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Saturday, November 18 2017 @ 08:35 AM EST

Trip to the Big Lake


Trip to the Big Lake
By: Bill Thompson

    Once again it is that time of year when I male my annual pilgrimage to the “Big Lake”; Winnipesaukee. It was a glorious warm day and I had visions of big Rainbow trout cruising up the Merrymeeting River out of Alton Bay. For me fishing the Merrymeeting is always a hit or miss event and this year it was all miss. To know this river you really have to put in your time. It is painfully obvious that I have never put in the time. When I pulled into the parking lot at the ballfield I knew in an instant that my timing was off. Normally if there were fish in the river the lot would be full; on this day there were only two other cars.

    Many years ago an old timer, who knew the river well, told me: “The River never fishes well until the ice is out beyond the bandstand in Alton Bay”. This morning when I drove along the bay the bandstand was still locked in ice. I guess the old fellow was right.

    I got out of my truck and walked out on to the little bridge that spans the river to take a look around. If there are fish you can generally spot them from the bridge. There were no fish. I walked back to the parking lot where one ambitious young man was getting into his waders. Two older men were setting on a picnic bench beside the river. Their rods were parked on the table and they were enjoying the warm day. I walked over and struck up a conversation.

    They were regulars and had been coming to the river for years. It turned out that they had been there for the last two days and so far were skunked. The young fellow had waded into the river and was intently watching his bright indicator drift through the currents. One of the older fellows was relating that he had purchased his first reel, a bait-caster, at a shop in Manchester back when he was around thirteen years old; the reel was made of Bakelite. The other fellow didn’t seem to be paying that much attention; he might have heard the story before.

    They told me that the day before, Sunday, the river had been crowded, but there hadn’t been a lot of action. The only one they had talked to this morning was the game warden. He didn’t bother checking their licenses, but he did say there were some fish in the river. We swapped a few fish stories and they mentioned that they knew me because they had been in the North Country Angler before. They didn’t seem all that anxious to get back in the water and were taking their time enjoying some tea they had brought along in a thermos. They talked about how they always brought along tea when they fished. It was a standing joke about how they passed tea to one another on a canoe paddle when fishing from their canoe. Never spilled a drop they said. 

    The young man, who had been nymph fishing, reeled in and waded out of the river, I guess he had enough. I decided to make my exit as well and said my good-byes to my friends. Back in Alto there were a few guys fishing from the docks and a couple on the bridge. I stopped at the railroad station and took a couple of pictures. There were a couple of guys there fishing as well, but there was a definite lack of action. I suspect that none of them cared all that much, it was just good to be out on warm day fishing.

    I stopped a ways up the lake to try a brook that has been good to me in the past. Another gentleman was rigging up and we waved to each other as I headed to the mouth of the brook. There were a number of small boats on the lake trolling. I don’t think I have ever seen the lake more calm; no salmon chop on this day. Like the fellows back in Alton I was just happy to be on the water again and happy that I hadn’t forgot how to cast. Turns out the only fish I caught was at George’s Diner in Meredith. They have the best fish sandwich in the Lakes Region.

    There are two big events happing on the 22ed of this month. First off it is the opening day of trout pond season. And second it is the date for Saco Valley Anglers Trout Unlimited Annual Auction. This year’s event will be held at Merlino’s  Steakhouse and begins at 6:30. I can’t think about a better way to cap off opening day of trout season; lots of great food and super cool stuff to be auctioned. Please come out and help support your local Trout Unlimited and the many great things they do for our community.

    As for opening day you can bet I will be up early.

    See you on the river.         


by Mountain Angler

Bill Thompson was the former owner of the North Country Angler in North Conway New Hampshire. He still writes this column for the Conway Daily Sun.
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