Swift River Otter

It is irrational, I know. A bit ago, the stars aligned, and I had a potential two-hour window on the water.

So, I went for it. YOLO.

I decided to fish the Swift River above Rt. 9. I’ve not been there in a while. I’ve put in many hours there, and so, it is a bit like an ex-girlfriend. Predictable, comforting, but boring. And, other waters feel new and so exciting!

So, I decided to mix it up and left behind my dry-fly sticks. I instead brought one of my Euro-nymphing rods, the Syndicate competition-style 10′ #2. I love fishing with it.

You see and feel every tick and bump, particularly, with an all-mono rig. Yet, the Syndicate has a very strong fighting butt that can subdue quickly good-sized fish. It has quite a following among competition anglers.

To further change the scenery, I decided to park at the Quabbin Visitor Center. It was a pleasant walk down, and an uphill walk on the return that was far easier than it initially looked.

The Quabbin looked amazing.

It was easy to avoid any redds, and the fish were surprisingly willing. I saw eight fish in short order at the Bubbler section. I hit the fast and the slow water. I threw dries, tightlined from afar, and “floated the sighter.”

Some of the sub-surface takes were extremely subtle, but, that’s where the Euro-style approach really shines. It is deadly with educated fish. The Euro rod tip is extremely sensitive, which both senses soft takes and bends like crazy when you set the hook and play the fish. This lets you use lighter tippet and horse in a fish quickly.

With brookie eggs in the water, I had a feeling it would be a sub-surface game. It really was. I had no takes when I threw dries. But, the trout were open to nymphs.

The nicest fish was a wounded warrior. Not sure what caused this scrape on its back, but I hope it will survive.

I then went to the Y-Pool. I saw only one fish and wondered why. Then, I saw an otter swimming around and hunting. Here is a video of it leisurely hanging out once it finished its afternoon laps.

That seemed like a good time to reel up and leave. So, a quick trip, and it was nice to be outside.

Best flies were a #16 Rainbow Warrior and a #18 soft hackle.

The latter has two details of note. First, I made it (that morning) with UTC 70 Denier Fluorescent Fire Orange. As a body for a soft hackle or a hot-spot on a nymph, that thread color has been extremely effective. I’ve tried different orange threads, and that one is my go-to.

Second, I used the Tiemco 2488. The hook’s 3x gape rocks. I pinch down all of my barbs, and I almost never have a fish drop off that hook. Plus, due to its short length, you can tie a fly on a #18 hook but have it look more like a #20 or #22.

Here is a shot of the soft hackle. Just thread, some extra-small copper wire for ribbing, a bit of Hungarian Partridge, and a black Sharpie to color the head. I made a second one with a sparser hackle. I didn’t use it, as this one was a fish catcher:

Tight lines for all until next time!


17 thoughts on “Swift River Otter

  1. I was at the Y pool late in the afternoon yesterday. I saw the otter also, pretty cool. At times it was so quiet I could hear him breathing when he surfaced. Egg patterns were the ticket for me yesterday.

    1. Mike, great you had continued success!

      Yes, that otter really isn’t shy. When the Y-Pool partially ices over, many of the Swift regulars think that otter just feasts on the fish. Some of them say they find quite a few fish carcasses along the shoreline.

      Well, that otter clearly is a better angler than I am!

  2. Thanks for the report. The p&o is my go to fly but seems to work better in black for me but I don’t know why.

    I am looking to get a nymph specific rod this winter. I primarily fish the swift because it is close and time. What rod would you recommend? I am not sure on length or weight but think I want something that is soft enough to fish 7 or 8x if needed.

    Thanks for any advice.

    1. Happy to help!

      Have never thrown a Partridge & Black, but, it makes sense. If everyone is throwing the orange, throw the black one.

      Also, I’ve gone through 10+ fly rods in my time and have a bit of a perspective.


      • What’s the most common way you fish the Swift? Dries, nymphing, streamers?
      • Are you looking for a general fly rod that isn’t good at Euro-nymphing, or a Euro-nymphing rod that is pretty good also at non-Euro stuff?
      • Do you want a rod tuned to throwing small dries on 7x and just using it mostly at the Swift, or do you want a rod that can travel to other waters, too?
      1. Euro-nymphing specific with a strong bias to the swift. Not sure between 10 and 11 feet or 2 or 3 weight. Have done some reading but some first hand knowledge about tippet protection would be awesome. Looking to fish light so want to choose a rod with a soft tip.

        1. I’d go for a 10′ #2, then.

          I tend to dry-fly the Swift but have Euro’d it about a dozen times. When I do, I bring my Syndicate 1002.

          The length is good for some the tighter spots you find at the Swift where the fish sometimes congregate. I’ve fished there my 11′, and that can be tough.

          Also, FWIW, I personally don’t think you need to fish 7x or 8x. When I fish the Swift with a #4 dry-fly rod, I use greased 6x mono, sometimes with a 6x fluoro terminal point. When I Euro the Swift, I use 6x or 6.5x fluorocarbon. I almost never have break-offs.

          I did for a long time fish a #000 with 7x/8x mono. It certainly worked well!

          But, too many good fish broke off. So, I started experimenting with various diameters of mono and fluoro (I have mono down to 8x and fluoro down to 10x fluoro–crazy, I know). I since have found that 6x is a good balance between stealth and strength. My 2 cents.

          Have fun going down The Fly Fishing Rabbit Hole! Feel free to post more questions any time.

          1. I have been down the rabbit hole for a while!
            Euro-nymphing is totally new though so appreciate the advice. After reading your reply I found a cheap 11 3 that I am going to try. Should be enough to get me started even though it may not be ideal.
            I normally fish 6x too but have seen situations where lighter is a definite advantage (remember the size 30 flies you posted?). However, I find the softer the tip the more fun catching is regardless of tippet strength.
            Thanks again.

  3. I watched that otter Wednesday morning 11/15/17 splash its way from high up the Spillway to the Y-Pool. It took at least 3 trout, with rests on the rocks in between. I’d be fishing the middle of the pool and suddenly there would be 20 or more trout in front of me, just jazzing around. Then I noticed the otter in the water. I caught a couple on #18 Vermont Caddis dry, and one brown trout on a #14 San Juan Worm in Claret. Then I waded downstream where the brookies were drawn to the Caddis and not at all shy. It’s interesting you hiked down the hill. Before 9/11, we could drive across the dam and down the access road to just above the pump house, park there, and step right into the Bubbler Brook. I miss that.

    1. Gary, so great to hear from you. You always do so well on the water!

      Yes, times be a changin’. It’s a nice walk down and up, and the view of Quabbin is really a good one.

      Hope we soon cross paths….

  4. Probably stating the obvious, but it looks like an otter bite on that fish. Sorry to hear there is an otter around… a few winters ago we had no fish on the Swift and I think the presence of an otter had something to do with it… the fish that weren’t eaten disappeared downriver. Hopefully we aren’t faced with the same issue this winter.

      1. I can’t really say for sure that the otter was the leading cause, but it was a pretty rare year not to have fishable numbers of fish in the Swift. I don’t think they stocked in the fall either that year, at least not above route 9, so that may have had something to do with it, but there were plenty of fish through January when I first started to see the otter, and then they suddenly disappeared (one weekend there were fish and the next they were almost all gone). I made the long haul to the Farmington a couple of times to shake off the cabin fever and ran into Swift River regulars each time.

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