Massachusetts Fly Fishing

The Cape

he nice thing about fishing Cape Cod is that about 90% of the waterfront is open and accessible to the public. If you can get to a beach without trespassing private land, you can fish it. That includes the Bay and the Sounds as well as the Great Outer Beach and Nauset. You may have to walk at times or even be dropped off to fish, but you can fish it. Another nice thing about the cape is that there are very few rocks or rocky shore.

Outer Cape Beach Access

Provincetown to Nauset Inlet in Eastham is within the Cape Cod National Seashore (CCNS). Access for ORV’s is limited to the northern 1/3 and permits are available from CCNS for a fee. Walk-on beach parking permits are available free for CCNS beaches and allow fishing-parking from dusk to dawn. During daytime, regular parking rules/fees apply.  Visit https://www.nps.gov/caco/planyourvisit/maps.htm for more information and a free map of the seashore with access points.

Nauset Beach, Orleans to Chatham ORV permits available for a fee from either town. Walk on to fish the Spit, north to Nauset Inlet from Priscilla Landing in Orleans 1.5 m. Walk on to fish Pochet Island and south from Orleans Beach parking lot.

Nauset affords great fishing at times throughout the season but especially in Fall. Excellent for fly-fishing except when wind is strong from NE or E. When that occurs, try the west-facing beach at Herring Cove in P’town or fish the inside of Nauset Inlet Spit from Orleans which is also West Facing. The outer beach is not a safe place for the uninitiated in small boats and access is limited.

Chatham, Monomoy and Nantucket Sound

Pleasant Bay & East of Chatham affords protected fishing for small boats with all-tide launch at Ryders Cove off Rte 28 in North Chatham. Some limited shore access here also. Ryders Cove also offers access to the Atlantic east of Chatham and produces good fishing from late June through Fall. Chatham Inlet can be dangerous and you should check the storm warnings at the Chatham Lighthouse.

Monomoy Islands are a National Wildlife Refuge (USF&WS) in Chatham. Information from Visitor Center on Morris Island in Chatham. 24 hr. fishing access around Morris Island with access from visitor center. Access to North and South Monomoy Islands and the Flats is by boat only.

Water Taxis operate from USF&WS and from Outermost Harbor in Chatham. Private boat access is from the all-tide launch ramps in Stage Harbor off Barn Hill Rd., Chatham or Saquatucket Harbor in Harwichport off Rte. 28. Many fishermen use the water taxi daily ($15 round trip) Visit http://www.riprider.com to find out more information.

The flats around Monomoy are world-class for sight fishing Striped Bass. Many guides operate here out of both harbors and fishing can be excellent from early July on throughout season. Fall often brings Bonito and False Albacore to the edges of the west-facing flats and Bluefish are here all season.

Bass River area divides the towns of Dennis and Yarmouth. There is an all tide boat ramp $ on the Yarmouth side of the mouth of the river. The estuary provides excellent wade and boat fishing from May until waters warm above 70 in June and again in Fall.

Outside, along the beaches provide excellent fishing for large Blues and Bass in June and again in Fall.

Cape Cod Bay

Sandwich Marina – Sandwich offers all-tide access to the West end of CC Bay and the Plymouth Area.

Sandwich & Scorton Creeks, in Sandwich afford good wade fishing from late April through late fall with access from town parking lots

Barnstable Harbor, Barnstable access from Blish Point – all-tide pay ramp at Blish Point off Millway Rd. from Route 28. Sheltered from the north by 12 mile long Sandy Neck, the western harbor affords flats fishing in any wind other than the strongest west or east. To the east are the Barnstable Flats running 5 miles to the Bass Hole/Chase Garden Creek. Can provide some great sight-casting to Stripers all season long. Access the beach along the north side of Sandy Neck down to Scorton Creek from the harbor.

Brewster Flats actually run from Chapins Beach in E.Dennis to Wellfleet, well over 25 miles. This area is the largest flats in the Northeast and offers excellent sight-casting for Bass and Bluefish which can show at any location, but especially off the creek mouths, most of which host Herring runs. A word of caution. You can be fishing some areas in 9 feet of water at high tide that will be sand at low. Keep you eye on the tide, as well as the weather here.

Boat Access

From Sesuit Harbor, E. Dennis, all-tide pay state ramp on East side off Cold Storage Rd. Rock Harbor in Orleans has a town (free) ramp offering half-tide access. Welfleet Harbor has a ¾ -tide town, free ramp and Pamet Harbor in has a town pay ramp giving access to the Billingsgate Shoals area.

Shore Access

The beaches in Dennis, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham and Wellflett offer shore access to these flats. While some are limited by resident sticker; by and large fishermen can park there after 7:00 PM until about 9 AM. Check with the local police department for specific regulations.

Flies and Lures: It is well to keep in mind that the predominant forage fish in all Cape Cod waters is the Sand eel. Therefore Clousers and Deceivers in light colors are a must. Squid are another prime bait fish here too and squid imitations will often work well. Sight fishing can also be fantastic when conditions allow casting crab imitations such as the Merkin.

The large range of soft plastic lures such as Slug-O, and Fin-S in light colors will also produce well here.

Note: If you get on the flats and the water is riled up and not conducive to sight-casting; try drifting flies downwind, especially off the drop-offs.

Martha’s Vineyard

Stripers

Striped Bass are undoubtedly the most popular gamefish that visit these waters each year. Commonly referred to simply as “stripers”, these fish are also called rockfish in the southern states, especially in the Chesapeake Bay area. Whatever you call them, they are strong fish that have excited and challenged thousands of Vineyard anglers over the years.

Stripers arrive in the Vineyard waters in spring, often by mid-April. May sees good fishing with plenty of smaller fish, often called “schoolies’ due to their habits of schooling together, especially at this time of year. Early summer brings larger fish to the waters. Stripers are the last fish to leave in the fall, often staying around until the end of November.

Striped bass can be identified by their beautiful and dramatic stripes, in addition to a generally silvery coloration. Fish taken on the outer beaches often show a faintly purplish sheen.

Stripers frequent many types of habitats, from open beaches, estuaries, and reefs, to rips and points of land. Wherever you find them, you will find fishermen eager to do battle with their favorite gamefish. The striper can grow to quite a large size – 40 pound fish are not uncommon, but not as prevalent as they once were in our waters. Fish up to 50 pounds are taken each year, both from shore and by boat by a handful of lucky anglers. Fish of 60 and 70 pounds have been taken in years past by anglers fishing the Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands, just a few short miles to the north of Martha’s Vineyard.

The Vineyard is famous for it’s surfcasting for striped bass, and popular areas include the long ocean beaches on the south side of the island, as well as those on Chappaquiddick. These areas are the best bets for those who enjoy bottom fishing with bait, a method which can produce some large fish, especially in the fall. Light tackle and fly anglers concentrate on beaches, points, and inlets on the North side of Martha’s Vineyard, which enjoy the relatively calm waters of Vineyard sound.

Popular techniques for stripers include spinning or casting tackle rigged with live eels or a wide variety of artificials including plugs and metal lures. Many anglers troll the sandy reefs of Middle Ground for stripers during the summer. Even fly anglers can take some very nice fish, and the Vineyard is a popular destination for those who like to chase stripers with the long rod. Herring flies, snake flies, deceivers, and lots of other patterns will take striped bass at the right time. It should also be noted that night fishing is very popular among Vineyard anglers, as the largest fish are often taken long after the sun has gone down.

Bluefish

Bluefish are second only to stripers as popular gamefish in Vineyard waters. Since they have a tendency to eat everything in their path, catching bluefish can be easy when the schools are thick. Anglers from all over the island are sure gather wherever the bluefish show up in good numbers.

Blues arrive in our waters in May, and Memorial Day is traditionally a great time to find schools of feeding fish. The early runs of fish can be big, with fish of up to 16 pounds or so taken from shore on the Chappaquiddick beaches.

Summer waters are populated with plenty of fish in the 3-4 pound range. Fall brings concentrations of migrating fish back to our waters, and the largest bluefish of the year are taken then, sometimes fish of up to 20 pounds. Bluefish can often be found feeding on top in an enourmous blitz, and these are the times that many anglers look forward to most!

Bluefish can be identified by their overall blue or green coloration, as well as jaws filled with razor sharp teeth (so be careful and use pliers to remove hooks from bluefish). Bluefish are good eating, and many anglers will keep one or two small fish, releasing the larger fish which have a stronger taste.

Bluefishing is a tradition on the island, and bluefish can be found almost anywhere, but the best places to look for the big ones are on the beaches of Chappaquiddick. The reefs and rockpiles of the North Shore, and especially Devil’s Bridge and Gay head are other great spots if you have access to a boat.

Smaller fish can be found everywhere in our waters, and the inlets often provide a good opportunity to find feeding bluefish.

Popular techniques for blues include spinning or casting with artificials including topwater plugs and metal lures. Trolling with wire produces many fish for boat anglers during the summer. Cut bait on the bottom works well on the North Shore, and many anglers also fish with live eels.

However you fish, be sure to include a wire leader between your line and lure, to prevent the bluefish’s sharp teeth from cutting you off. Fly anglers often catch blues incidentally while fishing for stripers, but some fly and light tackle anglers target blues specifically, especially when stripers are absent.

Menemsha and Lobsterville Beach are good places for the fly and light tackle angler to find feeding bluefish, especially in late spring and early summer.

Bonito

Atlantic Bonito are one of the most exciting gamefish the Vineyard each year. These cousins of the larger tuna species are very fast and challenging to catch, and light tackle and fly anglers eagerly anticipate the arrival of these fish every year.

Bonito first show up in mid-July, with late July being a better time to find fish consistently. The bones will stay on through late October and often into the very first part of November.

Bonito can be distinguished from the false albacore by a pointed mouth with fairly large conical teeth and an absence of spots on the lower front third of the fish. Bonito are also excellent eating, though many anglers practice catch and release as a conservation measure to preserve these beautiful gamefish.

Shore fishermen who target bonito frequent the inlets around Martha’s Vineyard, including the entrance to Edgartown Harbor, Vineyard Haven Harbor, the Lagoon Pond drawbridge, Cape Poge Gut, as well as the inlet to Sengekontacket pond at Big Bridge. The Lake Tashmoo inlet and the Menemsha inlet are other popular spots to search for the elusive bonito.

Good spots for boat fishing include the points on the North side of the island, including Cape Poge Point, East and West Chop, Paul Point, Cape Higgon, and Devil’s Bridge, along with the rips that form over the sand shoals found between Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard such as Hedge Fence and Middle Ground.

Popular techniques for bonito include live bait fishing with mackerel or butterfish, as well as spincasting with small metal lures such as those made by Swedish Pimple, Deadly Dick, and Yo-Zuri. Fly anglers can do well with bonito since these fish feed mainly on small baits like sand eels and silversides. Small white deceivers and epoxy patterns which mimic the available prey can be deadly at times.

Bonito fishing on Martha’s Vineyard is some of the best in the world, and several IGFA records for fly and light tackle have been set in our waters.

False Albacore

False Albacore, also known as Little Tunny and Fat Alberts, are brutally strong light tackle fish which have broken plenty of tackle, lines, and even perhaps a few hearts along the way. False Albacore are a schooling fish generally found when our waters reach their warmest temperatures of the season.

albie

False Albacore, or “albies” as they’re known locally, first appear in Vineyard waters in late summer or early fall, sometimes as early as September 1. September 15 is a better time to find albies consistently in our waters, and these fish commonly stay through mid-October. When lots of albies are around, bonito can be scarce. When fewer schools are here, bonito and false albacore can sometimes be found frequenting the same waters, and it’s also not uncommon to find a few bluefish or striped bass following the schools of false albacore hoping for an easy meal.

Albies can be identified by their tuna-like shape, and by the presence of one or more spots on the lower front third of the fish. Albies are frequently seen blitzing bait at the inlets during many late summer and fall days, and the excitement of casting into these breaking schools can be overwhelming! False albacore are notoriously poor fish to eat, and almost all anglers release their catch to swim another day. Albies can fight to the death, so some care is required in landing and releasing these fish successfully.

Shore fishermen who enjoy chasing false albacore haunt the same inlets as those frequented by the bonito, including the entrance to Edgartown Harbor, Vineyard Haven Harbor, and Cape Poge Gut, as well as the inlet to Sengekontacket pond at Big Bridge. The Lake Tashmoo inlet and the Menemsha inlet also provide good opportunities to find false albacore in season. Good spots for boat fishing include West Chop, and the open water areas between Oak Bluffs east to Cape Poge and Wasque Point where warm waters gather in late summer.

Effective techniques for albies include spincasting with the same small metal lures that are used for bonito, such as those made by Swedish Pimple, Deadly Dick, and Yo-Zuri. Fly anglers can be especially effective since albies feed heavily on small baits like herring, sand eels, and silversides. Small white deceivers, sand eels, and epoxy patterns are just the ticket to hooking up with the exciting false albacore.

The Deerfield

The Deerfield River, situated in the picturesque Northwestern region of Massachusetts, is a remarkable destination for trout fishing enthusiasts. This pristine river boasts abundant populations of Rainbow, Brown, and Brook trout, generously stocked by state-run hatcheries. Originating from the Haramon Reservoir in Vermont, this river flows through Massachusetts, eventually converging with the Connecticut River, and then down throiugh Old Deerfield, Massachusetts. The Deerfield’s flow is regulated by a series of five dams within the state, starting from Fife Brook, ensuring favorable conditions for fishing and a rich trout population.

fishing map of the deerfield
Deerfield River Map (click to enlarge)

The trout fishing season typically kicks off in April, extending all the way into early December, depending on water levels and temperatures. Throughout the river’s various sections, you’ll encounter well-established populations of holdover trout, occasionally spotting wild Browns and Brookies.

Rainbows, on average, measure between twelve to sixteen inches, with the exciting possibility of landing seventeen to twenty-inch specimens. The river is also home to trophy Brown trout, with numerous two to three-pound class trout awaiting skilled anglers.

In the early part of the season, many fishermen favor spinning gear, but as the days grow warmer and longer, fly fishers become a common sight. Trout tend to be less selective in their feeding habits early in the season, but as time progresses, your fishing skills and fly selection become increasingly vital.

For those who prefer catch and release, there are two designated areas on the Deerfield that offer outstanding and rewarding fly fishing opportunities.  These trout become progressively more experienced as the season unfolds. Matching the hatch becomes crucial, and don’t hesitate to try unconventional flies. Keep in mind that these areas can become quite crowded, so be prepared to do some walking.

The Deerfield River primarily consists of deep runs, riffles, and expansive stillwater pools, with a riverbed predominantly composed of rocks and boulders. Wearing cleated waders is advisable to maintain stability. It’s worth noting that water conditions in this river can change rapidly due to water releases for power generation. If you’re not familiar with the area, exercise caution, stay attentive, and be aware of any sudden changes. When the dams hold back water, the river becomes more accessible and easier to wade.

Heading below Bardwell’s Ferry and above Old Deerfield, you’ll discover deep and sizable pools with muddy bottoms, including the popular Stillwater pool located just above the Rte 91 bridges that cross the Deerfield.

Moving downstream from Fife Brook, where there’s a dam just above, the river meanders through pools like Diamond Pool, Long Pool, Carbis Bend, and Shady Pool. The lower Catch & Release area starts at the railroad underpass, slightly above the confluence of Pelham Brook with the Deerfield, extending for about two miles until it reaches the Mohawk Campgrounds. Access to the river is generally convenient, with numerous designated access points and roadside spots along Route 2 (Mohawk Trail) as well as Zoar and River Road, which runs parallel to the Deerfield up to Fife Brook, providing ample parking and pathways to the river.

Remember, if your initial fishing spot doesn’t yield results, don’t hesitate to move around. Massachusetts diligently maintains this river’s trout population, making it relatively easy to locate fish. However, fishing success may also depend on water temperature and flow conditions. Patience is key when fishing on the Deerfield, but the potential to hook or land numerous trout, including the occasional trophy exceeding twenty inches, is undeniably enticing. To preserve this magnificent Massachusetts fishery, consider catch and release whenever possible.

Deerfield Hatch Chart

  • Little Black Caddis – size: 18,20; April to mid May
  • Caddis (grey) – size: 12-16; mid May to mid July
  • March Brown: size: 10,12; mid May to mid June
  • Sulphur – size: 16; mid May to mid July
  • Caddis (tan) – size: 12,14; mid May to mid July
  • Cahill – size:14; mid May to August
  • Blue Quill – size: 16; mid May to mid June
  • Golden Drake – size: 12; mid June to mid July
  • Midges size – 20+; year round
  • Terrestrials – size: various; August to mid September

Swift River

Derived from the Quabbin Reservoir, the Swift River flows through the base of the Windsor Dam, creating a unique natural phenomenon affectionately known to locals as the “Bubbler.” From this point downstream to the intersection with Route 9, the Swift River transforms into an exceptional catch-and-release, fly-fishing haven. Fed by the frigid waters of the Quabbin, with seasonal temperatures fluctuating between 37 and 61 degrees Fahrenheit, this river sustains itself as a superb trout fishery all year round.

swift river map
Swift River Map (click to enlarge)

The Swift River is stocked with rainbow trout, along with the occasional brook or brown trout. On some occasions, you may even chance upon landlocked salmon that have ventured downstream over the spillway. Notably, trout measuring between 16 to 18 inches are not an uncommon sight. As the summer months progress, the river’s resident trout population becomes increasingly knowledgeable and challenging to entice. Nevertheless, the vicinity around the “Y” Pool remains a reliable location for year-round dry fly fishing.

Both upstream and downstream of the Route 9 Bridge, the Swift River consistently exhibits clear, crystalline waters, characterized by shallow, tranquil pools intermingled with riffles and runs that eventually give way to deeper aquatic sanctuaries. The initial expansive pool below the dam is affectionately dubbed the “Y” pool, due to its distinctive shape.

As you continue downstream from the pool, the Swift River meanders through the encompassing forest, and the riverbed gradually accumulates sediment. Despite the scarcity of gravelly runs, trout continue to flourish here throughout the year and are particularly conspicuous during the summer’s warmth. If you venture up from the Route 9 Bridge during this season, you’ll find respite from the heat while relishing the solitude of the surroundings.

Moving downstream from the Route 9 Bridge to Cady Lane, the catch-and-release fly fishing regulations transition from July 1 to December 31. During this period, conventional tackle is also permitted alongside artificial flies and lures. The river’s character remains largely unchanged, characterized by the presence of deeper, slower pools. This stretch sees fewer fly fishers due to the limited casting space, making it a favorite among spin fishermen. Additionally, you’ll spot canoes and small rowboats launched from the available boat launch, well downstream of the Route 9 Bridge. In this segment, you’ll encounter a mix of holdover, wild, and regularly stocked trout, courtesy of the nearby state hatchery.

For the most part, the Swift River is adorned with a lush canopy of trees that offer welcome shade. Accessible from Route 9 and the adjacent roads running parallel to the river, the section below the bridge provides easy entry to the renowned “Bubbler” area. You can approach it either by walking up from Route 9 or taking a shorter route via the Quabbin Reservoir’s main gate. Upon crossing the dam and taking an immediate right, you’ll arrive at a convenient parking lot and picnic area, complete with a small power plant and the captivating “Bubbler” just below it.

If you decide to spend a day or two exploring the Swift River, you’ll find stunning scenery within its watershed and picturesque picnic spots for the family. Just a brief 10-minute drive west from the main gate on Route 9, the town of Belchertown awaits, offering a range of snacks, sandwiches, fast food options, and tackle shops where your queries can be expertly addressed.

Swift River Hatches

  • Little Black Caddis: size 18-20; April through May
  • Caddie (grey) – size 12-16; May through July
  • March Brown – size 10-12; mid May to Mid June
  • Sulphur – size 16; May through July
  • Caddie (tan) – size 12 – 14; mid May to mid July
  • Cahill – size 14; mid May to August
  • Blue Quill – size 16; mid May to mid June
  • Golden Drake – size 12; mid June to mid July
  • Midges – size 20+; year round
  • Terrestrials – various sizes; mid July to mid September

Millers River

Located in West Central Massachusetts, the Millers is an often overlooked stream. It is quite picturesque running along side Route 2 in Erving as it passes the paper plant that once dumped untreated waste into it. I have heard that you could tell the color of paper being made by looking at the color of Millers. Those days are long gone, but the river still suffers from toxins and heavy metals, making the fish inedible.

The Millers sees most of the usual Eastern hatches you would expect. I mainly fish in the late summer/fall when you can expect to find good BWO, Caddis and Pale Evening Dun hatches (potamanthus distinctus (Cream Variant), emphemerella dorothea (Sulphur Dun) are especially good around dusk). Waiting until 30 minutes before dusk often pays off as the pool, which was quiet all day long, comes to life with rises. The other reason I tend to fish that time of year is that the river reacts adversely to the least bit of rain. I have wasted too many journeys there, only to learn that the overnight rain which merely dampened the lawn was enough to send the Millers into spate.

The inhabitants are mainly trout. In a few select places they hold over the winter. Some of the fish can get quite large, my best being a 24 inch rainbow trout. You can also catch brown and brook trout also. The river has an abundant stock of smallmouth bass and sunfish. Most of the time these species are intermingled with the rising trout and this contributes to the unpredictability of your next strike.

It pays to get a good map that shows feeder streams. These streams feed cold water to the Millers and thus are excellent holding spots for trout. Wading is pretty dangerous and great care should be shown. Firstly the rocks are slippery and the tea colored water makes your next step precarious. Secondly, in places it is muddy and very deep. Best advice: learn a good roll cast and stay close to the bank.

The places I have had most experience and are downstream from Route 2a where Orcutt Brook enters the Millers. You can either walk down the railroad tracks (be careful as this line is pretty busy) or wade downstream. The faster riffles hold the best trout.

I have seen many fly fisherman fish the river where it runs alongside Route 2, though I have not tried it here myself.

Although many of the trout are stocked, the Millers is a wonderful stream with its many varieties of trout and other species. With the potential to catch a nice over-wintered fish or strong bass, it can be an exciting river to fish. Whilst most other anglers stay on Route 2 to visit the overrated Deerfield, you could do a lot worse than stop short and try the Millers.

The Berkshires

The Berkshires contain many fine trout and bass fishing opportunities. All three primary species of trout are present: brook, brown, and rainbow, although brown trout predominate. Smallmouth and Largemouth bass are also plentiful.

Fishing on rivers and streams is primarily a wading affair although some rivers can be floated to reach more remote areas. There is also good fishing in lakes and ponds for trout, bass, pike and pan fish. Certain lake waters receive a stocking of Atlantic salmon each year.

Close to Home

The primary fishery is the upper Housatonic River, just ten to twenty minutes from the store. Two sections of the upper river are regulated under catch and release rules but, brown trout can be caught throughout the river. There are good numbers of wild and hold over browns distributed in all the sections we fish. Small mouth bass are also plentiful in the warmer months. In the spring larger, native brook trout migrate from the tributaries to the main river to feed on the abundant aquatic insect life. There are not many of them but, if you catch one you will see a truly exquisite trout.

Also nearby but in direct contrast to the Housatonic is the Green River, located five minutes outside of Great Barrington This river is smaller, largely spring fed and runs through limestone substrate. It is also a tributary to the Housatonic.

The result is a gin clear spring creek that has a fall run of brown trout from the main river. The state also stocks rainbows in the spring and fall. The upper reaches hold brook trout. There are many other mountain brooks and streams which hold native brook trout.

Down the Road A Piece

We are within a thirty to forty minute drive of two of the Northeast’s most popular trout fisheries. These rivers are managed under catch and release regulations and provide very good fishing for browns and rainbows. Both of these fisheries are just over the border in northwestern Connecticut and as such require a Connecticut fishing license (a three-day license costs $16.00).

Off the Beaten Trail

If you prefer small brooks and streams, there are miles upon miles of great native brook trout waters you can hike and fish for hours.

Massachusetts Fly Fishing Articles Resources

Bass on the Flats
Flats are shallow, relatively level expanses bordering deeper water.
www.jackgartside.com/art_flats_bass.htm

Striper Fishing Community
Active community and forum of striped bass fisherman.
www.stripersonline.com/

SaltwaterFlies.com
Useful archive of saltwater fly patterns.
www.saltwaterflies.comSaltwater reports for MA, CT, RI, NH & ME
https://www.onthewater.com/fishing-reports

Bears Den Fly Fishing Shop
98 Summer Street, Taunton, MA 02780 508-977-0700
www.bearsden.com

Housatonic River Outfitters
24 Kent Road, Cornwall Bridge, CT 06754 (860) 672-1010
www.dryflies.com

Larrys Tackle Shop
PO Box 155, 258 Upper Main Street, Edgartown, MA 02539 (508) 627-5088
www.larrystackle.com

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