Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB

Monday, May 29, 2017

The West Branch Of The Westfield - The Hidden Gem

"There are no dams on it, and it runs clear, cold and clean for most of the year.This attribute attracts trout from the main stem and other branches when the water levels there are high and roiled in the spring, and again in the summer when the other waters can warm to dangerous levels. And many an angler gasps at the size of the trout encountered." Tom Fuller - Trout Streams Of Southern New England

Of the three Westfield Branches the EB gets the glory (catch and release designation will do that) while the other two branches, the Middle and the West become undeserving handmaidens. One trip to the West Branch (WB) will change your mind. It is a wild and beautiful trout stream, period.

Let's compare it in size to the EB. The EB has a watershed covering 161 square miles, the WB only 94 square miles. The decades old average flow for the EB for today is 237 cfs, the WB is at 130 cfs.
One may think that the WB is much smaller then it's bigger sister BUT it fishes like a big river. First, it is nestled in a steep valley so it's not as broad and wide as the EB is in many places. Second, It doesn't have miles of riffles but has miles of beautiful flats with good depth to them. In between are POOLS that will make your mouth water!!! In the two mile section that I fished yesterday and today there was more deep holding water than the EB has from the Gorge down to it's two mile marker. I'm not kidding!!! Also, in these two days I saw only two other flyfishers!!! I was truly fishing alone!!

The fishing - Sunday I had six hits, broke off two BIG fish and just lost the other four. So I went back today, walked down a trail to this neat double pool that ran for 200 yards and took three good bows on a hornberg which was the fly that got the hits yesterday. Then the rain came and it was time to say goodbye and plan my next trip to the West Branch!



If the EB is getting a bit crowded for you on weekends then take a trip to the West Branch. Perfect water and solitude!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Blow Out Strategy - Smaller Waters - The MB

"Really, the only thing a psychiatrist can do that a fishing guide can't do is write prescriptions" - John Gierach

Shit, another day gets wiped out because of the high flows EVERYWHERE.  As a wading guide I take safety first and 400+ in the Bears Den and 1000+ in Erving means I am not guiding the Millers this weekend. I was up at 3:30 am Friday morning to check flows and make decisions and then I had a LONG day ahead. No lawn mowing (thank you rain god) and the Tomatoes will wait a few days.  I began working up a good breakfast and then started tying flies to fill the holes in my boxes.

By 8:30 I was getting anxious. Maybe the local or maybe some western rill would not be running bank to bank. My backyard river, the Mill, was in flood stage. Head west, middle age man, head west!!!

The Middle Branch (MB) of the Westfield was high but CLEAR and that was a good sign as I headed down to Littlefield. It's a totally different river than what you see along River Road. Some choppy riffles, deep runs, slow glides and Gary.

Gary is the Dean of the Middle Branch and the Dean of the West Branch and hell, he knows more about the Westfield River system than most people put together. He's fished it all of his life and he is very generous with his knowledge unlike others who sometime name rivers but will  never name locations even on heavily fished rivers. He even gave me a select section of a run where I then managed to drop two trout! I'll let YOU ask HIM where the good spots are and you can't miss him because he's always working the MB and he may be the only one there (maybe me too).

Because of high water and the need to work weighted flies I brought my 6 weight (found a 6 wt line last night) to make it easy. Gary did  too. Decades before a 6 six weight was standard trout gear and it can still be. The weighted flies cast like a dream. Very easy casting.  It was a  definite old school  experience!

Gary took two healthy bows and then I hooked up and landed a good bow in some skinny (what passed for skinny) riffles and then I went upstream.

Up stream is a place I call Twin Bridges (you'll know it when you see it). My fly was a concoction I call the little Marabou Ghost. I took 5 bows(the prettiest bows this year) in a short while and then went home to shop, vacuum, laundry, stuff like that.

Watch the River Flows on this blog. Small streams will come down quickly. For you Eastern Ma. flyfishers who don't mind smaller streams Willard Brook in Ashby is pretty and full of trout.  So is the Fort River in Amherst, So is the Mill Rivers in Amherst/Hadley, so is EVERY stream in this state and it's all on their website.!!!

Little Marabou Ghost =  a size 10 SCUD hook
body -                      = olive floss or anything you want
under wing                = 4 or 5 peacock strands
mid wing                   = grey marabou
Top wing                   = olive marabou or your choice

A bead if you need it. No bead if you don't.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

This Weekend, The Rivers And Dry Flies

"Only an extraordinary person would purposely risk being outsmarted by a creature often less than twelve inches long, over and over again."
~ Janna Bialek

First, have a long and safe Memorial Day weekend and please remember those who passed before us.

The rivers, with the exception of the stubborn Millers, are all in prime shape right now. You can fish the BD section but with a flow in Wendell of approximately 750 cfs the river is still to dicey. If you go choose your spots carefully. Orcutt should be fishable (and crowded) while Erving Center will be out of commission.

Watch the weather! About .9 of an inch is forecast for Trout Land from today through tomorrow with another half inch on Monday. Not a deal breaker but something to be concerned about. Watch the stream gauges on this blog!

The Dry Fly season started for us back in mid April with good Quill Gordon and Hendrickson hatches in succession on the Ware with March Browns ready to appear on the Millers. I saw the first of the BIG stoneflies on the EB earlier this week (you see these things when you spend 5+ days each week on the water) It's that time of year again. Best hours will be moving slowly to the evening by late June. June evenings are great to be on the river.

A hint on dry fly presentation: Imagine the rising trout at 12 o'clock. YOU do not want to stand at 6 o'clock where you are going to "line" this fish. Stand at 4 or 5 o'clock or 7 or 8 o'clock which allows you to keep the line to the side of the trout with just the leader passing overhead. Do your best to get BELOW the trout. Cross-current casts are difficult to manage with drag being the major culprit.

Yes, I have hare's feet on the brain!!!!!!!

It came to my attention that another site lifted the term "Trout Land" from my site. This is understandable since this site is extremely popular and that one is, well....... Anyway, it's not the first time this has happened and it will not be the last. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery!!!


Monday, May 22, 2017

Wild???,The Wonderful Snowshoe Hare And The EB

“There are people in my life who sometimes worry about me when I go off into the fields and streams, not realizing that the country is a calm, gracious, forgiving place and that the real dangers are found in the civilization you have to pass through to get there." John Gierach


I've been getting a lot of buzz lately from what appears to be some very extreme reports of NATIVE TROUT being caught. Now, I'm not talking about the brookies in the Swift or brookies in tucked away rills out in the foothills but in heavily stocked rivers.

First off, there are reports of catches of native brookies in the EB. This is right after the DFW stocked the river with BROOK TROUT. I've heard of NO brook trout caught in the EB prior to last weeks' stocking.

                                                                                             NOT SO NATIVE BROOKIE
Native Reproducing trout are a rarity for that river.

The same wild tales of native browns are coming out of the Farmington River in Connecticut. It lead one popular site to state that just because your brown doesn't have a clipped adipose fin and/or an elastomer tag DOESN'T mean it's native because the State threw in 10,000 tagged fish AND 30,000 untagged fish. Your beautiful untagged brown most likely was not born in the river but born in a tiny hatchery box.

Don't spread rumors about native trout. That will only lead the "enemy" to say we don't need habitat protection because the natives are doing fine!!

SNOWSHOE HARE - There may not be another buoyant dry fly material better than this and that includes deer hare and good old CDC. It's MADE to shed moisture, is unbelievably rugged and can be worked down to the tiny sizes (I saw Dan Trella of Swift River fame tie a size 30 (that's right) dry with this material. I don't go to that extreme but will work it into size 10 through 16 and feel good about the results.

The sad thing is that this material seems to be joined to the hip with the USUAL, a ghastly creation that looks more like dryer lint lathered onto a hook instead of something approaching a disciplined approach to fly tying. It works because snowshoe fur FLOATS.  We can do better.

My size 16 emerger works fine with a floss body, natural fur thorax (your choice but possum works great), snowshoe for the wing and a turn or two of dubbing behind the eye.

The Traditional Caddis wing of elk can be replaced with snowshoe especially in the smaller sizes AND can be colored with a sharpie to get the shade that you want without ruining its floating abilities.

I've even dyed the hares feet to get the shade that I'm looking for without killing the float!!

I love working with natural materials. They seem to work hand in hand with the art of fly tying and the art of presenting the fly.

The EB - Fish it now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, May 19, 2017

The EB!!!! It's Time

Finally, the trout are back in the EB in mass (they were there before but in small numbers) and the place will be swarming with fly fishers as it has been for over 30 years on this weekend before Memorial Day. Count on crowded weekends with another fly fishing group scheduled in 2 weeks piled on top of the usual weekend frolickers. Can you love a place to death???

I live 15 minutes from the EB which gives me the opportunity to work this river in the evenings which has always been prime time during the Spring and Summer. In the evenings the bathers and most of the casual fly fishermen have left and you have the place to yourself except for the occasional "local" who waves as he heads to his spot downstream.

Over the years this place has become a mecca for bathers, hikers, mountain bikers in addition to the fly fishers. I've seen the beach blankets spread out as far downstream as the gate. Yes, we have to share the EB but if you want to experience some solitude go from Monday through Thursday especially in the evenings.

We hit the bottom of the Gorge Wednesday night the day before the big stocking. We hooked a monster bow in some very heavy flow at the tail of the Gorge.  Fish this spot!! The river has been stocked above the Gorge and some trout have gone downstream and have found refuge in the deep sections of this area. Waders and stick retrieving dogs will be gone by early evening.  Then it is yours!!!


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Another Look At CDC, Our Rivers And Lost Stuff

For wet flies, a short leader on the order of seven feet will do nicely. Few, if any, wet-fly patterns are small enough to require overly delicate tippets, and given the savage nature of the strikes a short, heavier leader is highly advantageous". Thomas Ames Jr. in Hatch Guide For New England Streams                                                                                        
A short American history of CDC - CDC feathers have been used in Europe for a 100 years (except for the staid old Brits) but CDC didn't really knock on our door until the early 1980's. And with it came the usual well meaning hyperbole (nice way of saying bullshit) about its effectiveness.

1. The feather has natural preen oil infused which is why it floats so well
Answer - There is NO oil in these feather, preen oil or not. Dump any oil on this feather and it SINKS!. It's floating ability is due to the STRUCTURE of the feather. Each barb of this feather has dozens, maybe hundreds of other barbs that grab the surface tension to keep it on the surface.  It is amazing that this preen oil thing lasted for over 20 years and I still have folks claiming that it's the reason that it floats.

2. These feathers come from ducks and geese which the trout know are harmless to them and that's why they are so effective.
Answer - This takes the first prize for moon-bat logic. 100 years ago trout and salmon flies were tied with heron feathers and kingfisher feathers and god knows what other fish eating birds that had good feathers. Following this train of logic I wonder why my nymphs, tied with raw, untreated mink, were so effective when the trout should of been beaching themselves to get away from my humble offering.  Thankfully that train of logic derailed long ago!

Now for the rest of my post!

I was going through my supply of CDC feathers a few weeks ago and realized that I spend a lot of money on these feathers and I go through a LOT of them. They are the most expensive (legal) fly tying material that I have running easily into the hundreds of $$ per pound. I love them because they float so well and I have resisted the recent fad of using them on subsurface patterns because I'll need them for surface patterns. Now, I will tie in "feather fluff" (plumes of wispy material found on grouse, hen and God knows what else at the base of those feathers) to get another kind of "breathing" material that I want. I've covered that: you don't need CDC on a subsurface fly to get life like results. The question is: Can I get LOTS of CDC without going to the prepackaged stuff that equals the cost of cocaine? (editors note- sorry to offend anyone with a drug reference. CDC and cocaine costs way too much!)

Well, I decided to tie up some good old Hornbergs for this early season and pulled out my bag of mallard breast feathers which were once a major staple of any fly tyer (that barred feather is perfect). Most fly tiers under forty probably don't have them and wouldn't know what to do with them if they even had them outside of wing cases if that's even done anymore.

Lightening stuck when I pulled out a mallard breast feather from that bag of hundreds of feathers. THE BASE OF THE FEATHER,UNLIKE GROUSE AND HEN FEATHERS, WAS ALL CDC STRUCTURE which is made to float!! (a magnifying glass proved that and double clicking the above feather photo proves that). I cut some off, placed them across the hook, tied them down, secured them with a little dubbing, pulled them UP and then cut them to shape. Perfect! Instead of picking through a tiny bag for the right feather I had an  almost a pillow size bag of very useful mallard and all the CDC that I used to toss away.

The "feather base CDC" works great for posts or full wings and will do well subsurface which, given all of the other flowing, absorbent materials out there, would be a waste!

The Rivers - as of 10:30 am
Millers - 1390 CFS
Bears Den - 438 cfs
EB            - 2000 CFS
Ware        -  321 CFS
Swift        - 56 cfs
Mill River in Northampton - 908 cfs

The Ware and the Swift are fishable. The EB will be down to 400 by Wednesday. It was very fishable this weekend with a flow of approximately 400 but no fish to speak of.

Things will get better!!!!!

P.S. Check the comments section for lost items.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

A River Update, The EB And The Rain

"Most Fishermen use the double haul to throw their casting mistakes further" Lefty Kreh

Be careful what you wish for. We wanted the drought to end and it has and now the Millers has been roaring away for weeks..The fish are there and places like Orcutt and the bend at Kempfield can be waded with care but most places with this kind of flow are off limits except for the young and sturdy or the young and careless. I always felt that 400 cfs was the start of GOOD fly fishing on this river. We will have about 1.8 inches of rain over Saturday and Sunday and the Millers will spike again. Oh well!

The Ware just seems to be immune to monster flows and it's been fishing well. I was at Church Street and Gilbertville Center late Tuesday afternoon and did well with soft hackles from size 14 up through size 8 (that's right, size 8!!!). Lots of bugs and the occasional rising fish. This river will work well through May at least.

The Swift - lots of fish, lots of fishermen but working some fish gently rising in some calm, uncrowded spots with size 18 pheasant tails and the same size Grouse and Flash netted fish. I can't wait for the weeds to grow back down in Cady Lane!
The Eb - Here's the question. Why do we have to wait for the longest c&r section in the State to get stocked for the TU weekend before we can have trout to fish over? The EB gets stocked ALWAYS on the third week in May just BEFORE  the TU camping weekend while the REST of us have to wait for OUR trout through most of May on this river. I thought that ended last year when the lower Gorge had plenty of trout in EARLY MAY but I guess I was wrong. Now we are back to the same old routine and the EB, as of Friday, was at a very fishable level. This is not the playground of TU. It belongs to all of us.

Fish some small streams too. It's the perfect time.


Monday, May 8, 2017

This Past Weekend, This Week, A Better Bugger Revisited And Lost Stuff

"Give me a brace of flies on the Big River on the second week in May and you can have the rest of the world. I won't need it" Unnamed Angler on the Beaverkill in the Catskills circa 1930's

Rain has a tendency to knock down fly hatches but I knew that the Ephemerella Genus would be trying to find a reason to be active so on went a Hendrickson style soft hackle in a size 12 which resulted in hook ups and a good brookie. Next I pushed the bar a bit and threw on a size 8 soft hackle in stonefly colors with more hits and two more trout (bows).

The rain began to win the battle when I threw on a short shank marabou streamer and made a short high stick upstream presentation which resulted in a vicious strike and a major upstream run followed by a downstream reel screaming run downstream. Finally the 20+ inch bow was in the net and quickly released.

And then It poured!!!

This week's weather may not be as bad as it looks. It's true that we will not have sunny days until around May 17 (that's right) but the rainfall for this week in central New England will be on the order of a 1/4 inch through Friday. That will allow these rivers to come down. If you can make it out this week then do it.

Please check the comments section of my previous post if you found a fly box in the Bears Den or a rod and reel on the Swift. The owners are waiting!!

One year ago, May 9th to be exact, I wrote about a reduced bugger in which I threw out all the heavy chenille and dense hackles and reduced this fly to it's basic elements. A friend said that it looked like a real insect. The fly is also tied on size 10 and 12 streamer hooks with or without weight and the unweighted version is something you want when the damsel flies are hatching.

Sunday morning on the Swift saw some at the Pipe fishing over lots of fish and catching some. We went upstream and caught a brown that showed itself with a subtle rise. No need to rush that placid section below the gauge.  We got it on a  #18 pheasant tail after slowly working downstream.  Next we were at the tree pool when we saw some two soft rises and then took one on a deftly drifted #18 grouse and flash.  Again, the bow took sooooo gently as the SH rose in the current imitating an emerging mayfly.  Two good trout under spooky conditions.  My client earned his stripes!!!

Stiil have some June evening 3 hour trips!!!


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Millers Browns, The Rain, This Weekend, Lost Stuff And June Guiding

Two wrongs do not make a right but three do!  Groucho Marx

Please read the comments section regarding lost and found equipment!
First off, this Friday (tomorrow) will be the 15th straight year that the Millers TU Chapter has worked with the MA DFW to scatter browns throughout the two C&R sections. The first stocking will start at the Holtshire Bridge section (known as the Orcutt Pool to the newbies) and then work down to Wendell Depot.

By 12:30 the crew will will be at Pete & Henry's in South Royalston and then hit Gulf Rd by the Rezendes property afterwards. Any volunteers will be welcome. This is a rain or shine/come hell or high water event.

What a segue!! Yes, we are going to get close to 2 inches of rain which may put the Millers on injured reserve and put the EB on a 3 day disabled list. All is not lost. Our medium streams, with their smaller watersheds, may actually fish better this weekend and certainly well next week. The "EB" rises like a rocket but drops like a rock and could be fishable by Sunday afternoon. The Ware seems to take some body blows by the weather without flooding out. Just take a look at the stocking report by the MA DFW, find a local stream and try it out.

Heavy flies, sinking tips and full sinking lines will be in order for the Millers and the larger rivers. Even the smaller rivers will require weight during high water. It's funny but decades ago, when the season OPENED on the 3rd Saturday in April, we ALL fished full sinking lines on places like the Squannacook to deal with heavy Spring flows. If you fished a floating line you went fishless, a sinking line meant you caught trout and I will tell you that we CAUGHT TROUT and the wooley bugger hadn't been invented yet!

Just about every place has fish by now. No excuses!!!!

Funny thing at the Swift on Wednesday evening. I'm giving a fly fishing lesson on an EMPTY Pipe Run and an empty Tree Pool. It was empty from 4pm through 7pm even though the place was full of trout that stacked up behind the schools of white suckers that are on their annual spawning run. Even the Y Pool parking lot had only two vehicles at 3:30 in the afternoon. Very Strange!

I am filling up my available days and time slots for guiding in June. Don't get left out. A simple email can get you on the river.

Go Fish!


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Lady Beaverkill Soft Hackle And The First On A Dry

You couldn't miss them. Thousands of female Hendricksons bouncing in clouds over the Ware River in the late afternoon light. Are you sure they're females? one may ask. It's an easy ID because of the egg sack that every last one had. A bright yellow ball was attached to the back end of each one and thetrout could see it too.

The life cycle is pretty straight forward: the Hendricksons hatch and head for streamside cover to molt into their mating stage. The females gather together over the river and wait for the males. All mate and then die and fall into the river. Many times the egg sack goes down with the ship and is an easy target for the trout. A Soft Hackle (of course) works fine.

Hook - standard dry fly size 14-16
tag end - small yellow ball of dubbing
body - Grey dubbing is standard but I've been moving towards olive floss
Thorax - sparse grey or olive dubbing
hackle - sparse partridge

Cast up and across to sipping fish and then let it swing down below you.

There's nothing better to see than someone getting his first trout on a dry. A fish was steadily working a far bank and we had to get downstream to get into better position. Hendricksons were in the air so my cdc emerger went on and on the second flawless cast the foot long brookie made it's play.

CDC emergers are taking over my fly box and for a good reason. They float like a cork, are dirt simple to tie and can be fished either dry or wet. Click on the photo for a better look.

The rivers are coming down but may soon come up again. Stay tuned....