PITTSBURG, N.H. — It stands to reason that the primary draw to this northernmost outpost of the Granite State for an affable gentleman from Newburyport, Mass., is the chase for the not-so-elusive brook trout.
He asks that I refer to him by his flyfishing nickname: “Hendrickson.” It’s the name of a popular artificial fly that is used to attract and hook trout and landlocked salmon.
Hendrickson comes here not for the ATV trail riding that has boomed in the last several years in a place that for decades has been renowned for its snowmobiling trails in winter.
He comes not for the miles and miles of hiking trails, nor the camping at a couple of inviting state parks, nor the kayaking, nor the animal watching on “Moose Alley,” the much-cruised section of Route 3 that ends at the Canadian border.
He comes rather for “The Trophy Stretch” of the Connecticut River, a place so named for the quality and size of the fish it produces. And he comes in particular for the hex hatch on Back Lake.
So Hendrickson and I are talking science and insects, fish and flies, outside on the docks at Tall Timber Lodge — a don’t-miss family-owned fishing destination complete with cabins and the Rainbow Grille —when we first hook up on the shores of Back Lake.
Tall Timber is one of numerous spots to stay in town that focus on fishing, including Lopstick Lodge, which is practically next door.
It’s the last Tuesday in June and the night before Hendrickson had tied up here after a successful evening on the lake — maybe not quite as successful as a week or two earlier at the height of the hatch, but still very nice.
“The Hexagenia limbata is one of the biggest mayflies in New Hampshire, maybe an inch, inch and a half,” explains Hendrickson, who is retired from working in the financial world in Boston. “It’s so big it has to stay on the surface of the water a bit for its wings to mature before it can get airborne.”
Sitting there, the mayflies are tasty targets for the predators lurking beneath.
“The fish go crazy for them,” Hendrickson said with a wide smile.
Fishermen, thus, also savor the hex fly hatch.
Hendrickson came to Back Lake first in the early 1990s and has been coming back each year since.
We spent our first night in Pittsburg 36 years ago and were there to check the area out again. Two summers ago, we headed north and wrote about Errol, on the other side of the state and hard against the border with Maine. This time we wanted to see what’s up on the western side of New Hampshire’s share of the Great North Woods.
In short: There’s much happening for the getaway-from-the-bustle crowd in a true four-season sense, including fishing and hunting in the fall and snowmobiling in the winter.
A Tall Timber guest from southern Vermont stopped by the front desk in the morning to pick up ice for his family’s cooler for the day’s adventures.
“We rent ATVs and ride,” he said. “We kayak. We hike. We do it all.”
Monday night, the Buck Rub Pub — which also has a lodge, cabins, and a campground — was slamming. Two gentlemen next to me had driven five hours from well into Maine on their way home to Rhode Island and were counting on the fishing being great the next few days.
Tuesday morning, a couple of kayakers launched from beside the Lake Francis State Park Campground and paddled toward the nearby opposite shore for a better view of a bald eagle that had landed on the beach.
Earlier we had driven up through “Moose Alley” to the international border. A 1.7-mile hiking trail there straddles the border and then circles the Fourth Connecticut Lake Preserve and its floating bog mat.
Fourth is the smallest of the Connecticut lakes and marks the start of the 400-mile-long Connecticut River.
The 170-mile-long Cohos Trail (www.cohostrail.org) — completed just 10 years ago and offering day and overnight hikes in the area as well as the option for a two-week-or-so through hike — ends here. The trail starts in Hart’s Location on Route 302. One popular section in Pittsburg includes the Falls in the River Trail. From the dam at the second Connecticut Lake, the hike to the falls is 1.5 miles.
The kayaking, fishing, hiking, and state-run Deer Mountain Campground between the Second and Third Connecticut lakes offer quiet getaways.
Bear Rock Adventures on Route 3 appeals to those who prefer to mix in motors with their recreating. The company opened eight years ago with ATV rentals and added snowmobile rentals three years ago.
Two summers ago, Bear Rock began offering a “glamping” option on a hilltop plot of land with magnificent views down the road a piece in Colebrook. They’ll drop off the ATVs at camping sites that are set up with platforms, woodstoves, beds, showers, and toilets.
“Everyone was looking to get outside during COVID, and the sites are not close together and they really took off,” said Tanner Baillargeon, the Bear Rock manager whose parents opened the business.
Here’s more good news: The North Country Moose Festival — a casualty of the pandemic last summer — is back to celebrate its 30th anniversary in August. It’s scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Aug. 27 and 28, and much of the action is a little farther south in Colebrook and Canaan, Vt.
It’s another chance for Pittsburg to shine, too.
And oh yes, that reference to staying in Pittsburg exactly 36 years ago? The date sticks a bit because we stopped the night after our wedding on our way to a Quebec City honeymoon.
We plan to return much sooner this time.
Allen Lessels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.