Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Weekend Rivers, A Hornberg Redo And Fly Fishing Solitude

"I don't know about you, but I can get tired of fishing in a crowd, even when the fishing itself is real good.....I can even be sociable and have made some friends along trout rivers, but to me a large part of fly fishing is the quiet and solitude" - John Gierach, Fly Fishing Small Streams

This may be a decent weekend. Actually it could be downright great. A lot of the rivers are coming down and their temperatures are from 55-65 degrees. I'll be up on the West Branch of the Westfield (WB) Friday, on the EB Saturday and hopefully the Millers Sunday. I've got the WB on the brain and have actually dreamt about the place. More on that river later and yes, I guide there.

The Hornberg is a classic wet fly and a classic dry fly rolled into one.This version above is strictly a dry that I will probably pull under on a strip retrieve to entice a trout. It's construction is slightly different than the usual version:

Size 12 to 14 dry fly hook
yellow or green dubbing for the body
A bunch of CDC feathers tied along the back
One barred mallard breast feather tied flat along the back
grizzly hackle at the shoulder

This fly is a real riffle walker (hmm...that's a good fly name) and it can take a beating and just continue to float. This is a good caddis and stonefly imitation.

The reoccurring theme with most of the people that I guide is that they want to fish a river or section of river that is not crowded. I'm glad that I attract fly fishers like that. I think that if I "guided" them to the Pipe or the Y Pool or to Rezendez for the day they would be asking for their money back.
That's why I guide on six different rivers and visit multiple locations on each. They get to know their way around a river and they get the monies worth and catch trout! The weird thing is that some people have to go where everyone else is and that is probably due to some need to be seen like being seen at the hottest club in NYC. Can rubbing shoulders with celebrities and the best Manhattan hotties equal being around the fly fishing illuminati and big trout along the Farmington? Gierach says that he has met fly fishers who will only fish rivers that they have read about. I made my case.

We all love to catch nice trout and it's nice to see blogs that see something other than fish but the places where fish live. Small Stream Reflections, that great blog from Connecticut, will show you wild trout (beautiful) but will give you a glimpse of their world (beautiful) instead of a list of mug shots. I try to do the same with river scenery shots that will remind you of fly fishing on a mid January night quicker than fish porn. Note to self- take a photography course!

We are becoming more like golfers in our endless (and pointless) discussions over the merits of one piece of equipment over another. Really, what's the difference in a $400 road and a $700 rod besides hype and markup. One friend of mine, well known in the eastern Massachusetts fly fishing establishment, has said good-bye to the Swift because people there can't stop talking about equipment and technique. I said that's only because of the crowded conditions where he fishes on the Swift. "Find a lonely place and nobody will bug you". I hope he does but the truth is we have become obsessed with "stuff" to the delight of tackle manufactures and retailers. The endless pursuit of the best rod, the best reel, the best leader construction and so forth brings us back to the old saying: It's not the arrow, it's the archer!!!

Yes, I'll be guiding on the West Branch BUT will not be so open about locations. Hints will be dropped.


David h said...

Great read! I somehow manage to always read this blog 30 min after you post. Maybe cause I check it every hour haha you have any experience on the quaboag? Drove past and looked real fishy but couldn't stop

Parachute Adams said...

I love your approach to fly fishing, Ken, and how you write about it. I still use my old Fenwick and love it. If I don't catch trout that's on me. A better rod or reel isn't going to change it. A better tied fly might though, and that's on me too. Regards, Sam

Ashutosh Rao said...

Hey Ken,
Glad to see you are doing well! I was fishing the Souhegan today and I found a section of deep riffles where I caught a couple bows on swung streamers (the tug is the drug). You are absolutely right about escaping the crowd mentality. I worked upstream of a popular stocking site for quite a ways (until I was far enough in the woods where I could have fooled myself into thinking I was in the north country) and caught a few browns. The action wasn't lights out the further I got from the stocking sites but boy was it peaceful. I can thank mother nature for sending more rain our way; the fish are more spread out and the fishing has improved dramatically from last year.

Millers River Flyfisher said...

David H.

Glad that you read the blog. No Quabaug experience for me!


I still have my old Fenwick and it hasn't lost a step!!


We may have to struggle with high water for a while but in the long run it will be worth it. What streamer did you use??


hockey_dad said...

Ken- I read with interest your comments on the hornberg because if you spend any time in Pittsburg NH you are bound to hear this comment " have you tried a hornberg ? It is a go to fly up there and I am quite excited because l head up there for a week on 6-10.
I will be fishing the West Branch of the Westfield this weekend too and I expect 2 things: more fisherman and less water but to compensate I think there are a lot of fish out there and the conditions will be close to ideal.

Anonymous said...

Hornberg.... A fly that deserves more fishing time for sure! Lots of nice variations with those flat wings.

Brk Trt said...

Love the Hornberg...and it kills on certain stretches of the Farmington.

"Riffle Walker" love that name.....

Ashutosh Rao said...

I used a weighted cone head sculpin pattern. It was more designed for 6 wt line but the 5 wt handled it ok.

Josh S. said...

Is it just me or are they neglecting to sufficiently stock the EB...

They took great care of the middle branch and west branch and just hit the west branch again.

Whats going on, two years ago and years prior to that it was loaded up.

Jonathan Everett said...

Love the blog -

Fished the EB in two spots last weekend with a friend. Saw a half dozen fisherman around. Did have a couple guys crowd us a one point but we were in a popular area. Had a very good day, all Brookies and Bows, all taken on heavy Nymphs. Water was high but fishable. Saw two fish taken by others.

Any advice on Fishing a Hornberg? I rarely fish wets but when I have it's been up and across, fish like a dry, swing like a streamer and then retrieve. Did take a nice brookie doing this in Maine a few years ago so I guess that's how you fish one?

Does anyone ever fish that area between route 9 and route 143 above the gorge? Was thinking a day trip in a kayak might be a good time.

Jon from Oxford

JG said...

Ken, glad you mentioned photography. Grip 'n grin pictures are a dime a dozen. There's so much more going on than what's in the net. Perk Perkins of Orvis mentioned he carries binoculars on the river in this recent video

I like that your photos give us a sense of place, even if you're revealing a certain bridge on the West Branch of the Westfield. Last fall I was able to bury my drive to cast to rising fish and snap this photo (after landing a half dozen that day). It was as... or almost as rewarding as catching them.

Millers River Flyfisher said...


Ok, you got the brodge (haha)!That's ok because it's a beautiful spot and deserves a photo. Never had to share that spot either!


I fish the hornberg dry, wet and as a sunken nymph (sometimes with a bead).

The other spot, above Rt 143 is called the Pork Barrel. Good luck!

Josh S.

They stocked the place but only in certain sections. Some of my favorite spots seem dry. I will give a month to review before I give an opinion.

a 4 wt would of done the job too.

Brk Trt,

I love the classics!!! Glad that you like the name!!

Hockey Dad

Fished the WB today from 8 - 2 with a friend. About 15 caught between us, bows and browns among the eastern berkshires and on a great river!! Saw one other fly fisher. Same last weekend (Memorial Day Weekend). One or two other fly fishers. This place is not heavily fished and there are fish!!!!!
Let us know how you do in NH!!!


hockey_dad said...

Thanks for the report on the WB Ken l am headed out there this morning and have high expectations. I noticed the cfs have come down considerably from where they were last week: 496. When I am out here I will stop and get a few hornbergs and try them out since you were kind enough to remind me of that great fly. I will give a report on the fishing conditions at the headwaters of the Connecticut river as requested. Hope to get in to Boundary pond when I am up there;13 miles on a logging road but well worth it in my book.

lenny tamule said...

When you call the hornberg a "riffle walker" does that imply you are skating it across riffles from time to time?


Parachute Adams said...

Ken, good advice you gave to me recently on using a soft hackle when I saw sulphurs coming off paid off tonight. I tied on a yellow soft hackle and the fly drifted through the rise zone just below the surface. The takes were subtle and if one is not paying close attention, hard to detect. That very subtle movement at the end of the fly line, just a twitch really, resulted in a couple of very nice rainbows and several long distance releases. A few brookies got in on the action too!

Best Regards, Sam

tincup said...

hockey dad the boundary pond is really worth it always save a separate day for it. Stocked by choppers I believe with great amounts of natural reproduction. Make sure u bring lots of black ghost white whuff patterns and the old maple syrup I tie one with a yellow hackle tail and yellow grizzly collar. The old standby warden worry is also a must. Enjoy can't wait for the report .

Millers River Flyfisher said...


Soft hackles rule!!!!


Absolutely! I think that a big bivisible would do the same thing.


lenny tamule said...


Going to the East Outlet Tuesday and Wednesday, might give it a try!


David Powelstock said...

Beautiful colors on the rainbow!

Millers River Flyfisher said...


You will be in classic New England water. The LL salmon will be active!!


hockey_dad said...

Tincup- good to hear another reader of the blog has been in to Boundary Pond and had some luck and also appreciated the beauty and solitude of a truly unique spot on the Canadian border. Thanks for the fly suggestions and as I recall a grey ghost and black ghost worked well. Maple Syrup is a new one on me ! I will provide a report back and hope the Connecticut River has reasonable flows because I really like the stretch upstream from Lake Francis.