Early Summer at the Quinapoxet

After 16 years of the same routine, it feels rather weird to not have to ask my parents for a ride any time I want to go somewhere. Negotiating a ride to a fishing spot – especially if that spot was over 20 minutes away – was always an awkward battle between not wasting too much of my parents’ time, and getting to go where I wanted. Then there was the issue of fishing time. If my parents couldn’t drop me off, then they sure as heck didn’t want to be waiting in a freezing or boiling car while I disappeared along a stream for six hours.

But now, with my newly acquired driver’s license, I have the freedom to fish where I want, when I want. Well, almost; the busy schedule of a high school student continues to reign me in, but at least I have the illusion of freedom.

So, what to do with all this newfound independence? Go fishing, of course! As my first “big” trip, I decided I’d venture to the Quinapoxet River in search of cool water and hungry fish. Lucky for me, I found both.

The only other times I’d fished the Quini, or at least attempted to, had been in the fall after trying the nearby Stillwater for salmon. Both times I had fished near the sediment dam through a torrent of stained floodwater. My fly would barely touch the water before being swept downstream in the raging currents. Not optimal fishing conditions, to say in the least.

When I arrived at my spot for the day, further upstream from the dam this time, I was pleasantly surprised to find the river looked much more like a small stream. The effects of the recent drought were obvious, with the river quite low and clear. Still, my water thermometer read 64 degrees, so I was content to fish it.

Never a bad idea to carry a water thermometer with you this time of year.

I began the day with a Chubby Chernobyl up top and a Hare’s Ear dropper. Each little pool or piece of pocket water I tried looked promising, and nearly every one held fish. Only trouble was, they were too small to fit the oversized Chubby in their mouths, and wouldn’t eat the Hare’s Ear dropper. At least there were plenty of fish!

As I made my way downstream, I ran into another angler who was more than happy to share his success. He claimed the hot pattern of the day was a rubber-legged stonefly nymph, which he was naked nymphing through the larger pools. Having caught a decent rainbow, a couple wild browns, and a bunch of native brookies, he said it was his best day on the river ever. A fish had even broken him off, a rare occurrence in a stream of this size. This report gave me faith in the water I was about to fish. However, it also concerned me that it might be a bit picked through.

As we talked, a monstrous golden stonefly flew from the bank of the river and onto a nearby tree. The insect confirmed that his choice of fly was a good one, and gave me some ideas for patterns I would try later.

After that encounter, the fishing got really tough. Admittedly, the water looked much better the further downstream I worked, but the fish simply weren’t where they should have been. Large boulders formed juicy-looking pocket water, yet I couldn’t get a strike on anything I tried. After cycling through dries, nymphs, wets, and streamers with only a colored-up common shiner to show for my efforts, I was frustrated and at a loss. My mind began to wander with the thought of going home trout-less. I even allowed myself to trip and fall, something I seldom do on the river.

When I finally turned around to start heading upstream again, I told myself it was a fresh start. I didn’t have much time remaining, but I would make it count.

About halfway through my return, I reached a slow, meandering pool. I took a second to analyze it, examining the currents and holding spots within it. With a golden stone stimulator tied on, I made my first cast into the pool, hoping for redemption. It didn’t take long before a fish lazily came up and took the offering. I half expected it to be a small brook trout, but when the line tightened, I could tell this was no six-inch native.

The trout dug hard into the deep pool, and I worried my 5x tippet may have been no match for his strength (don’t ask why I was using 5x tippet on a size 10 Stimulator). But eventually the fish surrendered, and a beautiful 15-inch rainbow glided into my net. From the bridge above the pool, a hiker called out, “Nice one!” I couldn’t have been happier.

Once the rainbow had been released, I got right back to fishing. On the next drift through the pool, another fish came up and took the Stimi. This one felt a bit smaller, yet still respectable. When it glided into my net, I was elated to find it was a brook trout that went all of 11 inches! Its body was dark, its flanks artfully covered in haloed spots, and its fins crisp and clean. This was my new personal best wild Massachusetts brook trout for sure!

As I pulled out my phone to take a picture, the fish spit the hook and squirmed through one of the holes in my rubber net. I can’t even begin to describe my disappointment, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned while fishing, it is to never get upset at the fish we lose; there will always be more opportunities. Besides, the ones that get away always make the best stories.

After this fish, I just about called it quits. I lost a couple more four-inch brookies at my feet on the way back to the car, but nothing close in size to the big one. I’m certain that trout will forever haunt my memories.

Out of curiosity, I checked the stocking report for the river once I was back at my car. What I found was shocking: in addition to the regular rainbow trout that are stocked every year, brook trout had also been stocked. So was the big brookie I had caught earlier wild? I’d like to think so; its appearance showed all the signs of being a wild fish. And yet, it was living in a pool with other stocked trout. Furthermore, it was about the same size as those that get stocked.

But it wasn’t the fact that the big brookie could have been stocked that angered me the most. It was the fact that I had, with my own eyes, seen plenty of wild, native brook trout in the river that really ticked me off. Why stock brook trout over brook trout? The Quinapoxet and its tributaries are known for holding thriving populations of wild brookies, and yet the state thinks it necessary to augment these populations with frail, possibly disease-carrying fish that likely won’t make it more than a month after being stocked. This decision confuses me, but then again, I’m not the fisheries biologist. I just hope these gems of the Northeast will continue to persist through blunders of humanity as they have for centuries.

As a final note, where does everyone keep their licenses, keys, and other valuables when they’re on the water? Now that I’m at that age, carrying around my driver’s and fishing licenses, car keys, and phone in a non-waterproof pocket of my backpack or waders seems irresponsible, especially after my tumble earlier in the day. Plus, bringing my whole wallet is bulky and seems unnecessary. Ideas are welcome!

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18 thoughts on “Early Summer at the Quinapoxet

  1. I keep my licenses and key readily accessible in a small ziplock in my chest pack. I find it hard to fish the key out of my pants pocket when returning to the truck. Plus it makes it easier to identify the body if I fall in. The phone is more problematic as it isn’t waterproof. I keep it in a ziplock and try to fish it out while the fight is on if I can. This requires extreme dexterity with line control, rod control, balance, and pulling the phone out and trying not to get too excited and fall in. Thus the first backup strategy- easier body identification.

    1. Ziplock bag seems to be a popular solution – easy enough, and stays relatively watertight. I would agree that phone storage is always a bit tricky. I like to have it easily accessible for picture taking, but as you said, that could cause some accidents (hopefully not severe enough for your backup strategy though!)

  2. Beautifully well written and I while I cannot comment on the stocking, I keep my licenses in a ziplock bag inside my vest pocket. Keys and phone stay inside my outer vest pocket but sometimes I put my keys in my coil over on my truck. Old surfing trick for when we couldn’t carry them into the water.

    Glad you had such success on the Quini. I went there for the first time two weeks ago and missed a couple of fish but was able to land a brookie. Had my wife in the side hiking around with me and only 2 hours to fish. Looking forward to going back!

    1. The coil is an interesting idea that I’d never even heard of. But how do you keep the keys from getting stolen?

      I was super happy to see there were still plenty of fish around this late in the season. Good luck to you on your next adventure!

      1. You don’t really unfortunately. No guarantee. But most people who know about the coil trick aren’t the type who would steal your vehicle. Keeping your keys on you somehow is definitely always the safest but that is a good backup especially if many people aren’t going to be around.

  3. why stock ANY trout over wild brook trout is what i’m wondering ?

    Protect Rhode Island Brook Trout (PRIBT) has been lobbying for years the discontinuation of stocking of any streams which currently support wild brook trout. Stocking was discontinued on the Beaver River in Rhode Island and special regulations include catch and release only. Single hooks only and no bait.

    1. Bob, I’m totally with you, but unfortunately not everyone is. I can’t even imagine the potential of this river as a wild brook trout fishery if stocking was discontinued and regulations were enacted specifically for the protection of brook trout. Catch-and-keep crowd certainly wouldn’t like it though …

  4. Nice article! Even though it’s hard to fish them out, I keep important stuff in my pants pockets under my waders. I lost important stuff falling over in heavy current and getting that stuff replaced is too much of a pain in the butt.

    1. Thanks Miles! Keeping valuables in pockets certainly seems like a safe bet, especially since you likely won’t need to access your keys/licenses while fishing.

  5. Firstly, great job on the article… I’m impressed that a high schooler can be so insightful. As far as carrying stuff that has nothing to do with fishing. A zip lock or actual waterproof bag… there are a few wader manufacturers that have a waterproof bag option…available online etc and I’d advise in finding a waterproof case for your phone – they add a little bulk but are worth it in the end… tight lines my friend. You are an inspiration to even the older crowd.

    1. Hey Jefferson, thanks for the kind words! My Simms waders actually have a zipper to attach a waterproof pouch to now that I think about it, so thanks for the reminder. Didn’t want to spend the money at the time I got the waders, but now it seems like a prudent investment.

  6. Take pic of your driver and fishkng license leave in car. Get water proof phone case (last forever) for you phone, or at least a heavy duty zip lock. Keep it simple

      1. I could be wrong here and I will say I’ve never had a problem with it other than the occasional mention of the “law” but hunting/fishing licenses are supposed to be printed out and signed and carried on person. At least in RI when we’d go to opening day and the DEM officer would stop and ask for licenses they’d scold us for having it on our phones but let us fish anyway (happened once in 12 years). So while I don’t see the issue with it just want to share all the info so you can make the best decision.

  7. I was thinking about this too! My understanding of what is acceptable depends on the state. I have a MA license and keeping a digital version of that on my phone is fine. I also have a NH license and for that one I needed to print it, sign it, and then take a photo of the signed version. Hopefully my understanding is correct!

  8. Hey Allan and Miles, thanks for chiming in. I was actually going to mention this and I’m glad you brought it up. One of the very few times I was checked by a warden (if that’s what they call them here) in MA, I had an electronic version of my license. The officer grumbled and groaned a bit, but accepted it and let me carry on. So while it seems acceptable to have an electronic version, I would agree that having a paper copy seems to be preferred by F&G.

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