Hot Spot: Profile Lake - The Fisherman

Hot Spot: Profile Lake

44.09.40 N, 71.40.35 W

I cannot believe it has been fifty years of walking down the small trail right under where the Old Man of the Mountain used to keep a watchful eye on his beloved notch. At the end of the trail is Profile Lake. A picturesque lake located right in the heart of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite fly fishing only spots anywhere!

Hundreds of times I have driven by the lake on 93 north and turned around using the Cannon Mountain exit, if you’re coming from the south, it’s the only way to get there. There is an upside though, you get to drive all the way through the magnificent Franconia Notch and enjoy the sights of Profile Lake, Echo Lake and the incredible ski trails carved into the side of Cannon Mountain, it really is breathtaking. After making the U-turn head back south on route 93, then park in the south side parking lot, then head off onto the small trail to the right of the canoe launch. Follow the shoreline to the right, that is if the beavers haven’t left piles of saplings in your way, in that case wade out a bit and then follow the shoreline until you get to a tiny cove followed by a small stream that flows into the lake. This area is surrounded by thick pines and when the wind is right, wafts the fragrance of this tree stand over you like an earthy blanket.

You’re now looking to the north side of the lake the “tourist side”. That is where the viewing area of the “Old Man of the Mountain” was for years. The viewing area is still there and is accessible from the parking lots of the Cannon Mountain tramway. Unfortunately, the “Old Man” is gone. His visage literally fell off the side of the mountain which he inhabited for millenia.

Profile-Lake

Back to the south side, from this area where the stream runs into the lake you can wade waist deep. Be careful the bottom is soft make sure your footing is stable before you start casting. (Take a note from me, wading barefoot will attract every crayfish in the pond. They’re interesting little creatures and fun to watch, right up until the moment they decide to give you an exploratory pinch.) Starting from here you will probably find yourself casting into a headwind. The notch is like a large funnel it takes the cool crisp Canadian air and squeezes it through a valley with sheer cliffs on both sides, this creates a natural wind tunnel, and it can get blustery.

Added to the wind, the mountains creating the notch can cause all sorts of weather from snow on a sunny spring day to the thickest fog you have ever seen. Remember pack for every scenario, by the way, the cell phone reception is dismal at best. I found that out on an early spring day when I got dropped off and, not to my surprise, it started to snow two inches an hour for at least three hours. Thankfully my ride (my wife) had a “feeling” and came to get me. Thank God for neoprene waders and gloves.

My favorite five weight Orvis, a 10-foot Trident filled with a weight-forward taper gives me more than ample boost to cut the head wind, but still allows for the very delicate presentation of the dry flies I like to offer. In spring it is a black midge fished dry size 18 to 22. Follow this up into late spring and all thru the summer with what I believe to be the best patter in the mountains, a black ant sizes 16 to 18 this twitched in the surface film will get fish when everyone else blanks. To this, sprinkle in a Letort Hopper especially if you decide to walk north right along the bank that route 93 creates. You can only roll cast here but a well-placed hopper in late June through August can be greatly rewarded. My biggest fish was caught this way in July many years back. A plump 18-inch brookie with some of the brightest marking I’ve ever seen battled me right to the end succumbing to my net and finally the dinner table.

I probably should mention that brook trout are the only fish that inhabit this crystal-clear lake. They range from 5 inches all the way past 18 inches the average I would say is about 8 or 9. If you continue to walk along the embankment you will come to a larger cove, on a windy day this can be a trip saver. The water on most days remains very calm and you can cast to rising brook trout throughout most of the day and into the evening. If you stay too long, you will be joined by a squadron of bats that seem to love the motion of the fly rod, they’re amusing to a point and a good indication the day is over.

This is a heavily stocked fly fishing only pond and I have seen the stocking trucks roll up on a Friday before the weekend traffic more than a few times. Back to those crayfish, a small crayfish pattern on a sinking or sink-tip line fished with a quick short strip will sometimes succeed when everything else fails. Covering this beautiful place in a canoe, remember no gas engines, or even a float tube is a great way to explore and enjoy the majestic scenery.

One final note there is nothing like the evening hatch on this pond, it can be magical. I once had the unique pleasure of watching Lee Wulff layout 90 feet of line, as he delicately presented to a slew of dimpling brookies, needless to say he got his share. Something I will never forget. Between the weather, the people you meet and one of the most breathtaking places to fish for trout that I know of, “The Old Man’s” home up on Profile Lake is worth the trip. After 50 years of wetting a line here I know how the Old Man must have felt looking down from his mountainside to this incredible place. I hope you get to experience it, too.

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