“The Upper Andro” is shorthand for the 26-mile section of the Androscoggin River that lies between the Maine-New Hampshire border and Rumford. For a number of years now, a group called the Upper Andro Anglers Alliance has dedicated itself to restoring and promoting this remarkable stretch of riverine water.

This spring the New England Outdoor Writer’s Association (NEOWA) held its annual spring gathering in Bethel. During the three-day event, outdoor writers and photographers from all over New England had a chance to get better acquainted with the Upper Andro. Not only did we writers have a chance to fish the scenic Maine river, we participated in a unique float stocking program that has become an annual event. According to the Upper Andro spokesmen, using drift boats to stock the river decreases the stress on the fish and helps prevent mortality. On the first day of the stocking program, a Fish and Wildlife tank truck, loaded with 2,000 brown trout (8-10 inches), pulled up alongside the boat landing. Volunteers, made up of outdoor writers and local drift boat fishing guides, formed a bucket brigade and loaded the hatchery fish into floating carts that were tethered to the drift boats. Before the day was out, the guides and writers drifted downstream — releasing five or six fish at a time — spreading the trout out along a 7- mile stretch of the river. As the guides explained, the day of stocking is selected when the water temperature and river flow is ideal.

This May day could not have been nicer. During my float trip down the river, I was impressed, not only with the clarity of the water, but also the remoteness and scenery. You’d think you were on a Western river. Funny thing, too. Having driven along the Upper Andro near Route 2 for years en route to northern Vermont, I had not at the time recognized that the Androscoggin River was a sport fishery with such potential! It’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow somebody some good: river guides told me that the closure of the big paper mill in Berlin, N.H., a few years, has resulted in a marked improvement in Upper Andro water quality. You can see it. The free-flowing river is gin clear and holds rainbows, brown trout and excellent small-mouth bass populations during the dog days of summer. In fact, internationally known fly fishing icon Lefty Kreh has been so smitten by the summer bass fishing on the Upper Andro that he makes it an annual must-go fishing trip. There are a number of boat launch sites along the river between Gilead and Rumford. For a map consult the Upper Andro website at www.upperandro.com.

If smaller stream fishing is your thing, there are, in the Bethel area, a number of tributaries to the Androscoggin River, including the Wild, Pleasant, Sunday and Bear Rivers.

Of course, the Bethel area is known for its proximity to the Sunday River ski complex and is fast becoming an attractive four-season recreational area. Area hotel and restaurant accommodations are plentiful and superb, not the least of which is the famous Bethel Inn.

This fall, if you are looking for a quality fly fishing experience, give the Upper Andro a try. There are some excellent wading areas and some skilled guides in the area who will show you the ropes from a drift boat. You’ll catch browns aplenty and, if you are lucky, you might tie into a good-sized rainbow. When I fish there this fall, I plan to park near the bridge in Gilead and fish down river. I fully expect to snag one of those browns that I helped release back in May. In fact, on the third Saturday in September the Upper Andro group will host a unique “two-fly contest” on the river. This is for drift boat anglers to test their casting skills. Each angler may use only two flies over the 30 hour period. Teams are comprised of two anglers and a judge/drift boat oarsman. Over a thousand dollars worth of fishing gear will be awarded to the winning anglers. Advance registration is required. Information and entry forms are available by phoning 1- 877 -851- 7533.

This same weekend, on Sunday, there will be a Northeast Drift Boat Competition. This is a timed race that will test guides’ skills in launching, course navigation and rowing. This a spectator event. Information and entry forms are available by phoning 1- 877- 851- 7533.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal and has written his first book, A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WCME-FM 96.7) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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