New England's North Country Trout Rivers
September 29, 2010
Some excellent trout fishing awaits anglers in New England's fabled North Country, where lunker brookies, browns and rainbows abound. Our expert has the story. (July 2006)
Photo by Scott Ripley
Early summer can be a challenging time for trout fishermen across northern New England. Water levels, flow and temperatures dictate where trout will be found and how receptive they will be to various offerings. By early July, conditions in our small- and medium-sized streams will have reached a point where trout will seek the deepest, coolest water, moving and feeding primarily early and late in the day. They can be difficult to find and once located, are often reluctant to leave their cool bastions to chase a fly or lure.
For the most part, the larger trout rivers offer some of our best opportunities right now. Fed by a myriad of smaller tributaries, these bigger runs are not only deeper with more volume -- and therefore, with cooler and better oxygenated water generally -- but they provide deeper and more varied habitats with a wider variety of forage.
Conditions on smaller streams can be unpredictable at best, but big-river trout can be active in July, often feeding vigorously on emerging and subsurface foods at any time of day. Most of our best trout rivers are flowing at normal levels and are easy to access and wade, plus they're a pleasure to drift at this time of year, offering anglers some of the best and most enjoyable action of the season.
Northern New England is home to a host of large trout rivers that are worth exploring this month. Some are managed under special regulations to increase the average size of trout and enhance opportunities for taking better-than-average fish; some have wild or self-sustaining trout populations. Most are stocked annually, while a few have even been brought back after years of abuse and neglect. Collectively, they offer some of the finest trout angling in the Northeast.
There was a time when parts of the upper Kennebec River offered little for trout enthusiasts because it was used primarily to float logs to regional paper mills. But those days are long gone.
The Kennebec, one of Maine's largest rivers, offers a complexity of habitats along with some of the finest wild rainbow and brown trout fishing in New England.
Some upstream sections of the Kennebec receive a lot of attention and notoriety, particularly below Wyman Dam in Bingham, but the three miles of river from Shawmut Dam to Fairfield is a stretch worth getting to know. The area contains rainbows into the 20-inch class, with some larger specimens lurking in the depths. Fly-fishing is extremely popular, and the river is open to the use of artificial lures.
Access is from Exit 36 on Interstate Route 95 in Fairfield on the west side, or from the River Road on the east. You can find a map showing directions at www.maineflyfishing.com.
Besides lots of quality trout, what makes the Shawmut Dam stretch so inviting is it has something for everyone. There is some prime wading for about 600 yards below the dam, but below that are over two miles of floatable river all the way to the Fairfield Town Landing.
The entire section is open year 'round and offers plenty of water to pursue some of the best rainbow trout fishing in the state.
Like the area below Wyman Dam in Bingham, the Shawmut stretch is a tailwater fishery. However, the river is larger here and not as fast. And if there's any possible downside this time of year, it is warm water temperatures and at times, low flow.
Early morning and late in the day are generally preferred times, but check before you go. The website given above has weekly updates on water level and temperatures and fish activity. You can also obtain information by calling Mainely Fly-Fishing at (207) 453-6242.
For information on lodging and other services in the area, interested anglers may contact the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce in Waterville at www.midmainechamber.com, or call (207) 873-3315.
The stretch of Kennebec River below Wyman Dam, about 25 miles north of Skowhegan, is another prime and potentially productive tailwater area for trout at this time of year, offering enough cool water to keep its wild rainbows and stocked and holdover browns active.
As in the stretch below Shawmut Dam, trout measured in pounds rather than inches are quite possible here. Locally dubbed "the Yellowstone of the East," it offers a pleasant mixture of shallow riffles, deep pools and cut banks -- a little bit of everything to challenge trout fishermen.
Except for some rough spots close to the dam, much of the stretch can be waded, especially from where Austin Stream enters on the east side in Bingham, downstream to the old Gaddabout Gaddis Airport. You can wade areas upstream as well, but exercise caution due to the frequent and somewhat unpredictable water releases. You can obtain information on those releases by calling 1-800-557-5369.
Walk-in access is easy at the so-called Powerline below the dam on the west side (reached by crossing the river onto Route 16 just south of Bingham, and then turning right after crossing the bridge), off the mouth of Austin Stream, or by utilizing the old railroad tracks -- now a bicycle path -- just below the airport.
For anglers who want to explore downriver, it is a nice three-mile float to Solon Deadwater. A float trip opens up a lot of exciting and productive water away from the crowds and pressure.
For updated conditions and activity, the boys at Kennebec River Outfitters in Madison know the stretch well and are more than happy to provide current, helpful information. You can reach them at (207) 474-2500, and there is a lot of information on their Web site as well, at www.kennebecriveroutfitters.com.
Accommodations in the area may be made at Pine Grove Lodge, on the Ridge Road on the west side of the river, by calling (207) 672-4011, or visiting www.pinegrove.lodge.com.
Farther downstream in Solon, the Evergreens Campground offers cabins, a restaurant, a campground and canoe rentals. Contact them at (207) 643-2324, or visit their Web site at www.evergreenscampground.com.
There's also some pretty good trout fishing in the Solon area near the campground, especially the walk-in area near the 201A bridge and at Carratunk Falls, where browns and brookies add to the mix.
Maine's Short Picks
While the larger ri
vers generally offer the best trout action at this time of year, a number of smaller runs are worth visiting, especially if rain keeps water levels up a bit and temperatures remain moderate.
The Little Androscoggin River, between the Welchville Dam in Oxford downstream to Upper Baker's Dam in Auburn, offers miles of water for stocked and holdover rainbows. Although water conditions determine success, some fish can be found even when levels are low.
Not far from Portland, the Presumpscot River drains Sebago Lake, offering brown trout and some brookies and plenty of cool, clear water. From the outlet dam on Sebago downstream to the head of North Gorham Pond, the stretch is restricted to fly-fishing only. This is a relatively short run, but it's a good place to spend a lazy July morning or evening.
Access is easy near the bridge on Route 35 west of North Windham.
The nearby Pleasant River is also a good spot, especially the no-kill section that runs from the Route 302 bridge in Windham downstream to the bridge on River Road.
The Rapid River should continue to produce brook trout this month. The same is true of the Androscoggin River from the New Hampshire border to Bethel, now considered one of the best trout rivers in the state.
You'll find some of the best action in the faster runs and near the mouths of entering tributaries.
For more information on trout fishing in Maine, contact the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at (207) 287-8000, or visit www.mefishwildlife.com.
At this time of year, few places in western New Hampshire and eastern Vermont offer more for trout fishermen than the Connecticut River. From Murphy Dam at the foot of Lake Francis downstream to Lyman Falls in Columbia, you will find just about every type of trout water, with plenty of easy access.
Despite warm temperatures and low water levels at times, especially during periods of little rain, lunker browns, rainbows and brook trout are always possible for the patient angler.
One spot to consider is below Murphy Dam in Pittsburg. The stretch is stocked annually, but the area also holds some wild fish. There is plenty of good water here, and under the right conditions, it's possible to wade from below the dam to the bridge in West Stewartstown. In between are good access points at the N.H. Fish and Game pull-off kiosk near the state garage on Route 3 and at the Clarksville covered bridge on what the locals call Bacon Bridge Road south of town.
The river is bigger downstream in West Stewartstown below Canaan Dam, and generally holds some good fish. Keep in mind that this is July, so you may have to work to find them. There are times when the action doesn't come easy, but the fish are there. The faster water below the dam is good for wading.
The stretch of water below the breached dam at Lyman Falls in Columbia is prime water, too. Browns and rainbows are the primary targets, but brook trout are a possibility. Foot access is off Route 3 via a private dirt road. Keep in mind this is catch-and-release water where only artificial lures and flies may be used. Check the current freshwater fishing digest for regulations governing river anglers.
There's any number of places to stay while fishing in the area, and other services such as restaurants and tackle shops are available nearby. The folks at Lopstick Lodge and Cabins in Pittsburg know the river very well. Contact them at 1-800-538-6659, or visit them at www.lopstick.com.
Lower Androscoggin River
The upper Androscoggin River around Errol is well-known for its trout resources. But the downstream stretch from Berlin to the border with Maine is coming into its own as one of the best in northern New England. Of particular interest is the water above and below the Shelburne Dam in Shelburne. Here are several miles of mixed trout water suitable for wading and drifting, with big browns and rainbows a good possibility.
The stretch above Shelburne Dam sometimes suffers from low water and high temperatures, but the area below the dam is managed as part of New Hampshire's Quality Trout Program, which means that special catch-and-release, artificial lure/fly-fishing regulations are in effect.
The river is also fed by several tributaries, including the Leadmine, Peabody and Austin Mill brooks on the north side and the Rattle River on the south. The mouths of these feeders generally hold fish.
Access to the river is possible at several points along Route 16 above Shelburne Dam. A trail leads from the Gorham Highway Department facility to where the Peabody River enters, and there is also upstream access at the dam to Reflection Pond, where canoes may be launched. Below the dam, there is public access from the state land on Route 2 leading to some good water, but Hogan Road runs parallel to the river upstream on the north bank after departing Route 2.
There is also a set of double bridges farther downstream in Shelburne off Meadow Road, which leads to North Road. The road travels upstream to eventually connect with Hogan Road or downstream toward Maine, opening up even more productive water.
For available lodging and other services in the area, contact the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-367-3364, or visit www.mtwashingtonvalley.org.
Gorham Hardware and Sports Center offers fishing tackle and locally popular lures and flies. Reach them at (603) 466-2312.
For more information, contact the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at (603) 271-3421; or visit them at www.wildlife.state.nh.us.
Winooski River System
Rising in the foothills of Cabot and draining more than 1,000 square miles, the Winooski River system is the largest watershed in Vermont. Along its 70-mile course to Lake Champlain, the fabulous main stem and its myriad of smaller, cooler tributaries offer brook, brown and rainbow trout in every conceivable habitat imaginable. Throw in some picturesque scenery, and you have a combination that's difficult to beat.
In its headwaters from Cabot down through Marshfield and Plainfield to about East Montpelier, the river is relatively small, but it's good brook trout water with some rainbows adding to the mix. Route 2 and Route 215 parallel the river nearly the entire way and provide easy access at many points and crossings.
At Montpelier, the North Branch enters and offers a mix of brookies and browns. It may be accessed at spots from Route 12. Below Montpelier, the Dog River enters from the south. One of the state's true Blue Ribbon trout streams, it offers good cover and water through much of the season, along with some trophy-class browns. Access is along Route 12 heading toward Northfield.
in the main stem are miles of prime trout water, all the way to Waterbury along Route 2.
Another prime trout tributary is the Mad River, which is downstream from Middlesex and home to both stocked and wild fish. While it receives its share of attention, it is worth getting to know.
Farther downstream at Waterbury, the Little River enters on the north side from Waterbury Reservoir. The waters from the impoundment keep the river cool throughout the summer, and there are always trout worth pursuing in the main stem near the mouth of and into the Little River. The Little River Road offers access.
For information on lodging, campgrounds and other services in the area, contact the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce at (802) 229-5711, or visit their Web site at www.central-vt.com.
For information on fishing in Vermont, contact the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department at (802) 241-3700, or visit their Web site at www.anr.state.vt.us/fw/fwhome.
Find more about New England fishing and hunting at: NewEnglandGameandFish.com