Winter is coming…
The days have quickly gotten short and the nights long & cold, but there’s still plenty of active fish to be had out there!
High water was yet again the name of the game for most of October which yielded excellent opportunities for high numbers on the bigger rivers. This is the time when the Westfield and Millers can start to get a little tougher, but solid holdover fishing will continue right over into the beginning of winter, so long as ice conditions permit. The Deerfield is still fishing very strong with tons of both stocked and wild rainbow trout well-distributed throughout the river.
On the note of the Deerfield, many of the river’s wild brown trout have moved onto spawning redds by now; make sure to keep a watchful eye out for redds when wading and please refrain from walking through nesting areas and casting to spawning fish. Browns who have either just completed or not yet started spawning may be a little bit tougher to key in on for right now but expect solid post-spawn opportunities for them on streamers and nymphs in the coming weeks. Areas of solid depth with adjacency to gravel bottom are often good starting locations for post-spawn brown trout fishing. Remember, these fish have spent a long time spawning and are aggressive & hungry afterwards, which is why we often like to start big & flashy and get smaller & more natural as needed with presentations.
With winter quickly setting in, the time draws near to begrudgingly put the dry fly box away for the season. Sparse hatches of small olives may still be sporadically targetable for a bit longer if temperatures permit; if given the chance, a solid go-to approach here would be CDC emergers or parachutes in size 22. Other than that, those looking to ply the surface will need to turn to midge presentations while being wary of trying to force the issue.
Nymphing will become more and more essential and will generally be best approached with standard indicator and contact rigs. Dry-droppers might be effective for curious stocked fish (especially on the Swift River), but with all larger hatches complete for the year, wild & holdover trout will likely become increasingly suspicious of dropper rigs. For fly selection, you can’t go wrong with Pat’s rubber legs, hare’s ear variants, and midges.
The Swift will become increasingly important as what appears to be a much colder winter than the last few sets in. Generally, the Swift still has open water even at the coldest points of the season. For now, its prolific brookie spawn is nearing its close but there’s still plenty of fish on redds so wade carefully. Throwing natural-colored eggs will be one of your best chances at a trophy brook or brown trout in the whole of southern New England right now, and there’s still fish rising to olives and midges to be had.
Small stream fishing can be pretty tough right now as the populations of many creeks are fully devoted to spawning. A good general rule of thumb at this time is to enter creek beds only when absolutely necessary as spawning redds can be much harder to identify in darker, more tannic blue lines. If all the trout in your local creek seem to have disappeared right now, a good bet is to keep pushing upstream while searching for them.
Northern pike fishing on both moving and still water is starting to mount up in a serious way as esox species prepare for winter. A lot of these fish will be pulled up into shallow (and often warmer) margin water to hunt, and contrary to popular belief, not every presentation needs to be crazy big. Like virtually all predatory fish preparing for winter, pike have the feed bag on right now and will usually hunt opportunistically, snatching whatever they can get with minimal effort.
Like pike, this timeframe is a sneaky good window for bass fishing as well. Both largemouth and smallmouth follow prey into easily targeted shallow water and often feed indiscriminately. Streamers and bottom patterns will be the winning ticket for both species, but a topwater fish on one of the year’s last warm days is not out of the question.
We held our first Bugs & Beers of the coming off-season this past Wednesday at Progression Brewing Co. in Northampton; it was the biggest turn out to date! Keep eyes peeled for the next one in addition to more tying classes & events as winter rolls on. Make sure to check our website and social media for updates. We also are in the planning stages of some great educational programs for 2024 so keep eyes out for more info coming soon.
Get out there and take advantage of the remainder of this awesome 2023 season!