shutterstock_37049206Guest Blogger: Leroy Dickey, Manchester NH

By Thursday morning I was quite excited about the upcoming Trout Unlimited trip to the Deerfield River in Charlemont Massachusetts.  Our plans began six months early, shortly after our spring outing at the same location; now it was October 30th, I was sitting at my desk unable to stop myself from looking at the clock every 30 minutes, willing it to speed up.  I already knew that I was going to use my six weight with a “ham and egg” nymph setup, with a [pink?] San Juan worm with a peach egg dropped 18 inches below, considering that the browns finished spawning about a week earlier.

Mark showed up 10 minutes early, which was perfect because I could not take it anymore and left work 15 minutes early. A quick transfer of gear from his stripped Ford Ranger to my plush Chevy Equinox [I make the payments at least, while my wife gets to drive it 99% of the time], and we were off.  We talked a little about everything on the 90 minute drive, both of us looking forward to meeting up with the remainder of our group at the Mohawk Trail Campground just as much as the three days of fishing we had ahead of us.  And considering the weather forecast with high temps ranging from 50 degrees on Friday to 37 degrees with chance of snow and wind gust to 30 MPH on Sunday, the fireside stories of past trips, coupled with one too many alcoholic beverages was sounding a much better than wading the river.

Our 6:00AM wake-up call Friday morning, after a wonderful night’s sleep listening to Grumpy Ed talk in his sleep, “Getting to damn old for this fishing shit”, Mark snoring on the bunk below me  and the rock hard bed that creaked causing me to fear falling through and unexpectedly crush poor Mark in his sleep with every breath I took .  We rubbed the crusties from our eyes, grabbed a quick coffee and brushed the cob webs off our teeth before heading off to meet the Harrison’s for those that were taking the guided float trip, amazed by the clear sky and 47 degree temperature.  I paused for a moment to thank God for the beautiful day as Richard walked by saying, “what a wonderful morning.”

“The best morning ever,” I replied.

The Tom Harrison confirmed that the “Ham and Eggs” would be the setup of choice and we set off for our preplanned sections of river, hoping that someone was not already there.  Come to find out, we were the only ones on this 6 mile section of river Friday morning. BONUS!!!

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Mark and I headed off to wade, followed by Brad and Lou, while the others set off for a day of drift boat fishing.

After making conquering the steep 100 foot drop, we distanced ourselves about 75 yards apart on opposite sides of the river, fishing the slack water below the runs.  On my third cast, an insane rainbow took a swipe at my 1” Thingamabobber.  As usual for this section of river it was, “go big or go home.”  Not having any large egg patterns in my box, I dropped the two biggest Pheasant Tail nymphs that I could find [#12’s with a fatter than normal thorax], made two more casts and “Voila”.  Fish On!

After a wonderful attempt at escape, the 1-2 pound rainbow was in my net.  I no more than touched the fly, perfectly lodged its upper lip, and the barbless hook gently slipped out making for a perfect release.  As the fat, darkly colored rainbow zipped back into its holding spot catching its breath, I thanked God once again for this fine morning.  I looked down river soaking in the beauty of left over foliage, some 4 weeks past peek, as the sun shown over the steep hillside, amplifying every morsel of color in the dying leaves that would soon fall, adding their nutrients back into the soil.

Two hours later, we moved above the high water mark, knowing Fife Damn was scheduled to increase its flow from 200cfs to 900cfs in five minutes.  In the time it took us to climb back up to our vehicles; the dry rocks where I was standing were now three feet below the rushing water.  The large rock I had sat on earlier this morning to re-tie my wading boot was now most likely providing some fat rainbow sanctuary from the current while pounds of aquatic insects are helplessly swept directly to its mouth.

Taking advantage of the unwadeable water, we drove back to camp where Lou served us another incomparable sausage, egg and English muffin breakfast, cooked on his used, green two-burner grill.  We relaxed for a bit inside the 80 plus year old cabin talking about our experience that morning and shared what we had learned about the new section of river.  With a warm meal and fresh coffee settling in our stomachs, we contemplated on the best area to fish that afternoon, deciding that the area directly below the damn would be perfect. Our thought was that the daily flow would stop just before dusk, allowing the fish to move back into their deep pools, where they could relax until the next flow began around noon the following day. Unfortunately, the flow did not stop until four hours after sunset.

We stuck it out and drifted nymphs in the bubble lines along the edges.  Fishing the upper pool, Lou hooked into a gorgeous rainbow within the first 10 minutes, confirming that we had made the right decision. The upper pool was about 150-meters long and 40-meters across with a large granite shelf forcing the water to depart through a 15-meter opening on the near side where it dropped about 2-meters into a larger pool.  I made a cast into the nearest edge of the heaviest current, allowing my double nymph rig to pop out along the edge of the pool as if swept in from the pool above.  I made a downstream mend to keep my line ahead of my float and droppers, managing a nice 15-meter drift.  On the second cast my indicator dove under, I gently lifted the tip of my rod and the fight was on.  On 10 second run downstream and “Voila,” a not so perfect long distance release of the one strike I had all evening.

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We gathered back at camp, started the fire and poured drinks as Lou prepared yet another divine meal surpassing any $45 a plate, shirt and tie required, restaurant in the northeast.  I challenge anyone to find a finer meal served in a better atmosphere than our folding chairs set up around a campfire, with stars brightly shining above.  Pumpkin whoopee pies, prepared by someone’s loving wife [I think it was Larry’s wife or perhaps Richard, but cannot say for sure], followed for dessert.  My taste buds were more than satisfied.

Ed and Richard began sharing the wonderful day of guided drifting with the Harrison’s.  Apparently Dick managed to out fish Ed [again] despite some confusion about mending his line.  Ed had us in tears explaining how Tom would instruct him to, “Mend left. Mend left!  No, your other left!”

Considering that Mr. Bickford has 35 years on me, I could not hold it against him to occasionally, confuse his left with his right.  Hell, I will be happy if I am simply, able to crawl out of bed before I take my morning pee, when I am 82 years old.  Let alone spend an eight hour day on the river, fishing.

2 Comments

  1. Leroy,

    Am very curious about the image in the post. Clearly a rainbow, but the red throat slashes and general coloration suggest Cutbow (rainbow X cutthroat hybrid). Is this one of the fish caught on the trip or a random image from somewhere else? Rainbows with red throat slashes are not that uncommon and the throat slash occurs in both rainbow and cutthroat species naturally. The spotting on the head is the best morphological indicator of a rainbow versus a cutthroat. According to the USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species data, cutthroat have not been introduced into Massachusetts waters, although they once were introduced into the Housatonic in Connecticut without success (1890s).
    Otherwise, sounds like a cool trip.

    1. Hi Mike, That picture was added here at J Stockard. It comes from the big collection of ‘fish’ pictures we’ve collected over the years. We should be more careful to match our fish to our geography. J Stockard

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