Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A New, Old Ecosystems Re-birth

There is a small stream near by, that trout unlimited and a few local communities have recently done amazing work on.

In the image below, you see the newly created mud flat and a stream channel searching for it's new path.  Had I shot a wider image, you would still see the excavators and bulldozers off to the right working at making a new, and user friendly slope and picnic area.


When I stopped a few weeks back, I spoke to a local conservation commission member who was very happy to give me lots of info on the project.  The nuts and bolts are that the land about .5 miles upstream has been protected and the whole stream can be fished at this point... if you can get to it.  The stream has had wild brookies for ever, and some where along the way, browns were introduced, probably via stockings of the pond that used to cover the mud flat pictured above.  According to the man I spoke with, the dam had been there for 140-150 years, but that the construction of an interstate about .25 miles away 30-35 years ago resulted in the ponds then owner draining the pond, and letting the state dredge it and use the material for parts of the road... Thus the silt was only about 1-3 feet deep at this draining of the pond and breach of the dam.

The plan is to give the stream 2 years to find it's own route through the old pond's bed, letting the natural seed bank take hold and root.  Then they will do some additional work, potentially including a board walk to help improve access.

What I can say, is that you have to REALLY want to go upstream.

Just to the right of dead center in the pic, the stream goes into a funky area where it twists and turns and meanders via massive undercuts and even subterranean tunnels below unbelievable honey suckle, multi-flora rose and other super thick vegetation.  When the leaves are out, it's almost unfishable... It's absolutely best from ice out to leaf out... and then again just as the leaves fall.  I've never seen another human, and only a few human tracks over the years in this section of the stream.  You have to WANT to fish it, because it's brutal - just a wall of  brush and challenging undercuts.

But, the sandy terrain the brook works through, is full of springs, so even when water is low, in the middle of August, it's rare for this stream to go over 65.  Normally it's 60-62 that time of year.

And thanks to the hard work of TU and local volunteers, the stream now has direct access to a major river about .25miles below the breached dam.  That means trout can go down for additional cover... and that fish can work up from the river - something that folks already have seen taking place.  

It will be exciting to see how this ecosystem finds a new balance over the coming years!  

Today was the first time I've fished this section in quite a while, and though it was rewarding... the reward was solitude and the sound of flowing water... as no fish inspected the minimuddler I fished.  That's ok... I know they are there, tucked under the banks and root balls...

This spot is just above the old pond.  Barely.  You can see it if you stand on that bank to the left.  The woods straight ahead are deceiving, the brook does a U here and your looking back where you came from there... not into the jungle the brook runs through.  Where I'm standing in this shot is often a good spot, but not today...  Interestingly, when the brook hits the jungle it blows into two main stems.  one about 150 yds long and the bigger one about 200.  The pic above is the smaller one about 50 yds from the junction with the other stem.

This spot often results in dry fly hook ups.  Nothing today though.  it's a really nice glide, and is just above where the river splits into the jungle.  Still very thick in this section though.  The .5-.75 miles above this spot, past where the stream goes below the interstate is the "biggest" section.  So what you see, is as "big" as this stream gets...

Nice to have some quiet in the woods, and a few minutes of solitude to work through things... And even nicer to know that this eco system has been opened to run it's full course for the first time in almost 150 years!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I made a new friend...

He's black and white, fluffy, chubby, at times odoriferous, but overall, a good guy who often teaches you a thing or two.

I thought I'd lost my chance to hit the Millers for the first time in a LONG time when my week went funny and I had to work all day Saturday.  So when the wife cut me loose when the kids went down for nap Sunday, a 150-200 over ideal CFS level in the "Bears Den" and bright sunny sky's did not deter me from hitting my favorite part of this river from about noon to two.  

I fished above the Resendez Pool, starting about the rail road bridge and working down, drifting/swinging a streamer, and then, a tandem of wet's (picket pin and grouse and orange)... The pic below is through the hemlocks out to the river about half way up the path to the bridge.  For reference, at this point, the water is 3-8+ feet deep as it starts to swell into the pool... which i think is bottomless!

On this day, I did something I rarely do when fly fishing... I carried two rods.  My 8'6" BVK 6wt (normal Millers  and "all around" rod, go to rod for small mouth bass and even some large mouth bass fishing as well) and the 11 foot Cabelas CZN #4 I've been playing with to expand on my high stick and "euro" style nymphing skills.  I'd hoped to play with this in the riffle below the bridge, and below the second run (down stream from the Resendez pool)... But with flow's around 400, on a stretch that fishes best (to me at least) at 200... I felt barely safe wading the stretch below the bridge... and the riffle bellow the second run only the very edge felt safe to me.  So, despite having both rods, I basically fished the BVK all day and had the CZN as a passenger... It will get more use here in the future.  

Looking back, I wish I'd slowed down, become deliberate and methodical, and fished a two fly rig with something like a vladi worm that goes to the bottom like an anchor as the point and a smaller nymph like a hairs ear or a caddis larva as the tag... It's funny, I used to be to patient... and since our son's illness, it's the other way, I'm to fast and rush to get in to much when I have a chance to go.   I need to slow down, and think quality, over quantity!

Back to fishing though...  I picked up periodic fall fish through out the day, ending with maybe 4-5 for my 2-2.5hrs on the river... but that was it.  Well, I did have one good take on a big articulated streamer I'm playing with that will be for big rivers like this, and bass fishing in general.  It feels weird throwing a 5.5" long fly on a trout river... but knowing there are some solid +20" brown's that hold over in this river... it was a good spot to "test" the fly.  It looks amazing in the water... 

Overall, the day reminded me, that having a few hours, thigh deep in a river... watching the birds, water and day go by... It's worth every moment - whether you meet the skunk or not!  Cant wait for next time!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I'd like to stand here:

2nd run, Millers River Bears Den section.  Send a wet fly or streamer into those currents and seems and you never know what may attack that fly.

Or, walk 20-30 yds down stream and double haul a good shoot up into the same seems and current's with a caddis/mayfly/stonefly/hopper dry depending on the day and enjoy.

I've not fished here for a few years regrettably.  And plans this week were spoiled by flows about 4X normal thanks to rain last weekend... They are regulating, but with more rain promised... who knows when the river will settle out.

Oh well.  Time only makes that first cast, drift and swing sweeter.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Learning, and a hair of fishing as well.

Last week was pretty nuts here.  It took a smidge of time to hit a local stream which is what my last post was about... but this weekend I managed a bit more time.  Ill start backwards...

If any of you know what this wild flower is, I'd love to hear.  I've seen these - typically near streams in the forest, and during the mid spring green up.  They are amazing!

First things first, hitting a small stream that I "found" during muzzleloader deer season last year.  I knew the stream was there, but had never explored that bit of woods.  I crossed it just above this large quiet pool several times, and every time thought there had to be brookies.  But on my test mission this weekend, I learned something... if this stream had brookies, it most likely does not now.  There is a large swamp up stream from here, and above that further is a substantial warm water pond that drains into this stream.  I'd hoped for luck, and that the cool water draining out of the granite which forms Mt Wachussett would keep temps down and O2 up... but be it the swamp and warm water pond or a farm or two in the area up stream from here... This poor stream is fairly lifeless outside amphibians and some bugs.  There was a lot of algae lining the bottom, and not a lick of fish life I could find.  No minnows.  No sun fish.  No sculpin.  No trout... Heck, flipping rocks didnt even reveal bugs.... To bad, because it's a gorgeous spot.

Thus, a stream (above) that originates on the east side of the same hill as the stream above, but is about .5 miles away was hit prior to heading home... the same fly that worked the other day - my variation of the Ausable Wulff - was the fly again.  And a few brookies like the one below came to hand... the brookie pictured took the fly on the first drift - right infront of that hemlock... this spot practically "screams" brookie!

Saturday was really fun as well.  I had a professional development conference to attend, and part of what fired me up more than a normal conference, was that the keynote speaker was a favorite author, scientist and coach.  And that person is Inigo Mujika.  Dr Mujika is from Spain, so the chance to see him speak was amazing.

His talks paralleled much of what I've read in his books and scientific papers - and other very good works on the subjects of endurance training, and in particular, tapering and detraining.  I managed to speak briefly with him, and as a professional, it was a total honor.  If you have an interest in sport science, read his work, or check out his "blog" here:

With any luck Ill hit a local freestone, a large freestone, that a friend had epic fishing on last week over the next couple days... We shall see.  But, my fingers are crossed that I can catch part of the hatch, or just swing some big ugly streamers for big browns...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I really didn't have time to fish...

I really don't.  At least this week.  Rosemary's back to work for the first time (3 days a week), kid's are trying day care for the first time in 2 years, I have a bunch of work to do, and am attending a professional development conference in Boston this weekend (Boston Sports Medicine Group's Summer Session)... All of that leaves very little time, for, well... being.

I had a little window today.  A couple hours where I should have worked, but decided an hour on a local wild trout stream was very valuable medicine... So I took it!

The beauty of angling along a small stream is only enhanced by the simplicity.  A small box of flies, my midwest customs 2wt, some 5x, floatant and clippers.  All attached to the fly box's handy lanyard.

The funny part, is that the fly box is overkill.  I almost never fish a small stream with more than 2-3 flies for a full outing...

The section I fished has easy access through a little piece of conservation land with a nice trail.  it runs between two ware house/factory buildings.  In fact, when the leaves are gone, you can see the factories at all times fishing this section.

Today, the green up that has really started hid the factories making for a very scenic venue despite the industry near by.

I was worried when the first pool offered no takes on a bomber... but the one immediately above it always produces, so the worry was minimal.  I drifted the fly through the pool a few times and nothing.  Then I cast into the fast water at the pool's head and was rewarded with a strong take from this gorgeous brookie.

Despite a crushed barb, he managed to get the hook in a way that was tough to remove - he seemed fine with careful work, to get the fly free... and swam away with power.  The bomber though was very reluctant to float, so a change was in order.

On went a variation of the Ausable Wulff.  the difference is a white calf tail tail vs a dark woodchuck tail.  I dont know if it really works better... but it's definitely has worked well for me over the years - and it's super easy to see!

The brookies attacked in both pockets and pools.  Run's and riffles.  That sounds like I couldnt keep the fish away, and that is untrue.  They were not constant... but I'd guess in my hour on the stream, I caught 10-12.

I approached a favorite bend in the stream...

And a brown attacked that dry with a gusto - coming clean out of the water!

I know they are here, but rarely have caught (and never have caught one in this section of this stream) browns here.  It was really fun to see this fish and to have an encounter with him.

Finally I had to head home.  I'm using a few minutes to post this to get my brain back into a computer and back to work... It was a great time to be out.  A light breeze, few black flies, and fish willing to eat a dry.

Back to work, and a busy week now... Refreshed, and with a new sense of vigor!

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Fat tires... Nice.

The last few years have been tough for getting any time to do fun things like fish or ride my bike/s. Thankfully with our son's health improving, this year has seen more of both already than the last few combined!  Phew!

On a spin earlier this week in a local state forest, I was really impressed with the great work the regional mountain bike organization (NEMBA) has done to keep improving the trail network.  They have added new signage to augment things like map boxes that have been there forever, and they have rerouted or adjusted old trails to improve how they ride and impact the forest, while they also have built a bunch of new trails (with the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation who oversees the forests management) that allow more of your riding to be done on single track vs dirt roads or quad trails.

One of the best parts of this work is that it's creating a great network of trails that hikers, bird watchers, wildlife watchers, hunters, trail runners, snow shoe enthusiasts and xc skiers, dog walkers and of course, mountain bikers can enjoy.

That all said, there are some great trails that have been there for 15+ years at least.  They have been well worn in from both cyclists, hikers, and horseback riders as well.  Now though, most of the traffic on these trails is from bikes and the feet of hikers, runners and the occasional moose.  The trail below I really enjoy.  You climb for quite a way's to reach the top of the trail, then it's a flowing twisting down hill for an equal distance.  At the bottom the topography levels a bit and gently rolls through an extensive hemlock forest with several small streams (that have wooden bridges over them) you can cross during your ride/hike/run.

 The stream below is one of those little wonders.  Looking at it, you can imagine it drying up come July (but it wont), and you can imagine the only things living in it's 1-2 foot wide space to be bugs, and herps... But you know what, if you stop, and wait on the bridge, and watch.  Just slow down for a moment.  Eventually, one of it's fancily painted wild char (brook trout) will slip out from an undercut bank or from another aquatic hiding spot...

They are small, maybe 2-4" long at the largest... at least the largest I have seen.  And they inhabit several little streams like this through out the state forest.

I've never fished in any of these little streams.  Living in a stream this small seems to be a hard enough life for those little fish.  Instead, I just enjoy the fleeting glances I'm rewarded with for sweating through the woods, and, I enjoy the excuse this fish give me to take a quiet rest near a stream in the forest.