This past weekend Doover2 and I decided to go fishing to see if we could scare up a few trout. Friday night, as we were texting back and forth about where we should go, we were all over the map. With my weakened medical condition, I was looking for something that wouldn’t require a lot of hiking or strenuous wading.
We also hoped for good fishing, but that was far from a certainty. We didn’t have much recent intel on how the rivers were fishing. We considered the Housatonic, the Farmington, the Deerfield, and the Millers. All had pros and cons. We finally settled on the East Branch of the Westfield (our guide here), in my opinion the most beautiful of all the Massachusetts rivers.
Considering all the rain that fell in Massachusetts Friday evening, on Saturday morning I was perplexed and disappointed by the USGS gauges that showed little to no bump in the flows of the rivers in western Mass. On the way to the river, we drove through substantial rain until it began to wane about the time we stopped at the Chicopee service plaza on Mass Pike.
Though Doover2 and I have been fishing together scores of times over the past 20 months since we were introduced to one another, because of the pandemic, this was only the second time we had actually shared the same vehicle. It’s amazing how quickly travel-time passes when you can actually talk to someone along the way.
When we arrived at Chesterfield Gorge, all the mud puddles were full, but the river was low and clear. Though I’ve probably fished it at least 20 times over the years, I’ve never fished it when it was this low.
One of the fundamental differences between Doover2 and myself is reflected in our educational backgrounds. I studied history; he studied science. I tend to fish in places where I know from past experience that the fish like to hangout. D2 wants to fish in places where he has never fished before. Doover2’s approach occasionally leads to some wonderful discoveries, but often results in a lot of wasted time and effort. As we are learning to be fishing buddies, our differences of approach have benefited both of us, but we have to negotiate every time we go fishing with lots of give-and-take.
But on Saturday, since we were driving in my vehicle and since I had the “medical condition” card to play, D2 didn’t get much of a say as to where we fished. If the gate were unlocked, he would have wanted to drive the whole six miles of transmission-scraping, front-end-misaligning, tow truck-begging, pot-holed, rutted, boulder-strewn dirt road. Both the chassis on my 16-year-old SUV and that on my old body are both better suited for history than science.
When we got to the spot I favored, we were a little unsure as to whether we should take our tightlining rods or our dry-dropper setups. Doover2 can fish all day carrying two rods so it didn’t surprise me when he started crossing the river with one rod in his hand and the other one tucked under his elbow. I followed suit, figuring that if I needed my other rod set-up, I wouldn’t want to expend the energy to come back to the vehicle to fetch it. But I found some nice, stream-side vegetation to lean my spare rod up against, not trusting myself to keep up with two rods while wading and fishing, having learned from experience that I can only keep up with one at a time.
I began with an olive Stimulator on top and a Perdigon dropper. The first run I fished was about two feet deep and flowed for about 10 yards before splitting to go around an ottoman-sized boulder. On about the fourth pass, a trout rose from in front of the boulder to my Stimulator and made a big splash. He did everything except take the fly with him when he left. On the next cast, a trout in the same spot made a swirl underwater. Hopeful that he was after my dropper, I set the hook, but alas….
After several more attempts, I changed my dry fly a couple of times. Meanwhile, a few pools upstream, I saw Doover2 fighting a fish and eventually granting it a long distance release. At least we were fishing in an area that had some feeding trout. History pays off! Not long afterwards, D2 brought a nice rainbow to the net on a soft hackle Pheasant Tail. After ascertaining this information, I switched to a SHPT too and hooked into a 16″ to 17” rainbow at the next pool down from where I had started.
I’ve watched lots of videos on how to land fish, and I’ve gotten better, but dang if everything didn’t go wrong on this one. He got below me, he got into some shallow water, he started swimming toward me, he got some slack. I was all twisted around like a pretzel. He spit the fly about the time I was reaching for my net. Despite all that, I had a smile on my face and a song in my heart. Man, that was fun.
Not long after that, it seemed like every time I’d look upstream to see how Doover2 was doing, he’d be netting a trout. For a while I just stayed in my run and switched flies, but eventually I went up to see what he had figured out. He had switched to his tightline rig and was catching them on Pat’s Rubber Legs and Perdigons. I switched out, but it didn’t do any good.
Earlier in the week, in anticipation of our trip, I had tied up some soft hackle Sulfurs. Even though we were seeing no bug activity, I decided to tie the Sulfur on below the dry fly I was using. I shoulda thought of this sooner. On the second cast, a rainbow rose from the bottom like a surfacing submarine and sipped the sulfur. Skunk avoided. A few casts later another rainbow did the same thing. A few casts later the Sulfur was about to breach a large boulder at the bottom of the pool and another trout took it. Literally. He took it and and the dry that was above it. Shoulda checked my knots.
I tied on another Sulfur, sans the dry, and caught another rainbow. I was once again amazed at how I can go from catching nothing in an apparently trout-forsaken stretch of water to catching multiple trout in the same location, just by switching to another color of rabbit fur.
About this time, there was trouble in River City. Doover2 had lost track of his second rod; he suspected that he dropped it from his elbow when he had tripped in the river. Thankfully, a quick search downstream yielded the truant rod. But by that time, I was pretty well spent and ready for a lunch break.
After lunch, we went to a different location, but it was similar in nature, having a series of pocket water and pools to fish. For my dry, I put on a much-too-big Parachute Madam X with the soft-hackle Sulfur below it. I started at the frothiest pool I’d fished all day. I fished below the froth, to the right of the froth, and to the left of it. Eventually I dropped the PMX into the middle of the froth where a trout made a bold move but must have thought better of it at the last second. The story of my life as a dry-fly fisherman.
Knowing that there was at least one feeding trout in the pool, I began switching my flies around to accommodate whatever its palate might prefer. I had a teasing tug at the tail of the pool and eventually found a serious taker on a size 16 Perdigon.
After that, with most of my energy spent, I found myself FWS (fishing while sitting) a good bit. Doover2 managed to fool another nice trout. His tally for the day was six, mine was four. About 2 pm, we got out of our gear and headed for home. We were both pleased that we’d been able to find some fish, long after the “easy” fish were gone.