September 3rd, 2007
Kiss and Tell
We left the lake on a Thursday. Wednesday was reserved for
packing, which left Tuesday as my last possible New Hampshire
fishing day. I made the most of it with an all-day excursion
to the headwaters of the Ellis River.
By Dave Pearson, PA
I read about the Ellis in an issue of Fly Fish America.
You know the magazine. It's the slick publication which is
available gratis in many fly shops and sporting goods stores.
It has a few feature articles and a host of regular columns.
Al and Gretchen Beatty write a fly-tying clinic which in and
of itself makes the magazine a good read. There is a section
that features regional fishing "hot spots," and that's where
I read about the upper Ellis. The article was short, and
informative. I was told exactly where to fish (along Rt. 16 in
the White Mountain National Forest) , what patterns to use ( any
attractor dry fly in which I had confidence), what rod to use (a
seven ft. 4 wt), and what fish to expect (Brook trout under 8
inches). The stream sounded ideal. The pictures showed water of
stunning clarity and trout of graceful beauty. I had to go.
I arrived at the Ellis at 5:30 am and was suited up and down at
the river by 5:45.
The water held promise – all pockets and pools with a few white
water runs. The grade of the river was steep. Fishing upstream
meant climbing boulders and slabs of granite to peep my head over
the top of the rise and get an eye level look at the water next
to be fished. I was fishing on the vertical.
The fish were numerous. So much so, in fact, that I ate one for
lunch. Fresh trout on a bed of ramen noodles. And fresh coffee.
All cooked on a small canister stove. No open fires for me. I
practice stealth 'leave no trace' fishing.
There were quite a few larger fish, that is, larger than the
promised max of 8 inches. But these were caught with caution
and care. If I crouched and walked slowly to a promising spot
and cast my fly, I was rewarded with a fish. If I actually
crawled on my hands and knees and made my cast from much
farther away, I was often rewarded with a much larger
fish—provided the cast was drag free.
So the game was the same on these rough-and-tumble waters as it is
on the smaller headwater streams of Pennsylvania—to be there and
not be there. It can be so hard. How can Godzilla tip-toe through
Tokyo unseen? How can you present the fly and not be close enough
to present the fly? Yet, we do it. I do it. I did it on the Ellis.
I peep over a granite slab and raise my arm until it is at
eye level and make a short cast inches above the water to a likely
looking spot. Then I crawl over the top of the slab and lie on my
side. I cast again; this time whilst horizontal. I hide behind
boulders. And I catch good-sized fish.
As the day wore on I started to wear out. Less crawling and more
crouching. I hid upright in shadows. And the fish were smaller
toward the end of the day. I thought it was the time of day. Then
I remembered. It was me. So, at 4:00 pm I crawled slowly up to
a promising-looking pool. Or I should say, I tried to crawl up
to a promising-looking pool. My body was just too tired. I crept
the best I could and fished the pool anyway. I caught a couple
of okay fish. But not the really nice fish I know live there. It
was time to call it quits.
I made my way back to Rt.16. Imagine my surprise when I got to
my car less than half an hour later. Ten hours to fish away from
the car and less than half an hour to walk back. It looks like I
fished about a miles worth of road from my car, which means I
fished about a mile and a half of river in 10 hours.
The Ellis is a long river. Next summer I will be quite busy.
~ Dave (black gnat)
Dave Pearson lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania with his
loving wife, Gillian, and two dogs, Casey and Booboo.
His passion is small mountain streams. He teaches guitar
for a living. You may contact Dave at:
Hemlock Headwaters Archives
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