Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods and Waters: Spring trout stocking has started

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Last Wednesday, MassWildlife began its spring trout stocking program here in the Western District, by stocking Richmond Pond in Richmond. Some 700 rainbow trout averaging 14-plus inches were liberated by DFW Western District Aquatic Biologist Leanda Fontaine Gagnon and Wildlife Technician Ray Bressette. The happy fish, which came out of the McLaughlin Hatchery, appeared to be in excellent shape and there were no casualties. I saw some of those fish and they are gorgeous, with beautiful red bands along their sides.

Depending on weather conditions, they were scheduled to stock Laurel Lake, Onota Lake and Stockbridge Bowl last week.

Approximately 100,000 trout will be stocked in Western District waters before the spring stocking is concluded sometime around Memorial Day. Readers can check MassWildlife's website for the list and maps of trout stocked waters daily at https://www.mass.gov/service-details/trout-stocking-report. For those not adept at using computers, I plan to list the scheduled stocking locations in this column weekly.

The ice had thawed on about a third of Richmond Pond. Kayakers and canoers may be the first anglers to get a chance at these fish as there is now a new kayak/canoe launch there which was installed last year.

But remember, paddlers in canoes and kayaks are required to wear (not sit on) life jackets from Sept. 15 through May 15. According to the Massachusetts Environmental Police, most boating fatalities in the state result when boaters fail to wear life jackets while in small craft in cold water or weather.

Basic Hunter Education Course

There will be a Basic Hunter Education course held at the Deer Hill Rod & Gun Club, 225 Porter Hill Road, Cummington on May 7, 9 and 12. The times are 6-9 p.m. on May 7 and 9, and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 12.

You must attend all class dates and times to successfully complete the course. If you are interested in this course and wish to enroll, call 508-389-7830 immediately; students are enrolled first-come, first-served, and courses fill quickly.

Report eagle sightings

A few weeks ago, DFW District Supervisor Andrew Madden requested that we let him know when we saw eagles so that they could band the young. Henry (Jack) and Dorothy Naventi, who live at Goose Pond, reported that in February, just as ice fishing stopped, they noticed an eagle out in the middle of the lake sitting next to an ice fisherman's hole. The eagle sat for a long time and looked like it was eating something. The next day it came back to the same spot and stayed.

Then the next week, they were outside and noticed in the same spot that there were two eagles. Finally, one flew off, turned around, came back, flew in front of their place and then left. A few minutes later the other one flew off and did the same thing right in front of them. They just could not believe it, it was as if the eagles were checking them out also. (Perhaps the eagles were checking out the two bunnies or that red fox that live around their place). The Naventis couldn't get pictures of the eagles as they were outside and didn't have a camera. They described them both as having beautiful white heads and tails. The information was relayed to Madden at the DFW.

"We love watching the birds and animals up here," they said. "We are still looking to see the eagles again and know we will enjoy them this summer diving for fish. It is quite a sight to see."

Many thanks to the Naventis for sharing this story and notifying DFW.

Although the Naventis couldn't get sufficient pictures of their eagles, Mark Thorne, of Pittsfield, did get pictures of two eagles building a nest near Onota Lake in Pittsfield. (You may recall that last year at about this same time, he sent us a spectacular eagle picture from the same area). Many thanks to Mark for sharing with us an even more spectacular picture.

"The River King", a fly-fishing novel by Robert J. Romano.

Bob's got a new book out entitled "The River King". If you have been reading this column for any length of time you probably know that I do a review of Bob's books when they come out. They are set in the Rangeley area of western Maine, near the New Hampshire border, in small fishing towns. If you have ever fished up there, you will immediately recognize the make-up of the area and the rivers mentioned and described.

In "The River King," Bob returns to western Maine with a cast of new characters. Instead of basing his novel around the life of Salvatore D'Amico as he did in three earlier novels, ("North of Easie", "West of Rangeley" and "Brook Trout Blues"), he has a new cast of characters — Harry Duncan and friends. He incorporates into the novel names of local lakes and rivers, fly tying information, and a description of the area in which you can almost smell the pine and balsa trees, feel the bites of the black gnats, skeeters and no-see-ums. Romano weaves local lore and fly fishing history seamlessly into the story.

Romano cleverly gets us acquainted with his new characters by alternating chapters of background information on them over the years as they age, along with the current activities, before all coming together in the later chapters. This allows the reader to know how the characters got into the predicaments in which they ended up. An unusual and clever concept.

The retail price for "The River King", a 228-page softcover book, is $23.

Incidentally, I first heard about the Rangeley area from two local fly fishermen, Harold Hutchins and Ernest Long, both of Pittsfield and both of whom have long passed beyond the riverbend. They used to travel up there annually and come back with stories about their trips which they told at the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited meetings, which were held at the East Lee Steakhouse in those days (1980s). After hearing about the place, several of us decided to go up there to fish. The first trip was to Pittsburgh, N.H., about two hours away from the Rangeley area. The second was to the Rapid River as it flowed from Richardson Lake to Lake Umbagog. We were after some of those large brook trout that the area became famous for, as well as landlocked salmon. We stayed at a camp owned by Richard Celli of Lee.

We learned that President Herbert Hoover fished up there as well as the famous fly fisherman and author Joe Bates. But perhaps the person who really put the place on the map was the lady fly fisher and expert fly-tyer, Carrie Stevens. Stevens, who lived in the area in the 1920s through 1940s, originated the "Ghost" series of streamer flies (Gray Ghost, Black Ghost, and approximately 100 other fly patterns). She is credited for catching huge 7- and 8-pound brook trout on those flies.

When most serious fly fishers think of the Rangeley waters, they naturally think of Stevens and Bates. I do, too, but now I think it is time to add another name to the notables, one who is keeping the Rangeley's on the map through his excellent novels. That name is Robert J. Romano.

Housatonic Valley Association

The Housatonic Valley Association invites volunteers to participate in a number of upcoming opportunities to get outside, explore our rivers and help our communities identify storm drain outfalls, conduct visual surveys and collect water quality samples.

HVA will collect water quality samples in Pittsfield at 13 sites along the Southwest Branch of the Housatonic River (Pittsfield) and 4 sites along Wahconah Falls Brook (Dalton) once or twice a month between April and June. Last year, HVA collected samples over several months in these tributaries and the results showed bacteria levels that failed state standards. This year, HVA needs your help to continue sampling that will narrow down the source of the bacterial contamination. Possible sources include sewer pipes connecting with storm drain pipes, or animal waste from storm-water runoff.

Ultimately, the goal is to resolve these bacteria sources and work with the state to have these rivers removed from the Massachusetts "impaired" list. Funding for this project is provided by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's Water Quality Management 604b grant program, in partnership with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and the Hoosic River Watershed Association.

HVA, the Berkshire Environmental Action Team, and HooRWA are mapping storm drain outfalls in Adams, Cheshire, Dalton, Lanesborough, and Pittsfield. Volunteers are invited to help with this process. Teams will walk selected streams looking carefully for any pipes. Once a pipe is identified, information is collected such as pipe material, condition, and whether there is any flow coming from it.

If you would like to volunteer or would like more information, contact Alison Dixon at adixon@hvatoday.org (413-298-7024), Elia Delmolino at elia@thebeatnews.org (413-429-6416) or Steve McMahon at s.mcmahon@hoorwa.org.

Lefty Kreh, gone beyond the river bend

Lefty Kreh, one of the most accomplished and beloved fly fishermen of all time, died last week at the age of 93. Kreh was a prolific author and globe-trotting angler. I don't know how many books he wrote, but I have eight in my library. Among his many accolades, Kreh was the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Sportfishing Association and a member of the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame and Fly-fishing Hall of Fame. He was also a wonderful person — kind, warm, funny, and always happy to teach others. Field & Stream's legendary fishing editor John Merwin once wrote of Kreh: "If America can claim a national fly-fishing treasure, Lefty is it."

My wife Jan and I saw him demonstrate fly-fishing at a Boxboro fly fishing show some years ago. Obviously, he was a southpaw fly caster, but he could cast with either hand and customarily used his right, which he said was better for teaching right-handed students. He was perhaps the best flycaster I ever saw.

Pittsfield Sportsmen's Club Dinner

The PSC will be having a dinner at the American Legion Hall Post 155 in Dalton, on Saturday. Doors open at 5 p.m. with dinner at 6. Tickets cost $15 for adults, while children 12-and-under are free. Tickets can be purchased from any director or person you bought them from in the past. You must pre-pay. For more information, call Fran at 413-443-5133 or stop in at the Vietnam Veterans Chapter 65 Headquarters on Fenn Street in Pittsfield, from 9 a.m. to noon on Monday, Wednesday or Friday.

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