Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fly Fishing New Hampshire: Pemigewasset River

Pemigewasset (Pemi) River Facts

Length: 65 miles.
Origin:  Profile Lake, located in Franconia Notch State Park.
Termination:  In Franklin, New Hampshire, the Pemi merges with the Winnipesaukee River to form the Merrimack River.  The Merrimack flows to the Atlantic Ocean, ending in Newburyport, MA. 
Location:  Starting in Franconia and ending in Franklin, the Pemi runs along highway 93 and route 3. The river travels through much of the white mountains. 
Tributaries:  Smith, Newfound, Squam, Baker, Beebe, Mad, Lost, East Branch Pemigewassett.
Fishing Season: January 01 to October 15th. Please see special rules http://www.eregulations.com/newhampshire/fishing/freshwater/rivers-streams-with-special-rules/
Licensed Required: Yes, general fishing only. 
Floating:  Yes, for sport and recreation.  There are a few businesses that offer kayak, canoe and tube rentals.  The entire river is classified as a non-technical, easy river to float.  However, be aware of dams and falls. More technical information is available at https://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/detail/id/3735/
Walk-Wade: Yes.  From Profile Lake to Franklin, there are many pull-offs.  
Entrance Fee: No.
Camping & Lodging: Yes, there are many private and public camping options.  
Depth:  Not known as a deep river.  Greatly varies due to the structure of the river and dams.
Access:  Extremely accessible by boat or foot.  North of Plymouth, NH, I tend to favor walk-wade access points along route 3 and 175. 

For 20 years, NH attempted to restore Atlantic Salmon to the Pemi and Merrimack River Watershed.  In 2014, the program was cancelled.  To think, before dams, this tremendous specie swam freely in the Live Free or Die state.  Photo courtesy of NH Fish & Game. 


Why Fish the Pemigewasset River 
    
  • Native Species:  Eastern Brook Trout, Atlantic Salmon and Fall Fish (chub).
  • Non-Native Species: Rainbow, Brown Trout, Small Mouth Bass, Blue Gill, Yellow Perch.
  • Stocked Fish:  NH Fish & Game stocks EBT, and Rainbow and Brown Trout.  NH Fish & Gamed used to stock Atlantic Salmon, but the program has been cancelled.
  • Structure: Varies greatly.  Due to dams, the Pemi has long runs of slow shallow water.
  • Location: Much of the Pemi runs through the white mountains of New Hampshire. 
  • Communications:  You'll have good cell service throughout the river system.
  • Experience:  In my opinion, of all the rivers in New Hampshire, and despite human influences (e.g. dams), the Pemi feels like a big wild river.  There are stretches of this river that are wild and beautiful.
  • Scenery:  The combination of mountains, tree's and blue sky is hard to beat.  Seasonal colors are good, especially in the fall. 


How to Fish the Pemigewasset River

Option A:  Hire First Cast Fly Fishing, or another licensed guide.

Option B:  DIY (Do it Yourself).  If you plan to fish this section on your own, your best bet is:


  • There are many known fishing haunts like the Bristol and Franklin areas (below the dams). After stocking by the NH Fish & Game is complete, these well known areas get fished hard. If you like to walk-wade, I encourage you to explore other sections of this river (from Franconia to Franklin, there are dozens of less accessed spots that hold fish).
  • As the season progresses, the Pemi's water flow can drop and water temps can warm quickly. In my opinion, early season produces the best fishing.  There is a STRONG correlation between good fishing reports/experiences, and when NH Fish & Game stocks (i.e. to increase your odds, fish immediately following a stocking).  
  • Fly Rods: Depends on your strategies, but 3wt to 6wt, should get the job done.  
  • Fly Line:  A standard floating line, with sink tips, if needed.
  • Techniques: This is a great river for swinging flies and using a two handed rod.  I love using my 10'6" 3wt switch rod on the Pemi.  I tend to favor nymphs and dry flies.  As water levels drop and warms, I target water with the most oxygen, and structure. 
  • Trophies:  The Pemi and Merrimack Rivers are well known for a fish management program called the Atlantic Salmon Brood Stock Fishery. This program is no longer functioning, but in its heyday, anglers caught salmon up to 15 lbs!  
  • Plan B: If you encounter crowds at the well known areas, be prepared to go to option B. With 65 miles of water, and multiple tributaries, you should not have a problem finding less pressured water.
  • If I have not been clear, parts of the Pemi can warm quickly.  That being said, during peak summer months, wet wading is possible, and desirable.    

Final Word

I have a love, hate relationship with the Pemi.  I love the Pemi because there are stretches that feel very wild, very beautiful, and very soulful.  For a fisherman, these stretches have some of the most tantalizing waters in all of New England.  Specifically, some stretches of the Pemi look as though they would hold an abundance of trophy fish, but they don't.  To understand why the Pemi does not hold/sustain trophies such as the Atlantic Salmon, I encourage you to read a book written by a New Hampshire author, Jack Noon. http://www.amazon.com/Fishing-New-Hampshire-History-Series/dp/1893863026

I hate the Pemi because of what it once was; a very wild river filled with an abundance of wild fish. Correction, I don't hate the river. I hate the fact that humans chose to destroy something very wild.  

Thanks for reading.  I hope you enjoyed this post.

Gone Fishing,

Mark