Fishing for brown trout and rainbow trout in the Saco River, Glen, Carroll County, New Hampshire (July 6, 2019)

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The railroad tracks (upper left) run on top of the embankment which plunges into the Saco River.


I spend the long July the 4th weekend camping with family members at the Glen Ellis Family Campground located right off Route 302 in Glen, NH (see the New Hampshire Atlas and Gazetteer map 45 G9). This well-maintained and well-organized campground sits at the confluence of the Ellis River with the much larger Saco River. I brought my ultralight spinning rod and my flyfishing rod in the hope of catching some trout, although I still have to figure out a good fishing spot close to camp. That location becomes obvious when we rent tubes from the campground to float the Saco River from our camp site all the way to North Conway (the trip takes up to 5 hours, covers about 8 miles, and requires a “return” car). The Conway Scenic Railroad tracks run right along the river bank just downstream of where the Ellis River flows into the Saco River. I suspect, as I look down into the water column when floating by on my tube, that the river along that bank holds trout because it is quite deep (I’m guessing 8+ ft in some spots) and filled with large boulders. The best part is that this choicy spot is an easy 10-minute walk from the campground. From the fresh, but not too cold, feel of the water during our tubing adventure, I’m guessing that the water temperature is in the high 60’s. I note for the record that the Conway Scenic Railroad is a local tourist attraction. Hence, the train only operates during the day and moves at a snail’s pace. It is therefore safe to fish from that embankment.


View of the Saco River looking upstream of the railroad embankment. The campground is on the right in the background


The Saco River in this area of New Hampshire is free-flowing and undammed. As a result, the volume of water moving through depends entirely on the natural runoff coming off the western slopes of the nearby majestic White Mountains. It’s obvious from the numerous uprooted trees heaped forlornly in large piles along the shoreline that flow conditions must be quite brutal during the spring snowmelt in late May! The substrate in this section of the river also reflects this high-energy environment: it consists entirely of smooth cobbles which can make wading a slippery affair. Although, don’t get me wrong: this section of the river is made for wading because it is, for the most part, quite shallow and accessible. Finally, the state heavily stocks this river every year with many thousands of brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout. My goal is to catch a few of those fish. Click here for the NH fishing rules pertaining to the Saco River.


A small brown trout caught on a #2 Mepps.


I sneak out of bed at 4:45 am and arrive at the railroad tracks 15 minutes later. I start fishing with my ultralight spinning rod and a #2 Mepps. Unfortunately, the high retaining wall, which consists of large boulders peppered with bushes, would make it challenging to fly fish from this location. I get a hit within 10 minutes and hook a 12” brown trout five minutes later. YES, the fish are at their post and eager to bite! I also see several trout swimming right past me. The local trout population is really waking up now and actively feeding on the surface: I see dozens upon dozens of noisy rises all along the retaining wall. I observe no flies in the air (and only a few isolated mosquitoes, thank goodness!); I’m guessing that the trout are eating dead spinner flies which hatched further upstream last evening and are floating by. The pressure becomes too great. I rig up my flyfishing rod with a spinner fly imitation and cast it in the water as best I can given my location. Unfortunately, from where I’m casting, I can’t even see my fly due to the high glare reflecting off the water surface and the unending ripples of the moving water. I soon give up and go back to the #2 Mepps, which catches another small brown trout and a rainbow trout. But clearly, the fish are focused on the drifting flies. And then, the switch turns off: all activity comes to an abrupt halt around 6:30 am when the light levels reach a critical point in response to the rising sun. The fish go back deep to hide among the boulders and feed down there. My early-morning fishing is over.


I’m quite happy with my foray on the Saco River: I caught three trout, hooked but missed four others, and had at least another half a dozen bites in about 1.5 hours. That’s good action by any measure. Amazingly, given the several hundred people camping within shouting distance from the railroad tracks, I have the place all to myself. My recommendation is to fish from the retaining wall if you’ll be using lures or worms with a spinning rod. Access to that spot is straightforward and the deeper water is located right alongside that wall. However, for fly fishing it is best to cross the river upstream of the retaining wall in waders and fish opposite from it. You’ll be at water level with plenty of space for back casting. In early summer, the trout will be active on the surface mostly at the crack of down or for an hour before sunset. I don’t know if fly fishing with emergers and a sinking line would work at other times. However, keep in mind that multiple people will likely be floating by on tubes if you are day fishing during the summer months.


The results: I caught 2 brown trout and one rainbow trout (size range: 10” to 12”) in 1.5 hours of fun fishing in a beautiful setting.


Was the information in this blog useful? I invite you to share your thoughts and opinions. Also, feel free to discuss your fishing experiences at this location.


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1 thought on “Fishing for brown trout and rainbow trout in the Saco River, Glen, Carroll County, New Hampshire (July 6, 2019)

  1. The Saco in the North Conway area is a REALLY good trout river. Upstream and downstream from First Bridge on River Road are many pools that you can spend days exploring. In addition to the stockers and some holdovers, there are some enormous (and nocturnal) browns in there that will stretch your take way past 20″ …if you can find them. Mid-June to mid-july is prime, and evening red quill hatch is pretty famous around here. Tight lines…

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