Dwight on the Town

When people first found out I was going trout fishing in New Hampshire, they told me I ought to check it out with Geordie Thomson.

"Who's Geordie Thomson?" I asked.

"He's president of the fly fishing club."

"I didn't even know Harvard had a fly fishing club."

"Well it does and it's his."


Somehow or another this all seemed almost a pity. If Harvard had to have a fly fishing club, it's a good thing that somebody named Geordie Thomson would be the president of the thing. After all, Geordie Thomson's name sounds like a trout fly, somewhere between a Quill Gordon and a Grey Ghost. Conversations could run like;

"What did you catch that one on?"

"Oh, a number 12 Geordie Thomson. I'd been fishing all morning with a #14 Black Gnat with nothing happening, but when I switched to the Geordie Thomson all hell broke loose."

The Geordie Thomson could be only one of a series of flies, even. People could also fish with a Golden Geordie and may be even a Gorgeous Geordie.

But there weren't any Geordie Thomson's in my fishing bag, so collecting some leaders, streamers, nymphs and anything else I could fish wet, I figured to head for New Hampshire, specifically the Ammonoosic River, up north in the White Mountains, near the little town of Bethlehem (N.H.).

Friends have a place that they use while they're skiing up there, and that's where we headed for Thursday night, planning to get up around 6 a.m. Friday to fish the morning rise (optimistically forgetting that this time of year there would be no early morning rise.) Hurtling in our Maverick through the New Hampshire night, decidedly less grand than a Tom Wolfe passenger train (carrying only our tackle with us instead of the metaphorical baggage for a nation), we safely arrived, ate and went to sleep. There was, after all, serious business for the morning, and besides, some of us were a little drunk.

The stream--the Ammonoosic--was only about a quarter of a mile away, finding it was only a matter of going across the street and under the trees. It qualified immediately as real pretty trout water, but things did not look too promising (a good true river for that, though, since things, at least in the fishcatching department, were not too promising). The water was freezing cold, so cold I refused to do any wading. There was some snow on the ground, not much, but hard icy snow in the hollows the sun does not hit. And it was 24 degrees F. at 6:30 a.m. Trout, being cold-blooded creatures, were bound to be sluggish, as well as maybe not in the river.

So I started casting, tentatively at first, since I hadn't done it in a long time. The water was a little high and not real clear, which made sense, since obviously some of the snow was melting and running off. So I began fishing with a Hornberg, not because it was appropriate, but because it was a sentimental favorite and I was too cold for anything except sentimental favorites.

But my guides began icing up, I kept stopping to smoke, and even the wet line started catching little ice crystals. The only good thing about the situation was the clarity of the day and the incredible landscape.

So, getting colder, I went back to the house for breakfast and then went into town for groceries and some more gear (mostly in the way of streamers--artificial flies made to resemble minnows in the water and fished "wet", or under water--as opposed to being fished "dry", or on the surface of the water). I talked tackle to the clerk in the hardware store, bought what he recommended. One of the people with me, using spinning tackle, got sold something called a Super-Duper, but he was lucky enough to lose it on his third or fourth cast, so he did not waste all day fishing with a Super-Duper lure, which would have been a move from the sublime to the ridiculous.

We got back on the river around 10 a.m. Still did not catch anything, but it made for a pleasant walk. There was an old lodging railroad bed paralleling the stream, and it was relatively easy to walk a fair distance since someone had kept the bed free of trees (probably for snowmobiling). Spring isn't far enough advanced in northern New Hampshire for the trees to have any green on them, but the evergreens give some color to the sides of the ridges, and the stream is completely free of ice, though only because the water is moving swiftly.

In the afternoon we fished the junction of the Ammonoosic and the Gale, an area pretty well defined by a pair of bridges, Again, the water looked good, but so early in the season nothing much was happening. The people I was with managed to lose every lure they had (something of a feat), and proceded to lie in the sun, buy some beer and relax. The air warmed up in the afternoon, though the water stayed cold. All in all it made a pretty relaxing first fishing trip of the year.

New Hampshire's trout fishing season had no formal opening day this year. Most New England state seasons opened sometime in April. New Hampshire decided to permit fishing though all natural openings in the ice from January 1 onwards. For any state, a fishing license is necessary. A full-year out-of-state N.H. license costs $15.50.