The upper Connecticut River is known to be one of the best fisheries in all of New England. With the “trophy stretch” providing extremely good salmon and trout fishing throughout the summer, lower sections providing incredible float fishing opportunities, and even the opportunity to target Pike on the fly, the Connecticut River is a must stop for avid fly fisherman.
The Connecticut River System
The Connecticut River is the longest river in New England at 406 miles flowing from Quebec, Canada (and Pittsburg, NH) all the way to Long Island Sound.
The fast and cold flows of the upper Connecticut hold brook trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout year round. The interconnected lakes by this river house all of the above, but also lake trout, and landlocked salmon, which frequently make their way into the river system during spring and fall to feed and spawn. Pittsburg, NH features 6 miles of fly fishing only waters but far more than that of productive fishing. Lower stretches of the Connecticut are fantastic for wading, float trips, and targeting species ranging from trout, to bass, and even pike.
The Connecticut River System begins with a series of lakes and rivers with great fishing:
Fourth Connecticut Lake
The headwaters of the Connecticut are located at Fourth Connecticut Lake at the border of Canada and Pittsburg, NH. These waters are small, and only accessible by hiking trail. This is the smallest of the lakes and is located .5 miles upstream of Third Connecticut Lake.
Third Connecticut Lake
This lake is a bit larger than Fourth Connecticut Lake at 231 acres, and reaches depths of 100 feet. It is located 5 miles upstream of Second Connecticut Lake
Second Connecticut Lake
Second Connecticut is 1,102 acres, and sits 2 miles upstream of First Connecticut Lake
First Connecticut Lake
First Connecticut Lake is the largest of the Connecticut lakes at 3,071 acres. This lake marks the north end of the “trophy stretch”, though the fishing is great in all upper sections of the Connecticut.
Lake Francis is a 2,000 acre lake located downstream of First Connecticut lake, marking the end of the “trophy stretch”. The Connecticut river enters the lake at the northeast end (at Lake Francis State park).
You will frequently see anglers at just about every stretch of river between all of these lakes, and also anglers on boats on each of the lakes.
After this upper section of the Connecticut, the river continues southward where it widens significantly, making float tripping the most successful, and further down, boats are completely necessary. It is south of Pittsburg, NH where anglers begin to target other species, like Pike.
The Trophy Stretch
The “Trophy Stretch” of the Connecticut River is a 2.5 mile section of river located between First Connecticut Lake, and Lake Francis. The bottom release dam at First Connecticut provides fast and cold flows allowing trout to inhabit the lakes productively year round.
It is wading that is the primary method in this stretch of river. The river flows provide incredible pocket water, riffles, and pools that seem to house fish at every rock. Oh, and there are some pretty big fish in here too.
Nymphing is successful year round on this stretch, but Memorial Day into Fall, dry flies can be extremely successful.
We have put together a map showing the different stretches of the upper Connecticut. Highlighting where the trophy stretch is, common pool names you will here, each of the Connecticut Lakes, and more.
Fishing Season & Regulations
|Brook Trout, Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout & their Hybrids||Season|
|Rivers & Streams||January 1 – October 15|
|Wild Trout Streams||January 1 – Labor Day|
|Trout Ponds||4th Saturday in April – October 15|
|Wild Trout Ponds||4th Saturday in April – Labor Day|
|Lake Trout and/or Salmon Waters||January 1 – September 30 (fish can be taken by ice fishing only January 1 – March 31)|
|All Other Waters||No closed season|
|All Waters||January 1 – September 30 (Fish can be taken by ice fishing only January 1 – March 31)|
|Pleasant Lake, New London||4th Saturday in April – September 30|
|All Other Waters||April 1 – September 30|
|Largemouth Bass & Smallmouth Bass||Season|
|Rivers & Streams||January 1 – October 15; Catch & Release May 15 – June 15|
|Trout Ponds||4th Saturday in April – October 15; Catch & Release May 15 – June 15|
|Lake Trout and/or Salmon Waters||No closed season (Fish can be taken by ice fishing only January 1 – March 31)|
|All Other Waters||No closed season; Catch & Release May 15 – June 15|
Here is New Hampshire Fish and Game’s regulations page: https://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/fishing/seasons.html
Tips & Flies for Landing Fish
With such a great fishery, year round nymphs and streamers are quite effective.
Nymph Setups – Double rigging nymphs is almost always extremely effective. Making sure to get good drifts, and getting those nymphs down is crucial. Effective patterns include copper johns, pheasant tail nymphs, just about any midge pattern. Size 14 tends to do well during most times.
Streamers – White wooly buggers and smelt patterns kill it. Especially during times when the smelt are running. A good sink tip line can be a great way to land fish year round. The large browns love the streamers during the winter months.
Dry Flies – Much more hatch dependent on these flies. We recommend consulting the local fishing reports for the time you are visiting.
If you are looking for a guide in Pittsburg, or anywhere in New Hampshire, we can find a guide for you. Just let us know here.
Some fantastic guides in Pittsburg:
Lopstick – https://www.lopstick.com/
Check out our awesome experience and review at Lopstick here.
Tall Timber – https://www.talltimberfishing.com/
Current Connecticut River Waterflow in Pittsburg, NH
Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about