Dick Pinney's Guidelines: Fly-fishing opportunities in February
Although this veteran of some silly campaigns of fishing in brutal weather isn't going to follow any of his own advice, the younger and more foolish of the fishing fraternity, especially the fly-fishing folks, are more than apt to get out there and fling a few flies in the balmy February sunshine.
Growing up in the Granite State, there were many hardfast rules regulating trout and salmon fishing. One of them was that there were few, if any, legal options to fishing in the cold season, but things have changed in time and currently there are plenty of opportunities to do just that.
We do think that the incredible photos that grace the covers and inside pages of Trout Magazine, the official production of Trout Unlimited, have glorified this drippy nose and frostbite pasttime. And it seems that more and more of these photos with attendant articles have been appearing over recent years.
They make this cold-weather fly fishing look so inviting. And some of these photos showing a wool, fingerless gloved hand cradling the most beautiful huge brown, rainbow or some other exotic trout or salmon make you feel just like running down to your favorite river and jumping right in. We can't say we've never been motivated to do this. My experience lasted about a half hour, much of that time was spend choking in laughter about my partner, Master Maine Guide Stu Bristol of Lyman, rolling around on the half frozen pavement of a parking lot adjacent to the also half frozen Mousam River in Maine, struggling to get his then frozen waders on. Sea run brown trout were going to be the star attraction for this production but they weren't let in on the secret.
We were invited by Stu to help him make a photo shoot for one of his many articles, as he is a very well published outdoor writer. That invite was refused a couple of times but he's been such a special friend of mine over the years we gave into my wife Jane's chastising for "letting down your friend Stu!" It was snowing so hard that at times you couldn't seen the other side of the river! But the photo-ops were incredible and if we had some rubber trout to show off being held in our fingerless wool gloves we would have been golden but Stu, unlike this writer, claimed he never used props in his photos.
And we have to admit that at times we have written somewhat the truth about Stu. But we have seen photos of fish he'd been holding at arms length in front of the camera's lens to make them look huge and one time, claiming a 20-pound striper, his 12-pounder made for some interesting talk at some of the saltwater tackle shops he frequents.
We did have one legitimate winter outing on New Hampshire's Connecticut River, fishing in the outlet of a huge power dam where actually the bottom release dam-flow was warmer than the surface water. Normally we would have had a blast catching some great pan-sized yellow perch and every so often we would fool a trout to take our flies or bait. But it seemed that the perch hadn't seen any of those articles in Trout Magazine and we figure that they didn't like to hang around with that "snooty" bunch of game fish. We never even had a chance to dangle our fingerless wool gloves in the cold currents of that big river.
Here on the Seacoast there are actually a couple of legitimate (that's kind of a stretch) rivers that can produce some pretty good February fly fishing for trout. One is the stretch of the Cocheco River that is accessed off Watson Road in Dover. This stretch has been adopted by those aforementioned fingerless wool-gloved members of the local Trout Unlimited Chapter, who have arranged for special stockings of some outsized trout and have kind of adopted that stretch. Another place that does offer the chance to fly fish over some special trout is the stretch of the Lamprey River in Lee, below the Wiswall Dam. This place also gets some nice late season stocking.
On kind of a serious note, if you are numb enough to go out in frigid February waters to fly fish, don't be so numb as not to include either ice creepers or studded wading boots, as the banks of these rivers are usually ice coated and are very dangerous. Also a good wading staff will also help keep you upright. And hold the passing of the flask until you're done your fishing. It's hard enough to stay upright when you haven't absorbed any "belly warmers."
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.