Cold Weather, Swift Trout
Back in July, Andy Nabreski visited the Swift River in Belchertown, check out his report). When he described the crystal clear water, plentiful and beautiful surroundings, I immediately put it on my fishing to-do list., and got to experience one of the coolest fisheries in (
It took me half a year, but I did make it up to the Swift on Monday, January 21. Though the air temperature was in the 20s, the water was still above 40. The Swift River is a tailwater, fed from the bottom of the Quabbin Reservoir through the Winsor Dam. This keeps the water temperatures relatively steady throughout the season, cool in the summer, and warm(ish) in the winter.
The Swift is well known for its plentiful but “snooty”. It’s a popular fishing destination, and throughout the course of the year, the Swift River trout see a lot of flies. Once they’ve been “educated” a couple times, they become very tough to fool, often closely inspecting a fly before ultimately refusing.
Casey Breeds was kind enough to join me and show me the ropes on the Swift. Casey is dedicated fly fisherman and a fantastic photographer. You can see some of his work in the February Issue of On The Water Magazine.
In the Fly-Fishing Only section, above the Route 9 Bridge, the tales I’d been told about the abundant trout in the Swift River proved true. In every likely looking holding lie, there seemed to be at least one crimson-slashed rainbow holding its place in the current. Many of the trout were actively feeding, though the food was too small for me to see. So in an effort to match the hatch, I tried the smallest flies I owned, in sizes 22 to 26. These didn’t get any response, at least I don’t think so. I could barely see the flies when I was tying them on, so I can’t say for sure I ever landed them near a trout.
The next tactic Casey suggested was streamers. Sometimes the erratic motion of a baitfish imitation will cause the trout to shed their inhibitions and strike. This is just what happened with the first trout I tossed the streamer to. It charged with a head of steam from beneath a log jam and nipped at the tail. I set the hook and watched my fly come shooting out of the water and the trout dart back under the log jam. The next attempt was more successful. A 17-inch rainbow turned on my streamer immediately and smashed it.
For the next couple of hours, I cast streamers at dozens of trout. A few spooked, a few hit it and most at least chased it. I love seeing fish react to a lure or fly, and the trout on the Swift put on quite a show. Sometimes, pausing my retrieve drew a strike, and sometimes pausing my retrieve made the fish lose interest. Sometimes a fast retrieve made the fish charge ahead and eat, and other times, it made a fish give up. Even the most aggressive trout only gave me one shot however. Each followup cast at the same fish brought diminishing returns until it would eventually swim away.
With very few opportunities for sight-casting during the depths of winter, fishing the Swift River was a treat, and one I hope to experience again soon.