Saturday, June 21, 2008

Slowly, Along The Swift

A spectabulous first day of Summer, weather-wise, with beautiful skies and mild temps. Late in the afternoon, I loaded up the kayak and headed for Belchertown...

...heading for a glide along the beautifully named Swift River.

The Swift is the main release river for the waters of the massive Quabbin Reservoir, just a few miles upstream. As such, it's waters are always cool and clear, and usually fast moving. The river is always well stocked with trout; there's a nursery right nearby. The section from the boat launch at Cold Spring Road, upstream to the reservoir itself, is a favorite for fly-fisherman. From the launch downstream, the river is deeper, so fishing is best done from a boat. Though I brought some fishing gear, my main goal today was to soak up some of the natural beauty that this river always delivers.

I had encountered my Brother in Law and my niece at a convenience store on the way up. They had an hour or so to spend, so they followed me up for a quick cast or two from the launch area...

I began the glide downstream. The river was a little high Saturday, but surprisingly not very fast moving. I'm always astonished by the clarity of the water here. At most spots along the river, you can see straight to the bottom. Utterly gorgeous.

The mighty Connecticut River is beautiful, just for it's sheer magnitude and length. The Swift river is an entirely different experience. It's much more intimate and quiet. Your closer to the banks, the trees arch above you in many places, the wildlife is close, and easily viewed. A Blue Heron played catch me if you can as I went along; alternately landing and flying away, always just a few yard ahead of me. This duck held her brood back and waited for traffic to pass, before speedily crossing the river.

There were several motorized fishing boats out on the river, but none were very large, and all were courteous about leaving their wakes. They'd slow down near the kayakers and canoeists, which were pretty numerous today. I had to move out of the way of this convoy of paddlers.

This guy, with his two dogs, was limping back to the launch area. He had damaged his trolling motor on some submerged obstacle. He wasn't too happy, and pretty much told me the whole story as we passed, and continued telling me as he floated into the distance.

About half way down the river, there's an overflow area of still backwater, that forms kind of a large pond. Here can be found the warmer water fish like Bass and Pickerel. A couple years ago in this section, I had an epic battle with a huge Pickerel. The powerful fighter actually dragged me and my kayak about 50 yards, before I finally reeled him in. It was one of the best catches I ever made.

I pulled myself through a miniature Sargasso Sea of grasses weeds and lilies.

A closer look at a Water Lily revealed something brewing inside...

Heading back out onto the main stream a little ways, there's another section of wider, stiller water. This section is a little less overrun with water borne plant life though.

Here, the Tree Swallows were darting about everywhere overhead, chasing insects. I kept a wary eye open for dive bombers this time...

Blackbirds were the other dominant bird in this section; they refereed the action with their shrill whistles from the reeds and grasses along the banks.

Continuing on, I passed several fishermen here and there. From what I gathered, none were doing too well today. The consensus seemed to be that the high water levels were the culprit.

I increased to flanking speed, as I passed this pirates cove...

There are several lucky souls who have houses along this beautiful river, and were taking full advantage of it today.

Too soon, I reached the end of the line. The waterfall at Bondsville. I stepped ashore for some pics.

A pontoon boat made a daring approach to the edge before turning around.

This used to be a famous swimming hole for the locals. They'd jump off the walls or off the dam itself during low water levels, into a deep section just below. I never partook in it, but I heard you had to be sure to give it a good jump, to clear a section of cement near the dams edge. Unfortunately a tragedy happened here a couple years ago. Since then the area has been fenced off, and swimming sternly prohibited.

Here's a quick video from the scene:

Time to head back. At this point I was quite happy the current was slow today, and made good progress upstream. It was now getting late, and the sky was beginning it's evening glow.

I had brought my fishing gear, and had given a couple half-hearted casts here and there, as I'd stop to enjoy the surroundings. A luckless streak that had suddenly befallen me about midsummer last year, continues into this season. I wonder how I had so perturbed the spirits of the aquatic world. So, I thought it might be a good idea to cast here, hopefully with the auspices of this semi-deity, who I hoped might reward me with the bounty of the waters under his domain. That, and it looked like good Bass cover.

Alas, apparently I hadn't humbled myself enough, and was shut out again. Time to move on. By this time the sky was in full bloom, and most paddlers and boaters were 'making waves' as they headed back to the launch area.

The guy on the far left of this picture below, was fly-fishing from his boat and made a spectacular catch a short time later; the big trout leaped from the water, about five feet into the air.

I got back to the launch area myself, and packed up just as night fell. On the way home as I reflected on the afternoon, and wondered what was in store for the season, what should come over the radio...

Summer is here, again.

1 comment:

VanDog said...

You didn't hear any banjo music off in the distance as you went down the river, did you?

But seriously, Thanks for the view of the valley from a perspective most of us never see.