New Hampshire may not have the reputation as a fly fishing destination, but in my opinion, it should. Locals and neighbors to the state know the state holds incredible fishing and if you take my advice, you will soon learn.
When you decide to go fly fishing in New Hampshire, be sure to checkout these 11 places.
Best Places to Fly Fish in New Hampshire
1. The Upper Pemigewasset River
Affectionately referred to as the Pemi, the Pemigewasset River is one of the most beautiful, productive fisheries in New Hampshire. It begins its flows from small streams in the White Mountains, flows through the middle of the state, then joins the Winnepesauke River. After the confluence of the two rivers, the flow becomes known as the Merrimack River.
Because the river starts in the Franconia Notch in the White Mountain National Forrest, the water temperature stays cold enough to support trout and Atlantic Salmon populations throughout the year. There are multiple small tributaries to the river that give it an increasing size.
For too many years, the water of the Pemigewasset was polluted by a local paper mill. But, through cooperation between the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and local governing agencies, regulations have been put in place to restore the river to its natural beauty. To restore fish populations, New Hampshire Fish and Game stock the trout and salmon in the river. There are some wild Brown trout, native brook trout, raibow trout, and Atlantic Salmon now in the river.
Where to Fly Fish on The Upper Pemigewasset River
The Pemigewasset can be a crowded river sometimes, but congestion is usually relegated to around the roads. If you’re willing to put in the work and lace up your hiking boots, you can find plenty of water that seldom sees fishermen. And these spots are often times worth the effort, since the Pemi holds some of the biggest fish in the state. The New Hampshire state record rainbow trout was caught in the Pemi.
Above Ayers Dam near the town of Bristol holds rainbow and brook trout. Salmon fishing here is not allowed. Below the dam there are also brown trout and Atlantic Salmon. Catching salmon is fly-fishing only and catch and release. These regulations continue down the river until it intersects with the Winnipesaukee. Check local law and regulations before each trip to be sure none have changed.
Fishing near the road is easily accessible and will give you access to the trails that reach the more productive, less crowded spots. Try getting to places like this, far from the road and any houses.
Recommended Flies for The Upper Pemigewasset River
- Buggers, zonkers, sex dungeons for the salmon sections
- Terrestrials in the summer. Especially hoppers in late summer
- Blood midges, scuds, sowbugs size 22-26
2. The Androscoggin River
The 178-mile long Androscoggin River begins in Northern New Hampshire and flows into the state of Maine. The headwaters of the river are near the town of Errol where the Magalloway River and the Umbagog Lake outlet meet. The New Hampshire stretch is 53 miles long and flows through the White Mountains. Only certain section of the river support trout and salmon populations so be sure you know where to fish before you head out.
The Androscoggin holds brook, brown, and rainbow trout, as well as landlocked Salmon. From Eroll Damn to Bragg Bay is fly fishing only, and this area can be fished on foot or on a drift boat. Though, the best fishing will be found on a drift boat.
This is a large river with some badass hatches throughout the season. The Androscoggin is home to the rare Zebra Caddis, or Alder Fly, which provides big, awesome, dry fly fishing opportunities. The Androscoggin also has the summer hatching Great Winged Olive Dun. The GWODs hatch late in the evening and are known to coax large fish out of hiding. The river also has other species of mayflies and caddis that help make it one of the best dry fly fishing rivers on the East Coast.
While the fish are plentiful on the river and there are plenty of big hatches, these trout tend to be selective when it comes to flies. Generic fly patterns and attractors won’t be nearly as effective as hatch-matched flies. So, be sure to check with local fly shops to know what’s on the menu.
Where to Fish on the Androscoggin River
Route 16 runs alongside the Androscoggin for about 20 miles. This gives fishermen plenty of easy access to good fishing spots. Other popular spots are on the Seven Islands Bridge, Androscoggin Wayside State Park, Nansen Wayside State Park, and Paul Bofinger Wayside State Park. Access here is clearly marked.
Another awesome option in the area is fishing out of Lopstick Lodge in Pittsburg, New Hampshire. This Orvis Endorsed has access to private stretches of trophy water that hold some serious lunkers. They’ll fish with you on foot, from kayaks, in a canoe, drift boat, or motorboat. They’ll even target smallmouth bass if you want!
While fishing DIY is always rewarding, hiring an awesome guide like the guys at Lopstick Lodge can be a great way to learn more about new water and to get right on fish without having to hunt around.
Recommended Flies for the Androscoggin River
- BWOs and Great Winged Olive Dunns
- Blue Quills and Quill Gordons
- Cinnamon Sedge caddis, Little Black Caddis, Zebra Caddis
- Yellow Stoneflies
3. The Swift River
The Swift River in New Hampshire is one of the best rivers in the state to catch good sized native brook trout. Like many New Hampshire Rivers, its water is sourced from Mount Kancamagus in the White Mountains National Forest close to Livermoore. The 23-mile Swift River injects cold water into the Saco River, where it terminates.
The top portions of the Swift River is quick moving, small, pocket water characterized by small pools, small riffle sections, and some short runs. Fly fishermen put their stealth fishing tactics to the test out here fishing for 6-8 inch brook trout. These aren’t the biggest fish in the world, but catching them is a real challenge and success is measured in beauty, not inches.
Moving down the river, you’ll start to see more brown and rainbow trout, and the river starts to widen up a bit. This is where you’ll consider switching from your 3 weight to your 4 or 5. The fish here will be larger than in the upper section, and you’ll want to be able to cast further.
Where To Fish on the Swift River
There’s plenty of easy ways to get to the Swift- access is great. The Kancamagus Highway, State Highway 112, runs parallel to the Swift from the headwaters all the way to the town of Conway. After the town, the river runs alongside the Passaconaway Road. When you’re driving down this section, you can fish at any picnic area, pull off, or campground you pass. Just double check posted signs to be sure you aren’t trespassing. Here’s an example of a spot.
Just like any other river near the road, the best fishing will require getting off the beaten path. So don’t be afraid to walk an extra mile or two to get to more secluded spots. Your efforts will often be rewarded.
Recommended Flies for the Swift River
- Small dry flies and midges.
4. Upper Connecticut River
The Upper Connecticut River in New Hampshire is one of the most beautiful and productive trout rivers in the North East. It begins as an outflow from the Third Connecticut Lake right around the Canadian boarder. Access to this portion of the river is made available through logging roads, and only requires a short hike.
Following the river downstream, the next best access point is directly beneath Second Connecticut Lake. This area will provide the opportunity to catch some bigger fish including Landlocked Salmon. Continuing downstream to below First Connecticut Lake is where you’ll find the best access. Starting directly below the dam are 4 clearly marked access points signifying this area as fly fishing only.
Though the Connecticut looks like a freestone stream, it is actually (and fishes like) a tailwater. This means that the fishing can be productive at any time in the year, but it usually gets good around May, around when the salmon run.
Where To Fish on the Upper Connecticut River
If you’re going to fish the Upper Connecticut, there are two things you need to do. First, is fish the trophy section below the First Connecticut dam. You can access this area by the River Road just north of Lake Francis State Park. This is where you’ll find those giant brookies, browns, and salmon that fishermen come to the Upper Connecticut looking for.
Next, you need to checkout Tall Timber Lodge. This is one of the premier fly fishing guide services in the region, and these guys seriously know what they’re doing. They’re catching big nasty browns, beautiful brookies, and giant salmon year round. They have five star lodging and meal accommodations that no fishermen can turn down, and their guides will get you on fish. Trust me, they’re worth the money.
How to Find Tall Timber Lodge for a Great Fly Fishing Vacation
Recommended Flies for the Swift River
- Wooly buggers and gray ghosts for salmon
- Little black caddis show up early
- Sulphurs hatch around August
- Beetles, ants, and hoppers are plentiful in late summer and early fall.
If you need help selecting flies for The Upper Connecticut River or anywhere else, checkout this FREE Downloadable Hatch Chart.
5. Cocheco River
The 35-mile long Cocheco flows through New Hampshire near the border with Maine. In the towns of Dover, Rochester, Gonic, and Farmington, there are plenty of public access points that allow you to easily fish the Cocheco.
6. Souhegan River
The Souhegan is a Southern New Hampshire fly fishing gem. During the spring, NH Fish and Game stocks the river with brown trout, brook trout, and rainbow trout, so numbers are never an issue. Some of these brookies are native too, adding to the excitement. And, since most of the 30 miles of water flows through public land, access to the river isn’t a problem at all.
Some of the most popular spots on the Souhegan are off Route 31 that runs alongside the river. You’ll find plenty of pull offs here with easy access. People also love to fish around the North River Road Bridge and near Monadnock Water. Hare’s ears, pheasant tails, and small streamers seem to work the best.
7. Lamprey River
The Lamprey River is one of the most well-known trout streams in the state for two main reasons. First of all, it’s located to large population centers, so getting to and fishing the Lamprey is no problem. Second of all, it is heavily stocked with brown, rainbow, and brook trout, so those people aren’t driving there for nothing-they’re catching fish.
Unfortunately, all of these people fishing there means that the Lmaprey holds some pretty particular fish. So be prepared to fight the crowds and be sure to match the hatch.
8. Sugar River
The 27-mile long Sugar River is a tributary to the Connecticut River in the Western part of New Hampshire. The Sugar begins in the town of Sunapee before running into Newport, then Claremont, and terminates in the Connecticut inside Vermont. Along the flows, there are several industrial developments that utilize hydroelectric power. But the fish don’t seem to mind.
The fly fishing only section of the river is near Newport. It’s easily accessible and holds bigger fish. Here you will find brown, brook, and rainbow trout. Hatches on the Sugar include Blue-Winged Olives, Little Brown Stoneflies, Green Sedges and Slate Drakes. You’ll also find good numbers of hoppers, sculpins, ants, and beetles.
9. Exeter River
The Exeter River is actually the same river as the Squamscott, just under a different name. It starts in the town of Chester the flows through Sandown on the way to the town of Exeter. The river contains both cold and warm water, making it an adventure to fish on. It is stocked with brookies, rainbow trout, and brown trout. Just watch out for the eels.
10. Isinglass River
The Isinglass is a 15-mile long warm and cold water fishery that is stocked with rainbows, brown trout, and brook trout. It is a small, wading only fishery that produces beautiful, but small fish. If you’re planning to fish the Isinglass, pack your 2 or 3 weight. The best fishing will be in the summer and early fall.
11. The Contoocook River
The Contoocook River is a New Hampshire hidden gem of a trout fishery located near Henniker, New Hampshire. It is a challenging river, with some big and deep sections, and pocket water in other areas.
Recommended Gear for Fly Fishing in New Hampshire
Class trout fishing set ups will work just fine in New Hampshire. A 9-foot 5 weight will be just the rod you need on most rivers, but having a 3 weight in your bag wouldn’t hurt either, especially if you decide to get off the beaten path. You probably won’t need a boat, but a good pair of waders is a must.
Official References for Fly Fishing in New Hampshire
- For license information and other regulations check out this link to New Hampshire Fish and Game
- New Hampshire Fish and Game has a great website with stocking locations. https://wildlife.state.nh.us/fishing/trout-stocking.html
Popular Fly Shops in New Hampshire
Mountain High Fly, located in the White Mountains is a great starting point for finding some “fishy” water. Online here https://www.mountainhighfly.com/
Stone River Outfitters has been helping the fly fishing community in Bedford, NH for years. Check them out here https://www.stoneriveroutfitters.com/