Second Helping

Stocked trout fishing is all too often feast-or-famine, with successful days being legendary and tough ones candidates for short-term memory loss. For most, the first of this year’s stockings have followed this pattern. I’ve heard plenty reports of double-digit days on the river, but also a good amount of skunk days. It seems further west, rivers have been quite blown out, making fishing difficult despite the hundreds of fish poured into rivers and streams. Closer to home in the east, water levels have been much more fishable, but water temps remain cool, making fish lethargic.

In Massachusetts, stocking in most major rivers is usually done in two stages: rainbows in late March or early April, and brookies, browns, and sometimes tigers in late April or May. The second round of stocking has begun around my area, so anglers that feasted during the first stocking are returning to nearby waters for their second helpings.

I for one have had a bit of a mixed bag thus far. After the first stocking in my local freestone, the Shawsheen, I was able to capitalize with four ‘bows in about 90 minutes. Unfortunately, a tight schedule didn’t allow me to return to the river until well after it was picked over, so I’ve had to settle with that singular trip.

I also caught a good amount of what I at first assumed were wild brook trout at first in a central Mass stream. When the fish were reluctant to take my top small-stream fly, a purple haze, I began to get a little suspicious. I finally switched to a dry-dropper, with a chubby chernobyl up top and a hare’s ear down below, and began pulling in fish. I was impressed with the size of these fish, all around eight-to-ten inches with vibrant markings. That was until I checked the stocking reports on the way out, which indicated the stream had been heavily stocked, despite numerous reports of wild trout in these stretches. That explained the cookie-cutter sizes, unusual appetite, and uniform patterns.

This past weekend, I set out to take advantage of the second stocking of the Shawsheen. You couldn’t really call it my second helping, as the first couple outings had been little more than an appetizer, but this only increased my appetite for success.

I began the day using a classic bead-head olive wooly bugger with a hint of olive estaz at the collar. As with earlier stockings, this fly was the ticket, and I was soon getting follows and takes. The only trouble was, I couldn’t seem to keep the fish on. In the low and clear water, I could see every trout I moved, often leading to a premature strike as soon as I saw the fly disappear in the fish’s maw. It took until I fumbled around with the line for a second before setting the hook on one fish to actually engage in a fight.

And a fight it was! This brown launched itself into the air on numerous occasions before darting upstream towards nearby snags. When I finally landed it, I realized this was my first brown trout of the year.

After this fish, I switched to a euro setup to see if I could pull any more fish from the run. Despite a couple hearty follows, fully visible in the surprisingly clear water, I couldn’t draw a strike before breaking off the rig on a snag. Back to the bugger it was.

Lucky for me, the fish didn’t seem to mind. I quickly caught a small rainbow and brookie, completing the trout-trifecta. Many more follows and long-distance releases left me broken hearted, although it was probably my fault for not checking the hook.

To round off the day, I caught two decent bass on spinning gear in a nearby pond. Nothing huge (except for the carp roaming the shallows), but it was nice to see the pond coming alive after a chilly, breezy early spring.

There’s little doubt in my mind I’ll return to the river for plenty more helpings of stocked trout before the summer heat sets in. Hopefully others are getting out and enjoying the beautiful weather we’re having as well.

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