When the Sportsman’s Show schedule was finalized, we had the On The Water “fantasy draft” to select from over 30 trade shows, determining which on each of us would work. I selected to work the OSEG Sportsmen’s Show in Springfield at the Big E with co-worker Doug Cameron. Knowing he was a native of nearby Belchertown, the thought of finding a few small windows to work in some fishing with someone who knew the lay of the land immediately entered my mind. Working the show was our first priority, so I wasn’t counting on any fishing opportunities to present themselves, but if any did, I figured the advantage of Doug’s local knowledge about fishing in Belchertown may allow for a higher success rate. We initially planned for some ice fishing to target my first pike since it would be late February, but with this unseasonably warm weather, that wasn’t an option.
On the first morning, Doug made plans to meet two friends at a local spot five minutes from his house. We woke up early, scarfed down an omelet before first light, and dusted off two kayaks from his shed. We headed to Metacomet Pond in Belchertown. With clear skies and no wind, it was one of those mornings where you feel like you’re the first person to ever venture out onto that body of water. We pushed off the shoreline in pursuit of some trout and perhaps a broodstock salmon, where we were greeted by ideal weather conditions consistent with a picture perfect spring morning.
I thought to myself “No ice? No problem! I’ll take this over freezing on the ice any day!” We were joined by two of Doug’s friends, Kevin and Matt. We began systematically working every weed edge and sign of a depth change or structure, but things were off to a slow start. Matt had worked up a couple small trout and Kevin had managed a mix of trout, a few perch and a bass, while Doug and I had yet to have a customer. My competitive nature soon started to get the best of me, so I branched out in search of new water, rifling through Yo-Zuri Pins Minnows, Little Cleos, Colorado Rough Riders and other “go-to’s,” which all came back to the kayak without a bump. Finally, I managed to shake the skunk off with a tiny rainbow I picked up slow trolling an orange and bronze Thomas Speedy Shiner with a silver underbelly.
As the wind whipped up, a front approached and it started getting raw and nasty. A few minutes later, we had a steady rain which made the slow fishing worse. A developing chop was lapping against the hull of the kayak, which combined with really slow fishing had the four of us questioning if sticking it out was worth it. As conditions worsened it finally sent us heading for the ramp, which was directly into the wind of course. All of a sudden the fish gods came through in a big way. The front passed as quickly as it came and before we could make it back, it was suddenly calm and sunny once again. We stopped our bee-line for the ramp and Kevin quickly came tight to what had been the biggest rainbow of the day to that point. The fat 17-inch ‘bow was very dark, but extremely beautiful. It was like someone flipped the switch! We bailed aggressive trout averaging a fish every few casts with some fat, “brick” rainbows pushing 20 inches. The best part about this was they were hitting the metals and swimmers so emphatically that my rod would snap forward as if they were stripers walloping bucktails while jigging wire. With Matt leaving earlier, our remaining trio racked up a total of just over 30 trout in about an hour and a half! Definitely a great first day of trout fishing. Doug and I had set a goal to catch a fish each day we were there, even if we could only spend 20 minutes to take a few casts.
We knew there were days we’d have to get up really early and choose a spot nearby where we could easily connect with a fish within an hour or less. This spot turned out to be the Swift River. When we got there on the second morning, I quickly remembered how much fun trout fishing a river with my father and brother was as a kid. At this location we chose to sight fish, walking the high banks of the river looking for the silhouette of a trout to pitch our offering to. As I walked along the bank, nothing caught my eye along the first two thirds of the Belchertown side of the river, when suddenly two rainbows made their way from the near bank towards mid river in response to my presence. This led us to retrieve our gear from Doug’s car and rig up. Shortly after returning, I spotted a school of about 20 nice trout, noses pointed upstream, but quickly noticed a major obstacle preventing easy access to them. The problem was, I was observing these nice sized fish through a wall of pine trees that were situated along a good portion of the Swift. Taking this as a challenge, I quickly noticed an opportunity for testing, but very unorthodox approach. Thinking like a bow hunter with a shooter buck in his sights, I picked out a shooting lane and pitched my offering through a window that was about 3 feet tall by 3 feet wide. Doug took a different approach, casting from about 25 yards up stream towards where I pointed out the location of the fish. He hollered to ask if I could see his bait and I quickly realized I was being used as his eyes. After lifting my sinker off the bottom and walking it downstream with the momentum of the flowing water, my bait was soon on the nose of a nice looking trout. I quickly shouted out direction to get his bait within the strike zone and he skillfully employed the same method of positioning his offering blindly in front of our targets.
We were using egg sinkers held above a few feet of 6-pound-test Seaguar fluorocarbon by a tiny split shot acting as a stopper, preventing the egg sinker from sliding down the leader. Our braided mainline was connected to the leader with a Seaguar knot in place of a barrel swivel. We threaded two beads of chartreuse Berkeley PowerEggs just above the eye of a size 6 Eagle Claw bleeding octopus hook. Finally, we threaded a juicy mealworm onto the hook completing a gourmet “trout sandwich”. The PowerBait would act as a visual attractant emanating the right scent, but one of its main purposes was to serve as a float to raise the hook and mealworm nearly a foot off the bottom despite the flow of the river. This worked perfectly to position the bait at the exact height of the mouths of our quarry. The juicy mealworm was the icing on the cake, fit for the most finicky trout.
I watched intently as a dark shadow closed the foot long gap between my target and my bait. Next, the two chartreuse beads disappeared as my bait was slurped up by what looked to be a decent 18-inch rainbow. I missed that fish, but quickly hooked the next one a few minutes later. One thing I didn’t consider, is what I would do once hooking a trout through the small opening in the wall of pines that separated me from the river’s edge. Not seeing any monster trout in the school, I thought it would add to the fun. I swung the fish through the available window, managing to free my line from a branch or two in the process as the fish bounced suspended in the air towards me. I looked up to check on Doug’s bait as he laughed at my antics, and saw the shadow of a trout where I last had a visual on his bait. Excitedly, I shouted “Dude, I think you got one too!” Doug set the hook and we each went on to catch another pair of 16- to 19-inch healthy rainbows before we had to leave for the show.
We returned the next morning with only about an hour to fish with Doug’s father, Scott. On a morning where we awoke to the howl of screaming winds with gusts up over 25kts, I was certain our goal of a fish per day was in jeopardy. Especially after we arrived and both Doug and I realized we left our Costa’s at the house. Luckily, Scott had remembered his sunglasses, and I was quickly reminded of the benefit of fishing with quality polarized lenses. Scott was the first to spot any fish, and quickly came tight to a healthy rainbow. Scott was kind enough to point Doug and I toward a few fish that were hidden from us due to the glare of the rising sun. I managed to scrape up one more nice trout, totaling a pair in about a half hour which allowed us to stop for coffee and hit the show with our goal still intact.
After three days of chatting with OTW fans, processing Striper Cup registrations and subscriptions while handing out complimentary magazines to show-goers at the On The Water booth, we both decided that it would be nice to sleep in on Sunday. All in all, it was a great work trip, highlighted by great company at both the show, the Cameron’s home, and the time on the water.
With our limited fishing time, we still managed to catch and release a total of just over 40 rainbows up to 19 inches, along with a trio of perch and a small largemouth bass. Not bad at all for a work trip with little time to wet a line! This experience highlighted the benefit to keeping a rod and small versatile lure selection with you while traveling. Time to fish seems to get more and more difficult to come by as life seems to become busier and busier. With the mild winter we’ve had and all the open water opportunities present, no matter how small of a window opens up, it can pay huge dividends to be prepared!