Monday, July 11, 2016

Place of Many Waters

In the heart of Massachusetts is, well, what was called Quabbin, meaning "place of many waters" by our Native American predecessors.  The valleys that existed here were home to thousands, in bustling mill towns - Dana, Greenwich, Enfield and Prescott.  But as Boston grew, so to did it's thirst for water.  Ultimately that thirst lead to the complete demolition of those four towns - right down to moving bodies from the towns grave yards.  Why?  Well, those towns were built within the valley's carved over the millennia by the East, Middle and West branches of the Swift River.  By erecting a dam below the confluence of those river branches, a giant reservoir could be established - flooding the valleys that once were home to busy families and hard working people.

Growing up in a town that narrowly escaped its eradication, due to being high upon a hill at the headwaters of the East Branch of the Swift River, I'm just old enough to remember older folks who were children playing in Dana prior to the state moving the families out.  Many of those folks, and their families still resent what the state did to their ancestral homes.  While I can't blame them... The area ultimately became something we should all be hugely proud of.

Quabbin today is 117 miles of wandering shore line and thousands of acres of protected forests spanning it's 26 mile length.  It's a massive gift in the age of urban sprawl and development.  Ill never - I hope - understand the depth of frustration and angst those families who were moved felt, but Ill be forever grateful to them for their sacrifice.

I'm only 42, and by the time I was 10 I was spending a lot of time wandering the "res" as we locals like to call it.  Up until about 5 years ago, I was in there all the time fishing, hiking etc.  But with the craziness of life, my res time has been lacking... So, in a familiar theme on my blog... After doing a bunch of work Sunday morning I shot out for a walk in a favorite area.  I brought some snacks and planned to just poke along the shore, fish a little, walk a little, and quite probably, sit and just be quiet for a while.

I did all of those things, caught some fish and just enjoyed it.  I hope you are able to as well. 

Actually looking away from the res gate here... I just love this spot.  Ive caught so many fish here - many over 5# - and I've shot a number of deer on both sides of the road as well in this area (Outside the res, where it's legal).  Many memories of trail runs and hikes couple with those other adventures... It's a great spot.

An afternoons worth of gear.  Sometimes warm water fishing I only bring one rod... but today, I just couldn't decide and didnt feel like "fighting" to decide, so I took em both.  Started with the 8, but they only wanted the cray fish fly, so I caught everything with the 6.

Hard to imagine, but when we are not in a drought, the water is up to about 2 feet from the top of that rock wall -which is actually an ancient stone culvert where a stream enters the res.  I could not count the number of 5-8# LMB's and SMB's (ok, 4-5# for those guys) in this spot.  The water in the huge beaver pond 200yds upstream warms fast in the spring, so it's often as much as 10 degrees over the reservoir's main body early in the year... So shortly after the mid April opening of the res... this spot is MONEY.

Looking due south as the res opens into larger water. You can get a sense of the "glass pane clear" water in this image!  

I often see moose and other large animals here.  Sometimes bear as well.  This moose had walked through some what recently, but overall, on this trip, there was a surprisingly small amount of animal activity near the water.

The day's first smallie.  Took a crayfish fly off a stick pile.  An interesting thing, which you can sort of see on the waters surface left of his tail... fish were occasionally smashing moth's that were falling onto the water.  The moth's would flitter away on the surface, seemingly unable to fly away, and the fish would aggressively roll on them.

I was amazed this sunnie ate a fly with a 1/0 hook.  How he got it in his mouth, I will never understand! :)

That lumpy land mass dead center is an island called Mt Zion.  It's very "popular" in the media right now, because that area you are looking at is home to steep, craggy and boulder strewn ledges... The same broken rock areas the state fish and wildlife is taking heat over for wanting to re-introduce timber rattlesnakes on.  It's a good plan overall.  I'm still unsure how I feel in some ways... But overall, sustaining the meager population of rattlers left here seems to have some merit, and a spot which is illegal for human activity seems a good one to try and "bring them back" to.

Soapstone Mtn.  I could not count the times I've reached it's summit over the decades.  Amazing views in all directions - well, north is really only great when the leaves are down... but overall, WOW.  Great hike from the Womens Federated State Forest, also known as the Daughters Of the American Revolution forest.  Not a hard hike from that side, and amazing views.

A little snack at the furthest point of shore I'd hiked to.  I sat on a nice boulder over the water and just enjoyed listening to almost nothing... Only the sound of wood frog, or loon seemed to break the silence.  Hard not to enjoy some time in a space that sounds like that...

Little smallies seemed to like my snack rock... I got a few within easy casting range - no double haul required.

Ok, look at that darn hook.  That's what that little sunfish managed to eat too.  Like I said before - no clue how it got that thing inside it's mouth!

Nice to see some wild roses still in bloom at the edge of the woods.  
Awesome afternoon for sure, which ended with dinner at my parents before returning home to do some more... Work.

Enjoy your wild, amazing places folks.  We are so lucky to have them!



  1. Beautiful area, Will. Thanks for the history lessen also. I can sure see both ends of the "teeter-totter" there as far as the sadness of those who left, and, the good that has occurred because of the flooding of the area. Nice work on the Smallies! Thanks also for the link. She is working fine.

    1. Mel - that's great on the link. Glad you enjoyed the history and area. It's a great one!

  2. Will I fished the Quabbin only once...years ago. We trolled flies from a boat. A couple of salmon. It is a lovely place and a touch of wilderness so close to humanity.
    Lovely smallmouth.


    1. That's awesome Alan. It really is a great spot. The salmon fishing can be great spring and fall. Have a super day!