Salmon Fishing in NH [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

Salmon Fishing in NH

03-21-2002, 11:17 AM
Hello All,

I live very close to the Merrimack River in Concord, NH. Apparently, there are some atlantic salmon in the river (stocked). I am not a purist when it comes to trout and salmon fishing - I have not done much of it in the past. Therefore, cathcing any salmon on a fly rod will be a bonus for me.

One summer, I tried my hand at atlantic salmon fishing below the Veazie Dam near Orono, ME. Every time I went to the river (Penobscot) I caught stripers - not atlantics. If you know me then you know that I was not disappointed. I love stripers. But, alas, my time for salmon fishing has come.

My questions are as follows - what weight rod, what flies for NH and what type of line? I do believe that the season opens on Monday so I am getting excited.

I am going to cruise over to Hunter's Angling and ask them for their recommendations this weekend. However, any help from the Forum crew would be greatly appreciated.



03-21-2002, 02:38 PM
Mike -

I fish it every year, gives me a place to Spey cast in the northeast. The brood stock fish are aggressive but in spring the water levels are too high for good shore fishing. This year may be different.

There are three areas, two old and one new. Sewall's Falls area is the most commonly fished. Then you have the Franklin stretch. Third is a new area above Franklin, just opened.

You should contact John Greenwood at the Concord F&W headquarters and attend the open house they hold each year. I'll be up there, possibly with a few other Forum members.

Fly patterns seem to morph by region even for the same fish species. This is mostly due to the fishermen, not the fish. The local favorites are very bright marabous and bunnies like winter steelhead flies -or- regional favorites likes those popularized in the Canadian Maritimes. The latter are mostly UK flies tied hairwing style. I would tie up some wolly buggers, muddlers, popcicles and other popular patterns you can find recipes for at first, then move to new patterns that you get an urge to fish once you get the feel for the fish and the river. Of course you could jump right to the Jock Scott -or- learn how to twist up Spey flies but you really don't need to at first.

For gear you should have an 8wt or 9wt rod with a sinktip line first, floater second. Spey rods are really the best way to fish the river but that's another story.

Opt for a fairly long leader, 7-9 ft, and the biggest tippet you can get away with in the conditions - this is typically 10-12# test but often as little as 6-8#.

A sinktip system lets you swap sink rates streamside with no extra spool. This is a big plus because each stretch has a different character in depth, current and bottom features.

Once you get all the gear down you need to read the water to cover those features of the river where a salmon might be sitting. The technique is to swim the fly through these lies at a speed that is offset from the current until you get a grab.

There are also large trout and smallmouth there as well. I hope we can hit it together this spring.

03-21-2002, 06:03 PM

Thanks for the advice. Hopefully I can scout out some good spots (I might launch my yak in order to get away from the crowds) and share the knowledge with you later in the spring!

A Mecca on the Merrimack must exist!

Thanks again,


03-22-2002, 08:03 AM
If I wasn't so addle-brained, I could point you to a few patterns I'd seen online that really caught my eye and were so very simple to tie. OOPS:o

04-09-2002, 12:50 PM
Some of the upper areas that Juro is talking about are really nice. I used to have a river flow and temperature URL that we discovered a couple of years ago - I'll see if I can find it and post it. The site gave flow rates measured at various spots along the river and once you had a feel for the river conditions you wanted, you could monitor the area and flow remotely and be there when conditions developed to be right. Last year was sort of a blow-out for the river with high water and then high temps, shortening the season to almost nothing.


04-09-2002, 01:02 PM
I found the URL intact

The river gages show flow in various units of measure so a visit to correlate the flow and conditions based on sight is pretty helpful.

I say we do a Spey Rod 'clave on the Merrimack - any takers?


04-09-2002, 03:07 PM
I never realized it was that close to Winnepesaukee, my boyhood summer vacation smallmouth fishing trips, ahh great memories, still the location of my largest smallmouth, 4 pounder.

Not on the fly though, spinning rod and rubber worm :tsk_tsk:

04-09-2002, 07:06 PM

jcc_00, I would be willing to help out with any logistics concerning a NH spey clave. Of course, I have never had the pleasure of spey casting before. Then again, that is what Juro - an excellent and patient teacher - would be for! I would not plan the clave per se since I am a rookie to the waters of the Merrimack. I could be a great scout though!

Juro, I am signing up for the free salmon fishing clinic that the NH Fish and Game department is hosting on May 4th. I hope to see you there.

Below you will find a link with info on that clinic. You must scroll down a bit to find the associated info.

Click Here for More info on the Free Salmon Fishing Clinic (

04-09-2002, 07:22 PM
Sounds good; I'll bring a couple of spey rods along. I know Jay and Diane Clancy are interested in going up there again, as is Domenic. A Spey clave on the Merrimac just might come together.

I hope the water levels are on the low side. This makes for exceptional salmon fishing conditions provided the water is still cold. Once it warms up it becomes a smallmouth bass show, which is not a bad thing but I'd rather pursue bronzebacks in the lakes region than catch them as a substitute for salmon.

I'll probably bring my pooltoy :D

I have a hard time getting excited about brood stock planted salmon but when I consider that this program is the only thing keeping the once abundant atlantic salmon in the hearts and minds of sportsmen on the Merrimac, their role becomes absolutely critical (besides bearing the young that are planted for migration).

When you watch John Greenwood's slide show and think about what we have lost right here in our backyard, it's maddening. The Merrimac was once a highly productive native atlantic salmon river. Think about that one for a while... blows the mind. When you see how beautiful the Franklin stretch of the river is, you'll be even more angry about the extinction of the original strain due to a couple of thoughtless dams.

By our interest in the Merrimac salmon we are voting to keep the restoration effort alive. Count me in!

04-10-2002, 11:18 AM
The river flows all show normal to low ranges so far this week. If a visual inspection indicated the river height was reasonable, the water temperatures should still be low enough to be a good combination of factors. Could be an auspicious year - does anyone feel lucky? We would have to keep an eye on the weather but .....

Spey trip April 20th?

04-19-2002, 08:55 AM

I'm not sure about making the NH Salmon fishery event with John this year, but if the river conditions hold I will definitely get a license and probe north of Franklin Dam. Have you been over to the river for a visual on water levels yet? The flow URL looks favorable, but it's hard to judge without a reference point and the temps need to be stay cold - not easy in this heat wave we have had lately.

BTW way I have enough Spey gear to get you familiar with the concepts although Juro is the real teacher and I admit to being sorely out of practice. We could meet and get you started, at the very least.

04-19-2002, 10:00 AM
The salmon clinic is full according to the site, we'll just have to do our own!

I am psyched about this, let's nail down a date.

04-19-2002, 11:34 AM
Juro and Mike,

I know I'm going to have problems with May 4th and 5th, but if I remember correctly, Juro, you used to have some flexibility around Mondays, which would be May 6th. How about locking on that day for an uninterrupted Merrimack Spey day?

If that doesn't work, suggest another day but remember the next weekend is Mother's Day weekend. Monday the 13th might be another option.

Let's work the date to make it happen

04-19-2002, 06:36 PM

I am pretty much free for a day outing on a weekend or a weekday - and I would love a spey casting lesson.

May 4th, 5th or 6th would be OK with me.

Judging by the flow in Concord the river looks high to me. A few days ago it was really high. I drove over the river twice today but I didn't check the height. One more reason that I shouldn't talk on my cell phone and drive at the same time!

I vow to check out and fish the river this week. I am less than 20 minutes from Seward Falls and I will check out the area.

Take care,


04-20-2002, 01:36 AM

If possible check out the stretch downstream from the Franklin Dam on the left bank, River Rd. I believe. Way down.

When the water is low it is an exceptional stretch of water, makes me long for the days when they had no hard stop at Amoskeag.


04-23-2002, 11:40 AM
Do we have a consensus that May 6th, Monday is our first targeted Spey trip date? Weather and water will have to cooperate, but barring any problems, let's try this data as the first shot at Merrimack Spey Rod fishing.

This is exciting stuff

04-23-2002, 05:30 PM
I could take that Monday off if we decide that it is a good day.

The river (in Concord) looked normal today - for what it is worth.

I bought my salmon stamp today so I am good to go. I scouted the Merrimack near Sewards Falls on Sunday.

Juro - are you in?


04-23-2002, 10:32 PM
Monday May 6th is a big day at the office. Count me in for the Sat/Sun venue if everyone's going then.

Mike - there are some stretches that are pretty incredible when the water is low. I should see if you could scope them out perhaps (amount of exposed shoreline being key)?

04-24-2002, 02:14 PM
Juro and Mike .

I remember some of the spots we have hit in the past. I'll e-mail you with some suggestions and see what you think.

I might be able to squeak in Sunday PM and we have until ~7:30 now in the evening

04-26-2002, 02:45 PM
Mike et all,

River flows look very reasonable from the URL input so I am curious if anyone can verify how low or high the river is right now. We also need a check on temperatures. Does anyone know of a posted source of temperatures for various points along the Upper Merrimack River?


Does John post any information anywhere on the web of river conditions or useful information related to the Merrimack fishery?

Still targeting the 5th in the PM

05-04-2002, 10:49 AM
I started the morning at 6 AM at the local bagel shop in Concord. After a bite and a good cup of coffee I headed to North Concord and fished the Sewall's Falls Recreational Area (just upriver from the one lane bridge). As expected, the river was higher than it has been for the past couple of weekends. The rain this week has really got the Mighty Merrimack flowing.

The current and high water kept me away from my favorite spot. I need to get out to this spot if I want much room to back cast (no spey rod for me yet). I tried to wade out to the hole but the river was running with too much brute power this morning. Luckily, I had on my SOSpenders - which I love. If anyone has seen the memorial to the poor fisherman that died in this stretch of the river in the year 2000 then you already know why I wore the SOSpenders. I could not even tell that I had them on pretty comfy piece of safety gear.

I fished a few more areas in Concord and then I decided to turn the day into a scouting mission. I poodled on up to Franklin and I enjoyed a lovely ride (more good coffee and some good jazz to keep me company). On the way (route 3) I saw a large moose running adjacent to the road. I had enough time to pull over and spy the moose as it trotted across a meadow with typically oxymoronic graceful awkwardness. What a site to see - such an impressive creature.

I then explored the Franklin stretch of the river in great detail and I noted a few spots that I hope to hit this week before work (if the water levels drop a bit). This morning I could not safely wade on some of the shallower stretches on the east side of the river. I am sure that they were highly fishable a few weeks ago though and they may be fishable again in the near future.

I finished the morning with some hill running at the Franklin Flood Control Dam on route 127. As much as I hate dams that is a great place to fly a kite or to take a walk and enjoy a picnic.

It was a good morning although I did not raise any fish.

I will head out some more this week (maybe tomorrow evening with Jay) and I look forward to it.

Jay - I saw a mess of turkeys this morning. I hope that Vermont is treating you well.

Juro - you have got to get up here and show me how to fish these waters!


05-05-2002, 04:44 AM
Great report Mike, sounds like the water came up. The east bank down the lower end is probably my favorite, there is also a lot of west bank access that might work out better when the levels drop.

Did you see any fish rolling?

05-05-2002, 07:16 PM

I saw one fish while I was on the water in Concord. That was it.

Jay. I am really sorry that I missed you today. I was out in Antrim, NH helping a friend clear out some of the 30 foot trees that have overtaken the Christmas tree farm that came with his new house. Around noon a car pulls up and a friend of ours steps out of the car. This is a special friend - special since he now lives in Argentina.

Needless to say I stayed out in Antrim all afternoon talking about life and the state of affairs in Argentina. My cell phone was dead and I lost the charger for my car. Alas, I could not call you.

I am really sorry that we did not meet up and I hope that all went well for you.

Take care,


05-06-2002, 11:09 PM

This isn't fair! Should I be sneaking some of my steelhead flyboxes into my luggage when we come in the end of July? You know that Atlantics are another fish on my "Wish List Agenda".

05-07-2002, 02:27 PM
Well, let's see. The Concord to Franklin river area on Sunday was a little high still to wade easily, but I wish I was there right now. Every spot I stopped I did see fish active at some level but until I got all the way up to Franklin proper I didn't get any hits and I only hooked and landed one rainbow at the point near the high school. I couldn't locate the spot on the East side that I had used before near the Water Treament Plant, but again, when I got down to the bank, I saw fish activity on the surface.
There were several people out in the river in anchored canoes but I never saw anyone fighting a fish. Good day all in all though. I tried to hook up with Mike - we were never able to coordinate an actual meeting.

Still looking for daily river temperature information, if anyone has it. After Mother's day, I'm ready for another shot at a mini Spey 'clave.

05-07-2002, 02:39 PM
One thing I meant to ask was whether anyone has fished above the Franklin Dam yet? The Pemigewasset was supposed to be opened up last year? Fly fishing only maybe ? Catch and release?
Anyone in the area know anything about that tributary?


I'm not sure you should get too excited about this fishery yet. The window of opportunity is pretty narrow for catching reasonable river flows and cool enough water temperatures to get serious about it....still fun though.

05-07-2002, 05:29 PM
I haven't been up there yet but the new section is supposed to hold cooler temps longer into the season.

Kush -

Unfortunately by July the water temps in these non-glacial flows will exceed practical fishing temps. Besides, in July you would need a crowbar to pry me off the flats :devil: