Crotch Town Chronicles

Posted on July 20, 2014

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Brook Trout Sea Anchors and Other Misadventures

How a 10″ Brookie saved me from a soaking

Recently I made my annual trip home for the 4th of July and also for my sister’s wedding. Both my sister and my parents live in Franklin, NH, once called “Crotch Town” because two rivers, the Pemigewasset and Winnipesaukee, join here to make the mighty Merrimack, once the engine of the Northeast textile industry.  This recent move has proved pretty ideal for me because all of these rivers contain fish, and when I’m home I generally get as much fishing in as possible, in direct proportion to how little I am currently fishing in Washington. Once, I even wet-waded Punch Brook in fresh snow on New Year’s Day just to check if fish had pushed up from the main stem during high water.

As I gave my sister a camera for Christmas, I don’t bother trotting my DSLR back and forth any more. However, I also don’t take her camera fishing, so there won’t be any fish photos in this tale.  But I will mine Google  for a few illustrative shots. When I got there, we had an inch of rain, but they had 7″ up North. The Pemi starts up high, right at the base of what was once The Old Man on the Mountain, so that river (1, in the image) runs the length of the state. Even though it was dam controlled, it was high and muddy when I arrived. As the first time I ever fished that river the paramedics were walking out with a body as I was walking in, I’ve always had a pretty high respect for it. Wading it in “normal” conditions is a bit of a scare, in flood stages, it was out.

Crotch Town

Crotch Town

I thought that maybe with the high water the fish might’ve pushed around the corner to the Winnipesaukee, a much shorter river coming from an eponymous lake just a few miles away (2 on the image). So I went to the boat ramp behind the high school and sure enough, I could see the trout cruising in there.  This water is also dam controlled (you can see the dam outflows as white on the image at the top of  both circles). I waded some of it, but ideally it would be nice to put a boat in there. Something I hoped to do, but didn’t get around to on this  trip. However, a couple of good ol’ boys showed up and told me that indeed they often caught 50 fish or so in the quarter mile between there in the dam.

Getting skunked there, I decided to drive upstream to the wildest place on the river, thinking that in the heat the fish might’ve collected in the whitewater. Here too, the water was too deep to wade inside the stream to a good casting location (4) . So I crossed the road, waded out on the pilings of an old bridge (3) and threw my line into the heavy water, casting upstream and stripping line off the  reel so that it would swing and get dragged to the outside of the seam below me (red line). It took a while, I had to get it just right, casting to the far shore, mending, and then ripping line off as fast as I could, but sure enough, I hooked up with a ‘bow the size of my forearm between the outside of the seam and the road, and was able to walk him into the  slack water to land him. Fish on, skunk off.

Tilton2

Tilton

My nephew Gabriel was in town for the wedding. I hadn’t seen him in 5 years or so. He, my mom, my sister, and I headed north for a day. He and I hiked the Flume gorge which comes into the Pemi, and fished the Pemi just below the intersection. We hooked a few 4″ brookies and scared away a few more respectable fish. Then we went to my favorite secret spot by Waterville, where he and I once hooked something like 7 fish in 10 minutes, but the rains had flushed them out of there as well. Even though I was finally figuring out where they might be, we were out of time.

The Flume

The Flume, (photo courtesy of http://www.nhstateparks.org)

There is a great run below this bridge

There is a great run below this bridge, (photo courtesy of http://www.nhstateparks.org)

For the first time in a long time, I visited friends on the Seacoast, which was awesome, but it meant I had basically just landed one fish the whole trip. So coming back one day, I skipped dinner, grabbed my gear and headed out for what I knew was my last chance. So fast that I left my waders at home. At first I went to the Franklin Falls dam because the state record trout (a 35.5″ monster) came out of the lake below it, but there was no wade-in access.

Franklin Falls Dam

Franklin Falls Dam

So I went back to town and decided to wade the main stem.  Well, it was still a bit high and a bit fast. I emptied my pockets and decided to go for it, wading over my waist in the fast, steep section I could access. Theoretically, not having waders should’ve made me feel safer, as if you go in with them they drag you down, but in practice, it did not. The water was so fast I had to wade out to an outcropping and then turn and fish back towards the shore. Even though I was mid river, I was able to fish inside the seam. The first fish I pulled out was, I think, a red horse. It was an easy 2lbs and fought well. Originally I was so focussed, I just assumed it was a local white fish of which from that spot I have caught many, and released it without thinking.

Whitefish, sort of, best I can find

Whitefish, sort of, best I can find

Only later did I realize that color, shape, and mouth-wise that fish was like none other I had ever caught. It was my dad who suggested it might be a redhorse, and although the images did fit the bill, it took a bit of research to find any references of them this far north (NH Fish and Game has no idea they are in the state). It’s a coarse fish, but apparently some people catch them on purpose, like bass.

GoldenRedhorseLargeNorrisNegus_jpg

Redhorse (photo courtesy of http://www.tnfish.org/)

After that I took a nice 12″ brown trout and a small mouth bass. It was getting late, dark, cold, and rainy so I decided to dedicate the rest of my evening to cribbage and Scotch with my dad. However, as is often the case, the wade back was much worse than the wade in. The dark did not help. In desperation, I once again let all of my line out down stream, well into the backing. The drag of all of the line in the heavy water gave me something to counterbalance against in the current, the way that sometimes even holding on to a twig will help. It turns out, I was able to put considerable force on this “sea anchor” and it saved me a couple of times.

Finally, I got within a yard of the bank and started reeling it in. I was surprised at the amount of effort it took to pull that little muddler in! The rod had a significant  bend in it. Until finally, at the end there was my line with a 10″ brookie held fast to it. In that water, I had worked him too hard, I had to hold him in my hands until full dark for him to resuscitate, apologizing the entire time. Then, after finally achieving the holy triumvirate of a ‘bow, a brown, and a brookie, I scrambled up the rip-rap to some dry clothes and the trip home.

P.S. Who Are You and Where are You From?

Who is visiting me from the Ukraine?
Who is visiting me from the Ukraine?

WordPress gives me these awesome reports and I can see how people find me, where they live, how they found the blog, what pages they visited. I see people from Europe, Asia, South America, and I always wonder who they are. I would love to get comments from  you! Kind of like a WordPress stamp album.

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