Thursday, April 3, 2014

14 years to catch this fish!

The June before we were married, June of 2000 to be exact, we moved in together.  I was (am) a country bumpkin and wanted to stay close to my home town on the north east corner of the Quabbin Reservoir... But Rosemary was working in Boston, so we needed a spot in the middle.  We settled on Leominster MA for it's good options to come and go, regardless of where Rosemary's job would take her.
The first home we had was a condo.  you could see the Nashua river out the back window, through about 100yds of river bottom woods behind our home... but every day when I drove onto the road which reached into the patch of woods out condo had been built into... I drove parallel to a small stream.  It's got a solid gradient, and early spring often see's it roaring along to it's confluence with the Nashua.
It looked like it may have char, but it also ran through private property, and the first spot it would have been accessible was literally through someone's yard.  Add those "challenges" to the busy-ness of building a business, family, riding my bike and a mental lock on traveling west to fish waters that reminded me of my favorite forests and fields caused me to drive right by.
After 4 years in the condo, we built a house.  Our house is immediately accross the street from the stream.  On moving in, we became neighborly with the 80 year old folks who lived next store.  John, the husband, often talked of seeing the stream collored red, pink, orange or other bright shades while thick goo from plastic manufacturing a quarter to half mile upstream was dumped in.  This was 40 years ago... but that knowledge made me forget how running water can clean itself... and assume the stream was mostly barren of life.
Maybe 3 years ago, walking over the bridge on the stream on the main road (not a spot I normally walk) I noticed about 8-10 chub's or "other fish" finning in the pool below the bridge on a bright January day.  Now I got curious...
But we had kids, Will got cancer and the poop hit the fan.
Finally, last summer I remembered to ask John - who owns most of the land where the stream flows near our home - and who's sons yard is home to the bridge I just noted above - if there were any fish in the stream.  It was a loaded question - I knew there were some kind of fish in there... but what else may lurk?
John, quick to speak of them, gushed about all the "speckeled trout" they used to catch when he was a young man, before the plastic... but then also about how his grandson would catch lots of them up by the bridge about 18-20 years ago.  He didnt think many folks had fished the stream since...
I asked, and was granted permission... and late last year I fished the stream a few times.  Last summer was very dry and hot.  The stream was as low as I'd seen it, but still had decent water and some nice undercut banks/log jams.  but most impressive was that it clearly shared something with a stream about 2 miles south east - that flowed out of the same hill, their origins no more than a half mile apart... Even with the full summer of warmth heating the land around this stream, the water was down right cold - in the low to mid 60's depending on the day... even at noon in late august!
With low flow and clear, gin clear, waters, on my first trip, I spotted two brookies.  had it been a month later I'd have assumed they were ready for spawning... but in the end, I think they just really liked the lie they had found.  They wanted nothing to do with any of my offerings... but it made me so happy about the environment and the ability of this stream to support cold water fish...
I never caught a fish in the stream last fall, not even a take... well, outside a tiny little sunfish that must have come up from the Nashua that couldnt get the Mr Rapidian Parachute I'd drifted down a pool into it's mouth... And that fly was a size 18!
This winter was really tough, and I never even ventured to the stream since it had been covered in ice for weeks.  a couple weeks ago I asked Johns son if I could fish the part in his yard and he granted permission... and as I walked home, looking into the bridge pool there was a very nice sized brookie finning in the seem between two currents.
A day later, it blew out.  We had several days of rain and the stream was ripping.  Maybe it would be fishable, but the way this stream flows... it would have been really tough.  so I waited.
Today it was still moving fast, but not to bad, and it had mostly cleared.  A few stoneflies flitted about, and I had 30' at lunch... so I headed over. 
I walked up to the first bend I wanted to fish, opting for the woods vs the bridge pool / yard on this trip.  You can see below that there was good flow and nice cover both on the inside and out of this initial spot... which yeilded not takes.

After a brief set of drifts from where this picture was taken, I worked down stream about 20 feet at a pop and drifted the little streamer giving it twitches at the end of the swing - just like an englishman fishing wet flies.

I wish I could explain why this pic wont rotate... but for some reason it wont.  This spot is where I'd first seen trout on this stream last summer... but today, when I twitched the fly at the end of the swing just off the right tip of that log jam...

This little orange body, squirrel tail winged, grouse soft hackle neck streamer caused a strike.  I had the fish for a moment, before it released the fly.  I was really, really psyched!  There are fish in this stream that will eat a fly!

A few drifts later, and the same fish, or another holding about 2 feet further back ate the streamer, and this time, held on!

Saddly he fell off the fly as I lifted him to my hands - hence the dirt.. But he swam away strongly into the current and seemed no worse for the wear.  He was a beautiful wild fish - this stream has never known a stocking truck - nor have any of its tiny tributaries.

Amazing, this little stream flowing past numerous factories and shopping centers in the 1.5 miles or so before the area I caught this fish has managed to possess enough health to support wild trout.

A beautiful thing!

You can bet, it wont take me 14 years, to try and catch another!

1 comment:

  1. Great story about the persistence of nature and recovery of a cold water resource, Will. I was fortunate to find a native brook trout stream in your neck of the woods recently and am amazed how these beautiful creatures find a way to live regardless of what we throw at them. Protect and nourish that resource.