Friday, May 1, 2015

New England Spring Float with Harrison Anglers

-- Harrison Anglers --
To some, the 2014-2015 New England winter was brutal. For me, it was just another beautiful, snow filled wonderland that is rapidly changing into a glorious spring. This is the reason I love New England. Seasonal changes in New England are rapid and intense. Deep snow is morphed into blooming forsythia and the fish in both fresh and salt put on the feed bags.

Nine years ago, my son Matt, bought me a fly rod for Christmas. Six years ago, Matt convinced me to float a Western Massachusetts river with Harrison Anglers. Before that float, I had caught a few bass and bluegills on the fly, but salmonids continued to elude me. Tom Harrison, our guide on that float, put us on fish and I caught my first trout that day on an olive woolly bugger. I didn't know what I was doing then and probably forgot to tip (sorry Tom), but it was a memorable day. Thanks to Tom's patience and guidance, all aspects of my fly fishing game improved and I started having success with catching trout.


Fast forward 6 years and 2 days, I'm getting in a drift boat with Dan Harrison to float the same river with my striper mentor, Mark. This float turned out to be my best trout day ever.

Dan Harrison preps the drift boat
I've keep in touch with Tom & Dan over the years and introduced Mark to them at the Marlboro Fly Fishing show last January. Mark convinced me to signup for an early spring float (although, I didn't need much convincing). We met Dan around 8 AM and he gave us some options for the days float. We chose the river and headed for the put-in spot. It happened to be the same general section of the river as the trip with Matt 6 years earlier.

Both Mark and I wanted to streamer fish so Dan set us up with some nice gear. Mark used his Sage 6 wt and I used an Orvis Helios II, 6 wt tip flex with Cheeky Ambush Reel and a Scientific Anglers Streamer Express Line. It is a sweet setup that was a perfect rig for the slightly fast water that day.
Orvis Helios II, Cheeky Ambush and Scientific Anglers Streamer Express
Dan tied on some olive woolly buggers for us and we were off.
Dan's streamer selection
We started fishing the first run right after launching and had some good takes. Neither Mark or I were able to land one, but that early action was a good sign for the rest of the day. Dan immediately started helping me with my stripping techniques as the fish I was missing was due to the way I was retrieving and setting the hook. I had some bad habits to break and Dan continued to coach me all day which eventually led to success.

Dan knew when to pull anchor and drift to the next spot. He kept us on fish all day.
Floating to the next spot
Spring was trying to show us some love with temps in the mid-40's and occasional gusts from the north. The water temp was 41 degrees, but both wild and stocked fish didn't seem to care. I hooked and landed the first fish after about an hour on the water.

Nice little rainbow was the first fish of the day
Mark got the second fish shortly after mine. A nice native brown trout. I followed with another brown.
Third fish to the net - a nice brownie
We had reached a steep rapid and Dan strongly suggested that we get out and walk around while he navigated through it. Normally, he would just run it with his clients, but earlier in the week a client insisted on staying in the boat and ended up wet and cold the rest of the day.

Dan navigated the rapid without a drop of water in the boat
After getting back in the drift boat, we anchored up on one of the more productive runs of the day. Both Mark and I were switching back and forth hooking and landing fish. I even landed a tagged fish from MassWildlife's Tags N' Trout Program.
Pink Tag 2015 # 87 from the Tags N' Trout Program
Dan told me if I kept the fish and turned in the tag it was good for a $10 gift certificate from a local bait and tackle shop. I let the little guy go.

I was having success with the olive bugger, but really wanted to fish my confidence fly -- the Slumpbuster. I gave an olive one to Dan and he graciously tied it on for me.
The Olive and Black Slumpbusters were my money fly for the day
The slumpbuster started fooling fish and this nice brown was landed. A few more to the net for both of us and we reached double digits to the boat for the first time that year with Dan.


One of Mark's brownies being brought to net
We took a brief stop for lunch and got back at it with more bows and browns. 


We had the river to ourselves
The sun peaked out for a brief moment. It felt good between some of the stronger wind gusts. 
Sun on our backs
One of the larger stocked bows that day
Head shot


Mark's hog of the day - 20+ inches
Some Oskar Blues Brew felt good in the afternoon

 I'm not a big fan of the "grip 'n grin" but Dan insisted with one of the last fish of the day.
Parting Shot
I can't thank Dan enough for helping us have such a great day. We lost count of the total fish to net but that doesn't matter. The total float was about 10 miles and we were still hooking up at the take out point at 5 PM. Dan stated that the Slumpbuster out fished the Olive Bugger which put a smile on my face. My game has changed a whole lot in 6 years, but I still have a very long way to go.

Dan and Tom run a top shelf guide service and I whole heartly recommend them if you are looking to get into some fish in Massachusetts. They also guide for carp, shad and other seasonal species. Be sure to check out their Instagram feed @harrisonanglers to see all the happy clients and big fish.