The water? 52 degrees. The air? A bluebird 65-70. The Hendricksons? Hatching with profligacy. The trout? Unseen and nearly unfelt.
Such was our fate on the first of serious trout forays this spring. Though the catch was disappointing, it was a beautiful day on the river with a friend, and so a day well spent. Here’s the story.
Throughout this long winter, I had been waiting for trout season — for the days when the water would warm and the bugs would hatch. My friend Ben Brunt — talented photographer, designer, dad, and newly-passionate fly tier — and I had been watching the air and water temps, and planning a trip together. The day before Patriots Day, our chosen date, we scanned the flow and temp data for a number of rivers across MA, NH and CT, looking for one that might yield a spring trout.
The consistent problem? Water, far too much water. The week’s rain and the spring melt after this heavy winter combined into CFS levels for most rivers that left them unfishable, unwadable, and entirely unattractive to us. All but for one: the Quaboag.
The Quaboag was attractive for two reasons. First, it’s flow was high, but not so high that it wouldn’t be wadeable. Second, and most attractively, the Quaboag has one of the earliest Hendrickson hatches in MA, due to water temperatures that are predictably higher, earlier. According to the USGS data, the water temps had been high enough for a few days to set the stage for a Hendrickson hatch.
And set the stage they did: over the course of the day, the Hendricksons came off the water, and came off strong. However, between the two of us we saw only one trout rise the entire day. The trout were hunkered down, and tight lipped, though we knew they were there: a call to the regional office confirmed the river had been stocked just a week before.
The water, as the video shows, was quite high in sections. It no doubt had been higher, and so perhaps it had washed many of the stocked fish downstream. And yet, the Quaboag has a few sections with sufficient depth, width, and shallow gradient to provide trout with ample refuge from rapid flows. The fish must have been there — we were convinced.
The only catch of the day was by Ben (I’m not speaking in the third person here) who caught one small trout early in the day on a Prince nymph in a flat, calm section of water. We had seen a trout rise in that area few minutes before (the only rise of the day), and suspect that Ben caught that same trout.
We had a great day on the water, largely because it felt so good to be back on a trout river. I was experimenting with my new GoPro (see the video for my first product!) and Ben, a talented photographer, was snapping photos, some of which are in this post. We’ll be back to the Quaboag, once the water settles a bit. In fact, there’s a few confluences, and a few current seams, that I’ve been thinking about ever since, and to which I plan to return.
In reading the guidebooks the day before, Ben and I noticed considerable differences between the characterizations offered. And so, while I rarely do this, I wanted to take a moment to offer a few observations of my own:
– This is largely an easy wading river — if you can get to the river. There are some sections whose banks are high, making the drop into the water tricky, and some sections that require bushwhacking into the river, but those are not the rule.
– Access is good, almost too good at times. There are many sections that offer access right from the road, or even from a parking lot. The river was blighted by dumped trash in some areas, and you have to be willing to answer questions from a passing stranger on the bank in some sections. For the fly fishermen, the problem of access comes down to this: glancing over your shoulder you will often find a fishermen pulling out a trout with a spinner. As most guidebooks note, this river would truly benefit from a catch and release only section.
– The bug life is healthy, and the Hendricksons come early.
– Seclusion can be found. Given the hike required into some sections, you can find seclusion — and not hear either cars or people.
– There is no fly shop of note on the river.
– The best areas are from West Warren to Palmer.
If you have any other suggestions or observations regarding the Quaboag, let me know!