Back to Basics, Part 2

Today, I decided to continue last week’s “back to basics” theme and headed for…the Swift River (our free river guide here).

As you may recall, I started fly fishing more regularly in 2014 and fished the Swift to cut my teeth. After learning both indicator nymphing and “dries or die,” I eventually succumbed, like some do, to Swift River Burn Out and started heading elsewhere, where I could find bigger wild fish.

But, with a dinner tonight, I didn’t have the usual schedule flexibility and thought the Swift would be a great option and, also, let me reminisce about my rookie days. Many people have helped me progress along in my fly-fishing journey, and I’m very grateful to them.

Last, I wanted to see if the flies that, years ago, reliably produced would still work today.

I arrived at the Y Pool (a prior post on “lessons learned” here) extremely early. It was beautiful and foggy.

I doggedly stuck to my wet-fly game (am not a personal fan of bobbers), even though it was 36 °F and there were no bugs. I spied some fish lined up near a trench and positioned myself above them. At the Swift, I think less is more, and so, I opted for a single-fly approach.

After many casts and some fly changes, a big fish splashed, my rod bent, and a large rainbow took off and jumped. After a bit of drama on the fish’s part, a beautiful rainbow showed itself. It took a size 22 CDC soft hackle, one of my go-to flies at all rivers.

I was quickly shoe-horned into one lane, as more and more anglers showed up. So, once the wet-fly approach stopped working, I reluctantly put on a bobber and floated small flies. Thankfully, that soon ended when I spotted a few rises and quickly switched to dries, pricking some fish and landing others with a size 30 Midge Emerger on the totally kick-ass Gamakatsu “Big Eye” C12-BM hook.

After that, I put on a poly-leader and chucked streamers, just for kicks. After a drought, I decided to “naked nymph”: one fly, no weight, and no bobber. I took a few fish, including some brookies and a big brown trout that taped at 17″. That was The Fish of The Day. It fought hard and dove for the weeds repeatedly.

Once the action died down, I decided to head down to The Pipe Area (our free guide here). I’m not sure what the hatchery was releasing, but it smelled quite a bit on occasion. Some of the hatchery folks call that area “The Toilet Bowl.” I think they’re on to something!

The midge pupae and larvae patterns that worked well a few years ago continued to work well today, and I saw quite a few good-sized rainbows. Then, I reeled up to start to head home.

At the dirt parking lot, I ran into some first-time Swift anglers from Albany, NY, who were really nice and asked for advice.  I gave them some of my go-to flies, and we chatted a bit about steelhead fishing, of which they do a great deal. It was nice to meet such thoughtful and polite folks.

I gunned it home to shower, eat a 4:30 pm lunch (I hadn’t planned on staying so long, but the fishing was good), and ready for a dinner gathering.

It was a fun “back to basics” outing. There are much better fisheries elsewhere, IMO, but it was nice to go back to the Swift. I also crossed paths with two of the “regulars,” too, Bill R. and Dan Trela. It was great to see them.

I hope you’re all having a great weekend….


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14 thoughts on “Back to Basics, Part 2

  1. Thanks for that story. Size 30 Big Eye or not sounds challenging. I’m moving to the Boston area in a few months and look forward to exploring the trout fishing.

  2. Sounds like a good day. My most recent trip to the Swift I hooked a massive Trout that I had
    on for close to five minutes. The story doesn’t end well but it was a blast while it lasted.

    1. I can’t imagine what a 10 pounder would feel like on a fly. Congrats on hooking that beast. On Columbus Day afternoon I hooked something that I never saw, it didn’t panic, just kept digging down in this deep hole I was drifting a small streamer in. All I know is I could not turn that fish to gain control. After a few minutes and the trout sulking on the bottom, the barbless hook finally let go, possibly rubbed off on the bottom by whatever that fish was.

      1. Wow! That happened to me one time at the Farmington. A deep and quiet hole. Something very heavy that chugged along. In retrospect, I wonder if it was a snapping turtle.

        1. Maybe Jo, but I don’t think so. I did see a flash from a fish at one point, but it never got high enough in the water column for me to identify what it was. That fish never got more than 20′ away from me, just kept digging deep.

  3. This was a great write up, I’ve been staying away from the Swift, but I’m glad to hear good news about it! Love the morning picture too.

    Could you lay out for me how you fish the naked nymph set up? Close by, far out, what kind of water you throw to, how you present it? I haven’t fished nymphs this way but I would like to.

    1. Andrew, I’m not an expert, but here’s what I do for this technique at the Swift:

      • I target slow water at which I can spot the trout.
      • Set up: one fly, no bobber, no or minimal weight. I want no splashes.
      • Find an active fish. Slowly wade below it and slowly creep up towards it. When I’m in casting distance, I throw the fly above the fish and to the side. Often, it’s a bow-and-arrow cast.
      • I wait for the fish to slide over and take the fly. As Ed Engle told me: the best strike indicator is the fish itself. Once I think the fish has taken the fly, I strip-set.

      I’ve done this technique both with my #4 and regular fly line, as well as with my #2 Euronymphing rod and an all-mono rig (you grease the sighter to “float the sighter”). Definitely not an easy technique. You usually have only one shot at the fish. But, it’s fun to stalk and sight-cast to a trout!

      1. The stretch above route 9 is fairly conducive to naked nymphing as there are long flat expanses with fairly even current. With a proper calm and collected approach, you can approach the fish pretty closely as they are used to people at the Swift. Bear in mind that they will get lock jaw or slide away if you aren’t careful. Present a fly as Jo said and wait for the take. The fish will slide over to take a fly and you will often see the white of the mouth before your sighter or leader registers anything. Happy hunting! There is nothing quite like it, I’ve found.

        1. Great comment, Ashu.

          Agreed that above Route 9 are many good spots for “naked nymphing.”

          When I was just starting out, I used to throw a lot of NZ indicators or dry-droppers at those stretches. I was amazed that I could see a fish take a fly, but that neither the dropper or indicator moved or paused. The fish were that stealthy, in most cases. IMO, Ed Engle was right: the best indicator is the fish itself!

          1. Thanks Jo, thanks Ashu. These are great responses, I’m heading out to central MA tomorrow morning, I’ll be sure to try out this method for myself, now the question of if I can see the fish!

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