By - Nicholas Westin
First of all I want to thank both Mike and Allex for letting me contribute to this community. With all the fly fishing media out there now its hard to find content creators as genuine and passionate as them. The little community they have created grows day by day and is one of the greatest resources I have ever found for fishy knowledge.
Now a little about me. At the time of writing this I am a freshly graduated mechanical engineer from UMass Lowell. I’ve been born and raised in Massachusetts (go Pats!) I grew up trolling and spin fishing like many fly fishers. When I began to dive into the world of fly fishing I found myself beginning to prefer blue-lining and doing hike-in fishing. This led me to finding Fly All SZN on YouTube and I have been doing my best to convince Mike and Allex to make their way out East ever since.
The crew asked me to write up a little introduction to Massachusetts and what it has to offer fly fishing wise so here I go!
Massachusetts has 2 types of rivers. Freestones and tail waters (no spring creeks that I know of.) Our freestones can range in size from being 50ft wide to 2ft wide. The skinnier pieces of water will usually have more elevation gain/drop than the big stuff. But aside from the plunge pools that come from elevation change, most rivers are fairly similar in structure. Long sections of shallow water then riffles that lead to long runs sometimes containing pocket water. However out here, structure trumps everything. There could be a great looking run but if it’s a plain sandy bottom odds are there’s no fish there. But then there could be a puddle that has a bouldery bottom, or tree cover and you’ll almost always find a few fish.
My water of choice is 99.9% of the time are the freestones. Tailwaters are not for me, I hold no shame in name dropping the only 2 I know of. Both the Swift and Deerfield rivers are zoos. On the Swift its practically required to use 6x fluoro and <sz 18 flies. Not my style. Don't get me wrong its like fishing in an aquarium though. You can see every fish, target specific ones, know where they will be everyday but good luck catching one. That fished has been cast to 1,000 times before you got there that same day. The Deerfield is a little better, its a much cooler place to fish. Much of it runs through valleys and even some whitewater sections. But just like the Swift the pressure it gets its absurd. I know some of you from out west will just feel I am complaining and that its nothing compared to what you deal with out there but take a minute and compare the size of Massachusetts to any state west of the Mississippi river.
Freestone bluelines baby, thats where its at out here. Fishing the hard to get to, small stuff is a necessity. Half the reason Allex asked me to write this was because he didnt even know we had good trout fly fishing opportunities out here and most of these opportunities are on the smaller streams. Western Mass and Central Mass are absolutely loaded with wild trout streams of every species. Alot of places even hold healthy populations still of native brook trout. These smaller freestone streams are my bread and butter. If youre on one of these smaller streams, weather is probably the most important factor that will determine if you catch a fish or not.
Consistency is key. Low pressure, high pressure, low-to-high, high-to-low doesnt matter, if the weather has been consistent you’ll have pretty good odds of catching fish. In my time spin fishing and fly fishing ive always found that fishing is worst after a big pressure change or temperature change. Biggest key temperature/sunshine wise is that typically sunshine has to hit the water for the fish to really wake up. Rain is an exception, if you can get on a river right at the start of a rainstorm with some streamers you are in for a killer day.
Massachusetts legal fishing season is year round, January 1st to December 31st. Best fishing is April to June (could start earlier depending on snowfall.) However, late July to early September is when you need to start checking water temperatures. If we all want to be good representatives of our sport that means protecting the resources we use.
80% of Massachusetts is the same terrain. Relatively flat with some rolling hills and some decent elevation change thrown in every now and then. Pretty average east coast topography. Until you get to the mf’in Berkshires baby.
In the past year I really started exploring the Berkshires region of Massachusetts and I am not sure why I waited so long. Its the most mountainous region of Mass. It is some of the prettiest country in the whole state with also some of the best wild brown trout water in the state.
As a disclaimer I am not a big “match the hatch” guy so dont expect a full weekly
breakdown of our hatches schedule. I can offer some broad timelines though. Spring and fall (Feb-May, late Sept-Nov) its all about blue winged olives. Summer time its caddis (Elk Hair Caddis), non BWO mayflies (Parachute Adams varieties) and STIMULATORS . If I could fish one fly year round it would be a Stimulator. Also cant go wrong with a Royal Wulff, Royal Coachman or Humpy. Streamers are huge in summer rain-storms, fall and winter.
Mike asked for a pack breakdown after the first review of this article. Oh BOY is he gonna get one. I have my packs broken down into 3 different set-ups. A back and forth to the car waist pack, an out & back day-trip backpack, and a multiday setup.
The wasit pack is pretty standard, its an Umpqua ZS2 Ledges 650. Depending on the season I will run different fly box combinations (usually end up with 2 or 3 packed.)
*I wont always carry my imitative box or hopper box
- Imitative dries (more traditional flies with perpendicularly wrapped hackle) in a put and take box
- An anything that gets subsurface box (nymphs, wet flies, buggers and streamers)
- A box SOLELY dedicated to stimulators and attractor dry flies (but mainly stimulators)
- An appropriately themed box for only hoppers
- Sometimes a box for pre-rigged dry-droppers
- The fly boxes are in the main compartment of the pack. In one of the back zipper pockets I have both an external
- “main” set of tippet spools (4x-6x mono 6x fluoro)
- a back up spool for my most used 2 (6x fluoro and 5x mono.)
I also keep an assortment of indicators with them too but my preferred indicators are Dorsey’s and lightning strikes. In my two hip pockets I have my tools (nippers and pliers) and my fly dressings. I have Frogs fanny and Flyagra. USE THEM FOR DIFFERENT FLIES. Frogs fanny powder is better for CDC and post water exposure. Flyagra is better for pre-water treatment. In the other back pocket I keep various non-fishing related accessories; gloves if its a cold season, knife always, waterproof matches always, few bandaids, tape, alcohol wipes, a bar or two with some energy drink powder (JET FUEL TO THE MOON @Mike for the recipe.) That about sums up the waist pack.
Now on to the fun stuff. My day pack used to be my multi-day pack but it was always overkill and achieved a different goal. But now I have a Kuiu Divide 1500 and am excited to get to use it. The load out for it wont change but it just has better organizational capabilities than my Osprey and better ways to attach fishing accessories. On to the gear!
In my day pack the fly boxes stay mostly the same. If i'm day-hiking somewhere ill probably forgo the imitative box. I will also pack in 2 rods because if I'm hiking in 6 miles somewhere I dont want my trip ruined because of a broken rod. The tools/fishing accessories will stay mostly the same as well. The biggest changes will be in SAFETY and FOOD. If youre reading this you are probably familiar with Mikes view on safety and I am of the same approach. Be over prepared. I have a dedicated (extensive) first aid kit that never leaves my day bag so I dont forget it as well as a raincoat and extra warmth layer. I dont have an emergency GPS Garmin or other device like that so I will either check my cell provider's coverage or give a very detailed plan to someone. I am a hungry hungry person so food is always an important packing aspect for me. Ill either pack in a premade lunch with snacks. Or I will pack in snacks/bars and a freeze dried meal. There is only one right answer for the best brand of freeze-dried meals. Peak ReFuel (I take great pride in being the person that got Mike to try them.) Not to get to personal, but i'm lactose intolerant and have a very sensitive stomach and Peak not only tastes great but keeps bubble-guts to a minimum.
The multi-day pack! I am an avid backpacker and hiker, I’m currently ¼ of the way through the 48 White Mountain National Forest 4000fters and am currently planning a Presidential Traverse and Pemi Loop for the 2022 summer. Basically this means I can appreciate when its time to lighten your pack and cover ground. I run an Osprey Talon 44. Great/simple organization capabilities and reasonably light while still being rugged enough for hard travel. When Im using this pack im packing a: tent, sleeping pad, sleeping ⅓ zip quilt (seriously try one out enlightened equipment is a great brand), cooking set up, my hiking clothes, clean set of sleeping clothes, warmth layers, a mess of safety gear (similar to the day pack kit) and fishing gear. Im currently working on a multi rod PVC rod tube. I also might have a way to make a titanium and carbon fiber one because of what I do for work.
The rods are the hardest thing for me to carry. As for the other fishing gear I simplify it way down. I really spend time thinking about where I am going and the type of water I will be fishing i.e. if its small pond odds are I wont need my full size streamers. Typically i will reduce down to 1 or 2 small fly boxes with 3 or 4 of maybe a 8-10 confidence fly patterns. Stimulators, parachute adams, bjorns hoppers, chironomids, leeches, elk hair caddis are some examples. Imagine a 12L” x 12W” x 4H” box, try and fit all your fishing gear excluding rods into that. Im still trying to work out the best combination of footwear and when to bring waders. Its all location dependent for me
But with all of this said… I'd probably just go to NH. Its Massachusetts fishing but on some Jet Fuel.