We had driven up Route 16 from Seabrook. Dad’s school nurse, Theresa Hays, had offered us the use of the family camp on Rocky Branch for the Memorial Day weekend.
Dad had spent his years in the Mount Washington Valley fishing Rocky Branch. It was his favorite wild brook trout stream. There was always a meal of brook trout waiting for him there.
Dad had determined that this was the time to take me for some serious brook trout fishing. I had caught my first brook trout at Champney Falls the previous year. It had a profound effect. I was all brook trout all the time.
Through the winter, as Dad told me stories of the fishing on Rocky Branch, my desire to fish there grew exponentially. When I found out we would spend Memorial Day weekend on Rocky Branch, I had many nights when visions of brook trout danced in my head.
As we turned off Route 16, the road to the Hays Camp was your typical woods road. The Chevy II station wagon was loaded with everything we needed to spend a weekend in the wilds of the White Mountains.
As we bounced our way to camp, Dad recalled the year that he cracked the three-speed transmission on our previous car coming up the road. He was going to do his best to make sure it didn’t happen on this trip.
When we reached the camp, the sound of the river filled the air. I ran through the woods to peek at the water. In the front of the camp was a pool that ran under a large boulder.
Dad came up and told me there would be a fine brook trout there and that we would try and catch the fish tomorrow.
Over the years, I have returned to the Hays Camp. It always brings a smile to my face to see the camp still standing.
Rocky Branch has now eroded to the front steps of the camp. One more hurricane and the camp will likely end up under the Route 302 bridge. While I no longer stay at the camp, it is a landmark that tells me to start looking for brook trout. It also brings me great memories of fishing with my dad.
For most of us, the best access to Rocky Branch is the Jericho Road off Route 302 in Bartlett. Drive to the end of the road and take the Rocky Branch Trail to the river.
You can start to fish downstream from here or continue up the trail to the Rocky Mountain Shelter. There are many fine native brook trout here.
As we move downstream, the river changes. Hurricane Irene in 2011 and the No Name Storm of 2017 have ravaged the brook. Places where there was large woody debris and plunge pools have disappeared.
Erosion is rampant. The brook trout are harder to find. Mother Nature can be a cruel mistress.
When we get downstream to the Hays Camp, the pool that held a “fine brook trout” is now dewatered.
The river has shifted east. It is now running down the middle of the stream bed with no trees to protect the water and keep it cool. We soon begin to catch hatchery trout— a mix of brook trout and invasive brown trout.
Rocky Branch is a shadow of its former self. This is a case where we truly hope that time will heal all wounds.
Tip Of The Week
When fishing for wild brook trout this time of year, always have some Wulff Flies with you. The White Wulff, the Royal Wulff or the Grizzly Wulff will bring wild brook trout to hand.
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.