First Time at the Deerfield

I’m tired. But, in a good way.

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.

So, I only went two-for-three today. But, it was new water for me. And, I made some new friends (thanks for letting me hang with you, Alex, Tom and Richie) and gave away some flies.

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.


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18 thoughts on “First Time at the Deerfield

  1. Congrats, Jo, on a fine day on the Deerfield that saw you connect with beautiful rainbows. The Yuengling Lager at day’s end was a deserved reward.

    I am figuring on throwing some flies this afternoon, taking advantage of the mild temps. I can’t quite decide where to go being I would like to avoid the crowds surely to be at the Upper Swift. Maybe the lower Swift, though the water is always colder there this time of year.

    Regards, Sam

    1. Also, Sam, I am not fishing the Swift much these days, and so, have a bunch of flies just sitting around. Email me your mailing address and whether you prefer dries or nymphs or both, and I’ll send some to you. No joke.

  2. I’ve been wanting to go there and it really intimidates me. I thought of maybe heading up there today or tomorrow. Is there any section i should avoid right now? I was thinking of going to the zoar area.

    1. I don’t know the river well enough to suggest spots, unfortunately. There was a lot ice around, though, and so mind your steps as I slipped once but thankfully didn’t fall into the water. The fishing will likely be slow. I think closer to the dam will be where the “warmest” water will be IMO. Good luck!

      1. Can I ask which dam you fished below? I’m just trying to get a general idea of which dam to check the flows for. Or is it the same release at all the dams?

        1. Hi Joe, I promised the guys I wouldn’t blog about the spots. I hope you understand. We did fish areas that are publicly accessible. And, they were areas that I had already tagged via Google Maps and after doing some Internet queries.

          So, if you have time, I suggest you do a quick online search or call a local fly shop?

          I hope you have a great outing.

            1. Joe, I fished the Deerfield twice in the Fall. Although I don’t have much winter fly fishing experience, I can say that Jo is right, there is a lot of access. The best piece of advice I’ve gotten about that river is to pull over and fish good looking water. It’s worked for me. Like any other river, the further you walk, the better the fishing will be. There are wild fish in that river and they ply the water least fished. The Deerfield Fly Shop ( is great resource for this river. Honestly, the amount of good water on that river is unbelievable and you’ll go crazy trying to pick a spot!

              1. That’s great advice for Joe.

                I will be sure to follow it next time I’m out there. May not be for a while given the weather forecast, my weekend schedules, and the long drives required. But, wow, what a river.

                So glad you got out there twice.

            2. Thanks for understanding.

              I have a policy that if someone shows me a secret fly or a spot on a river, I won’t share with others, whether verbal or on the blog. I figure it is that person’s prerogative to share with whomever they want.

              But, I am very willing to share what flies work for me and convenient access points that I’ve found by myself or by doing some research.

              1. Thanks for the info guys that’s actually very helpful. I’m still fairly new to the area so I’m not sure where there is access. The advice given is great thank you

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