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Old 07-31-2017, 09:32 PM   #1
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: Bloomsburg, PA
Posts: 56
Out of State Fishing Report: "Avatar" Lake, NH - Saturday, July 29th, 2017

After finishing a DCS factory acceptance test, at GE, in Schenectady, NY; I decided to take a long detour to do a quick fishing trip. I'd loaded up the float tube and fishing gear before my departure to GE in anticipation. I figured that, since I was staying in Albany; I was half way there. The destination was "Avatar" Lake, a fly-fishing only, trophy trout lake in New Hampshire's White Mountains. I'd contemplated fishing another pond - Upper Hall - instead; but came by some information that my Passat may not make it up the Sandwich Notch Road, so stuck with the original plan.

I made the drive over from Albany Saturday morning, up through Vermont then into New Hampshire via various interstates and highways. Vermont was pretty, but uninspiring (mainly due to a lack of big, scenic mountains). That changed in NH. The White Mountains dominate the skyline and remind me much of some of the vistas I was used to out in Montana. There are sheer, bald, granite knobs which remind me of Yosemite National Park. Apparently I'm not the only one, because as I made my way into the area, I found lots and lots of folks. There are actually two trout lakes - "Avatar" and "Muffled" - a couple of miles apart with the "Long Gun" Mtn Ski Area sandwiched in between.

I arrived around 11 am and stopped at the "Long Gun" Mountain Ski Area to pick up a hot dog, then continued down the road to "Avatar" Lake. There is a trailhead parking, associated with the lake, alongside a busy highway. I found it pretty well packed with cars. There is a multiuse trail which heads off in a southerly direction along "Avatar"'s small outlet. So, I packed up the float tube and tackle for the quick walk to the lake. The lake has two sets of sandy beaches - one on the southeast side, near the outlet; the other is on the north end of the lake where a tiny inlet stream enters. I've seen internet pictures of people wade fishing from the north end. Despite all the people around the lake; there were no fisherman present.

I rigged up with an intermediate line; a sz10 Gray Ghost streamer followed by a sz10 olive micro leech about 18 inches below the streamer. I eased into the water around noon. The forecast called for a 5-10 mph north wind, but, due to the topography; it was quite a bit stiffer. Good, as it provides the trout some cover and would hopefully help mask my presence. There is a very small sandy point on the lake's southeast side which translates into a long shoal which gradually drops off. "Avatar" is not a deep lake - less than 20 feet with a good bit of shallows on the south end. I estimated water visibility to be in the 6 - 8 ft range. In many ways, it reminds me of a western lake with the drop offs and weed beds. I started trolling just off the north end of the shoal in deeper water. Despite the lake's shallowness; I quickly realized I may not be getting down to the fish and pulled back in, to shore, and swapped the two flies over to a Type 2 sinking line, rigged on another rod.

I spent probably an hour-and-a-half trolling off the shoal then along the east shore. There is a small bay which borders the interstate and features sandy shallows with a sharp dropoff.....along the lake's east side. I'd been trolling without success off this drop off, and around 2-ish, I decided to try a few casts and retrieves off the dropoff. I started with a 20 second countdown. On perhaps my 2nd or 3rd try, I had a good strike and was into a fish. He wasn't huge and he wasn't small. I had him on for several seconds before he ran at me and the line went limp as I lost him. Both flies were still present. With my back to the (north) wind, I was slowly working my way up the northeastern shoreline. I'd been dragging a thermometer through the water and noted the surface temperature to be 66F. This was on the north half of the lake. A few casts and retrieves later, I had another grab as I was lifting the flies up for a recast. [This is a data point.] By this time, I was just off a fenced viewing point on the lake's northeast shore. There was a couple with a young boy and his Dad was pointing out the flyfisherman out in the float tube. Now, in Denny Rickards fashion, I was casting a long line, but only retrieving 4-6 ft before pulling up and throwing another cast. I was alternating between 5 second and 20 second countdowns. Around 2:30 pm, as I raised the flies up, I had a solid grab and was in to fish. [Data point #2.] Turned out to be a really nice fish and, after several minutes, I netted this beautiful Brookie. The father and son had a very good view of the entire event.

I was careful to keep the fish in the water except for this picture, and, after a very careful release, he was on his way back into the depths.

In regards to the two data points; Denny Rickards will tell you that, when trout hit flies as they're being pulled up for another cast; it suggests they are keying in on emergers and a correct response is to switch over to a sink-tip and a small nymph or emerger. I do have a sink-tip line but wasn't carrying it, so, I continued on. Several casts later, I hooked another fish. This Brookie was in the 10-11 inch range. As I was netting him, he made a mad dash for the bottom, tangling around my fins and taking the point fly with him.

So, I kicked ashore to tie on another micro-leech (both fish were caught on the olive micro-leech). Since I had come ashore, I decided to rig up the second rod with an intermediate line and a sz14 A.P. Emerger with a sz14 Olive Peacock Callibaetis Nymph on the point about 18 inches below the emerger. I was just a few feet from the trail and a few people came over and talked with me.

Finally, I got back into the water. By now, I was at the north end of the lake. There had been a wading fly fisher fishing off the north end beach but I did not see him. So, I decided to explore the area off the inlet drop off. As I was exploring and looking for a place to set up for some casts, I did some exploratory trolling. Not for very long and had a strong whack. I set the hook and the line went limp. Sure enough the point fly was gone. So I went back to shore line and tied another Olive Peacock Callibaetis Nymph on. I then noticed the wading flyfisher had returned, so, I gave him a wide berth and went back to exploring the northeast shoreline.

By this time it was around 4:30-ish. Seemed like the bite had waned though I did occasionally see a few fish chasing insects on the surface. I saw an occasional midge and a small, dusky colored mayfly dun in about a sz16 or 18. They were very few and very occasional. I'd thought about switching over to a floater with a pair of chironomids under a strike indicator and probing the east bay off the drop off, but, I decided to continue on. Due to the canyon and peaks the west side of the lake was under shadow by this time, so, I tried casting and trolling up and down the west shoreline. I did see an occasional fish and had a few soft strikes, but, nothing other than that. I'd anticipated the lake "turning on" sometime after 6 pm, but, it never seemed to happen. I noted the water on the south side of the lake (windward side) to be about 1 or 2F warmer than the north side. I thought about hanging around until dusk, but, I was starting to get a bit of the shivers. About 6:50 pm, I pulled into shore and called it an afternoon.

I've spent 3 years chasing lake Brook Trout - in the upper midwest and northeast - since moving from Montana. In lake environments, I find them much more difficult to locate and catch than Rainbows and Cutthroats. But I love fishing for trout in stillwaters, so my ultimate goal is to learn what is necessary to consistently catch them despite their deep water habits. I'm still trying to figure out what I learned from this outing:

1. It wasn't all bad. I did ok despite losing some fish.
2. Most of my action occurred in the mid afternoon, right off the drop off on the lake's northeast side. See picture below.

3. I did a few things right.
4. I did a few things wrong.....or didn't do what I should have.
5. I really need to bite the bullet and purchase a stomach pump. I've put it off for several years for fear of harming the fish. Brian Chan swears by them and I've watched several videos where he shows how to properly use one.
6. The water temp was 66F on the north side of the lake and 1-2F warmer, downwind, on the southern end of the lake. Does the cooler upwellings from the wind, on the north end make any difference?
7. I'm not sure of fishing a streamer (Gray Ghost, Mickey Finn, etc) deep with another fly, on a sinking line. I think a leech is a good choice with perhaps a chironomid pupa or small, dark nymph. This is based on what food sources occur at depths greater than 6 feet.
8. My short term goal is to be able to make accurate assessments on where these fish should be, based on conditions and time of day, prior to entering the water.
9. I need to get the batteries charged on my fish finder and use it. I have a nice Humminbird unit with portable batteries and a float tube mount which I routinely used in the upper Midwest. It just got unpacked from the move and I didn't take it on this trip.

Departing shot:

I was very impressed with New Hampshire's White Mountains. I have two stillwater trips - one to Maine and another to NH - planned for September and October.
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Old 08-01-2017, 11:44 AM   #2
Join Date: Feb 2007
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Good report. Pretty country and nice fish.

FWIW, I'm not trying to knock you, but I believe that you are overthinking the stillwater fishing thing. Get to water (which is often the hardest part), pick a fly, strip out line, troll or cast and hope the fish cooperate. If no hits, change your fly and/or technique. You'll have to experiment based on conditions and results. I get that you want to make the most of your time - everybody does. The simple truth is some days the fish cooperate and some days they don't. About all you can do is hope for a day they are active. If someone told you they slam big brookies every time they go pond fishing, they're a liar. Good luck!
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Old 08-01-2017, 10:45 PM   #3
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Location: West coast of New England
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Very nice!!!

I agree with St R. With brookies, depth is the key. The fly is most often the least important element. Except, of course, when it's the most important and your buddy has the only earthly example of that fly...
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Old 08-02-2017, 04:37 PM   #4
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Location: Huntington Bay, NY
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Originally Posted by st.regis View Post
good report. Pretty country and nice fish.

Fwiw, i'm not trying to knock you, but i believe that you are overthinking the stillwater fishing thing. Get to water (which is often the hardest part), pick a fly, strip out line, troll or cast and hope the fish cooperate. If no hits, change your fly and/or technique. You'll have to experiment based on conditions and results. I get that you want to make the most of your time - everybody does. The simple truth is some days the fish cooperate and some days they don't. About all you can do is hope for a day they are active. if someone told you they slam big brookies every time they go pond fishing, they're a liar. good luck!
“Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. They smelled of moss in your hand. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”
― Cormac McCarthy
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Old 08-04-2017, 05:28 PM   #5
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So what I get out of this is you need to stick with NH ponds and forget about our ponds.
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