Drift Down Trout and Grouse Heaven

northern New Hampshire

In October in northern New Hampshire, you can pack a lifetime of passion into a two-week canoe trip down the Magalloway River, into Lake Umbagog and then down the Androscoggin River. Here you'll find ruffed grouse and woodcock hunting at its finest, along with good trout, bass and landlocked salmon fishing. Oh, and Class III rapids.

Put in at the covered bridge on Route 16 in Wilson's Mills, Maine, and meander down the flat water of the Magalloway River to the mouth of the Dead Diamond River. Paddle or hike upstream for some superb brook trout fishing (open to angling until November 30) or wing-shooting. (Grouse season in New Hampshire and Maine opens October 1.) A mile farther along on the Magalloway, camp at one of two remote sites, or paddle into Lake Umbagog and camp on an island near the mouth of the river.

At 7,850 acres, Umbagog is big, so explore its shores for upland birds using one campsite as a base, or travel up and down its length. There are 32 remote wilderness sites here, accessible only by canoe or boat, and at this time of year, you'll have your choice. The only extra requirements on the National Wildlife Refuge land are nontoxic shot and a blaze orange cap and vest. Lake Umbagog holds impressive landlocked salmon and brook trout to five pounds in its northern half, especially near the mouth of the Rapid River in the northeast. The southern half of the lake is shallower and harbors superb smallmouth bass.

If the days have passed quickly and you're out of time, take out on the south end of the lake at the state campground ramp. Or paddle downstream to the Errol Dam and scope the rapids below it. Run them or portage around them to Bragg Bay, then paddle downstream to the 13 Mile Woods. Rapids and flat water run alternately; you can camp at the primitive Mollidgewock State Campground or at one of their remote sites downstream. Take out above the dam.

Contact: New Hampshire Fish and Game Department (603-271-1734); Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (207-287-6008); Umbagog Lake State Park Campground (603-271-3628).
-Tom Fuller