Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB
Fly Fishing The Millers - With over 30 years of fly fishing this river I will claim more knowledge and fish caught than anyone. There are over 40 miles of river and I will take you to the best sections and if you want to sections that never see another angler. Don't be fooled by those who say the Millers is a Spring and Fall river. I'll show you how to have great Summer action. The "EB of the Westfield" - Wild and beautiful is the only way to describe this river. There's a lot of water here but I know where to go to catch trout. After a trip you will too!! Solitude and trout IS the EB. The Swift - 20 trout days are not uncommon on this river if you know what to do and use. I'll show the way and you catch the trout. RATES - Full Day (6 hours) = $150.00 for one, $225 for two (lunch included). Half Day (three hours) $90.00 for one, $155.00 for two. Beginners Class - 3 hours ffor $90.00, all use of rods lines, reels included.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Vise Time, Winter/Spring Guiding And A Swift Update

"The bulging rise is characteristic of midwater feeding. When emergers or pupae are ascending without urgency, fish will take them several inches beneath the surface without actually breaking through it, but causing the water to swell. such rises can be deceiving, as they reach the surface well downstream of the fish especially in more rapid currents". Thomas Ames, Jr. Hatch Guide for New England Streams

One thing that I've told basically everyone that I've guided is that if I couldn't fly fish any longer I would still tie flies. There is a great sense of accomplishment when one ties a fly correctly from a pattern or creates an offering using the correct techniques and avoids the usual pitfalls found at the bench. Those common pitfalls are hook eyes that are overcrowded, body material errors (too much dubbing or quill bodies wrapped unevenly) and way too much hackle. Those mistakes are the fly tiers version of baiting a hook! The less material the better. The accompanying size 20 emerger photo shows what I mean. Less is best!!!! 140 denier for the body, 3 turns of fine copper wire, 1 turn of peacock, 2 tags of flashabou and enough space to tie off without crowding the eye with tying material.

A word on hooks - the above fly was tied on a size 20 scud hook. The wide gap has better hooking qualities than your standard hook. My best source of these hooks is from FLYSHACK in Gloversville NY and their house brand is the SABER line of hooks. I have their scud hooks from size 8 through 24 and they are strong, sharp and are well formed but the best thing is they are incredibly inexpensive! To get the same size scud hook in a "name" brand (Tiemco, etc) you will pay about $8 for 25 hooks. How about $7 for 100 saber hooks. Welcome to no-brainer land!!!!! Saber hooks are the only hooks I've used for the last 8 years and I believe that all of their standard hooks are in the $7 for a 100 range. Check them out at the Incredible Shrinking Fly Show. They will be at the booth(s) with the most people.

BTW, I get no discounts, merchandise or commissions for this or any endorsement. If you see me mention something it's because I believe that it's a good value for YOU! In the words of Neil Young: "Ain't singing for Pepsi, ain't singing for Coke, don't sing for nobody, makes me look like a joke".

Same Fly, two styles:

To the right is a sample of a size 14 soft hackle (a "made up" pattern) and then it's version on a size 6 salmon hook. Soft hackles translate to salmon style easily and are fun to tie and would work for steelies as they do for Atlantic Salmon.

Swift Update/ Guiding Season: Well, here we are in mid January and fly fishers are still having double digit days by the Pipe and the Tree Pool. The throngs of bait tossers just never showed up or they just couldn't clean the place out. There are plenty of fish in that well worn section and there is fishing to be had at the Gauge and at the Bubbler Arm.

My guide calendar is picking up with Spring trips in the books and a record number of January/February trips booked too. Don't get left out. I'll be expanding guiding on the Ware River and the MB of the Westfield - two great rivers.

Book a trip and remember that I don't require a deposit!!!


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Out Of The Way Places And Charlies Sale

"Nicknames unfortunately are not standardized. When your friend on the next pool tells you that he's just seen a few "Sulphurs' hatching he is really just suggesting a fly pattern, because the name might mean anything from a size 24 Baetid to a size 10 Anthopotamus Distinctus, two insects with very different behavior." Thomas Ames, Jr.

Anyone who has my Millers Guide knows of the Upper Trestle Pool on the Lower Millers River. This Pool has captured my attention for over 30 years and it's a spot that I want clients to become familiar with. As I tell people it's a spot that fits two anglers nicely but three is a crowd. I'll tell them if they see two anglers working the pool then just go upstream.

"Upstream" means right around the left hand bend in the river above the pool. The first thing you will notice is that the path disappears in about a few hundred feet. It's impossible to travel upstream on the shore so one must walk in the shoreline shallows to get anywhere. The next thing you will see are two beautiful pools/runs that beg to have a fly cast across them. The one thing you will not see is another angler! If fly fishing is a social event for you where you can hold court by doing equipment reviews and dispensing your "knowledge" to anyone unfortunate enough to have to listen then you will hate this place and may be a little scared of it too. (One angler was!!)

This section actually starts at the end of the long Orcutt Pool and two drift boat brothers (Harrisons) always would fish that tailout. Don Barnes from Regal told me years ago that nightfall at the start of the fast water is where you want to be for the browns. I caught my first BIG Millers brown about a 100 yards down into the fast water on my Millers Bivisible years ago.

It's about 600 yards from the end of Orcutt to the top of the Upper Trestle Pool. One can follow the railroad tracks but getting down to the river from the tracks is a real chore. It's best to travel in the river from either end but remember that this is a real boulder field.  Watch your step!

Those two pools that I mentioned are perfect for swinging sunken flies but not the best venue for the nymph fisher because of the collection of rocks and logs. Try to keep your fly UP.

Charlie at the Evening Sun Fly Shop has a fly tying sale going on in January that REALLY deserves attention:

Spend $50 on fly tying stuff and get $12.50 worth of fly tying stuff FREE!

Spend $100 on the above and get $25.00 worth free

Spend $150 on the above and get $37.50 worth free

Spend $200 on the above and get $50.00 worth free.

This really makes sense because you are supporting an "owner/operator" and not a big box fly mart. Charlie has a well stocked shop right down to the size 30 hooks and it's fairly priced. No canned shop talk here but REAL information on whats happening on our rivers. Charlie and I talk frequently so he knows whats happening in "Trout Land".

We are in the fly tying season so take advantage of this great January sale at Evening Sun!!


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Lower Bears Den Of The Millers Revisited

"Predatory stoneflies are territorial and therefor migratory, distributing their populations well throughout the stream. Creepers are most active in the Spring, just prior to hatching, and again in the Fall but because there is always a maturing brood, the nymph patterns are effective all year long." - Thomas Ames, Jr. Hatch Guide for New England Streams

The old black and white photos had that "look" to them. Men with fedoras and flannel shirts, each holding a bamboo rod in one hand and a stringer of Millers River browns in the other. The photos were taken during the 1940's and early 50's before the Millers became too polluted to fish. The late Bob Roleau, who owned the photos, explained one thing to me: the photos were all taken on ONE STRETCH of the Millers. "The best stretch", as Bob explained. Say hello to the UTD Dam and the lower (end) of the Bears Den.

This is the lower end of the Bears Den catch & release section. The C&R officially ends at the UTD dam (UTD stands for Union Twist Drill, a once large employer in Athol that gave up in 1984)which can be seen from downtown Athol. The pond behind the dam is of little fly fishing value except to provide wintering quarters to some of the trout. What is of REAL VALUE is the stretch above the pond. It is 200 yards of the best dry fly water on the Millers - period!!! This stretch, with it's even, bank-to-bank flow and moderate depth, is fed by miles of riffles and a few springs along the way. The stretch is loaded with insects with two being very important. The first is the large Golden Stonefly. I've been on this stretch on early June mornings and have seen the tall grass at bank side loaded with hundreds of the adults of this species. The second is the hellgrammite. There are tales of well lit windows of bank side dwellings being covered with these critters on summer nights.

I have had unbelievable evenings on this stretch of the Millers and I have NEVER seen another fly fisher. The place could easily accommodate more anglers, there's plenty of water here!! The place could also accommodate a few more browns if the local TU Chapter can get them in there. Hint: Ask permission to open the access gate to the dam area and just throw the browns in.

To get there just google up Chestnut Hill Avenue in Athol. Take the first right off the lower end of this road and park by the side of the yellow gate. For more information on the Millers just order "The Guide" from this blog.

The photo on the left shows some of the miles of riffles that feed the stretch. The photo on the right shows the upper part of the ponded area and "the stretch" as it disappears upstream on the left of the photo.

Just a few more months to go.....!


Friday, January 6, 2017

Remembering Winters Past - 2011- 2112 SALMON And An Update

" I think of fly rods the same way Bill Belichick thinks of position players. Can you play guard AND center? Can you play tight end AND be a long snapper or whatever. Versatility!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I've got a closet full of rods but I haven't bought a graphite rod since 2008 because everything that I have works plus I spend too much $$ on bamboo which is great to own and just admire. It's fun to fish with it too!" - From This Blog

Backcast to late August of 2011. Hurricane Irene ran through the area and dumped over 12 inches of rain on a Quabbin Reservoir that was close to capacity. Within a month the "pond" began to overflow and that overflow lasted for six months with a flow of 500 cfs+. The timing was PERFECT because the landlocked salmon were moving out of their summer depths and were looking for moving water to spawn in.

 HUNDREDS of salmon and lake trout went over the spillway and into the Swift, most noticed where the hundreds that went into the Y Pool. That started the BEST Winter season that this river has had in recent memory.

It's New years Day on 2012. I'm there at 7:30 am and I'm not the first but I'm at the end of the Y Pool at waist depth casting a tiny smelt pattern 3/4 quarters downstream and mending the line to swim this pattern. I know what Landlocked Salmon do.  They're like their ATLANTIC cousins (genetically the same fish) and they will rise through the water column if it's what they want. This salmon rose to that tiny streamer when it was only 6 inches below the surface. It measured 26 inches!!! Salmon will do that and it reminded me of New Brunswick Atlantic Salmon fishing. Even more so when I began to get them with soft hackles with the same approach. (Note to Lenny: My 12 and 10 soft hackles worked here. Your bigger soft hackles will work for Steelies)

It was a wild Winter. I saw one angler who had never been to the Swift before mumbling that he he had caught a 24 inch salmon on a # 14 soft hackle. He didn't know about the overflow and thought he was only fishing for trout. We calmed him down and said there's more like that so keep fishing.

My soft hackles and inch long streamers took salmon and so did a 30 inch monster that grabbed a #30 larva pattern (yes - I saw it.!!!). Some scraped the bottom and others fished like me.  We all caught salmon. One kid was screaming that he caught a 2 foot long brown.  I said "that's a salmon" and I think he felt better.  I guided a guy who landed the fish pictured above using the streamer swing. Way to go.

Within 6 months these fish were gone.

High flows will not guarantee salmon. If that were the case the Summer of 1999 would have done it with it's 500+ flows. But it was Summer and the salmon will not be moving out of there cool comfort zone.  Maybe we will see it another year.

Update - Still catching trout on the Swift.  Dress warm and fish tiny flies. The more fish you catch the warmer you will feel.!!!


Monday, January 2, 2017

Stone Flies On The Millers

"Fish sense, applied in the field, is what the old Zen masters would call Enlightenment: simply the ability to see what's right in front of you without having to sift through a lot of thoughts and theories and, yes, expensive fishing tackle."John Gierach

The Millers River is loaded with Stoneflies. When I first started fishing this river back over 30 years ago I was absolutely astonished by the sheer number of stonefly casings found on the rocks along and in the river. Not to be confused with the damsel fly (that's another story) the Stone becomes the main insect for trout hunters from late May through June on the lower Millers from Wendell Depot downstream. It's never been the star of the show upstream in Royalston (Bears Den) like it is miles below.
(photo by Thomas Ames, Jr.)

The Stonefly nymph is more valuable to the fly fisher than the Dry version. Any stimulator/small muddler type will get the job done imitating the egg laying adult. The nymph is one of those aquatic insects that hatches not by rising through the water column but by climbing rocks that protrude above the waters surface or rocks along the shoreline just like damsel flies, many caddis and Isonychia nymphs. This environment is characterized by riffles. Fish the riffles and pocket water in late May and June by dead drifting this fly on a short leash!!

I've featured some stones in the past but my favorites always fall back on a larger nymph that has a yellow/brown cast to it. No need to go nuts with hackle and other things when building stones and I've found that good old ostrich works well imitating gills and legs.

Hook - size 10 nymph hook with some weight added.

Tail - some partridge fibers

Body - I use a synthetic yellow dubbing with some sparkle built into the fibers. Synthetic holds up well to rocks and trout

Gills - light brown ostrich palmered around the full body or by the thorax. I prefer the thorax style.

Wing Pad - I've used everything from duck quill, turkey quill, bunches of pheasant tail fibers and so on. The one above has a pad of Thin Skin which also works (golden oak is the color of the thin skin)

Added Feature - Run a brown sharpee down the back of this fly and you'll have created much of the color scheme of this insect.

For those without access to a tailwater Winter becomes the fly tying season so build an inventory of stones for this Spring.


Friday, December 30, 2016

A Phone Number, Buzzers, Fly Fishing Regulations And Happy New Year

"Maybe there's a stretch of beaver ponds or a half dozen bend pools across a little meadow or a headwater lake or two. All of that on a little stream that few people fish because it doesn't look all that good from the road and because they probably never heard of it before. Believe it or not, some fishermen only fish streams about which books are written." John Gierach, Fly Fishing Small Streams

So, I got this email from someone who says "I'll wipe the pipe out like I did last year". That's why I've posted the Environmental Police number at the upper right side of this blog. Put it in your phone and drop a line if you see something suspicious. What's suspicious? More than 3 fish in possession on a single day is more than suspicious. It's against the law! Seeing someone walking back to the car with three fish and then returning to catch and keep more is suspicious. Another fish on the stringer and we have an illegal act. Don't confront, just make a call and they do respond.

Buzzers - The English term for gnats and such and they've become part of my arsenal over the last two seasons. Davie MacPhail ties a neat buzzer but I've reduced the fly down to basic elements because I am a minimalist by nature AND I like tying lots of flies FAST.

HOOK - Scud hooks from size 14 through 20

BODY - You can go with stripped peacock (slower to tie and more fragile) or some 140 denier thread in either dark olive, black or brown.

RIB - fine copper wire

WING PAD - Here is the secret sauce for this pattern. I use Orange kevlar which I also use on my Partridge and Orange Soft hackles. It has a nice shiny, waxy look to it and mimics the budding wing pads of many gnat species which seem to have a orange shade to them. Now, McPhail ties orange gills on the underside of the thorax which really isn't necessary IMO. This fly, like all subsurface flies, tumbles in the current and Mr. Trout probably doesn't care if the orange is on the top or the bottom.

Coating - I don't use the UV stuff which I believe catches more fishermen than fish. I will use Sally Hensen's Hard as Nails on the quill bodies if I remember. It doesn't seem to make much of a difference.

Where to fish it - The Swift, of course, from the Bubbler arm (great spot) and below the Pipe. The Pipe flow is loaded with these critters and this fly has worked for me. The Millers is full of this type of insect and there are times when they exhibit something called "behavioral drift" where the entire population will begin to drift downstream just under the surface with trout in pursuit. The smart money says they're rising to buzzers!!

Fly Fishing Only Regulations - The Massachusetts DFW page concerning the Swift River (above RT 9) and a portion of the Nissitissit River defines fly fishing as using a "conventional fly rod and fly line". This is good as it eliminates those who fish with a spinning rod, a bobber and a drifting nymph and still claim to be fly fishing but it also eliminates Tenkara fishing because that rod and line set up are not "conventional" fly fishing equipment in the spirit of the law. Now, what if you have a fly rod, a fly reel, fly line and 40 feet of mono and have no intention of putting that fly line into play? Technically you are legal because you have a "conventional" fly line in possession even if it never gets wet. This style of fishing seems very much like mid west "Noodle Rod" fishing: 12 ft soft rods attached to large capacity fly reels that are loaded with 20lb mono (no fly line) which are then used to toss out strike indicators fished over everything from bait to actual flies. Noodle rod fishing is never confused with fly fishing!!

I would be inclined to issue a pass to Tenkara simply because it's aim is to simplify our sport which has a tendency to become overrun with equipment junkies and method madmen. It's good to take a Tenkara break every now and then and reset yourself. You can also catch a lot of trout this way!!!

A year or so ago I experimented with 30+ foot leaders and thought they were novelty that worked well when conditions were good and didn't work well when conditions sucked. I then realized that my Tenkara rod could do the same thing so I went back to conventional equipment and feel good about it. Now, if I could only attach a fly reel to a Tenkara rod.........



Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Before And After The 25th

"Learning is the fountain of youth. No matter how old you are you mustn't stop growing" - 365 Tao, Daily Meditations

This is the time of year that things get weird on the Swift. As most of you know I do most of my fishing below Rt 9 instead of the C&R section above the bridge because the water is just more interesting and less crowded. Except for this last week of the year when it seems that everyone and their uncle is hitting the Pipe section BEFORE the regulations change to allow the keeping of fish. The conventional wisdom is that the bait boys will wipe the place out in a week which is always an exaggeration. They will catch some but not enough to make a difference. One problem that they will have is that those trout have been in the river for at least three months and will not the gullible stockers that you find in the Spring when poaching really occurs. There will be fish down there in January unless it gets really cold and the trout head to deeper water downstream. Yes, it should be C&R all year to end the confusion and to put an end to poaching.

This is the time of year when I find myself going above Rt 9. First, the Y Pool may be the only place in Massachusetts where you'll find rising trout from now through March and if you have a sunny day with the temperatures in the 40's those Winter Caddis will start doing their thing. Second, the water temperature coming out of the bubbler arm will be the warmest water in the river through the Winter and many times that will attract the trout.

Bring scuds around a size 16 tied below a size 16 partridge and orange. I was using that setup on Friday the 23rd just below the arched bridge. I took 4 from the bridge down to the Y Pool and then another 2 in the arm above.

Another good winter fly is my old Hot Spot, a fly that was invented on the Swift,for the Swift. Sizes 20 to 24 work the best when just drifted through any likely holding water.

AFTER CHRISTMAS - Today (Tuesday 12/27) started balmy but the wind picked up above RT 9 just to remind us what season it is. I took 2 bows and a brookie below the bridge and then went upstream (bubbler) where all of the trout had lock jaw except one good bow. On my way back down there was a guy in the spot I vacated 2 hours before. He had 2 bows on at once and then took another. IT IS A GOOD SPOT! I believe that some of those Y Pool rainbows just want some riffle water to hang out in since that spot took the most fish in the two days that I was there. It doesn't look like much of a place but the trout are there. Again, the scuds ruled the day at least for me.

My friend Bill said that he saw two vehicles towed out of the PIPE section yesterday. Anyone who went DOWN by the GAUGE needed help getting out because of the ice. Park above that spot along the dirt road to be safe. Also, ITS PACKED with fly fishers as I predicted.