Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Posts from the ‘Westfield River’ category

The Westfield River

Thursday, July 4, 2019

The East Branch of the Westfield River was too warm for fishing yesterday, so our plan was to fish the tailwaters of the Westfield River. It was July 4th, a terrible time for trout fishing, but a tailwater stream comes out of the bottom of a dam, so the water is cold. 

Driving out of Tolland State Park, there was a line of waiting cars. People were walking and talking around the cars. Slowly driving around the corner, the line continued for half a mile and judging from the animated conversations going on around us, most were Spanish speaking. The park is on a large lake, with a beach and a campground. For $5 a day, you can spend the day at the beach. A campsite is $27 a night, and they are large sites. A young man walked up the line of cars, handing out registrations. A truck came down our side of the road and seemed unwilling to back up. There was a space between cars in the long line, so I backed up so he could get in it. He was a park ranger. People came up to his truck to ask questions. We were amazed at the line as we drove out. 

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Driving up the Westfield main branch, we passed a park on the river. It was packed. People were parking across the street. We turned to Wrightsville dam, but two police cars blocked the road. The officer said they couldn’t allow anyone else in, as it was full. “Are they fishing?” we asked. “No, no one is fishing.” he said with a grin. He suggested fishing below Littleville Lake nearby.

We found the very pretty lake with a small stream flowing out below. We found a parking spot on the main branch behind an old sedan. A family was cooling off in the river. The young father came up to check on his car. We told him we were going to fish upstream of them. He could see we were old, decked out in fishing gear and harmless, so he nodded with a small smile.

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As we started up the small branch of the Westfield, Kelly fished ahead. I walked around the shallow side of a small island. I have never seen so many crayfish in my life, and there were some big ones. Crayfish, crawfish, crawdads or mountain lobsters are common in many streams, but this is a crayfish farm! Why on earth would a trout take any fly in my box when it could dine regularly on lobster? This pretty, little stream was warm – too warm, and slippery. We fished it up to the bridge and never saw a fish. 

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We got out in someone’s yard to walk up to the road. I saw a lady on the porch and asked if we could walk across. She yelled for her husband. John came to greet us, saying it was fine. “Did you catch anything?” he asked. He said the water gets to warm to even swim in the summer. He had build a small dam to make a little swimming hole, but he said the water comes off the top of the lake. Sheez, the top of the lake! So this is not a tailwater stream – only the one below Wrightsville Dam. He smiled and told us about all the work he had done on this pretty house that was built in the 1800’s. We thanked him and began our long walk in the hot sun back to the car. There was a lot of traffic on this little country road. A car with a Spanish-speaking family stopped to ask directions to a park. 

As we crossed a bridge over the main Westfield, two police cars blocked the road. Traffic was backed up as far as we could see. A nice police officer told us it would be about five minutes while a worker cut a downed power line. So many people were trying to find a place to cool off. Like us, they thought they were getting away in the countryside. God knows what it was like at the ocean beaches. 

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We were concerned we might not be able to get back to our campsite, but that was fine. As we drove into the park, this end of the lake was filled with boats gathered to party. We thought it would be terribly hot in the trailer, but it wasn’t. Our big, shady site was very comfortable. We showered and watched Enemy at The Gates, an excellent, riveting WWII movie. It was nice to relax a bit. After cocktails, we fixed a nice dinner of trout, new potatoes and sautéed spinach. Across the street was a big gathering of Latinos. Different people stood in the middle telling stories. Why couldn’t I make myself learn Spanish? I’m guessing the stories would have been fascinating. 

Fishing The East Branch of The Westfield River

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

It was and hour drive over to the East Branch, plus a stop for ice and a breakfast sandwich at a gas station. We took a quick look at Chesterfield Gorge, a pretty spot on the river, but we were excited to get fishing. It was already 9:30 and warming up. 

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We drove down the bumpy, dirt road, passing a couple of cars a photography team and some dog-walkers. It would be a great place to walk or ride a bike. We drove down a mile or so and parked. Kelly is always geared up first and had to wait for me. I followed, waiting to put a fly on until I got a look at the river. He was fishing on top, so I put on a nymph. I hate fishing nymphs, but it was probably our best chance of catching fish. The river is gorgeous, with huge boulders, swift runs and big pools. It’s easy casting with little in the way. Big rocks make great platforms to stand on and cast. 

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The water was warm – no cooler than a good smallmouth stream. This is not a good thing for trout. The river is a bit treacherous to walk in with silt covering the rocks, making it very slippery. We changed flies a lot and fished hard for two hours. No hits, no runs, no errors, so we decided to go downstream a ways. 

A nice fisherman was driving back up and stopped to chat. He hadn’t done anything either, starting where a gate blocks the road. He was going to try going upstream, so we went down. After parking, we walked down a half mile and started fishing. Nothing. I mean it’s July, and that’s not good for trout fishing. We were sitting on a big rock when I noticed a bike-rider with his shirt unzipped climbing down the bank toward us. We said hello as George approached us. “Did you lose a fishing rod? A walker found one in the road.” Kelly said it could be his. Did he set it on top of the truck toolbox and leave it there? “What color was it?” George asked. “What color line did it have on it?” Amazing how you can fish a rod for 30 years and not know what color it is. It was his father’s Orvis rod. We had noticed a group or groups of walkers along the road above us. George said the walker might leave it with the park attendant, but there was none today.

I scrambled up the bank as they were talking and walked quickly back to the truck to see if his rod was in the back. It wasn’t. By then Kelly was walking up. We got in the truck, hoping to catch this walker before he left the area. Backing up 300 yards, we found a place to turn around. A Jeep was coming down the road and had to back up to a spot we could pass each other. We passed several groups of walkers, but no fishing rod. Then a biker with two dogs stopped us. It was a bit hard to tell what he was talking about. As a dentist, I was focusing on the missing teeth. He was a fit-looking older guy with no shirt on. Apparently there was a car with a dead battery. We had only passed one parked car, a Jeep. “Was that it”, Kelly asked. “No, it’s up a side road. I remembered a road turning up the mountain. “We’ll come back, but first we need to look for a lost fishing rod.” we said. He was still talking as we hurried off. Hurried is a stretch. This road is rough, and 10mph is top speed with a lot of bouncing. We’ll probably break something in the back, we said.

One more group – no rod, but in the next group, a bearded man about our age had the rod. Kelly thanked him profusely. “Thank God”. We turned around and drove back down the road to find the car with a dead battery. Catching up to the bike-rider with two dogs. It was his truck, a new Toyota. He must have left something on, maybe a light or something. He said he would lead the way to where he was camped for several days. Shades of Deliverance went through our minds. The two of us could take him, but suppose he had a friend up there with a gun. He could ride the bike faster than we could drive the truck, but we followed him to the  turnoff. He said it got a bit narrow at one point. Looking back, he said, “Boy, that’s a big truck!” We have driven much tougher roads, but a log narrowed it at one point. It was a bit of a struggle getting by, and his directions weren’t great.

Finally we saw the new, red Toyota truck. Of course it was pointed away from us. We quickly surveyed the area for others. Dogs are usually good indicators, and these were two very nice dogs. If they were pit bulls, as so many people seem to have, we wouldn’t have followed him. 

We had to clear all his camping gear, coolers, stoves and bags out of the way. Then we pushed his truck backward so I could get my truck around a fire pit to his hood. “You want a beer?” he asked. He was constant chatter, and I wasn’t here for chatter. Steve was his name. He said, “Oh you don’t drink?” “No, we drink – just not beer”. The cute, little puppy kept jumping up my leg, looking for attention. 

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Fortunately I have long jumper cables, but they’re not so easy to clamp on my battery. First try, no effect. There was just clicking. May be the starter, I suggested. “No” Steve said “They really service this truck well. I’m sure it’s the battery. It has so many electrical gadgets and technology, I’m sure it was my mistake leaving something on.” Tightening the clamps, we tried again with no effect. “Let it run a while to charge it”, he said, and the chatter kept flowing. Noticing a hanging trash bag, I asked about bears. That led to a couple of bear stories. Steve likes to camp in remote places, not that this is really remote, but if you like to bike and walk, this is a good place. “Try it again”, I said while he was still talking. Still clicking. The starter, I thought.

I checked the connections and found the one on my battery had come loose. “Try it again” I said. He said, “Leave it a few minutes and let it charge some more. Are you guys in a hurry?” He was drinking a beer, and still talking. Thankfully, on the next try, his truck started. He thanked us profusely as we wrapped up the cables and put them back in the truck. It was a bit tricky turning around, but we finally made it. Heading down the mountain, he was still talking, thanking us. Now safe, we realized not many were going to come up this road to help Steve, and we were glad we did. Not many people were going to come down to the river and ask if we had lost a fishing rod either, so we had paid if forward. The fishing wasn’t much, but it was an adventure.

We started to drive to a fly shop in Deerfield, but the bridge was out. It was 45 minutes north and we were an hour from camp. That’s enough for one day, so we turned around and headed home. Charlie had called as we left the Beaverkill. What a nice guy! He said the Deerfield was great, and gave us the name of a great guide. Looks like we aren’t going to make that one this trip. 

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