The Saco river is a beautiful fishery that hosts ample spin and fly fishing opportunities. This article will help you navigate this river to fish it on your own. And if you are looking for a fly fishing guide for the Saco River, we’ve also got you covered!
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About The Saco river
The Saco River is one of New Hampshire’s clear water gems. Starting at Saco lake along 302 in the Crawford notch it winds its way through the heart of the Conway valley and into Maine. This fishery offers a variety of fishable water with beautiful riffles that extend into long, deep pools, pools that hold big and mysterious trout.
The water flow is not controlled by any Dams in New Hampshire, so snowmelt, rainy, or dry times all greatly effect the water levels and fishability of the river.
Fish In The Saco
The Saco has a number of different species in it due to stockings done by New Hampshire Fish and game. They stock rainbow trout, brown trout and brook trout by the thousands in numerous locations starting in Bartlett NH, through Conway and into Hart’s locations. They usually start before memorial day and stock periodically throughout the season. Use the link below from New Hampshire Fish and Game to see when and where they stock most to rivers and ponds throughout the state.
NH Trout Stocking Link: https ://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/fishing/trout-stocking.html
General Rules And Regulations
The Saco river is closed to fishing October 16th through December 31st. The taking of trout 2 hours after sunset in 1 hour before sunrise is prohibited. Daily bag limit is five fish or five pounds whichever is reached first. No length limit. Except in the fly-fishing only stretch. (Read below)
You can read about the NH rules and regulations for the Saco here: https://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/fishing/seasons.html
Fly Fishing Only Sections
The fly fishing only sections is as specified: Lucy Brook downstream to the confluence with Artist Falls, Conway NH. Daily limit for Brook trout is 2 fish. This section is heavily stocked and can make for action packed days. By wise to get there early in the morning to ensure your spot and avoid the “rubber hatch” as the locals call the large number of float tubers using the river in the heat of summer. The FFO section is identified in our river map below.
Saco River Hatches
The Saco produces some fairly decent hatches in its long slow riffles and pools with beautifully rounded stone and granite. This makes for excellent mayfly habitat especially for the Gray Drake. Theses hatches will begin right around Memorial Day and last until early July.
As you get further into summer grass hoppers and beetles become a big food source as the fly your mistakenly jump into the river leaving them extremely vulnerable and and easy food source. Hopper dropper setups are a great technique to keep fish on the rise.
Best Flies For the Saco River
Red quill, size 12-16
Black or brown ant size 16-20
Light brown Common clinger nymph
Dark Golden stone
White & olive Zoo Cougar
Black slump buster
Fly fishing for big browns on the Saco River is done during high water on the drift boat, towards the end of spring run off or after a heavy rain. The Saco river has no dams that regulate it so high waters only generated by mother nature rain.This causes the river to pick up speed and become murkier and gives us the advantage to cast big streamers at these hungry fish without spooking them quite as easily. These’s early season trips can sometimes make for long days and lots of casting, but the reward can be a once in a lifetime trout on the end of your line! Advanced anglers with patience will persevere here.
As the water stabilizes and the country begins to thaw, the river warms to appropriate trout feeding temperatures. This kickstarts the bug life – especially the mayfly hatches – with the best being the “Hendrickson Hatch.” The fishing is best accomplished in the early and late hours of the day as the sun fades and both fish and bugs become more active. Wade fishing is great for accessing many of the fly fishing only stretches in which starts at Lucy Brook in Conway New Hampshire downstream to the confluence with artist falls Brook.
Fall still produces well with fish being caught on nymphs and streamers. most anglers will be thinking of throwing large articulated streamers to appeal to the larger brown that can be difficult to catch in the crystal clear waters of the Saco. You must utilize high water which is generated by rainfall to throw these larger streamers to unaware trout similar to the spring conditions in hope for the tug.
Places to go
The Saco River has a lot to offer for less experienced anglers interested in learning the craft as NH Fish & Game stocks the river heavily with rainbow, brown and brook trout in easily accessible locations like first bridge, or Humphreys ledge on river road, Conway. Route 302 parallels the Saco nearly the entire way so finding bridges that cross it in the Bartlett and Intervale area will provide easy access areas for wading the river. If you are looking for something more challenging and rewarding it is best to hire a guide to drift the river and cover more water, or be prepared to walk longer distances to hit un-pressured pools. Using a combination of stealth and precision, to catch the rivers larger trout.
There is also a large amount of water from Saco lake down 302 where anglers can eventually avoid anglers and swimmers in the river. The closer angler’s are to the headwaters, the smaller the water is, but quality fishing is to be had in just about every stretch of the river.
The below points out sections of the river mentioned in the above article. Marked from the headwaters of Saco Lake, to the border of Maine. Zooming in will allow angler’s to see the places where the river can easily be accessed.
Current Saco River Waterflow
Additional Pictures & Videos
This video is of a beautiful brook trout caught on a dry fly in the Saco:
Mason Thagouras, founder of White Mountain Anglers and Registered New Hampshire Fishing Guide, has always been passionate about NH’s great outdoors. He was raised in the Androscoggin Valley, and spent most of his childhood fly fishing the Androscoggin River.