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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


The Beautiful Deerfield River

I approached the pool on all fours, in three foot of gin clear water one could count the pebbles on the bottom. Forty feet out from my position and within twenty feet of the tree lined far bank a good size trout sucked down a free drifting Hendrickson. Leaving just a small ring of the rise, which spread out across the glass smooth surface.

Fields, Woods, Forests and Water

I hadnít chosen the best time to visit Trevor and Christine Bross in Greenfield Massachusetts in New England where the State has just recorded its third coldest month of May on record. For my two week stay, the weather was a mixture of strong winds and heavy rain showers, sometimes with several hours of non stop rain. Though I did get three delightful afternoons of warm sunshine with blue skies and fluffy clouds, with temperatures in the 60 degrees F region.

Massachusetts is a State blessed with some delight trout streams, none are better than the Deerfield River which is probably the States second longest river after the Connecticut. The Deerfield is a tail water river, not a freestone water. As with many rivers in the United States there are several dams along the length of the Deerfield which have to release water to generate electricity. This release water of water can increase the height and flow rates considerably, making fishing impossible in many areas.

By going on you can access water flows, though they can be unpredictable and change hourly. The message will often tell you what time of the day the dams will stop releasing water. The experienced angler soon quickly works out the times he or she can be on the water. Browns, rainbow and brook trout are your quarry, though the latter are not as frequent as the previous two species. Other species are Tiger Trout, Dace, Carp, Sucker, Salmon and Shad. The latter are great fighters they never know when they are beaten. Often called the poor manís tarpon. In some areas there are small mouth bass to be caught. But from my limited experience, I rate the Millers a better smallmouth bass water.

Its Relatively Cheap To Fish In Massachusetts

For the small fee of $38-50 you get to fish all the Massachusetts States water for a season. Certainly excellent value for money. I must say I wouldn't want this system in place in England. We just don't have the miles of rivers and stream as the citizens of Massachusetts do. I also feel many of our waters would be badly abused and ruined within 12 months, if it was a free for all. Lets keep our system of angling clubs, societies, syndicates and commercial fisheries. Some of us, me included like the exclusivity we get by joining certain clubs and syndicates. I personally am not a fan of commercial fisheries for my fishing, much preferring a more wilderness experience. Though they do have there place in the angling world especially for the beginner and youngsters.

Two Hours of Sheer Delight

I suppose itís a forty minute drive from Greenfield to the catch and release stretch on the river near Charlemont, a quaint town of nice timbered homes set either side of the highway and along the river. It would make a delightful place to live for an artist, photographer or writer and property prices. are good by UK standards. If I was twenty years younger I might well want to move out West. The countryside is magnificent with mountains, hills, fields, woods and forests, interspersed with rivers, lakes, ponds and streams. We must not forget the beautiful coastline which offers some the finest saltwater fly fishing you could wish for.

I suppose it was about two thirty in the afternoon when Trevor and me arrived at Hopperfield Pool to find we had the water to ourselves, A light wind blew upstream the sky was blue, flecked with clumps of white fluffy clouds. A few Hendricksons were coming off as we pulled on our chest waders and Korkerís wading boots. We both wear these excellent boots with their changeable soles, which make them perfect for the travelling angler.

We both chose to use the Thomas and Thomas nine foot Helix rods rated for a five weight line. With flies coming off in good numbers, the only line we needed today was a floater with a twelve foot tapered leader to a 6 X tippet. As I was putting together my gear, Trevor was making his first cast, the fly had travelled about six feet when it was taken in a swirl. Trevor being rather shocked or very excited, at getting a take so quickly only three feet from the bank. Got well and truly broken. Its been said many times by many anglers "Donít go wading until you have fished the inside seam". Trevor had proved the wisdom of that advice.

Seeing I was ready to fish, Trevor being the perfect host and guide suggested I should fish the same run. My size 18 Klinkhammer drifted ten feet when it was taken in an aggressive manner. Within minutes of starting to fish this delightful river, I was playing a good rainbow in the fast flowing water. Two, no three times the fish jumped clear of the water. Slowly I worked the fish into the quiet backwater where it was soon netted. The Deerfield had once again given up its rewards. Its a friendly river, with good fly hatches when conditions are suitable. The river with its good head of stocked and wild fish, is a water I have fished on many occasions. Only ever blanking once. I well remember that day. It was very cold and windy with no fly hatches. I had to fish nymphs, not the most exciting of methods. Trevorís Dad John had a fish on his first cast, but nothing more.

A Yachting Regatta In Miniature

An hour after fishing there was a big hatch of Hendricksons the duns floating on the surface gave the impression of a huge yachting gala. It was like Mayfly time on the Kennet. Fish were rising, swirling and slashing at flies all over the river, but I couldnít raise a single fish. This despite getting some good drifts over feeding fish. Trevor pointed out a good fish feeding within inches of the bank where a bush overhung the water. I tried various patterns without success. Trevor then gave me one of his Hendrickson patterns resembling the dun of the species. Three times I cast the fly making good drifts, but the trout ignored my offering. I extended my tippet with a couple of feet of 7X then retied the fly.

On my left side the river flecked with white foam flowed fast over some rocks, thirty five forty feet below me it split into two sections. As most of the flow continued downstream part of the river swept away to my right creating a large back eddy. With a big area of scum, virtually a still water. I made a long cast upstream into the fast water as the fly reached the spot where the water flow swept back into the eddy I lifted the rod high, then I made a big mend to my right guiding the fly into the run close to the bank. Lowering the rod tip I had the fly on a perfect drift, retrieving line when needed. As the fly reached the end of the drift without a take I lifted off then made another cast. Three times I had the fly drifting perfectly. Still the fish wouldnít eat my fly.

Drying off the fly so it would float high, I made another cast. Trevor said "That's a good drift Martin" I murmured "Yes, lets hope the fish thinks so" In the blink of the eye, the fish sucked down my imitation. I tightened the fight was on. A good brown trout went ballistic taking line off the reel. For several minutes it was a good old tug of war between man and trout. The well balanced tackle and light hand holding the rod were in charge and after a few minutes a good size brown trout was landed. I gently eased out the barbless hook with a Ketchum disgorger. As the fish was released a kingfisher flew low across the river. American kingfishers are rather drab compared with the colourful kingfishers of English rivers. Meanwhile Trevor was also catching, I took time out to shoot some pictures as he played and netted a good fish.

Trevor had been given strict instructions to be home for six oíclock as we were going out to dinner. We had about fifteen minutes of fishing time left, I decided to shoot some more pictures, while Trevor caught two more good fish. I left the river thinking how exciting the fishing would be during the evening hatch.

Day Two - Itís Back On The Deerfield

As I was finishing lunch around one oíclock Trevor said "Lets go fishing, I have a gas stove so bring your tea bags". Wow!! it was going to be one of those good days when I could sit at the waterside with a fresh brew. On the way to the river we picked up Trevorís Dad John who is an excellent nymph fisher. Being Memorial weekend, there was a lot of traffic on the road, the forty minute journey was probably fifty five minutes. On reaching Hopperfield Pool. I left John and Trevor to get kitted out in the car park while I walked through the trees to the river, where I spied a fisherman standing well out in the river. In the very place he should have been fishing his fly. I was even more shocked to see he was using a float (bobber) with a nymph underneath it. I find it hard to understand why people should fish in such a crass way with all the good angling literature available. Still we see idiots who think they know it all. In every country.

Sitting on the bank I looked up and downstream, apart from our bobber, I could see my friend John Carpenter and two other anglers, they had all been on the river for sometime. Having pulled on my waders and put together a rod and reel I was ready to go off fishing. Collecting my wading staff and tackle I headed across the river picking my way carefully in the fast flowing water. Once on the far bank I made my way downstream to Rainbow Run which meant another crossing of the river at the top end of Bear Island. I passed two good looking riffles. At the second riffle, behind a car size boulder a good fish rose to take a struggling crane fly. I made a mental note to try the spot on my way back upstream. I continued my walk slowly and quietly downstream. As I round a bend in the river, I could see a slower moving stretch of water. Fifty yards further on it flowed into Maple Pool which looked magnificent.

My Idyllic Trout Pool

I approached the bottom of the pool on all fours, in three foot of gin clear water one could count the pebbles on the bottom. Forty feet out from my position and twenty feet off the tree lined far bank a good size trout sucked down a free drifting Hendrickson. Leaving just a small ring of the rise, which spread out across the glass smooth surface. I sat speechless at the magnificent scene before me. In the late spring sunshine, the thickly wooded banks along the river looked resplendent in their new cloaks of green, all shades of green. Half the pool was overhung by trees giving the water a magnificent pale green colour. The other half of the pool was a vivid blue from the sky. A raven, the biggest perching bird in the world croaked from a nearby tree. Itís interesting to note the feathers on its crown and shaggy throat are raised when they croak. A beaver slid down the far bank dragging a good size branch. No doubt it was tea time for beavers. I said to myself "It canít get better"

It did, as four more Hendricksonís were sucked down by a good fish. I extended my leader by adding another three feet of 7x Froghair tippet giving me a leader around fifteen feet. The fly I tied on my tippet, was a Hendrickson dun tied up by Trevor Bross who was my fishing buddy and guide. Pulling off some line I made 2 false castís, then shot the line, a light upstream breeze lightly ruffled the water surface which helped lay out my leader. The fly dropping like thistledown. It was on a perfect drift, I made several small mends, easing the fly down the stream. As it entered the taking zone, my concentration was intense, my mouth was dry, there was no saliva. I couldnít swallow. I was like a coiled spring. Would the fish be fooled into taking this creation of silk and flosses with an added bit of steel for the real thing? I soon got my answer. The fly disappeared in the tiniest of dimples, I raised the rod tip then felt the resistance of a good fish.

Suddenly the rod tip was pulled down savagely as the fish realised it was hooked, but I had no fear of breakage. The T&T Light Presentation Series rod was made for such occasions. The fish took a few feet of line as I let the combination of a well balanced rod, reel, line and leader take the strain. I was the driver and well in command. Three times I gave the fish some line, which was quickly retrieved. Five minutes later I had an 18 inch brown at the waters edge. Bending down I quickly slipped out the barbless hook without touching the fish. Realising it was free, it shot off across the pool for sanctuary under the far bank trees leaving a bow wave in its wake.

Stimulators and Klinkhammers are my choice

In the next couple of hours I had five more fish on size 16 Klinkhammers and size 10 Stimulators. When fishing the Stimulators I increased my tippet to 6X I only targeted single rising fish, it meant sitting quietly at the waters edge watching for rising fish, when a fish had shown itself three or four times I would then attempt to catch it. Lady luck was on my side. The river and wildlife belonged to me. It was sheer bliss. I caught a few fish, fluffed a few casts and lost some fish. It was just great being there. Suddenly the glass smooth surface of the pool was rocked as small waves spread out in all directions. Looking about me for the cause of the disturbance, I was shocked to see an idiot who had walked up to the pool from downstream. Deciding I wouldnít catch any more fish with his behaviour, where etiquette wasnít in his vocabulary, and with the pool destroyed I moved off upstream to the riffle. I caught my last fish of the session, a sixteen inch rainbow. As I went off upstream for tea, I got the chance to take some cracking pictures of beaver. Sadly I didnít get my fresh brew, though I was offered some lukewarm coffee from a Thermos flask. I declined the offer.

If you want to visit I suggest the following

When - May through to October. Fly American Airlines Manchester - Boston

Places to stay I suggest Greenfield, or Shelburne Falls and the bridge of Flowers. its about a hundred mile drive from Boston on a very good road network. Another place is Where to eat. In Shelburn the bottle of Bread is a nice restaurant with some character. As you enjoy a glass of wine or beer, you can sit and watch the trout rise. Another place to dine is the Sienna restaurant in South Deerfield. Dinner prices are good by English prices, made even better by the good exchange rate.

Tackle - I had three rods with me all Thomas & Thomas models. LPS 9 foot 5 weight for small dry flies, which I used with the finest of leaders. For the bigger dry flies I used a Helix 9 foot 5 weight for dry fly work. I wouldnít want to be without my Helix 10 foot 6 weight for fishing both dry flies and nymphs. If your good at Czech nymphing you can expect some great sport. The ten foot rod is just the weapon.You will find floating lines will cover 85% of your fishing, but I would also advise a 6 weight nymphing line.

Many of my friends reckon I take too many flies, but you donít have to use them all. Occasionally I might just need that fly I rarely use. I suggest you take a good selection. All attractor patterns work (stimulators, hares ear, copper john, prince nymph, Adams) BWO #18,#20 March Brown - dry, nymph, emerger, spinner Hendrickson - dry, nymph, emerger Green Drake - dry, nymph Sulfurs - dry, nymph streamers / wet flies - olive woolly buggers. Mahogany - dry, nymph Caddis - dry, nymph, emerger hoppers

Rule of thumb, is fish one size smaller than hatch on still to moderate moving water (fly colour important). 6-7x tippet for dries these fish have seen a lot of flies. See selection of pictures


Martin James Fishing