Now, what I have seen by spending many hours on rivers over many years. I have the good fortune to have access to two private stretches on the Cold River. I fish these myself and I guide on both stretches along with guiding on many miles of public stretches on several rivers. On both these private stretches the landowners decided to post their property because of certain abuses by individuals. One of the properties was posted 25 years ago and there has been almost no fishing there for that time period. The state of New Hampshire will not stock a stretch that is posted and on this particular stretch there is a large natural water fall at one end. What I have discovered are brown, rainbow and brook trout with numerous fish caught by myself or clients being sizable. When I say sizable I mean larger than the average stocked fish. I have also caught brook trout in the 4 to 5 inch range. Many of the larger fish hold in a pool that is about 16 feet deep in the summer and has over hanging rock ledges providing shade. On the other private stretch many larger rainbows have been caught in a pool that stays at about seven feet in the summer. What does this mean? Well, to me it seems those fish were either stocked at a larger size and moved up to a mile up stream and are holding in these deep pools or they are fish that moved those distances and held over in those deep pools. As far as the small brook trout, they are wild fish. Now, could some of the rainbows and browns be wild? Maybe. I say that because of the distances these fish would have to have traveled from the spots I know fish are stocked and physical obstacles present.
Two other pieces of evidence are catching trout in waters that are not supposedly stocked and catching trout before the official stocking dates. I remember one exceptionally warm Easter morning in March when I took my three weight rod and walked out the back of my property to Warren Brook in Alstead. I was out there simply because I had the itch to be on the water casting. I caught an eleven inch brown trout in this small stream before any stocking dates in a body of water that is not stocked. I have gotten brook trout of a similar size in this same brook farther into the spring. I have also gotten brown trout in the Cold River in early April before stocking had begun. To me that possibly indicates several things, trout certainly move from where they are stocked and sometimes into tributaries, trout holdover in rivers when they can find suitable habitat and sometimes they spawn. In the South Branch of the Ashuelot in addition to the standard-sized stocked browns, I catch many that are in the five to six inch range. Wild fish? Probably. One of the wonderful things about all this is how dispersed the fish become. While Bubba is fishing by the bridge where Fish and Game dumped the trout in, you can put forth effort by hiking up stream and be into fish all day.