If you are not tied up in the pursuit of deer or other furry or feathered creatures and want a new fishing experience, a trip to Rye's Berry Brook may provide some fun and a very interesting experience, just observing and being part of a coastal marshlands.
Our good friend and fellow outdoorsman Dave Dawley of Rye is a champion of this relatively rare type of trout fishing and tips us off often when there are trout in the tidal stream to be caught. To my knowledge, David has released all the fish there that he's hooked and surprisingly, some years they probably count in the hundred or so as fall stockings recently have added to the catchable-sized fish that return from the ocean to attempt to spawn.
We say attempted because ever since we became involved with this Berry Brook fishery we have never heard of or have witnessed any sign of natural reproduction. But we've watched several mated pairs of brown trout attempting to spawn and probably are spawning in the area where the freshwater enters the tidal water.
The problem is that Berry Brook once supposedly did hold native brook trout but since the world has warmed and the stream is full of beaver-made marshes, the elevated water temperatures will not support brook trout or trout reproduction.
Back when this writer was a conservation officer (CO) in that area, surplus brook trout fry or fingerlings were parceled out to each CO to stock wherever he chose to, in an attempt to re-start waters that once held trout. Because of this spreading around of surplus brookies, when small trout were caught in some not-on-the-stocking list waters, they were often identified as "natives," which in the majority of the cases probably were not but were the results of that scatter-stocking of the surplus brook trout fingerlings.
We're told that the huge brown trout that used to return to Berry Brook in the fall from the ocean are not as common as they once were. In the past there were fish caught (and almost entirely released) that were in the six to eight pound range, with the late and great Nick Lambrou landing an eight pound beauty on his famous herron fly.
Even without fishing rod in hand, we still like to walk this particular coastal marsh, as many species of wildlife are apt to be sighted. Several species of heron and other shorebirds use this marsh as well as gulls, ospreys and different species of ducks. Muskrats and the occasional otter are found there and the surrounding woods seem to hold an abundance of fisher, raccoons and whitetail deer.
If you chose to fish, my favorite time has been on the incoming tide where standing on the Bracket Road Bridge where we could observe trout moving in with the tide. We also would walk the marsh downstream towards Seavey Creek and try to find trout also moving in with the tide.
These fish move upstream with the incoming tide and often drop back in the outgoing tide. A still and sunny day and a good pair of Polaroid sunglasses are the best combinations for spotting fish.
You should know that if you spot one of the brown trout that has returned from the ocean they are extremely wary. Once your presence is known to them, forget even having them make a pass at your fly. Extreme stealth is key to getting a strike. One of my big mistakes in the past was setting the hook too early when seeing the white of their open mouths come to the fly. Do not set the hook. Wait until your line goes taut and you feel pressure and them lift the rod and you'll be tied into some exciting sport.
If you enjoy jump shooting for ducks, a combination trip to the coast can provide for some cast and blast action. Low tide is best for sneaking on ducks so it won't take any time away from a few casts at Berry Brook. From Rye to Seabrook there are enough coastal marshes that hold good duck populations to wear out quite a few rubber boots. Access and parking are not a problem if you use some common sense.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.