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Valley Angler: Finding solitude

By Bill Thompson

This time of year, I spend a lot of my fishing time on the smaller streams. As much as I love the Saco, it is not easy finding any peace and quiet on the river in August. We are fortunate to have several smaller streams in the valley, where it is possible to take refuge from the madding crowd. Fortunately, these places are largely over looked by those looking to party in the outdoors rather than to enjoy them for their natural beauty. These places are too small to launch kayaks or plastic tubes and, in some cases, require one to walk a few hundred yards. I must admit, I cringe when I see a car parked anywhere near one of my favorite places.

Last Friday, Nate Hill stopped by the shop after a day of guiding. He hung around for a while and, as you might expect, we talked fishing. It was time to close the shop for the day and, with Janet away for the day, we decided to go fish for a while before heading home. The dog was with me and so Summer was invited to join us. Once the alarm was set and the key turned we headed to one of our secret spots.

As luck would have it, it was a cool day and when we arrived at our destination we were the only two cars parked near the stream. I let Summer out of the truck to sniff around while I got my waders on and rigged up my fly rod. I had chosen to fish an old Orvis Battenkill bamboo rod that I had acquired a couple of years ago. I have been fishing that rod a lot lately and it is a joy to fish with on these small rivers. A lot of people have the idea of fishing a bamboo rod is a dangerous proposition. That may be true for some old rods, which, because of their worth, are consigned to a dark closet somewhere. My thoughts are that these rods were made to fish and are worthless if they never get to see the light of day. Bamboo rods are a lot more rugged than most people think. In the case of my Battenkill, it is not a rod of such value that I would feel terribly bad if I happen to bust it and, if worse came to worse, the Orvis Company is still making bamboo rods and a replacement tip could be made. And, besides, one of the tips has a set so this is the one I fish; perhaps in hope that someday I will have to replace it.

Nate was, of course, already way ahead of Summer and I. Summer took off down the trail and was already belly deep in the water before I got there. I started to work my fly through a deep pool. Those who distain bamboo rods always point out how heavy they are in comparison to today's graphite rods. They have a point. My 9 foot 5 weight, Orvis Hellios II, advertised as the world's lightest graphite fly rod, weighs 2.5 ounces. My 7 foot 5 weight Battenkill weighs 3.5 ounces. In all honesty the extra ounce isn't all that noticeable. With bamboo you have time to enjoy the rhythm of the cast.

I started to move up river to join Nate. I had waded around a large boulder that had required crossing through a section of deep water. Summer was still enjoying the lower pool, but looked up in time to see that I was getting ahead of her and rushed to join me. When she came to the boulder she was reluctant to swim the deep section. The look on her face was one of complete frustration. Not that long ago, she would have bounded through without giving it a second thought. After several attempts, she circumnavigated the little pool and made her way through the middle of the river to join me. The river continued over a minefield of large boulders and rapid water — no place for an old dog and no place for an older man either. I called Nate on my cell phone to let him know that we would have to leave.

I still wanted to fish for a while, but I knew I would need to find calmer water for the dog. Another nearby stream offered just what we needed. I short while later we were both wading and enjoying the river. I picked up the first hit and the old rod came to life. I friend of mine who shares my enthusiasm for bamboo rods once told me that: "most fly fishermen today don't know that fly rods are meant to bend." Bend it did and a few moments later I released a small brook trout back into the water. I caught a couple more before I realized that it was beginning to get dark.

It was time to call it a night and head home. The dog and I slowly waded back up stream in the darkening evening. It is hard not to get a little melancholy when you are on a river at night. All that can be heard is the rush of the water as it hurries by you. A nearly full moon lighted our way and turned the riffles silver. Summer and I were alone and left to our own thoughts. I think we may have been thinking along the same lines. Life is short. Take the time to savor these moments while you still can.

See you on the river.

Bill and Janet Thompson own North Country Angler in North Conway.

Last Updated on Friday, 22 August 2014 05:44

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Valley Angler: Still no respect for the Saco

By Bill Thompson

Spoiler alert: What follows is my annual rant about the condition of the Saco River. I know that you have heard it all before: the river is going to hell in a hand basket, too many people, too many cheap plastic boats, too much trash and a total disregard for one of the valley's most beautiful places. On the whole things are pretty much the same as always. I have no way of knowing for sure, but it seems like the traffic on the river may be down a little this year. We have had a few more rainy days and some high water that has kept some people away. However, it is not hard to find the usual abandoned campfire rings and litter at the more popular locations.

This past winter, at the urging of Saco Valley Anglers Trout Unlimited, several meetings were held with the board of selectmen concerning the well being of the river. These meetings were very productive and were attended by members of the fishing community, land owners and two of the canoe rental companies. A lot of complaints were heard and there were some good suggestions made. Some of the suggestions have been acted upon. The selectmen and all of the folks that took the time to attend these meeting should be applauded for their efforts.

Last Updated on Friday, 15 August 2014 04:37

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Valley Angler: Pickerel make for good summer fishing

By Bill Thompson

August already? Where has the summer gone? Fishermen generally associate August with the "dog days" of summer and many hang up their rods until the cooler days of September arrive.

So far this year, we have been fortunate to have had plenty of cool days and rainy days interspaced to keep our rivers full of cool water. In addition, we were treated to a late stocking that has provided excellent fishing to date.

As I am writing this column, we are having another set of thunder storms moving through the valley that will no doubt keep the streak going for some time. However, how long this will last is anybody's guess. There are those who, for some reason, think that I am some kind of oracle and have a direct link to the fish gods and can predict what the fishing will be like months in advance. I always am amused when I get a phone call, or email, asking how the fishing will be on the week that they will be visiting the valley three months from now.

Last Updated on Friday, 08 August 2014 04:55

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Valley Angler: Lost again in the Maine woods

By Bill Thompson

It happened again this year, just like it has for at least decades, Rick Davidson and I made our annual fishing excursion. I can always tell when school lets out. Almost like clock-work Rick will call and a date will be set for the annual event.

Like most years, we headed north to the Maine boarder in search of unexplored trout water. Loosely translated that means we head for the Magalloway. I picked Rick up in the morning and soon we were headed north up Route 16 over Pinkham Notch. We were slowed for a moment by a moose jam just outside of Gorham. It still amazes me how people will stop dead in their tracks, in the middle of the road to watch a moose. I never get tired of seeing them, but it is wise to pull over to the side of the road.

We had passed through Errol and had just crossed the Maine boarder when we had some kind of revelation and decide to shift gears and fish the Rapid River. This required us to turn around and head back to Errol to take Route 26 into Maine.

Last Updated on Friday, 25 July 2014 03:44

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Valley Angler: Summer fishing prediction

By Bill Thompson

It was nice of Mother Nature to provide some needed rain last week. Okay, it might have been a little too much. It might have been better if it had been spread out a little. The Saco River hit 13,000 cubic feet per second last Thursday and was the color of chocolate pudding; not the best conditions for fishing. The good news was that the river was back down to a reasonable level allowing good fishing for the weekend.

Last Updated on Friday, 11 July 2014 04:35

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