use a weighted leader indicator nymphing style and fly patterns like pheasant tail, soft hackle emergers and caddis patterns on size 10 or 12 hooks.  As no added weight is allowed by law,  in order to utilize a nymphing style we must think old school.   I use a 10' 4" 8 weight switch rod with floating line and a very short appropriate to the water depth sink tip with a three foot fluorocarbon leader.  The flies are larger size nymph and bugger patterns that have a bit of flash. Also no weight may be added to the fly so bead heads or lead wrapping under the bodies are illegal.  In this method the fly is made to dead drift in the exact way you would fish for trout.

A second, and far more enjoyable way to me, is to swing traditional salmon, Spey, muddler, leech and bugger style flies on a longer two hand rod.   By using the same technique of dangling, pull and drop styling, as is very successful with steelhead, I am able to get takes.  You will also need to find a correct tempo for striping back.  Sometimes it needs to be very fast.  The best setup for me is a 13 foot two hand rod with floating Skagit line and sinking poly leader followed by a short fluorocarbon leader.  The reason for the fluorocarbon is because it sinks better than copolymer or monofilament.  Although mostly a sub surface game, I am told that there are times when big dry flies will work.  I have not had that experience but do carry a few larger style Atlantic salmon dry flies just in case.

Another valuable way to get savage takes is to cast up in front of the fish with big rubber legs buggers and strip quickly past them.  I have had fish chase thirty and forty feet down river to catch the fly as it gets pulled by the current.  The visual is outstanding.  For this method you must not use a line that is fast sinking and be very careful not to be casting over their backs and foul hooking the fish.  You must see what you are doing.  It is better to let casts that are not accurate dead drift away without harm.

Most anglers you will see have traditional 9 foot rods and sinking lines.  Your Striped Bass set up will work well.   I have noticed that flies with a bit of red seem to work the best.  On any given day any style with any fly will work. That is the beauty of this fishery and a fishery that should be given a try.  The information about locations can be found on the New Hampshire Fish and Game website.  Some get very crowded and some I fish never see another angler.  In addition to your New Hampshire fishing permit you will also be required to purchase a brood stock salmon permit.  All are available on line.

Some days I have been there and all alone.  I think about what it may have been when the salmon came in strong runs from the sea reaching far into the woods of New Hampshire.  This is a truly beautiful wilderness area and as wild and raw as the fish of a thousand casts.