Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Quabbin Reservoir Memories

Quabbin Reservoir in Central Massachusetts is massive at 25,000 acres compared to those reservoirs we fish in New Jersey. I fished it a number of times in 1985 while a student at Hampshire College. The water had Round Valley clarity, full of smallmouth and trout, some Atlantic salmon, as well as enormous largemouths. I have no photos to testify to the fish we caught, but memories remain clear as day.

Most of the fishing I engaged during my fall semester. I had schooled previously at Lynchburg College, and St. John's College, transferring credits along the way, working at my writing. After that fall semester, a completion of two semesters total, I quit and moved back to Long Beach Island to continue my small business as a shellfisherman (and write!).

First I tried the reservoir alone. Skunked once, I tried another shore area, stacked with jagged boulders. Amazed at numerous smallmouth I saw among rocks in crystal clear water, I snapped on a diving crankbait and proceded to catch one right after another. A couple of these I took back to my "mod," a type of campus housing unit, to cook, supplementing my ruined budget. I also tried below the dam my fly rod where the Swift River resumes. Although I saw a trout that looked like a laker, at least eight pounds, and many smaller; none of them would hit.

The real breakthrough came when my Social Science Professor invited me along. He knew a point that drops off sharply where he told me he catches at least one largemouth over seven pounds every fall. On our first outing, we went as a fairly large group, which included a writing instructor by the name of Will Ryan. Ryan has gone on to write two excellent books on fishing, both of which I have read and deeply enjoyed. Northern Pike: A Complete Guide to Pike and Pike Fishing, and Smallmouth Strategies for the Fly Rod are books with authentic personal flavor, and determined, careful research. Reading like this shouldn't be missed. To be out on the water is what we do. But to ignore print is to be all too close to the creatures we pursue.

That first outing, I have to confess, all that got caught was a foot long salmon, a surprise, but besides this, nothing's coming to grip was the sort of dissappointment we anglers are used to. But Stan Warner, my Professor, never wavered. And he seemed absolutely unmoved by our lack of success. We went back out the next Saturday, just he and I. Stan's method was simple. This was November in Massachusetts. Shiners eight feet under bobbers would attract any bass that came up. I fished deep diving crankbaits slowly, but kept a bobber out. It must have been at least two hours, maybe three. Stan's bobber went down, and we observed it as it lowered down and down into that clear water. He set the hook and engaged in long struggle. I'll never forget the bass as it came into our view and ran left, then turned and ran right, along the inside edge of the point. Huge.

We weighed it at a bait shop. I had already measured it at 24 inches. True to his word, Stan had caught a largemouth over seven pounds--seven pounds, four ounces. To this day, the largest I have seen caught.

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