Report: the Westfield’s East Branch

(Note, there are four pictures above. Hover over the image and click the right arrow.)

Today was hard work.

With another rainstorm approaching, I decided to try to beat the rain and fish the Westfield’s East Branch. Water on the USGS gauges appeared high, but all this rain has made that river quite swollen on the days when I can do the long drives and fish it.

So, this seemed like a decent window. I went for it.

Plus, I don’t have a lot of experience with high water, and I thought this would be a good time to learn. I think perfect conditions for this river are quite rare, and my philosophy now is to fish when I am able, even during low-percentage situations.

Just after dawn, I drove down the Chesterfield Gorge’s dirt road, past the open barricade and parked quite south. I saw some of my favorite spots and saw that each was not that fish-able.

But, what a view. It is such a gorgeous river. And, I didn’t see any other cars.

I tried various anchor flies. After a lot of casting and wading, I finally had a take, but that fish popped off quickly. I fished down-river of some of my favorite runs, hoping the fish would be in the softer water.


So, I started to hunt for quiet seams along the banks. There was no bug activity, and so, I was fishing without a reference point.

Finally, I had a take and landed a 15″ rainbow that jumped a few times and made a lot of commotion. It took me down river, and I gingerly followed, trying all the while not to slip on the famously-slippery Westfield boulders.

When fishing high flows, it is pretty challenging to land a fish that jumps into the current and goes downstream. For me, side pressure, rather than holding the fly rod up, is the key. It worked again, but this fish fought very hard. Thankfully, all the knots held fast.

With the skunk off, I hit some more spots. I made a lot of casts, and takes were very few. I swung mini-Woolly Buggers, tightlined, and changed various anchor flies and droppers. I “even” fished the Mop. The water was a good 50 °F, and so, I was surprised that there was not more activity.

But, that’s the Westfield in my experience. It is a bit temperamental. But, she’s a beautiful gal, and it was nice to see her again. Bonus: I saw only one other angler all day.

Over eight hours, I went three-for-six. A Biot-Backed Stonefly and the Frenchie did all the damage. Nothing else worked.

I learned a lot today about where trout might be in high water. So, data for the future. And, I had decided to buy the Thomas and Thomas Contact nymphing rod, and it was a joy to fish it.


6 thoughts on “Report: the Westfield’s East Branch

  1. According to Ken Ulmer that stretch of the river hasn’t been stocked yet. You did well considering!

    1. That makes sense! No bumps at all at usually productive spots. It implies that not many fish survived the drought?

      Thanks for letting me know. My FOMO was pretty high yesterday, but, thankfully, the beauty of the area totally made it a great day. And, that 15″ ‘bow fought like a complete machine….

      1. It has been stocked, although not that recently (almost a month ago) so the fish are likely pretty spread out esp w the higher flows. It should get more fish in the upcoming weeks. I would imagine that the drought was pretty tough on the EB. I think even in normal years much of the mainstem becomes pretty marginal coldwater habitat by mid-late summer. There are a number of cold tributaries though that fish likely use as conditions deteriorate but last year even they may have become too low (and warm) to provide extensive refuge for mainstem fish…

        This is Adam btw (I’m not logged in on my phone!)

  2. Its amazing to see you managed a bow out of there this past outing! It must have washed down a ways or just survived the drought. From what I heard, last fall they put in a marginal stocking of small browns but that was it.

    1. Thanks! It was effort to go three-for-six over eight hours! I relished those three rainbows and was very grateful to see them in the net….

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