The Upper Connecticut River
Headwaters of the Connecticut River
The headwaters of the Connecticut River rise at the US / Canadian border at the northern tip of New Hampshire in the town of Pittsburg. The river flows through a chain of mountain lakes – the Connecticut Lakes – before beginning its journey to Long Island Sound. Tailwater dams keep river water cold all summer below First Connecticut Lake and Lake Francis.
Where To Fish
The Upper Connecticut has three distinctly different stretches. From below Second Lake, the river is small, with 60cfs the common river flow. This section is home to brook trout and wild landlocked salmon. Slightly stained with tannins, this freestone stretch features a cascading waterfall, “Falls in the River,” along with riffles, pools and a wonderful pond area where Dry Brook enters. Small brook trout and small salmon are in the river year round, but in the spring (early May), large landlocked come into the mouth of the river from First Lake to feed on spring spawning baitfish. In the fall, lake salmon return to the river to spawn, providing another chance to catch salmon 15- to 20-inches. From the dam to the bridge on Magalloway Road, regulations are fly fishing-only, catch-and-release. From the bridge to Green’s Point on First Lake, fly fishing-only, two salmon per day about 15-inches; for trout, 5 fish or 5 pounds; and for lake trout, two fish 18-inches or greater.
The Trophy Stretch
Below First Lake is the much written about “Trophy Stretch.” Here, flows are normally 150 to 300cfs with cold water flowing all summer. Dams on the Connecticut Lakes are managed for recreation. Power generation on the Connecticut occurs much further south, a real plus for anglers. Riffles, runs, and pools are easily waded. Conservation easements along the river provide access along this forested section. Favorite pools include “Doc’s,” “Bridge,” “The Skating Rink,” “Judge’s” and the “Jury Box.” In this nearly two mile stretch, you’ll find brook, rainbow and brown trout along with landlocked salmon and the occasional lake trout. Trout and salmon are in the river year-round with the larger salmon entering during the spring and fall spawning. Fly fishing-only regulations from the dam nearly to Lake Francis with a two fish limit; trout about 12-inches and salmon above 15-inches.
River Below the Lakes
Below Lake Francis, the last in the chain, water temps seldom exceed 50 degrees in the heat of the summer. This keeps water cold enough for trout for more than 30 miles downstream. Normal water flows are 300 to 500cfs. There is no fly fishing designation to the water in this stretch, catch limits are 5 fish or 5 pounds of trout and 2 salmon above 15-inches. In this section, you’ll find browns, brookies, and rainbows. Access is easy below the dam and along US Route 3 in Pittsburg. The river becomes the state line between New Hampshire and Vermont below Pittsburg and access becomes less frequent. Below the bridge in West Stewartstown / Canaan, Vt. is a fishing access for wading or launching. Kayaks, canoes, and drift boats become the preferred method for fishing as the river has become larger after being joined with tributaries Indian, Halls and Leach Stream. Large brown trout haunt these waters and can be found in the deeper pools.
Hatches begin in early May during the salmon run. Overcast afternoons with temps above 50 often see blue wing olive hatches. In early June, the caddis hatch begins. The Connecticut is a caddis river. Caddis are so prevalent that a properly presented imitation will bring fish to the surface even without a hatch. Other notable hatches are summer stones. In early July, little yellow sallies; while the large black stones dominate the evenings in late July and August. Lower stretches of the river see more mayflies – blue wing olives, sulphurs, callibaetis, and terrestrials in late summer. During the last two weeks of Aug., an incredible hatch of cinnamon flying ants occurs in the Colebrook NH area.
While the Upper Connecticut River is the main fishing attraction of the area, it is worthy to note the many other fishing opportunities all within a 15-mile radius of Pittsburg and the Connecticut Lakes. The Upper Connecticut has tributary streams which hold brook trout. There are seven fly fishing-only wilderness ponds which are accessed by well-maintained logging roads. The Connecticut Lakes are home to lake trout and land-locked salmon while Back Lake has good trout and small mouth bass fishing. From early May to Oct. 15 (the season’s close), there are always fishing opportunities no matter the weather.
Fly Fishing Tackle
A 9-foot, 5-weight rod with a floating line is a great all around outfit for the area. Full sink/sink tip lines are good in the spring for streamer fishing or pond fishing, but always have a floating line as you can always make a floating line sink, but can never make a sinking line float. Bring both 7-1/2 foot leaders for nymphing and 9-foot leaders for dries. For fishing in the upper sections, a softer, lighter rod such as a 3- or 4-weight can be fun for small dries and emergers, but on the lower sections where longer, accurate casts are important, a fast, 9-foot rod is preferred.
Video – Fishing the Connecticut River
Pool Below Second Lake Dam
Step Pools on the Connecticut River
Fishing the Ledge Pool of the Connecticut River