There is a jewel among us — something that we anglers pursue whenever we get the opportunity. Something so precious that talk of the treasure is held in hushed tones.
Over the past 50 years in the valley, this jewel has become harder and harder to acquire.
What is this jewel? The native brook trout.
The Wild River was once a go-to destination in pursuit of these jewels. One could go over the Wild, hike up the river a mile, spend an afternoon rock hopping back downstream, and catch one wild brook trout after another.
Most of these brook trout were 4-6 inches with the occasional 10-inch beauty.
Sometime in the 1970s. we started to catch rainbow trout. Rainbow trout are a species native to the western portion of the United States. They are easily grown in hatcheries, and there are always excess eggs available that states share among themselves.
The economy and the oil embargo put strain on Fish and Game budgets. Maine stocked rainbow trout in the Androscoggin River.
Rainbow trout began to move up the Wild River. Anglers were thrilled to have a new, colorful, acrobatic fish species to catch. "Go to the Wild for rainbows" became the battle cry.
With the perception that rainbows were so popular, N.H. Fish and Game began to stock rainbows directly into the Wild. The rest as they say, is history.
On top of all the stocking of rainbow trout in habitat of native brook trout, the Wild took a devastating hit from Hurricane Irene.
The plunge pools that held many brook trout are now exposed to the sun, and the water temperatures heat up in the summer. Rainbow trout can tolerate warmer water; brook trout cannot.
The brook trout have retreated to the headwaters of the Wild. They are hanging on by a thread. The jewels get fewer and fewer. The stocking truck drops more and more rainbow trout into the Wild.
Rainbow trout take prime lies in the river and eat the baby brook trout that make a poor decision and head into the pools habituated by rainbow trout.
The anglers that like to fish for rainbow trout are very happy. The brook trout anglers, not so much.
Fishing the Wild is still a treat if you want to catch trout. The river can be reached by taking Hurricane Mountain Road in Intervale to Route 113 North. There is a Forest Service Road, Wild River Road, that takes you to the campground on the river.
This time of year, we fish with Stimulators, Moodah Poodahs, PMX Royals and Ants. Rainbow trout will devour these flies. Fish riffle water by casting to the head of the riffle and let the fly float through the riffle. Rainbows will come right up through the water and grab the fly. The fish jump and pull and put a bend in the rod. It is fun.
But the jewels are elusive. We now hike all the way up to the Spruce Pond tent site. We camp there and fish the area, looking for jewels. Sometimes, depending on water flow, we go even higher into the mountains. Using the AMC White Mountain Guide, we explore feeder streams. We search for deep pools. We love to fish old-style wet flies. It brings back the memories of the pre-rainbow days.
Royal Coachman, Professor, Grizzly Kin or the Woolly Worm will bring willing brook trout to hand. The chance to hold a jewel on the Wild is not over. It just takes a lot more work than it did before the rainbow.
Tip Of The Week
Fish shorter leaders when using classic wet flies for brook trout. Waters are lower this time of year, so pools that hold trout are smaller. We like to use leaders with 6x tippet.
Steve Angers is a native son to the Conway area. He has been consumed by fishing since catching his first wild brook trout at the base of Champney Falls.