Millers, Swift, Ware And EB Fly Fishing Forum! Welcome To Trout Land And My Guide Service!
Guided Fly Fishing On The Millers, Swift, Middle, West and East Branches Of the Westfield River and the Ware, North and Mill rivers. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 978-790-4320. YOUR BEST SOURCE FOR MA. FLY FISHING INFORMATION, the top ranked fly fishing blog in Massachusetts! WHAT FLY FISHERS READ!!
Flyfishing is solitary, contemplative, misanthropic, scientific in some hands, poetic in others, and laced with conflicting aesthetic considerations. It,s not even clear if catching fish is actually the point! - John Gierach
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 few yearsthe 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......... Ken
For the moment at least, we fall into that class of fishermen who fancy themselves to be poet/philosophers, and from that vantage point we manage to pull off one of the neatest tricks in all of sport:: the fewer fish we catch the more superior we feel. - John Gierach
You really can't seem to mess this fly up. The January/February issue of Eastern Fly Fishing Magazine, which includes a great write up on the Swift River, includes a version of this fly (their version is a bit too chunky for me). It's small (22 to 28) and represents all the tiny stuff. Micro tails, olive body (I've used black) and cdc for the wing will do it. I prefer snowshoe but practice with the stuff before you throw out your cdc. It can be difficult to work with.
Fall is a prime time for this fly on the Swift as are all small flies.
And another small Autumn fly is the micro egg. Imagine a spawning bed loaded with brookies and also loaded with rainbows ready to snatch up those stray eggs. Now, those brookie eggs are not the size of marbles but are the size of, well, trout eggs. So why use larger versions? Size 16 and 18 work great. Place them about 6 inches below a micro shot and get ready to drift. No need to fish them under an indicator either.
My favorite "Egg" spot is the section from the Gauge downstream to just above the old pump house.
This may be my favorite summertime food - Grilled anything!!! But pork chops seemed to lead the way this year. Reduce some orange juice and paint some thick, bone in chops with it and douse them with black pepper and some crushed up rosemary. Throw on the grill with some smokey wood on the side. (I don't bother with bagged wood chips but instead walk the back yard for maple twigs/branches that really do the trick.
I can hardly wait to "heat up the kitchen" with some oven aromas from some autumnal recipes that I've got. I tried it 2 weeks ago with the temperature about 85 = not a good idea.
Can We Have Some Rain, Please???
So the Weather Lady on NECN stated, on Monday, that we may not get ANY rain until Monday the 23rd. The Fall stocking season starts on the last week of September so we are cutting it close on the freestones. With the exception of last year this has been the case for the past 4 or 5 years - low Fall flows.
You're supposed to go through a series of transitions. At first you just want a fish, and since this is a complicated sport requiring some skill, landing the first one isn't always a snap. Once you're past that, you'll want lots of fish, then big ones, and then you'll want something like the difficult or the interesting or the beautiful fish, or maybe the fish that swim on the other side of the world.
Finally, you're supposed to see that the goal of wanting is to STOP wanting altogether, so you just go to the water out of curiosity and gratefully take whatever it gives you. John Gierach
As I've told many clients over the years I if couldn't fish I'd still tie flies. It's creative as is sculpture and painting and it's therapeutic as was Ganhdi and his spinning wheel.
One gets a real sense of satisfaction in creating something that fools a trout!!
There is only one time in the last 40 years where I purchased trout flies and that was on the Farmington two summers ago when I left my box of freshly minted Needhami's at home and I JUST HAD TO FISH THEM. That necessitated a quick trip to UpCountry to fill that hole!!!
Late Season Hatches The nymph shown above is an Isonychia and it is very common on many of our pocket water rivers. This fly will hatch throughout the Summer but it appears to like that late August through September season.
And it's a weird one because it likes to act like a stonefly by crawling up on exposed rocks and hatching mainly under the cover of darkness. Thomas Ames has seen these critters hatching at noon in the Fall but I haven't. The photo below shows the spent casings for this fly.
Your standard size 14 pheasant tail nymph will do the trick. Also be aware that this nymph is a quick swimmer with short, darting moves. Also be aware that there is no logical reason why trout will rise to a Isonychia dry but they do. I've seen it on the Millers - size 14 grey sailboats just barely visible at dark. A traditional Adams will work here.
We still have the general misconception out there that Fall is the time for tiny flies. It is if you frequent tailwaters but that's not the case with freestones. The biggest stoneflies of the year are on the EB in September and October.
Buy Some Flies
Need some soft hackles for this Fall? Look no further. I have what you need for the Swift and the other rivers that I write about.
It wasn't always like this. We had some outsized browns years ago but not like today. A 21 lb brown (there are many in the 5 to 10lb range also) isn't an accident but the result of the stars being aligned just so. That alignment involves a stable cold water environment (thank you Quabbin) and an ample food supply in the form of a gazillion brook trout.
That ample food supply grows big brown trout quickly and they are fat, healthy fish. (Have you noticed that many photos of Farmington browns show a bunch of skinny, eel-like fish while Swift browns look like weight lifters?)
A BIG Swift Brown
You will begin to see more of these giants as we get into October. They will follow the brookie spawning run upstream picking off as many as they can. Two years ago I was about 20 yards downstream from the gauge watching a pod of brookies when a monster brown charged through the pack. I knew he wasn't interested in my #16 partridge and orange but wanted real calories. I think I may have a good brookie imitation worked up and ready to go but that's for the next post!!
I'm starting to book up for October and November. The Millers, Swift, EB and the Ware can be yours at the best time of the year. Because the days are already shorter my evening trips will go from 4 to 7pm instead of the summertime 5 to 8 schedule.
"When I die I want to come back as a Montana fly fishing guide" - Jane Fonda
(The above quote would keep me from going back to Montana)
Much of my instruction time is devoted to explaining and demonstrating dry fly strategy. There are those in this sport who have turned dry fly fishing into a form of rocket science which it shouldn't be. Let's examine the basics:
1. We either cast a dry fly to a rising fish or to a spot where we believe a trout may be. Let's concern ourselves with that rising trout.
2. It is a rare occasion where we see a steady parade of newly hatched mayfly duns floating down a river and being picked off by a trout. Most of the rises that we see are rises to the emerging insect that is in or just under the surface film. That is why comparaduns (my favorite dry fly pattern) and parachutes do so well. The body is in the surface film looking just like an emerging insect. That is why the two above tying styles have somewhat replaced the classic hackled dry fly. More on that later.
3. Always try to position yourself downstream from a rising fish or a place that you want to cast to when fishing a dry. Imagine a large clock surface and a trout steadily rising at the 12 o'clock position. You want to be below him at the 4 or 8 o'clock position. Why not 6 o'clock? Actually that's the worst place to be. Your leader or your line will land on top of him. At the 4 or 8 position only the tippet will be in play.
4. Fishing a dry downstream or down and across will limit your presentation window because of leader drag. Remember, drag occurs when the leader is traveling faster than the fly. You avoid this with an upstream cast but there are times when you have to fish at a downward angle. This is where you lengthen your leader with extra tippet length and throw a Check Cast above the rise. A Check Cast is nothing more than suddenly stopping, or "checking" your fly in mid cast so the fly falls to the surface amid some loose, uncoiled leader. Your leader needs to be pretty straightened out for drag to set in. This will avoid it.
5. Manage your line when fishing upstream with a dry. The line is floating back to you and you must constantly strip in this slack or hook set will be impossible. Resist the urge to throw a mend into the line a second after it hits the water. You don't need the surface disturbance and you will sink your dry fly.
6. Forget nonsense like "parallel drag" or "diagonal drag". Drag is Drag and the remedy is the same.
7. 90% of your dry fly fishing will be done with size 14 through size 20 flies which means you will be using 5x and 6x tippet. Don't believe that you need 7x on a size 14 or 16 dry unless you like leader twist.
8. Hackled dries still have a home in riffles and pocket water where they float well and are visible.
In 2009 I fished the EB from Memorial Day through September with nothing but dries and I caught a lot of trout. It is my favorite style of fishing followed closely by the swing of a soft hackle. Both styles represent a stage of insect life and I believe is a higher stage of fly fishing. A Millers regular once described what we now call straight line nymphing as "bait fishing with artificial bait". To each his own.
12 Biggies??? That means one thing and that this month marks the 12th anniversary of this blog. It was September of 2007 when the first post hit the electronic streets, so to speak, and it's been going strong ever since. It, at first, was designed to showcase the Millers River but has now expanded to also cover the Westfield system, the Swift River and the Ware River among others. It spawned a lot of knockoffs over the years, most of which have sunk without a trace. Meanwhile, the blog and I have made it onto regional TV and national flyfishing publications. This blog has the combination of an extremely high page view count AND an extremely high number of READER COMMENTS. Without READER COMMENTS you are talking to yourself!!!!
How long will this continue? As long as it is fun to do I will continue. I can do another 12 years easy!!!
End of Summer????
I hate it when people refer to Labor Day as the end of Summer. If anything it's the zenith of Summer for all these reasons:
1. Daytime temperatures will be mostly in the 70's instead of the 80's or more.
2. Cooler days and nights mean cooler water and less evaporation.
3. Dusk comes earlier and for those who live for the evening hatch this is a bonus.
4. Water levels lend themselves to angling that requires more finesse and "trout hunting skills" than launching weighted springtime depth charges at freshly stocked trout. This is the time of year for light rods, L O N G leaders and small flies. (exception: hoppers, beetles and ants and the great stonefly and Isonchyia hatches on the EB). There's a lot of trout food out there but you have to be able to present it!!
In short, some of my BEST days on the Millers, Swift, EB and Ware Rivers have been in September. Last year the BWO action on the Swift was some of the best I've ever seen!!! So, get out and fish.
A Lost Rod Backcast to my previous post and you will see a comment by reader BobO on a rod that was left by Route 9. Just go to the Quabbin Park Ranger office. They have the rod.
What to do with all of the zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant that you've grown or have been gifted by generous neighbors? Add some garlic (lots of garlic), oregano, basil, salt and pepper and cook it all down to that great Italian vegetable stew - Ratatouille!!!! Make a lot of it, put it in freezer bags and use it in the Fall and Winter as the base for stews, sauces or all by itself.
Don't have a garden or farmer friends? Go to the store or a farm stand. They're giving it away.
Sometimes I add sausage to it or large chucks of a white fish such as cod and I've been known to throw in chicken.
I'll be doing some more of this before I hit the Millers tonight!!!
"If people don't occasionally walk away from you shaking their heads, you're doing something wrong" - John Gierach
Here's where we stand for the upcoming weekend on our rivers:
The Millers - 145 cfs as I write. I would think that it's still in a summer mode. I've had good reports of every good evening fishing and one doesn't have to wait until 9 pm for things to pick up. Darkness comes early now and 7:30 is perfect. It seems that the length of the river is loaded with grasshoppers (hint).
The EB - 58 CFS which is it's 70+ year average flow for this date. Look for good holding water.
This will be the last weekend of summer fun on this river as the swimmers and wading dogs will have their last fling (they seem to be gone after Labor Day. I would fish very early or from the late afternoon onward. We should be getting into the Isonychia season shortly so have some of those nymphs in about a size 14.
The Swift - There are brook trout everywhere on this river with many in the 8 to 12 inch class. They haven't started spawning yet as that is two months away so fish for them and keep an eye out for for the browns. My best in August was about 18 inches. I've seen bigger!!
Swinging A Fly The rod was a 7.5 foot bamboo loaded with a 3wt double taper. The leader stretched out to 10 to 12 feet with a business end of 5X. The fly was a partridge and olive and dressed sparsely. The cast was down and across using a gentle mend, letting that fly drift and rise in the current - the perfect imitation of an aquatic insect.
Euro nymphing fishing would never work here. The current isn't strong enough and there's too many weeds to foul a weighted nymph. (I'm not making this up. The Euro guys have told me this) This is a finesse game we play with soft hackles and it can pay off.
Cast across and down, mending the line as needed, and pay attention to the end of the drift as the SH rises in the current. The hit will not be subtle but more like vicious.
Sizes 14 through 18 make up the bulk of my soft hackles. I tie some up to size 8 that seem to work on the EB and an occasional size 20 although the tiny ones have that "squashed bug" look to them.
In theory any color combination should work as well as the next BUT the Partridge and Olive is my Summertime fly and the venerable Partridge and Orange will hold court this Fall.