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The Streamside Guide - Road Trips

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"I feel like I've spent my life in my car recently. This is not the natural habitat of the intrepid Streamside Guide, believe me. But I've also had the opportunity to visit some great fishing spots in the process, places I haven't visited in many years."

I feel like I've spent my life in my car recently. This is not the natural habitat of the intrepid Streamside Guide, believe me. But I've also had the opportunity to visit some great fishing spots in the process, places I haven't visited in many years.

A couple weeks ago, I drove to Albany, New York to catch a concert by The Dead. The Dead (which is made up of the surviving members of the Grateful Dead and a couple of very capable sidemen) haven't toured in 5 years, so I figured this might be a good excuse for a road trip. I was a big fan of the Grateful Dead when I was in my twenties and I still love to listen to their music today. While I was in Albany, I caught up with a couple of good friends, Jason and Alison Hunter. As is the norm for us when we get together, we sat around before the show, drinking beer and talking about fishing. I knew I had to head to Western Massachusetts, where they both live, the following week and so Jason and I conspired to get in a couple days out on the water when I got there.

Jason and Alison live just a short walk from the Deerfield River, a stream I used to fish the hell out of about 30 years ago, when I lived in the Boston area. So I was very excited to get back to it again. Jason and I hiked down into a 70 or so foot deep gorge and started tossing weighted Wooly Buggers into the pocket water below a power dam. The water was only 47 degrees, but Jason managed to get a couple of strikes. The reward for my efforts was that my feet got cold.

The next morning, we dragged my canoe to the area just upstream from the same power dam and paddled about a half mile upstream to a long, deep run that was surrounded by huge boulders. The boulders broke up the current, creating lots of pieces of pocket water for us to fish. We each got strikes and we were also able to sight some other fish in a few places, flitting for cover when they spotted us. This was all the more remarkable, given that the water temperature was only 44 degrees!

We paddled back to where we'd started, I dragged the canoe back onto my car, said goodbye to Jason and Alison, and headed back to Vermont. The very next morning, my next-door neighbor called me up. The poor guy was as sick as all hell. I sympathized and asked if there was anything I could do for him. There was. Apparently he had two tickets for a concert by The Dead in Hartford, Connecticut that night. Did I know anyone who would take them off his hands?

And that's how I ended up driving back down to western Massachusetts, to pick up Jason (who'd agreed to buy one of the two tickets) and to head into Hartford for another concert. The Dead played a terrific show from their vast catalog of tunes and we sang along, just like we all had when we were well…somewhat younger. I drove back to Vermont early the next morning and headed to work.

I'm getting tired again just writing this. I sure as hell am not in my twenties anymore.

But then, since I hadn't spent quite enough time in my car, instead of driving straight back home from Burlington after work the following day, I took the incredibly long road home and stopped by to fish one of the smaller tributaries of Lake Champlain. Before I even tied anything onto my line, I was able to see that the stream was filled with smallmouth bass. I'd spoken to Mike (my constant partner in angling crime) on my cell phone while putting all of those miles on my car the previous day and he'd told me that the bass had been massing at the mouth of the river for several days. I'd been out of town, reliving my youth on this bizarre, extended road trip, so I'd been completely out of the loop as to what was happening in my home waters.

The bass had finally run up the stream, and will be in this tributary for most of the next three weeks, vying for mates, digging nests, laying/fertilizing eggs, and guarding the nests until the offspring hatch. It's the first really great fishing of the season and I was very pleased to be there as it started.

While I was there, I spoke with John Synnot, who was fishing for the smallmouths with his fly rod. John is a fly fishing guide and part of Stream and Brook Fly Fishing in Vergennes, Vermont. I ran across him a year ago and he's a real gentleman. I contrast this to my own, normally abysmal behavior, which I have attempted to detail on this blog. John was quietly smiling when I encountered him by edge of the stream, excited that the smallmouths were back and that it was springtime again.

"This is my favorite time of year," he said as we parted. I can't find much fault in that assessment.

Today, I'm taking the day off from driving and fishing. Frankly, I'm pooped! However, I'll be back out on the road again shortly, driving to the New Bedford, Massachusetts area (Oh joy! Another 5 hours in the car, each way!), where I'm planning on revisiting another stream I haven't fished since the mid-1980s. The Mattapoisett River is host to what once was one of the great herring runs along the east coast of the United States. It was also one of my favorite trout streams when I lived in southeastern Massachusetts during the years just before I moved to Vermont.

So, I'm packing my car with an 8 ½ foot 6-weight fly rod, my vest and waders in anticipation of revisiting another old haunt. I haven't fished the Mattapoisett River since the spring of 1985. It's amazing. A car can get you to travel great distances in a short period of time. What's remarkable is that it can sometimes take you back in time too

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