Today was my first time at the Deerfield: five hours of driving, nine hours of fishing, high flows, water at 34 °F, and only a few willing trout on a very slow day for most.
It was so worth it.
A few nights ago, I decided that I would start to get to know the Deerfield. I did some research to find some fishy spots. It’s the last New England tailwater on my Bucket List.
Amazingly, the next day, Alex Bagdonas invited me to fish the Deerfield with some of his friends. Small world! Good karma from all the flies I’ve given away?
So, I tied up some new flies and prepped my gear. I didn’t know what to expect, and so, I loaded the car with multiple rods.
This morning, my alarm was set for 3:30 am. I was so pumped that I awoke naturally at 2:30 am and had time to kill. I think it really pays to fish new waters to keep fly fishing fresh and fun.
The drive over in the dark was calm and meditative. I was on the water before dawn, and Alex joined soon thereafter. It was fun to see him use his new switch rod.
I fished an indicator with my H2 #4. I spotted some water that reminded me of some runs at the Farmington. They just looked fishy. I worked the water thoroughly. I kept adjusting the length between the indicator and the flies.
I switched to streamers. Then, to streamers with an indicator, dead drifting. My gut told me that there had to be fish there. It looked like an ideal wintering spot.
Still nothing. Hours passed. I kept rotating flies.
With nothing to lose, I went back to the car to get my Euro rod of choice, the Thomas and Thomas Contact. I thought my all-mono Euronymphing leader might let me reach the trout that were hunkered at the bottom.
I decided to pair a Euro-style Pat’s Legs with an egg fly. In winter, I like to throw flies that feature size and/or bright colors to encourage languid trout to move. With the water so cold, I wanted to give them a reason to exert energy. And, I wanted to drift the flies at a water column level where I felt the trout might be.
Within a few casts, about 12′ down, a fish took the egg. It’s yet another reason why I love my Euronymphing rig: I can throw dries, chuck a streamer, fish an indicator, shortline nymphs Czech-style, fling from afar French-style, or, if needed, go deep.
The trout was beautiful, unlike some of the slightly scraggly Swift rainbows with their marred jaws. This rainbow had perfect fins and fought like a tank. There were no visible puncture wounds in its mouth.
I didn’t measure it, as I wanted to minimize handling in such cold air (when it’s below freezing, lifting a fish out of the water risks freezing its eyes and gills), but, I think it was about 15″. Even better, it had a distended stomach that was full. I’ve read that wild rainbows are at the Deerfield, and I hope this one was streamside born and bred.
Thank you, Mr. Rainbow. You made my day.
Soon, another fish was on. Unfortunately, that dropped after some seconds. I sharpened my hooks just in case.
After a while, I decided to move upstream. There was more beautiful water. With my feet cold, I decided to fish from the bank. The Deerfield has some cut banks that reminded me of Montana’s Upper Madison, which I fished during an epic week. With the water high, I thought some fish might be along the edge.
I walked slowly, crouching at times, and tightlined next to the bank. All this was new water for me, and I worked it thoroughly, anticipating fishy spots. It didn’t bother me that I wasn’t getting takes. The scenery was gorgeous, and I was the only angler in that area.
At one point, I slipped on a large boulder in a slow-motion cartoon-style way. I landed very hard on my elbow, but, thankfully, my rod didn’t snap and the nick on my reel was minor. I laughed out loud: fall, but, by all means, protect the gear. Also, you just have to laugh at the lengths by which fly fisherman go to fish. At least, I didn’t fall into the water.
(PSA: If you go, note that is a lot of ice along the banks. I had cleats, but, they weren’t enough, at times.)
A bit later, fortunately, I felt a tug. Fish on.
This rainbow also was amazingly beautiful, healthy and strong. It had a tinge of yellow that the photos just couldn’t capture. Lance Egan’s Red Dart worked again.
I wedged the net among some rocks and just gazed at the fish as it caught its breath. I admired its pink-tinged fins. Then, it was a tip of the net to give back its freedom.
Be well, Mr. Rainbow. Grow large and prosper. Thanks for the meet-up.
After, our group drove to a different spot and worked more water. At 4 pm, I had to bail and make the long drive back to the family, tired and grateful for a great day.
I was able to experience first-hand another beautiful tailwater that lets us all fish year-round. We truly live in an amazing country, and I’m grateful for all MassWildlife’s hard work.
I felt the trip was a success, which called for a stop at the local packy on the way home.
The Deerfield is impressive. It felt like a river out West with its massive width, wild fish and volume of water.
I always will love the Farmington and the Upper Connecticut in Pittsburg, NH. But, for 2018’s long-weekend fishing trips, I will prioritize the Deerfield and imagine that I’m back fishing in Montana.