Though the Cold River is currently 42 degrees, I was able to entice a beautiful 16-inch brown trout. After drifting five different nymphs through different spots on the river, an olive wooly bugger moved slowly at the tail-end of a large pool on the Cold River did the trick. Fish are hard to come by when water temperatures are in the low 40's so I'm thankful for this one.
To me nothing quite compares to the wild beauty of seeing a speckled wild brook trout rise to a dry fly with the aggressiveness of a hungry predator. These brookies are often diminutive, but there is something special about bringing them to hand along a mountain stream. This is not to say I don't enjoy the challenge of a sizeable brown or rainbow, even ones from the hatchery, but given the choice of a river populated mostly with naturally reproducing fish versus stockers, I would take the former. For sure, they are not fish in a barrel. They are smart, strong and sometimes hard to catch, but their history lies in that river; it lies in that gravel bottom and seasonal changes in flow. Native fish populate spots by pecking order that makes sense compared to stocked fish, with the largest and oldest fish occuping the best feeding lanes.
The Cold River is a river that is stocked, but has a population of native brook trout, brown trout and salmon. For five years now my 7th grade classes have raised either brook trout or atlantic salmon from eggs to fry in our classroom. To date, we have released over 800 fry of these two Salmonid species in the Cold River and its tributaries. Now, the question remains, are these closer to native fish or closer to hatchery-raised fish. When we consider that hatchery fish are born in tanks, raised in stone raceways where they are fed a pellet diet at regular intervals, are protected from predators, and water conditions are closely monitored, it is hard to compare them to fish that start as fry in the river. Our fry must find their first meal in the river, must seek shelter from predators of many kinds and endure high-water events and they must find spots not occupied by other trout to feed, rest and eventually spawn. Our fry, similar to trout born in the Cold River, have a history that is more in the Cold River than in a controlled environment. Find your own piece of native beauty this spring.
Mitch Harrison's parents gave him his first fly rod at age 12 and almost 40 years later he is still casting, teaching and learning. Another passion of Mitch's is bird watching. Mitch is a licensed NH guide and a science educator in Alstead, NH.