Saturday, December 21, 2013

A fitting end

to the season
Yesterday I made my final-final outing of the year, to where else but the Swift River.  The forecast was for overcast skies with temps in the mid-40s.  A bonus was a few hours of sunlight to make it feel even warmer.  As I made my way down River Road towards the turnoff to the USGS gage parking area, I saw a car on the side of the road with two guys getting out.  It was two NH buddies looking to sample the Swift River fishing.  They had fished above route 9 before, but not downstream.  In particular, they wanted to fish the vaunted hatchery pipe area, but had no idea where the access was. I told them I was going there and to follow me and I would show them around.  Ronnie had fished with me on the Androscoggin a couple years ago and we had been on a salmon river trip together a few years before that. I had met Herm, but not fished with him before.  Ronnie is the nicest guy you would ever want to fish with and I discovered that Herm is just as nice a guy as Ronnie.  With all the snow we have had over the last week, the road was rutted with snow and the parking area was even worse.  There were a couple people fishing the pipe outflow and a couple more fishing downstream.  Herm and Ronnie were concerned about crowding other anglers, but soon got into the Swift-River-synchronized-cast-and-drift-without-snagging-your-neighbor's-line scenario. Ronnie was sandwiched between Terry and George (Swift regulars) and got some tips and flies from them. As all this was going on, now and then a fish would sip one of our tiny offerings and add a little spice to life at the pipe. 
It struck me as the day went on that this friendly environment meant more to me than the occasional strike of a slob rainbow.  If we were fishing in Montana or even the White Mountains, we would all have been trying to get out of sight of other fishermen.  If somebody ventured within 100 feet he would receive a dirty look or a curt comment to ward off the unwanted approach.  Not at the Pipe.  I can't quite put my finger on it, but the total package of standing in crystal clear water with slabs of rainbows swimming around your feet and eying your tiny fly with disdain is part of a shared experience unlike few others.  Yes, everybody stakes out a small piece of liquid turf. But that little fishing territory is not vigorously defended.  The entire Swift River experience is so unreal compared to most fishing environments that it seems to foster a different set of unwritten rules of etiquette.
When I first started fishing there in the 70s there was a certain novelty about being able to fish over nice specimens twelve months of the year.  But the often crowded nature of the small river with localized concentrations of fish put me off.  In the last few years I guess I have mellowed.  I understand that some people look at the Swift with disdain as not being "real fishing."  Stocked fish; crowded conditions; limited hatches, etc. Fly fishing junk food.  I am not certain I could take a steady diet of it, but there is enough variety available most of the time, so you can get away from the crowds if you want.  There may not be as many fish, but you can still fish over nice fish in solitude if you are willing to do some walking and exploring. Enough philosophizing for now. It's not for everybody, but it serves a purpose when you just need to get out and have a shot at a fish that will put a serious bend in your rod. I know Herm and Ronnie will probably get their fill of fishing it over the next few weeks.
I have a few more days of cleaning and organizing my gear for next season before I head to Florida for the winter.  I added a couple more flies to my salt water box, made sure I have some stout tippet and cleaned my 8 weight line. Now I need to organize my mayfly dries, and my nymph boxes, so I can hit the ground running when I get back in April.

I have posted the calendar for the June Androscoggin Special Package trip, check it out and let me know if you want to go.  It is an especially good deal for singles.

Merry Christmas to all and a Happy 2014!


  1. Merry Christmas and a New Year that's full of fish.

  2. It was great running into at the Swift. You really summed it up nicely about the particular mystique of the river. I've always found good comradeship on the Swift, and yesterday I caught a few nice fish on a pattern similar to the one you gave me.
    Many thanks and all the best for 2014!

  3. Glad you had some success Herm. That is a good pattern. Have a great 2014!

  4. Gerry,

    I think you nailed the "Spirit of the Swift". Well said!

    Happy New Year!!


  5. Gerry,

    I've followed your blog for years and have always wondered what the fishing in your neck of the woods might be like. I guess you could say I've always admired it from afar (I'm in New York). I think 2014 might just be the year I make the trip and do a little exploring. Thanks for fueling the fire ...

  6. Ken, Thanks, and Happy 2014 to you!

    BK, Glad you like the blog. Let me know if you want any info.

    Some resources:
    My Youtube channel with over 100 videos:
    My guiding website, which is also full of info, pictures, video links, etc:

  7. So where is the best place to park to access the pipe?