The migration of nighthawks in the Connecticut River Valley is quite a spectacle. Over 3,000 were observed by Vermont's Don Clark in Westminster Station over the last two weeks, with the big push being last night when nearly 1,000 birds passed over the area. I stopped by to chat with Don and watch large flocks of birds circle over the Connecticut River and the fields adjacent to it. Nighthawks are not hawks at all, they are rather in the nightjar family along with whip-poor-wills. These birds open their mouthes wide as they fly erratically through the air, catching insects in a manner not that different from how baleen whales trap phytoplankton. The distinctive markings are white stripes on the underside of their pointed wings. Males also have a patch of white on the throat. If you get out in the next week around dusk, although you may not see numbers like last night, you may get a chance to see these acrobatic fliers traveling south through Western NH.
We've all experienced those times when we are throwing flies out, changing and casting, and then changing again. Then suddenly, things start to happen. I had one of those days yesterday and what suddenly turned the tide were stoneflies. I noticed flashes in the water along a long current seam and what I realized is that fish were turning there bodies to scrap nymphs off of rocks. One of the nice things about stoneflies, because of their long life cycle they are available to fish for most of the year. Bouncing a Siri's Stonefly Nymph on the bottom under a strike indicator led to sizable rainbows, smallmouth bass and, I'll say it, suckers (one being five or six pounds). Why shouldn't I mention the suckers? After all, fly fishing for carp is all the rage now. Just go to the Orvis web site and type "carp flies" in the search bar. Find what the fish are keying in on and it could be a good day.
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.