TL;DR: Best flies and spots. One of the prettiest rivers in all of New England.
The Connecticut River “Trophy Stretch” is in Pittsburg, NH, and has a special grip on my heart. As a complete rookie, that is where I started fly fishing. It also is where I have taught fly fishing to all of my children. I tend to have many, many double-digit days there.
So, there are many great memories.
The fishing for rainbows and brook trout can be outstanding. And, if everything lines up, there are landlocked Atlantic Salmon there, too. A tailwater with bottom-released dam water, it offers great fishing conditions. And, it is fly-fishing only at The Stretch.
This is a region that really relies on visitors for its economy. The people are kind, and I want to do everything I can to support them.
BEFORE YOU GO
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Look at the the map here from Tall Timber to familiarize yourself with the river. This is the area that is below the First Connecticut Lake dam and is called the “Trophy Stretch.”
I love fishing up there in late June, early July and early October (the season is January 1 to October 15, FYI). But, I’d fish it any time. That’s the beauty of a tailwater.
I really like the pocket water that is all over the river. It’s great for Euro-style nymphing and dry-dropper set-ups.
I’ve fished all over the river, including below other dams (there are three in all), but I find the Trophy Stretch to be the most consistent producer, and, so, my recommendations cover that water.
This requires tricky wading, as you are getting close to the dam’s release, and the boulders are numerous and slippery. But, there are some extremely good fish there because few people wade up. I nearly always get a good-sized Atlantic salmon in one of the runs. Euro-nymph this area, or throw a heavy streamer. The water is turbulent and indicator nymphing will be very tough
The Corner Pool
This is a beautiful stretch that fishes best when the flows are over 250 cfs. If the water is low, throwing a heavy nymph rig and a big strike indicator will spook fish. So, approach the fish from below, crouch down and throw a dry-dropper or tightline with light nymphs. There are two seams here to work, and the morning Caddis hatch can be robust.
Judge’s and Jury Box
These are two pools that are adjacent to one another. They are absolutely loaded with fish, as I think they are stocking points. The water may look shallow, but, trust me, the fish are there. This is a great spot for kids and the elderly. It gets pounded a great deal, but I’ve found the key is to throw small flies, especially as the season wears on and the fish become conditioned. Before or during a hatch, throwing small wet flies is very productive.
This is a fun one. There’s is a good-sized waterfall and the fish are at the bottom of the pool’s tail, hugging the bottom. There are some huge fish here and the trick is to throw heavy flies and be prepared to lose many. Many anglers fish it from the west side, but if the flows permit you to cross the river and fish the bubbly and quiet middle seam from the east side, you’re in a better zone. I do well tightlining.
I’ve seen other anglers do well by throwing huge bobbers (literally, giant plastic bobbers) with a heavy anchor fly. I notice the bobber and the fly are spaced out quite far, as that pool is very deep. In the morning, throwing a streamer at the white water while keeping the line tight can work, too.
Bridge Pool, Junction Pool and Doc’s Pool
These three areas get a ton of pressure. Wading is easy and well-worn dirt trails easily point the way. Because of the crowds, I tend not to fish these spots. I’ve done well at them, but, IMO, these are great spots to leave for newer anglers, those afraid of slipping while wading, and for children. If you go, get there at or before dawn. There are some long glides at Junction and Doc’s that are perfect for streamers. Make sure your flies are deep, and don’t be afraid to lose them. The fish are there, and some are quite big.
There are other spots that I’ve fished, but not that often, and so, I’m not an expert. But, I would definitely take a look at the water between First Lake and Second Lake. That area is loaded with wild fish and is C&R-only. Note, though, that the Second Connecticut Lake dam features top-released water. So, if the weather is hot and the dam is full, the water coming down will be warm.
Also, don’t forget to fish the area below the Lake Francis dam, where some monster browns live. Here is a photo of one of the Lopstick guides with a piggy.
Bait get caught in the dam turbines and become easy “dazed and confused” prey. So, in that stretch, many anglers float a Chuck Degray soft-hackle streamer.
In addition, there are many other spots. It is worth exploring on your own. There are other areas that fish incredibly well, too, but because locals have shared them with me, I keep those to myself. Their secrets are not mine to divulge, and I hope you understand.
Nymphing really produces at the Trophy Stretch. I personally have experienced that a majority of takes occurs when my flies swing up at a drift’s end.
My anchor nymphs are usually size 14 or smaller. If I am fishing something truly deep, like Ledge Pool, my anchor will be a Mini-Woolly Bugger or a Tim Flagler Pat’s Legs. Both are tied on jig hooks, which definitely reduce the number of snags.
For dropper flies, I tend to fish them in sizes 20 and 22. By mid-summer, the fish have seen everything, and small flies produce much better for me.
My usual go-to nymphs include:
- Pheasant Tail or its variants, such as the Frenchie. The Pheasant Tail mimics swimmer nymphs, such as Baetis.
- Walt’s Worm or Sexy Walt’s. These are quickie versions of a Hare’s Ear for me. Bulky and buggy-looking nymphs mimic clinger nymphs
- Midges. Midge larvae and pupae are nearly always in the drift. Just as at other tailwaters, such as the Farmington and Swift, midges are key at the Stretch
- My favorite Caddis Emerger. Given the proliferation of Caddis, some type of fly to mimic them sub-surface is a must-have
For dries, I have on-hand the X-Caddis in a size 20 and small Charlie Craven Parachute Adams flies. I have done well also with regular Elk Hair Caddis dries, particularly when the water is fast or choppy.
I’m not much of a streamer guy, but, The JT Special landed for me a huge 18″ brookie as a fly-fishing rookie.
Have fun at the river. It truly is an amazing place!
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Thank you and tight lines!