We piled the family into the car and headed towards Western MA, trying to take advantage of one of the few nice fall days this season. We were hoping for a picnic, some leaf peeping, and some apple picking. Of course, implicit in my agreement was the fact that we’d pack the fly rods, so that I could use some local knowledge to guide us into a picnic spot on a scenic cold water stream.
Ninety minutes later we were well into the dangerous territory where each family member is getting hangry. The kids don’t want to be in the car any longer, and the adults are worn out by the repetitive questions lobbed from the back seat.
Finally, I called out the last turn and looked up from the Massachusetts Gazetteer map. By the time we stretched and grabbed the cooler, my son had two fly rods out and was scoping the water. The flow was up, the water was crystal clear, and the small waterfalls were beautiful. Tensions eased.
My son was checking with me about fly selection (perhaps the last remaining thing he values my advice upon these days?), and the rest of us started picking out a spot to sit and eat. I advised a weighted fly for the deep pool at the base of a small waterfall. He picked out a small gaudy streamer he created with a bead head and three strips of gold tinsel tied in at the neck like a cape.
He refused food and started casting at the nearest pool while the rest of us started digging for sandwiches. One of the things I factored into this lunch spot was that the last time we were here in June, we did not see a fish. I thought we would get some peace eating our lunch, let the kids flog the water, and fish in earnest at another spot.
I got up, telling my son, “Give me one cast to show you how to mend the line to get that fly to sink into that deep hole….” Before the word “hole” was finished, we watched in shock as the line came tight and a fish went more than two feet straight in the air! “Take the rod” I said, thrusting it back to him as the fish was already airborne again. The fish continued its acrobatic display, covering the entire pool and delighting the entire family. My son managed to steer the still leaping fish towards me, and we celebrated when it hit the net.
This fish was not done with surprises. I was pretty startled to see that it looked like it might be a wild rainbow pushing 12 inches! I have sought out and caught a few little wild rainbows in Massachusetts. I have always been impressed by their beauty, but never their size. My previous largest topped out at a modest eight or so inches. Further, I had caught a handful of wild rainbows in this watershed, but it was miles downstream near the Deerfield River.
It is pretty tough to be certain if a particular fish is wild or not. The fight this fish put up was a good indication of it being wild, but more than that was the appearance. It was very light in color, a silvery blue on top with few dark black spots. It had many striking, dime-sized purple circles, with very little pink along the side. There was a dark purple mark on the cheek. The fins were pristine and the anal fins had a strong white leading edge. Basically, it looked like a grown up version of the little guys I sometimes see.
However, context is often just as important when guessing as to the origins of a fish. This is a small unnamed tributary that I do not believe receives any stocked fish (we know it didn’t get any this spring). My son provided more information a few minutes later when he pulled out another, smaller fish from a pothole pool created by a waterfall.
I was expecting a brook trout, but low and behold it was another striking ‘bow! Smaller, at seven inches or so, but with similar purple hues abounding. The kids fished the rest of the area after lunch, and we didn’t see another fish. These two fish simply would not settle down so my pictures are pretty lacking, unfortunately.
By family rule, now that the fly has caught a fish, it is time to give it a name. After much debate it has been christened “Wynn’s Gold Bug.” The one used above was a streamer style, tied on a Mustad 9672 size 10 streamer hook. After the bead head, a wing made of four strands of medium-gold mylar tinsel covers a body of black Orvis Hare’ E Ice Dubing.
He’s also tied a nymph version that has yet to see the water but looks like a cool flashy variation of a prince nymph. Both are easy to tie, and the black ice dub looks a lot like peacock herl. If anyone gives them a try, let us know how they do!
There are a few pretty, little wild rainbow trout out there in MA, and I am always impressed at their appearance. They are typically not easy to find, not very dense, and live in places that you really have to work to get into for one or two small fish. We found that, on a day when the expectations are low, they can downright blow you out of the water!