All posts by Brian Comfort

Women’s Fly Fishing Retreat Second Session

Due to popular demand, the Deerfield Fly Shop is excited to announce we have added a second session of our Women’s Fly Fishing Retreat on July 9 and 10.

This retreat is aimed at beginner fly fishers, but intermediates who want to brush up or reinforce their skills are welcome as well.

On Friday, July 9, Cynthia Harkness of Fearless Fly Fishing, who has more than ten years experience teaching fly fishing and guiding clients on both fresh and salt water, will cover all the basics of fly fishing. From putting a rod together and rigging it up to selecting a fly and tying it on to casting that bug out there and where to cast it, Cynthia will guide you through the process. She will cover the basic gear and terminology, knots, hands-on casting instruction, fish feeding and behavior, and more over three hours on Friday afternoon.

On Saturday we will reconvene for a half-day float trip down the Deerfield River where our professional guides will get you on the river and help you put into action everything Cynthia went through the day before.

The cost for the Retreat is $300 per person and includes use of all equipment, the Friday seminar with Cynthia Harkness and a half day float on the Deerfield River, guide tip included. In addition, all participants will get 10 percent off anything in the shop and there will be special deals on starter fly fishing equipment packages. Email brian@deerfieldflyshop.com to save your spot.

COVID regulations are in flux but we will be following the latest advice from the state and CDC. Be prepared to wear masks and practice social distancing. The venue for the Friday session may be changed to account for the safest practices at the time of the event.

Beginner and Intermediate Casting Clinics in April and May

Master casting instructor Jim Dowd will lead casting clinics for beginning and intermediate casters over the next two months. These are all individual classes and each class is limited to four participants. The beginner classes are FREE! Email brian@deerfieldflyshop.com to register.

Beginning Fly Casting

These classes focus on brand new to beginner casters. We go over the fundamentals of fly casting and how and why it works. Participants will learn the basic casts: the pick up and lay down and the roll cast. These casts are the foundations of basically all fly casts. We will offer individual classes on:

Thursday, April 22 at 5:30 pm

Saturday, April 24 at 10 am

Thursday, May 20 at 5:30 pm

Saturday, May 22 at 10 am

Intermediate Fly Casting

This class is for folks who have some proficiency with basic fly casting and are looking to expand their repertoire of casts. Jim will teach the Reach Cast, the Tuck Cast and the Single Haul. There is a fee of $25 for this class and it is limited to six. The class will run Saturday, May 1 at 10 am. Email brian@deerfieldflyshop.com to register.

River Report 4/10/21


Spring has arrived in full force out here in western Mass. Trees are starting to bud and the stocking trucks have been rolling for a few weeks now. Most area rivers have received at least one stocking of rainbow and/or brown trout. Abundant sunshine and seasonably warm weather has the fishing most definitely on the upswing.

For most rivers around here, fifty degrees is kind of the magic number for a marked increase in insect activity, which is greeted by a marked increase in trout activity. Area freestones have been peaking at over fifty degrees most afternoons this week. The upper Deerfield is still a bit cooler in the low to mid forties but generally warms a bit as you go downstream. All this is to say that we seem to be heading into the prime trout fishing season around here.

Black stones in a size 12 or 14 have been laying eggs on the surface of the Deerfield in the Shelburne/Buckland area and trout have been on them. I saw scattered fish rising up closer to Fife Dam last Sunday and reports have trickled in of risers up and down the river. Most are pretty scattered and likely on those stones, midges or small Baetis mayflies. Look for blue quills/mahogany duns (size 16 Parachute Mahogany Duns and #16 rusty spinners work well for this bug) to start hatching followed by the Quill Gordons and Hendricksons.

Because our initial offering in May filled up so quickly, we will be offering another Women’s Fly Fishing Retreat on July 9 and 10. The cost will be $300 and this should fill quickly as well. We will also be offering a series of beginner and intermediate casting clinics in April and May taught by master casting instructor Jim Dowd. See our Classes/Seminars page for more info.

Flows have generally been low on the Deerfield and area freestones this month as we have seen no rain and are substantially lower than typical years. This is good for early season surface activity. It is not great for mid and long term prospects, though we are supposed to get some rain tomorrow and early next week. And who knows what the weather will do after that.

Nymphing will still be your best bet until the water warms even further. Bigger stoneflies like Pat’s Rubber Legs and Terminator stones paired with hare’s ears in natural or black will work well. Since most of the early season mayflies are on the bigger side, pheasant tails, prince nymphs and other staple nymph patterns in sizes 10 to 14 should do the trick as well. Caddis pupae and larvae are always a good bet on the Deerfield and most of the freestones. And the junk always works: eggs, worms and mops.

Spring is also great for streamer fishing and I have gotten some of my best fish in April on large articulated streamers. Rich Strolis’ Articulated Ice Pick, Heisenbergs and Bank Robbers are good patterns to try. I like to vary up the color of the fly and my retrieve until I find what seems to be coaxing some strikes. Smaller streamers will also work. You can’t go wrong with wolly buggers in olive or black or zonkers.

Pike are active on the Connecticut River right now and the rising water temperatures will get the smallmouth bass more active as well. Ponds should be coming to life as well with largemouth bass looking to pack some calories before their spawn.

This is a great time of year to be a fly angler in western Massachusetts! Get on out there if you can!

Guided trips and lessons available. Call us at 413-397-3665 or email brian@deerfieldflyshop.com.

Dries: Midges, BWOs in 20 to 22; Black stones in 12 and 14; Olive Stimulators in 12-14; Parachute Adams 10 to 14; Parachute Hare’s Ears 12-14; Parachute Mahogany Dun 16; Light and Dark Hendrickson 12-14

Nymphs: Pat’s Rubber Legs,  Golden or Black Terminator Stone 8-12, eggs, hares’ ears in natural and black 10-14, Pheasant Tail Nymphs 12-18, Frenchies 12-16, Tan/Olive Mops, Squirmies, Natural/Olive Caddis Pupae/Larvae 12-16, Red/Copper Johns 12-16Sexy Walt 12-16. 

Streamers:  Woolly Buggers Olive/Black 6-10, White/Olive Sculpzilla 8,Bank Robber 2, Ice Picks, Heisenberg Baby Bow/Cowboy/White 6, Sculpin Bunny, Black/Brown Rubber Bugger 4, Black, white and olive Zonkers.

Water Flows for Fife Brook Dam can be found here

Water release schedule for the next day is posted after 5pm. Check again before you head to the river. Minimum Flow 130 CFS (Cubic Feet/Second). Ideal for wading and Dry Fly Action. Normal Release 800-1,000 CFS

For Miller’s River in Erving here

For Miller’s River Bear’s Den area here

For East Branch of the Westfield here

Ladies’ Fly Fishing Retreat

Ladies, always wanted to give fly fishing a shot but didn’t know where to start? Gentlemen, is there a woman in your life—mother, daughter, sister, partner, friend—who you know would love to start fly fishing? Then come join us for two days of fly fish immersion on the Deerfield River!

On May 7 and 8, the Deerfield Fly Shop is hosting its first ever Ladies’ Fly Fishing Retreat. This retreat is aimed at beginner fly fishers, but intermediates who want to brush up or reinforce their skills are welcome as well.

On Friday, May 7, Cynthia Harkness of Fearless Fly Fishing, who has more than ten years experience teaching fly fishing and guiding clients on both fresh and salt water, will cover all the basics of fly fishing. From putting a rod together and rigging it up to selecting a fly and tying it on to casting that bug out there and where to cast it, Cynthia will guide you through the process. She will cover the basic gear and terminology, knots, hands-on casting instruction, fish feeding and behavior, and more over three hours on Friday afternoon/evening.

On Saturday we will reconvene for a half-day float trip down the Deerfield River where our professional guides will get you on the river and help you put into action everything Cynthia went through the day before.

The cost for the Retreat is $300 per person and includes use of all equipment, the Friday seminar with Cynthia Harkness and a half day float on the Deerfield River, guide tip included. In addition, all participants will get 10 percent off anything in the shop and there will be special deals on starter fly fishing equipment packages.

COVID regulations are in flux but we will be following the latest advice from the state and CDC. Be prepared to wear masks and practice social distancing. The venue for the Friday session may be changed to account for the safest practices at the time of the event.

Next Level Bass Flies with Jay Aylward

It’s just past sunset and the water has turned to glass. The only sounds are the leopard frogs and your popper making its way across the surface along the edge of a weed bed. You hear the crack of a pop top behind you, signaling that you have approximately 12 ounces and counting left on your turn in the casters seat. You scan the horizon and you think you see a wake near a clump of grass. Your fly hits the water with a SPLAT! You pause and let the fly sit there as the rings dissipate. You give the fly one POP! Followed by a pause. GULP! Is what you hear as you watch your fly disappear….

Bass fly guide and tyer Jay Aylward is teaching a foam head bass class through the Deerfield Fly Shop on Tuesday, March 30th at 7 pm. Be the envy of your friends by learning the tricks to making and fishing bass flies that fool mega bass. This is an online class and we will be using surface seducer popper heads. In addition, we will cover a Swingin’ D style fly that Jay uses with a sinking line to fool both largemouth and smallmouth bass. 

This class will be on Zoom and space is limited to six students. Class will be appropriately 3 hours of instruction. $35 for the class. Material kits are available through the shop for $50. These kits include enough materials to tie several flies as well as helping you build your bass fly material library. Contact brian@deerfieldflyshop.com to reserve your spot now—this class is limited to six and will fill quickly! You can either pick up the material kits in the shop or if you act soon, we can get them in the mail so you have them by class time.

River Report 2/17/21


Winter fishing in the area continues to be pretty solid! Though it’s been cold and relatively snowy, reports keep coming in of some decent fishing to be had on the Deerfield, Swift and other area rivers.

With the recent rain and subsequent snowmelt, I would think the Deerfield would turn off a bit for a few days but as cold temps return, the fishing should pick back up again. I would concentrate your efforts up above Charlemont as the ice has taken hold throughout much of the river below there. But there’s open water below Fife Brook Dam.

We’ve got a number of fly tying events these next couple months so be sure to check our Classes/Seminars page for more details.

I like to fish a bigger attractor nymph like a stone fly and then drop a smaller nymph like a #16 pheasant tail or Frenchie off of that. Junk flies like mops, squirmies and eggs will work as well. Slow and deep is generally the name of the game in the winter. Sustained higher flows (around 900cfs or better) tend to get the fish stacked up into holding lies on the insides of big bends and in the deeper pools, where they will generally be out of the main currents in softer water, usually near the bottom. As a rule, these fish are not feeding aggressively so you really need to get your fly right on their noses.

Streamer fishing can also work quite well this time of year. Again, slow and deep is the usual mantra, but mix it up every once in awhile just in case there is a more aggressive feeder lurking around.

The Swift River is always a good winter spot to try if you are willing to brave the crowds. Junk flies will work here as well, but so will much smaller nymphs like Zebra midges in 20s to 24s and pheasant tails in 20 and smaller. You may even run into the occasional fish rising to tiny midges.

Guided trips and lessons available. Call us at 413-397-3665 or email brian@deerfieldflyshop.com.

Dries: Midges, BWOs in 20 to 22

Nymphs: Pat’s Rubber Legs,  Golden or Black Terminator Stone 8-12, eggs, hares’ ears 12-18, Pheasant Tail Nymphs 12-18, Frenchies 12-16, Tan/Olive Mops, Squirmies, Natural/Olive Caddis Pupae/Larvae 12-16, Red/Copper Johns 12-16, Sexy Walt 12-16. 

Streamers:  Woolly Buggers Olive/Black 6-10, White/Olive Sculpzilla 8,Bank Robber 2, Mini Headbangers, Alter Egos, Silly Rabbits, Complex Twist Bugger, Heisenberg Baby Bow/Cowboy/White 6, Sculpin Bunny, Black/Brown Rubber Bugger 4.

Water Flows for Fife Brook Dam can be found here

Water release schedule for the next day is posted after 5pm. Check again before you head to the river. Minimum Flow 130 CFS (Cubic Feet/Second). Ideal for wading and Dry Fly Action. Normal Release 800-1,000 CFS

For Miller’s River in Erving here

For Miller’s River Bear’s Den area here

For East Branch of the Westfield here

February and March Fly Tying

Deerfield River Fly Box

An informational and tying series.

I will be sitting down, online, with shop guides over the next three weeks to talk about some of our favorite fly patterns for the Deerfield River and how to tie and fish them. The sessions will meet Wednesdays, February 10, 17 and 24, at 7 pm. Email brian@deerfieldflyshop.com to register and get the link. The sessions are free.

Jay Aylward and I will discuss streamers on February 10, Eric Halloran and I will talk wets and nymphs on February 17 and then it’s Jay and I again on February 24 to help you get your dry fly box in order. We will discuss some of our go-to patterns, how we tie them,  and how and when we fish them. We will demonstrate a handful of ties and field questions throughout. Tying experience is only necessary if you want to tie your own; there should be helpful information for non-tyers as well.

Virtual Drop-In Tying

Join us on Thursday, February 11 and Thursday, March 11 at 7 pm for a drop-in tying session. There is no set agenda other than offering an opportunity for folks to tie together, learn from one another, and enjoy a little fly tying camaraderie! The sessions are free.

To join, click this link: https://meet.google.com/urm-usnk-aay at the scheduled time.
Otherwise, to join by phone, dial +1 252-379-2791 and enter this PIN: 558 614 525#
To view more phone numbers, click this link: https://tel.meet/urm-usnk-aay?hs=5

Introduction to Fly Tying

This class will be held on Tuesday, February 23, at 7 pm. It generally runs a little over an hour. In it, we learn the very basics of tying flies. We will tie two woolly buggers, which you will get to keep at the end of the class. All tools and materials provided. This class is limited to three participants so that we can maintain social distancing protocols in the shop. Masks will be required. The class is free. Email brian@deerfieldflyshop.com to register. If the class fills up and there are still folks who want to take it, more classes will be scheduled.

Beyond the Bugger

For those who have taken our introductory class or have a little experience tying and want to take the next steps, this class on Wednesday, March 3, at 7 pm is for you. We will build on the techniques learned tying the woolly bugger and attempt some other slightly more difficult flies. Materials and tools will be provided. This class is limited to three participants so that we can maintain social distancing protocols in the shop. Masks will be required. This class is free. Email brian@deerfieldflyshop.com to register. If the class fills up and there are still folks who want to take it, more classes will be scheduled.

Basic Striper Flies

On Tuesday, March 9, at 7 pm come learn some basic saltwater flies like Lefty’s Deceivers, Clouser Minnows and EP Baitfish. Some tying experience is recommended. Tools and materials will be provided, but feel free to bring your own. This class is limited to three participants so that we can maintain social distancing protocols in the shop. Masks will be required. This class is free. Email brian@deerfieldflyshop.com to register. If the class fills up and there are still folks who want to take it, more classes will be scheduled.

River Report 1/14/21

As we roll into 2021, the winter fishing is just fine! Relatively mild temperatures thus far have provided ample days to get out and catch some trout.

The shop will be temporarily closed on Monday, January 18, and will reopen on Thursday, January 28, while I do a little research on Lowcountry redfish! So stock up on tying supplies and flies, leaders and tippets this weekend!

The Upper Deerfield continues to fish well, especially up closer to Fife Dam, but fish can be had throughout the river, at least until ice and snow make access to open water on the lower river more difficult.

I like to fish a bigger attractor nymph like a stone fly and then drop a smaller nymph like a #16 pheasant tail or Frenchie off of that. Junk flies like mops, squirmies and eggs will work as well. Slow and deep is generally the name of the game in the winter. Sustained higher flows (around 1000cfs or better) tend to get the fish stacked up into holding lies on the insides of big bends and in the deeper pools, where they will generally be out of the main currents in softer water, usually near the bottom. As a rule, these fish are not feeding aggressively so you really need to get your fly right on their noses.

As long as there is not much snow, the warmer the better. But as we get some decent snow cover, those warmer sunnier days in the low 40s can work against you by causing some snowmelt that actually cools the river down and I tend to look for days in the mid to high 30s. That said, there are always some very nice fish pulled from area waters on really cold days for the hardier among you!

Streamer fishing can also work quite well this time of year. Again, slow and deep is the usual mantra, but mix it up every once in awhile just in case there is a more aggressive feeder lurking around.

The Swift River is always a good winter spot to try if you are willing to brave the crowds. Junk flies will work here as well, but so will much smaller nymphs like Zebra midges in 20s to 24s. You may even run into the occasional fish rising to tiny midges.

Area freestones like the Westfield and North can also fish well, though access will be difficult as it gets colder and the ice builds on the banks.

Happy New Year everyone! Thank you all so very much for your continued support of the shop. We are looking forward to a great 2021 here at the Deerfield Fly Shop–keep your eyes peeled for some big announcements coming soon!

Guided trips and lessons available. Call us at 413-397-3665 or email brian@deerfieldflyshop.com.

Dries: Midges, BWOs in 20 to 22

Nymphs: Pat’s Rubber Legs,  Golden or Black Terminator Stone 8-12, eggs, hares’ ears 12-18, Pheasant Tail Nymphs 12-18, Frenchies 12-16, Tan/Olive Mops, Squirmies, Natural/Olive Caddis Pupae/Larvae 12-16, Red/Copper Johns 12-16, Sexy Walt 12-16. 

Streamers:  Woolly Buggers Olive/Black 6-10, White/Olive Sculpzilla 8,Bank Robber 2, Mini Headbangers, Alter Egos, Silly Rabbits, Complex Twist Bugger, Heisenberg Baby Bow/Cowboy/White 6, Sculpin Bunny, Black/Brown Rubber Bugger 4.

Water Flows for Fife Brook Dam can be found here

Water release schedule for the next day is posted after 5pm. Check again before you head to the river. Minimum Flow 130 CFS (Cubic Feet/Second). Ideal for wading and Dry Fly Action. Normal Release 800-1,000 CFS

For Miller’s River in Erving here

For Miller’s River Bear’s Den area here

For East Branch of the Westfield here

Upcoming Fly Tying Classes

Tuesday, December 8 at 6 pm: Introduction to Fly Tying

In this class, which generally runs a little over an hour, we learn the very basics of tying flies. We will tie two woolly buggers, which you will get to keep at the end of the class. All tools and materials provided. This class is limited to three participants so that we can maintain social distancing protocols in the shop. Masks will be required.

Wednesday, December 9 at 6 pm: Beyond the Bugger

For those who have taken our introductory class or have a little experience tying and want to take the next steps, this class is for you. We will build on the techniques learned tying the woolly bugger and attempt some other slightly more difficult flies, which may include elk hair caddis, hare’s ear nymph, pheasant tail nymph or some other slightly more complex flies. Materials and tools will be provided. This class is limited to three participants so that we can maintain social distancing protocols in the shop. Masks will be required.

Thursday, December 17 at 6 pm: Introduction to Articulated Streamers

Articulated streamers can catch some big fish, and they are very fun to tie! We will go over the basics of tying articulated streamers, including common materials, basic fly design and proportions, and how to make the connection between the hooks or shanks. This class will be held virtually over Zoom. You will need your own tools. I can also put together a package of all the materials you will need to tie a few streamers for a small fee that can be picked up at the shop or mailed to you.

Call us at 413-397-3665 or email brian@deerfieldflyshop.com to reserve your spot.

River Report 11/25/20

Forgive me, fly-fisherpeople, for I have been remiss. It’s been way too long since the last report. Since then, it’s been a bit of a crazy fall: a little snow, some temps in the 20s and a week of sunny weather in the 70s in November. Or maybe that’s just a typical autumn in New England.

There are several fly tying classes coming up at the Deerfield Fly Shop, and what’s even better, they are all free! On Dec. 8, there will be an introduction to fly tying class for those with little to no experience. On Dec. 9 is the follow up class to the introduction for those beginners who want to take the next step. And for intermediate and advanced tyers, we will be offering a basic introduction to tying articulated streamers on Dec. 17–this class will be held virtually on Zoom. Check out the events page on our website for more details.

Water temps on the Deerfield River have dipped into the low 40s so we are definitely in cold weather mode now. The trout have mostly moved into their winter lies in slower, deeper water. That said, you can still find some fish actively feeding in the faster moving riffles, especially on warmer days. By and large much of your effort should be focused on getting flies deep in the slower moving water.

If you put your time in, in often unpleasant conditions, this can be your reward! DFS guide Eric Halloran caught this beautiful Deerfield River brown on a medium sized caddis nymph earlier this fall on a cold, rainy day. It was down deep in slow moving water.

This is a great time of year to fish streamers. The browns are in spawn mode and so tend to be a bit more aggressive. I like to fish bigger articulated streamers, knowing that I will likely catch fewer fish but the possibility of a real bruiser is there. Rich Strolis’s patterns, which we have an ample supply of in the shop, are always effective. I vary the color and profile of the fly, as well as where I fish it in the water column and how I retrieve it. You can also have great success swinging woolly buggers and other smaller streamers. Streamer fishing for me is all about mixing things up until you hit on the right combination.

Nymphing is the best option to catch a larger quantity of fish and at times quality of fish–some of my biggest nymph-caught trout have come this time of year. Generally you want to get down deep and fish the slower edges of moving water or the deeper pools. I find indicator style nymphing to be most productive here but tightline techniques will also produce. As far as bugs go, standard Deerfield River patterns work well: bigger stoneflies like Pat’s Rubber Legs, Pheasant Tails, Hare’s Ears, caddis larvae, and some smaller maylfy nymphs in 18 to 22 to imitate the BWOs will all work. Junk flies are also a good bet this time of year: squirmies, mops, and, most importantly, eggs. In fact, I almost always have an egg on as one of my flies from October through the spring.

The Swift River is fishing very well and, for me, this is by far the best time to be on that crowded body of water. Browns and brookies are on their beds and the rainbows line up below to eat all the eggs that spill out. Junk flies, with eggs at the top of the list, are most effective but small orange soft hackles have been working and the midge game is always on at the Swift.

‘Tis the season! Browns and brookies are spawning and redds like this can be seen on our rivers into January. Please avoid these–do not wade through them, do not target fish guarding their nests on them. We have some fantastic wild trout populations. These fish face enough danger from predators and spawning is always a stressful time of year for them. If we leave them alone for a couple months, they will still be there in the spring, and more importantly, so will their offspring.

Area freestones like the Westfield, Millers and North are also fishing pretty well right now. Here I would use smaller streamers or nymph the deeper, slower water. It can be a bit hit or miss, but you can have some success as long as you get out there!

It’s game on for pike fishing. This is one of the best opportunities to get one of these apex predators on the fly as they tend to move into shallower waters in the fall and early winter. Best bets are in the Oxbow and Barton’s Cove on the Connecticut River.

It may be cold but the bass don’t care! This meat eater followed my articulated streamer all the way to the boat before committing at the last second earlier this week on the lower Deerfield. Bass can still be had through the colder months. They tend to hang in deeper, slower water–but if you find one, chances are you can find many as they school up this time of year.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We hope you can all find a way to enjoy it in these strange times. We will be closed Thanksgiving Day but open during our regular business hours the rest of the week.

Guided trips and lessons available. Call us at 413-397-3665 or email brian@deerfieldflyshop.com.

Dries: Midges, BWOs in 20 to 22

Nymphs: Pat’s Rubber Legs,  Golden or Black Terminator Stone 8-12, eggs, hares’ ears 12-18, Pheasant Tail Nymphs 12-18, Frenchies 12-16, Zug Bugs 12-14, Stalcup’s Gilled Nymph 14, Tan/Olive Mops, Squirmies, Natural/Olive Caddis Pupae/Larvae 12-16, Red/Copper Johns 12-16, Sexy Walt 12-16. 

Streamers:  Woolly Buggers Olive/Black 6-10, White/Olive Sculpzilla 8,Bank Robber 2, Mini Headbangers, Alter Egos, Silly Rabbits, Complex Twist Bugger, Heisenberg Baby Bow/Cowboy/White 6, Sculpin Bunny, Black/Brown Rubber Bugger 4, Olive and Gold/White Mini Drunk & Disorderly.

Water Flows for Fife Brook Dam can be found here

Water release schedule for the next day is posted after 5pm. Check again before you head to the river. Minimum Flow 130 CFS (Cubic Feet/Second). Ideal for wading and Dry Fly Action. Normal Release 800-1,000 CFS

For Miller’s River in Erving here

For Miller’s River Bear’s Den area here

For East Branch of the Westfield here