Paying Dues at the Deerfield River

I’m staying up in Charlemont for an overnight trip at the Deerfield. I fished it for the first time a few weeks ago and decided to make the river a priority in 2018.

February fishing usually is hit-or-miss for me. But, why not get educated, I figure?

I’ve done similar due diligence at other rivers. It is both challenging and rewarding. I find that to really know a river, you have to find its nooks and crannies. You have to put in the time. Pay your dues.

And, when you find fish, it is exhilarating. You can find spots, lies, seams and indentations that will yield trout year after year.

I started with the usual strategy of surfing the Internet and using Google to find fishy spots. I then re-read parts of Tom Fuller’s book, which is a must-have for me. He provides a great overview of some Deerfield spots, which I tagged on Google Maps.

With the car loaded, I left Saturday.

The water was a cool 36 °F when I arrived in the afternoon. Spots A and B looked very fishy. I worked them thoroughly with all sorts of flies and techniques. I was blanked and was fine with that. I suspect those spots will fish very well when the water warms up.

I’ll be back.

Spot C had some gorgeous and bubbly water, with soft seams all around. Eventually, fishing small and light flies under an indicator worked. A good fish took a fly and pulled hard. Unfortunately, it dove for some structure and broke me off.

Soon, another fish was on. I saw a rainbow rise from the depths, shake its head a few times, and poof. There I stood, like a jilted lover.

At this point, the sun was setting, and I called it quits, thinking of dinner. That night, a good amount of snow fell.

The next morning, I was on the road early after a great breakfast at the Cold River Café. I was the first car at a pull-out. It felt a bit like being the first to ski a run after a night of fresh powder.

I worked a stretch that I knew had fish. I tried all sorts of flies. But, nothing worked. A local and expert angler also was getting blanked, which made me feel better!

The wind was really blowing, which made it challenging at times. The air temp was in the mid-30s, but, those gusts were very cold.

With nothing to lose, I fished another stretch. From the road, the water looked way too fast for winter fishing. But, it seemed like a good area to try for diligence purposes.

I worked the slower water and soft seams with everything I had. Nothing.

Eventually, I found a very deep back eddy. It is a cranny you see only when you’re upon it. This is the type of diligence I live for. You flog tons of unproductive water. Suddenly, like a mirage, something catches your eye. A spot-within-a-spot.

This area was surrounded by much turbulent water. But, in the middle, like the eye of a hurricane, was a piece of quiet and very dark water.

Two casts in, my sighter barely paused. I set the hook and felt a strong pull. The fish dove for the bottom, but, I put the wood to it. I didn’t want another break-off and hoped my knots were true.

I wouldn’t say the fish fought too hard (cold water), but, it was a valiant and stubborn fight. I was shocked when a good rainbow came up from the depths. The photos don’t do justice to its beauty.

The fish taped at 17″. The Euro Pat’s Legs was securely embedded in the upper jaw.

Suddenly, everything in the world seemed right and good again.

I remembered something a Deerfield local told me many years ago. Other New England rivers might have more fish, but, the Deerfield trout on average are larger. And, because the river isn’t as pressured and contains wild fish, the trout look healthier.

I let the fish rest in the net amidst some rocks and just left it alone. I decided to keep fishing and periodically looked at the ‘bow to make sure it was OK. It was.

And, then, a quick tip of the net, and she glided out. She disappeared again into the depths. What a beautiful and wistful sight.

I kept fishing, but, honestly, my heart wasn’t in it. The survival rate for landed fish is never 100%, and I was truly and deeply happy that I had caught such a good one. Sometimes, all it takes is one trout to make a February trip memorable. I really felt that I had earned it.

So, at 2 pm, with the wind really blowing and my feet cold after seven hours of non-stop fishing, I reeled up. My plans were to go to the motel room, drink something warm, write this post, make some flies, shower and go for another great dinner at Blue Rock.

All is well.

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16 thoughts on “Paying Dues at the Deerfield River

  1. I MISS fishing the Deerfield river, I grew up in the area and fished it for many years, a lot, days on end, could never get enough. I now live here in Ct. Keep saying I will get back up there. Even in the lower reach’s the fishing is great. ENJOY

  2. “Spot within a spot” – I had a similar experience at the Farmington on Saturday. Worked hard with nothing to show, covered a lot of water, and kept at it until I settled on a deep glide behind a massive boulder and stuck a big healthy rainbow very similar to your fish. In warmer water, it would have been a drag puller. Cheers, Jo.

  3. A great ‘bow! Good for you. As good as Tom Fuller’s book is, another book as reference is An Angler’s Guide to Trout Fishing in Massachusetts, published by the MA/RI Council of TU, that is, if you can find a copy. The specific river maps, all hand-penned, are more detailed than in the Fuller, though some info is out of date. The Angler’s Guide focusses on rivers and sections of rivers that are good for fly fishing. Just checked online and Bear’s Den (https://www.bearsden.com/product4286.html) has copies and maybe Amazon.

    1. Love that book and do have a copy. Bought it in 2000 before I started fly fishing, just to have it. Will check it out when I return, and thank you for the reminder.

  4. Hey great post. just an FYI, when I fished the Deerfield during the springtime in the past. Because I usually fish it in the early morning before the dam release. I stop at the cold river café on Rt 2 & 8A They have a 2 egg sandwich with cheese & loaded with choice of meat for $5.00 bucks, The thing is huge!!! I like to grab one to go prior, because 1) Its early I haven’t eat’n yet and I’m hungry 2) I grab it because I can eat it while I make the long drive up to the fife brook dam and not waste a lot of time.

    Maybe I’ll see you there this year 2018……….Phil

    1. Thanks! Was there for breakfast yesterday and love that spot. Would love to cross paths at the Deerfield. LMK when you’ll start going again.

      1. probably soon. I’ll send you a message prior to my thoughts of when. I live in Pittsfield Ma, so the Deerfield is a 1/2 hour to 45 mins away, so not much planning is needed. Enjoy.

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