Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wet Wadin'

-- Millers River upstream of Athol --
The summer solstice has passed and the local rivers are getting warm. A couple of days before the solstice, we traveled about an hour to the Millers River in central MA and shed the waders. The plan was to go in the afternoon and stay for the evening hatch. Our local Millers River expert, Ken Elmer, has told us that this is one of he best dry fly sections on the river but you need to hit it in the early morning and late evening. 

We arrived around 3 PM and started hiking upstream looking for some spots to wet the lines.  The boys hiked down to some still water to try their luck with dries and I started with a beadhead pheasant tail to explore the riffles and pocket water. 

-- Mountain Laurels in full bloom --
This section of the Millers is below the Bears Den and we fished the Bears Den a couple of times last year with mixed results.

-- The boys were getting bored not catching anything --
The boys hooked a couple of small bait fish on their dries and I was getting nada.  We continued to hike upstream and I continued to try nymphs and streamers.

The sage advice of Mr. Elmer was playing out "early morning and late evening". We were there from 3 to 6 with nothing to net. That's probably why we were the only guys fishing this stretch at this time.

We hiked back to the car, and went for some pizza in downtown Athol. Every small town in Massachusetts has a "Small Town Name" House of Pizza and its been my experience when looking for fine local dining that you can't go wrong at the local House of Pizza brand.

After dinner, instead of going back to the prime evening hatch water where we just were, we decided to go downstream about 7 miles to an area on the Millers that we have fished several times and know a bit better. 

The Wendall Depot parking area had four other cars in the lot when we arrived at 7 PM. The simplicity of not dealing with waders and boots makes moving from one place to the next much easier.

We first went across the railroad bridge and started to work water downstream.  We ran into three other anglers fishing a decent section of the river in the C&R area.  I switched to dries and put on an X-Caddis.  With one of my first casts, a fish ripped the fly off the leader. It looked like I tied a bad knot, but I try to be very careful about these details and was pleasantly surprised to have found some fish. 

-- First trout of 2011 - an 8" rainbow --
The boys got into some small fallfish and I landed a tiny smallmouth on an olive Klinkhammer. We decided to move upstream before we lost too much light.  The boys bushwacked up to a big pool while I decided to work the riffles at the tail. I lobbed the Klinkhammer in to some fast water and after 169 days netted the first trout in 2011.

-- Decent smallie on Klinkhammer --
I moved upstream slowly to some rising fish just above the riffles and got into a decent smallmouth. One of the better fish that's been on my line in awhile. 

I continued to work upstream to find the boys who had got into some fish but could not land them. There was some good sized fish rising in the big pool and we were all working it hard.

-- Smallie with a bit of fight --
Just as the light was failing and the fish where getting really active on the surface, a beaver decided to let us know that this was his fishing turf and started to slap and submarine the pool spooking anything within a 400 ft radius.

We packed it in and started to head home just after 9 PM.  There was very little light left, but you gotta love long summer days with great fishing into the early evening.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


-- Westford Steam Team --
My wife and son volunteer with the Westford Stream Team whose mission is to document all surface water flowing both into and out of our town. They have been part of the team for the last five years collecting data on water quality to make sure upstream sources are not adversely affecting our water quality and to assure that the water leaving town is as good or better than when it arrived. I've had the opportunity to fill in for my wife a couple of times and have participated in the measurement process.

Our town is unique in this region of Massachusetts drawing all of our water from two local aquifers via either town or private wells. We are not part of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.

Our local stream water quality directly affects our drinking water.

My wife involved my son at the early age of 11. This on-stream lesson about how water quality affects fish populations has translated to a young man who wants to continue his education after high school in fisheries and wildlife management.

And also has created a pretty decent angler and a budding entomologist.

--Typical Measurement Site --
A typical measurement day starts around 3 AM with the team leader picking up a state certified water measurement meter from a neighboring conservation group. The meter is calibrated at the time of pick-up and again at the time of return. The leader meets the morning crew at the first stream test site around 5 AM and then a second crew relieves the first starting at 8 AM.

At each site, they take multiple water samples and use the meter to measure real-time temperature, dissolved oxygen, percent oxygen, pH and specific conductivity. They also observe and record water clarity, air temp, flow rate, channel depth and other environmental conditions at the sample site. A double blind sampling is used to assure accuracy and proper chain of custody should water data be required for legal proceedings.  The samples are sent to a lab for analysis of phosphorus, ammonia and nitrogen compounds.

My son produced and my wife edited the recruitment video for more volunteers. The Westford Stream Team has funding support from our local conservation commission and trust. They are also applying for state grant monies to expand the program and purchase measurement gear.

-- Snapping Turtle --
Not only does the team perform a valuable service to the community, the volunteers experience the beauty of our town's natural environment.

This morning they encountered a wild turkey, coyote, snapping turtle and a golden stone fly.

In two of the brooks, some small native fish where spotted. Typically brookies or red pickerel are found in our local streams.
-- Outflow from non-functioning mill --
It takes commitment and dedication to spend your early weekend mornings helping the community. Much of this team's work, along with the countless other volunteer conservation efforts around the country, go unnoticed and we all should support and help these groups with our time and money.

I personally want to thank the Westford Stream Team for their work and let them know that I truly appreciate the work they do in supporting water conservation!

Sunday, June 12, 2011


The last couple weeks have been a bit hectic, but in a good way. I started a new job in a new industry and much of my focus is there. We completed the first phase of a home improvement project laying a new floor in downstairs bathroom and laundry area. The Red Sox went from the basement of the American League East to 2 games in front of the Yanks. They just won their last 9 games sweeping the A's, Yankees and Blue Jays by outscoring them to 83 to 35. And the Bruins are in the Stanley Cup for the first time in 21 years.

-- White Perch on Fresh Pimp --
Needless to say, the time on the water has been few and far between.  We have been hitting the local rivers and ponds with some success. My son and I have been chasing pike and carp on the Concord River, but have not had much luck. Roughfisher's Fresh Pimps didn't get the carp, but did land my first white perch.