The Dreaded Offseason

Posted by bs - December 11, 2017 - Fun Stuff - 10 Comments

December is a difficult month if you’re a fisherman … it’s the time of the year where we take stock of the season that just passed and look forward to the fishing season yet to come. A time for reflection in other words.

We are exactly three weeks away from the start of another fishing season here on the upper Connecticut River in New Hampshire, and while it seems more distant than that (it’s currently under 30 degrees and snowing lightly, with a good dose of the white stuff to come tomorrow, not to mention the below zero temps coming later this week), it will be here before we know it.

Clean your fly lines. Organize the multitude of fly boxes you carry around. Check your waders and make sure your boots are still functional. Even tie up some of the fly patterns that you have confidence in and cast most often with a never-ending sense of optimism. Don’t forget to buy your license too – it’s never good getting pinched by the fish cops on your first visit of the new season to the river.

It’s been a while since my last post, and I apologize for that. My fishing season ended just prior to the start of the grouse and woodcock seasons on October 1 – it was a very busy bird hunting season, striving to keep up with my pack of bird dogs, and the fly rods collected quite a layer of dust in their unused state. No late October trips to rivers that I enjoy in Vermont, and not even any North Country Fly Shop Esox Tour trips in November either. Unbelievable.

How was last fishing season? Probably depends on the eye of the beholder, but I thought it was mostly good. The river flows were steady until the end of the season, when a tremendous drought caused some havoc with the river.

For me, a season is judged not just by the amount or quality of fish caught and released, but also by the discovery and exploration of some new water. Some of it was up here on the Connecticut River, but I also had the good fortune of being turned on to some fishing just over the border in Maine that has me yearning for some return trips next summer. Being able to get out on the water with my wife and great friends was the proverbial “icing on the cake” for me as well – yes, it was a good year.

The one disappointment in my humble opinion was the less-than-stellar Hexagenia Hatch on Back Lake in 2017. Our weather was generally uncooperative during the hatch, and it seemed to greatly affect how and when the hatch came off. It still happened, but some of the best nights for the hatch appeared to happen well after dark (the evidence on the Tall Timber boat house suggested this). Let’s hope for a better Hex Hatch in 2018 …

I would love to hear from some of you about your observations from last year’s fishing season – it’s always good to read some fishing stories!



  • Henry Longmire says:

    Looking forward to the new fishing season, Tom!

  • Henry Longmire says:

    …and Merry Christmas to the Tall Timber family and staff! 🎅

    • bs says:

      Merry Christmas to you and Eva as well, Henry. We’re all waiting for fishing season that’s for sure! Hope to see you up here this spring …

  • Ken Wilson says:

    Ahh, the memories of the ’17 season; painting and scraping when I should have been fishing, my abuse from Angus when Karen feeds him lunch, two missed trips to Maine and one to Montana and acting as net boy for Karen. What a season!

    • bs says:

      Those are some great memories, Ken. Hopefully there’s plenty more fishing and less painting for you in 2018. Still lots of abuse from Angus though …

  • Peter Mehegan says:

    Merry Christmas to all the Carons . Great renewing old acquaintances and exposing a 13 year old to Pittsburg for the first time. Matthew hung his Tall Timber ornament on the family tree. See you when the black flies come out!

    • bs says:

      Those are some of the best memories Peter – we’re glad that Tall Timber was part of them. Great seeing you this year and look forward to more of the same in 2018!

  • Gary says:

    My son and I were in Pittsburg a couple of times in May. The second time the river levels were low and fishing was not that great. Is there a schedule or forecasts for releasing water or is it different every year? Also,what is considered good water flows for better fishing? Hoping to get up there again.

    • bs says:

      Gary –

      thanks for your comment and thanks for visiting Pittsburg to fish with your son. There is not a schedule or forecasts for dam releases in Pittsburg – there is a delicate balancing act that Great River Hydro has to do with the flows and the levels of the Connecticut Lakes. The vast majority of the time they are able to accommodate our interests as fishermen, and also the needs of communities and farmers downstream.

      The big factor in May is the melting of the snow that has fallen all winter. Last year, I think we had around 180″ of snow (which is a little above average), but when the snow melts is very important – we like to see a gradual melting of snow rather than a dramatic melt, which usually leads to flooding downstream. The depth of the snowpack is monitored throughout winter, giving Great River Hydro a good idea as to how full the lakes will be after the melt. As the snow melts, the lakes fill and once that is achieved, you might see them releasing water based on our weather patterns.

      So, there could be a lot of water being released early in May to make room in the lakes for more snow melt to come. Once that is achieved, weather will dictate what happens for flows. A dry spell could mean that they shut down flows to keep water in the lakes. If there’s a lot of rain in northern New England, they still might keep the flows low so that they keep flooding downstream to a minimum. Once that threat has passed, they will usually open up the dams to restore the lake levels once again. It’s tricky, especially with the unpredictable rain events that we seem to be getting each year.

      As far as good flows for fishing, each section on the Connecticut is different. The no kill stretch between Second Connecticut and First Connecticut Lake fishes best around 200 CFS during the spring salmon run. Perhaps the same or even a bit lower in the fall. The Trophy Stretch is great at 200 CFS, but generally fishes well from 150 – 250 CFS. I had some great days last September when it was at 300 CFS (the salmon really love that higher flow). Below Murphy Dam, I think the fishing’s pretty good anywhere from 300 – 500 CFS, and generally wadeable at that height too.

      Hope this info helps Gary and good luck this season!

    • Gary says:

      Tom, thanks for that very detailed response. I guess we’ll have to see what kind of winter Mother nature gives us before we make a plan for going north.
      thanks again,Gary

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