Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Holtshire (Orcutt) Bridge Removal And A Soft Hackle Bivisible

"They say you forget your troubles on a trout stream but that's not quite it. What happens is that you begin to see where your troubles fit into the grand scheme of things, and suddenly they're just not such a big deal anymore". John Gierach

Bill from Tully filled me in first. The demolition and replacement of the Holtshire Road Bridge that spans the Millers River in Orange at the stretch known as Orcutt Brook has begun. Actually it began five or so years ago when the bridge was closed to vehicular traffic but not to foot traffic. Now both ends of the span are gated off. Now, what does this mean to fly fishers?

1. Access may be denied even with the construction of a footpath over the railroad tracks on the north side. I bet the footpath was constructed to give WORKERS access to the site and not us.

2. Temporary easements have been granted to park and store construction equipment and workers vehicles during the project. That could very well be in the spots where we have traditionally parked our vehicles.

3. Forget about the DFW stocking off the bridge if the bridge is gone. This may be a good thing because it will force fishers to EXPLORE instead of doing the same old, same old!!

One can get to the river by going up and over the tracks or bushwacking down Orcutt Brook or becoming friends with one of the neighbors for parking purposes but the REAL question would be if law enforcement will force us off this active construction site. This will not be a month long project but should last many months. We will see!!!

Soft Hackle Bivisible

I wanted something BIG that would imitate some of those large caddis and large mayflies (such as the March brown) that we see in the Spring.  Using TWO partridge hackles over a body color of my choice would work. This fly has action and looks great when it's wet! The Millers and the Ware wold be the perfect hunting ground for this pattern.

Check out the color of the March Brown that I included. Same color scheme as the Bivisible?  You bet!!!!!


P.S. As of now (Friday morning) the Swift is down to 400 cfs. Fish it today before the snow storm!

Monday, January 14, 2019

A Mid Winter Nights' Dream - The Millers

The strike to a deep, dead drifted nymph is signaled, if at all, by a very slight bump, juggle, twitch, jerk, hesitation, wiggle (or whatever you want to call it) in the floating part of the line or leader and/or by an equally slight movement, flash or shadow on the bottom. G.E.M. Skues described the latter as "that cunning brown wink underwater, referring to brown trout, of course" - John Gierach, Trout Bum

One of the common requests that I get when someone books a guided trip with me is "I'd like to fish some place that isn't crowded". Actually, this is a fairly simple request that is easily accomplished, even on the Swift where it seems that 75% of the flyfishers on any given day are at the Pipe and the Y Pool leaving the rest of the river uncrowded. I am more than happy to oblige my client because I don't like crowds either and can find 50 yards of open, productive water fairly easily, even on the Swift. When they make the same request of a Millers trip I know it will be EASY. The Millers is an easy river to disappear on!!

Much of the fly fishing on the Millers occurs at Rezendes, Orcutt Brook and the Kempfield section. The South Royalston stretch sees little pressure and the same is true of the two tiered Gorge Pool. The UTD Pool is unknown to many and the water above the Upper Trestle Pool is really a Nomans Land. The same is true for the water below Bridge Street. I don't feel that I'm giving away any State secrets here because I've been beating the drum for this river for years but the same old spots are still crowded because of easy access and it's where they stock the trout!.

My favorite time to fish this river, or any freestone,  is on Summer evenings because that's the best time to fish ANY freestone. The heat of the day has dissipated, the sun begins to sink below the ridges and the swallows are darting about feeding on the growing number of mayflies and caddis.  Something else begins to feed on them and that is signaled by a rising trout. Soon there are rises up and down the Millers and you will have the place to yourself on most occasions and that is because most anglers fish bankers hours and will be off the river by suppertime.  This is what I dream about on dark cold Winter days.

All rivers have their local fish hawks who shun the crowds in pursuit of trout. Bill R. and Sam, The "Boss of Bondsville", can be found in hidden places along the Swift. Bill from Tully KNOWS the Millers and I know that Gary C. knows more about the EB than anyone.  They are not "gear heads" but fly fishers!!!

The Marlboro Show And Am I Going -  I placed my Fly Shack order a month ago so there goes one reason. I don't need another fly rod or fly reel so there goes another reason.  I don't need any new places to fish because I love my local rivers.  There's your answer.

PS The Swift has dropped about 120 cfs in the last week. We should be below 500 cfs in a day or so.


Friday, January 11, 2019

The EB, The Swift, Blood Worms

"His tackle was Spartan, basic, what I considered then to be barely adequate: rod, reel, line a few spools of mono, and, worst of all, a single fly box containing a handful of patterns. He was not, and is not today, your typical uptown fly fisherman. The fact that he regularly caught more and bigger trout than I did was my first hint that I might be overlooking something basic" -John Gierach describing the legendary angler Ed Engle

First off, frequent commentator Gary C. heard through the grapevine that the MA/RI Council of TU will NOT be holding their annual weekend-before-Memorial Day camping,fishing bash at Indian Hollow on the EB. Secondly, if this is true will it effect the stocking of this river? Now, backcast a half a dozen or so years ago when TU failed to reserve Indian Hollow (that's the story) and ended up at Trout Brook near the Quinapoxet River. We contacted the DFW back then with the same stocking question and were reassured that the stocking would not change. It didn't. Now we may have the same situation and may I suggest that the stocking be done over mid April through May instead of a massive du of trout about 3 days before the the customary TU event. That change would result in a more natural fishing experience other than someone claiming that they can catch 50 freshly stocked trout in a day!   So, if anyone knows of the TU plans just contact me.

Blood Worms

Why are the Pipe and the Tree Pool of the Swift so loaded with trout? The answer is the State trout hatchery. The outflow of the hatchery changes the chemistry of the river. In the Swift, above the Pipe, under normal conditions, you will occasionally see a rising trout but below the pipe into the Tree Pool you may see dozens sipping the surface. That is because the trout are after midges be they Chironomidae, Simuliidae or a host of others and these morsels are being flushed into the river by the millions. They ,the midges,love the environment created by the waste product of thousands of trout and one of the critters that get flushed into the Swift would probably be the blood worm. BTW, blood worms create havoc at waste water treatment plants!

I like this fly because I can whip up a dozen in no time and I don't have to attach gills and such to make it work. Just a scud hook from size 18 through 24, red thread, twisted red thread for a rib, and maybe a white set of gills. Cover it with Sally Hansen and you are all set. Fish it off of a weighted nymph or by itself with some split shot if needed.

The Swift is dropping and as I write it's at 549 cfs which is the lowest flow in the last three weeks. I don't know if you've noticed but we have had little rain and no real snow in the last month and a half. The water table is high so we are not in trouble on that front. All I want is a normal Summer with normal rainfall (whatever that is!)


Monday, January 7, 2019

The Peacock And Black And My Possum Caddis Nymph

"We are so tied down to the pursuit of the essential dollar that we lose the best and most innocent pleasures that this old earth affords. Time flies so fast after youth is past that we cannot accomplish one-half the many things we have in mind, or indeed one-half our duties. The only safe and sensible plan is to make the other things give way to the essentials and the first of these is fly fishing" - John McDonald, The Complete Fly Fisherman: The Notes and Letters of Theodore Gordon

Simplicity is King especially in fly fishing and fly tying and the Peacock and Black is an example of this.  Friend and reader Gary Cranson, the Wizard of the Westfield, pointed this out last Spring and I became a quick convert to the "black Fly".  While going through book collect in search old old soft hackles patterns I found the Peacock and Black.  This fly works:

Hook - 14 to 18

Body - black thread from the bend of the hook forward.

Thorax - a half dozen turns of peacock herl lashed down with the black thread

Hackle - Starling

Fish this fly upstream and across the current on the dead drift.

The Possum Caddis Nymph

This fly has been with me for over 30 years and is a top producer on the Millers River which is a great caddis river.  I've been tying this with hackles as of late and fishing it as I would a soft hackle fly. The key to its success is that wonderful buggy possum fur.

Hook - size 12 to 16 wet fly hook

Body - loosely dubbed possum fur lashed down with fine copper wire

Hackle - Partridge of course.

One can weigh this fly with a bead although I've been very successful with simple split shot.

This fly works best when its gone through hell and becomes VERY buggy.

This Winter Season

It is pretty safe to say that I'm in my waders 5 days a week from early April through early December.  From December through March it's down to once a week and the rest of this "fishing time" is devoted to fly tying which is an activity that I would continue to pursue even if I could no longer fly fish.  It's safe to say that fly tying is an art form that has a couple of centuries under its belt and to understand and maybe even master the old techniques gives one a sense of accomplishment.  I can't extend that feeling to the current world of Junk Flies!!!!!

Watch The Clock

We have been gaining precious minutes of daylight every day this month. By the 31st we will have gained 48 minutes!!!!!!


Friday, January 4, 2019

Thinking Of Rivers - The Westfield System And Book Me

"In 2009 I fished the EB from Memorial Day through Labor Day with nothing but dry flies and caught a lot of trout BUT all of the fishing was done from 6 pm through dark. That's when the trout began to "look up" because that's when the insects began to hatch." - Me

It happens every year at this time. I start day dreaming about Spring and Summer when the "living is easy". Now, don't get me wrong, I fish and guide through the Winter and actually like it but my favorite time of day on a trout stream is on Spring and Summer evenings when the freestones are flowing just right,the insects are hatching and trout are feeding! Now I'm relegated to tailwaters like the Swift or the Farmie which is our port in a storm (and I'm thankful for this) but I'd love more options and one of those options is to split a day between the West Branch and the Middle Branch of the of the Westfield River (or just spend an evening on each).

The WB and the MB are smaller than their larger cousin the EB. Their combined flow is roughly half that of the EB but this may be their secret charm. People flock to the larger rivers thinking the fishing is better but that can be a big mistake. You will have miles of water with very few people to deal with on these two wonderful streams and you will have the browns and rainbows to yourself! Because of their smaller size and steady flow these rivers are PERFECT for a tenkara rod! Gary Cranson, the "Wizard of the Westfield", has been fishing these branches all of his life. Two of his favorite spots are Trout Rock on the WB and the lower MB. I love the lower MB because it may have the smartest trout of any freestone in Ma.
The Lower MB

If you are interested in getting away from the crowds and in fishing beautiful water then book a date for the WB and/or the MB. Early May through June is a good place to start!

BTW, I'm already booking for this Winter AND for this Spring. Don't wait too long!

Speaking of Winter, we are still braving the monster flows of the Swift. Thursday I saw a wader who was almost up to his arm pits in the Y Pool. The water was so high around him that his elbows were dragging in the water.  I hope we don't have to drag the river for him.  BE CAREFUL!!!


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Incredible, Edible, Egg

you can just use split shot to sink them under your Indy (FYI there is no reason you cannot add split shot to a Euro rig when necessary, the best way to do this is with a Drop Shot rig that has the weight on the bottom with your flies on droppers right above it) without having to put on a heavy "Sacrifice Fly" to sink your small fly/flies. Indicators are also a godsend on windy days that make Euro nymphing a nightmare. From Upcountry Fly Shop, 12/31/19

I wish I had coined the term "junk fly", You know, that cartoonish collection of pseudo "flies" that have clogged the waterways over the last few years. Be they Mops, Blobs, San Worm Worms, Squirmy Wormies, Green Weenies, Rainbow Warriors or whatever they represent nothing found in a trout stream.  What is curious is that one popular fly is always included in that mess when it should have a place of honor in the Fly Fishing World and that is the Egg Fly AKA The Glow Bug!

Now, you may think that Ken slipped on some ice and hit his head because he's standing up for this fly but there's a very good reason for this and that stems from my personal belief that a fly should look like a natural item on the trout's menu in the same way that a pheasant tail nymph does a great job of imitating a mayfly nymph. This very simple creation represents a trout or salmon egg (or sucker egg in the Spring) better than most flies represent the intended insect or bait fish that they represent.  My only gripe is that this fly is usually tied too large for the fish in the river.  Mine are all micro eggs on size 16 and 18 hooks and they work very well below an active redd.  So, let's elevate this deserving creation.  It deserves it!!!

My Pheasant Tail

This one has olive colored tail fibers wrapped around the hook shank and a thorax of brown beaver. The wing pad is mallard pulled over the thorax and then hit with a black sharpie. (Many mayfly nymphs will have much darker thoraxes just prior to emergence.

I get a LOT of satisfaction by catching trout on natural looking flies. Remember, It's not how many you catch but how you catch them.

Late New Years Day we settled down to a roast pork stew.  I call it a "stew" although there is very little moisture content.  Well seasoned pork loin is seared and then surrounded by potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, and bok choy in a roasting pan set to bake covered at 320 for about 1.75 hours.

Cold weather comfort food!!!


Monday, December 31, 2018

Good Bye To 2018 And Hello To 2019

A very nice read and guide to the Millers, thank you. Of course I have my favorite spots, many that coincide with yours. I am sure that I will re read your guide several times. The most important thing for me is, how to fish the spots, not necessarily where the spots are.- Reader comments about the Millers Guide 


First off, I'd like to thank the thousands of monthly readers who have been with this blog for over a dozen years. It seems that every time I hit the rivers I meet readers who say that they never skip a post. They also love the fact that myself and the comment writers will openly name rivers and locations and not act like it's a state secret. We all know the rivers so there are no secrets!! You have made this the most popular "owner operated" fly fishing site in New England

2018 was GREAT because:

The Flyfishers Guide to the Millers River just keeps rolling along. I believe that this year will set a record for copies sent to readers which is remarkable seeing that the Guide is 10 years old. Some have told me that it is just a fun thing to read and I appreciate it. Also remember that, unlike  other guides, this booklet is FREE. And it's an in depth look at this river and how to fish it and not a pedestrian listing of popular stocking points. Needless to say, it will remain available.

My Guiding Business is rolling along. Now, I've noticed fewer guides working the rivers this past year and that may be because this business is not for everyone. Frankly, I LOVE IT!!!! For ten years I've guided everyone from absolute beginners to seasoned world wide anglers and it is all very good and personally rewarding. Some may say that one doesn't need a guide or even a guide book. Just read the reader quote at the top of this post for the answer. Beware of the person(s) who say that they catch 40-50 trout an outing on a particular river.  That's ALWAYS a day or 3 after the stocking truck does it's thing. We all know that. 

NESN Exposure: This was very good because it highlighted the great fishing that we have here in Central/Western Ma (and my guide business) and in doing so we now have more friends of the rivers.  If you want to kill a river then don't support its passive use.  (high water releases for tubing and WW rafting are NOT a passive use!)

The "Newer" Rivers: I started out guiding on the Millers and then quickly branched out to the Swift and the EB. I tried to bring five new rivers on board for 2018 but the lack of available time killed that. So I further expanded my efforts on the Westfield West Branch, and the Middle Branch. These are the most beautiful intimate rivers who will find in Massachusetts and will make the EB seem crowded. If you want solitude then book a trip with me in 2019. Let's not forget the Ware River for great Quill Gordon and Hendrickson hatches in early May without the long drive to the Farmington.

Not an Equipment Blog If you absolutely need to know the skinny on the newest rods, reels, lines, waders and flies go someplace else. I don't endorse any company or their products with the exception of a  rod maker or the occasional fly shop. I endorse certain styles of fly rods and certain styles of fly fishing. I have a special kinship with fly fishers who fish the same rods for YEARS and don't ditch them for "this years new model". Flies must look like real insects and real bait fish and not pieces of costume jewelry!

It is not too early to book me for 2019.  I don't require a deposit so what's to lose!!!

P.S. The LL Salmon in the Swift will disappear by Summer just like 7 years ago and it will not be because they starved to death. The ones that find themselves down in Cady Lane will eat brook trout like the browns do but I believe that it's just not their environment!!

Happy New Year