Mass Bass Adventure 22 Update II

It's hard to believe that we are nearing our halfway point in our journey across the beautiful state of Massachusetts! We spent the start of our trip in CT just south of the MA border at Housatonic Meadows campground. The Housatonic is a unique fishery in that it flips between a warm and cold water fishery multiple times, with the section by our campground being a trout management area despite having excellent pike fishing no more than 15 minutes up the road. There is incredibly diverse bug life, and similarly, many species of gamefish inhabit its waters. We arrived with plenty of time to set up camp and watch an excellent evening hatch of mixed caddis, sulfurs, and chills, with eagerly rising trout putting on quite a show. After a hearty dinner, we quickly went to sleep.

On the morning of the 26th, we woke up to hot breakfast burritos and spent some time going over knots, casting, and rigging to prep for our fishing later that morning. Once we were well-fed, we drove north to a section of the "Housy" just outside of Stockbridge, MA, looking to target smallmouth bass, rock bass, and potentially other species like carp and bluegill. The fishing did not disappoint, as everyone in the group got into bunches of smallmouth and rock bass; no one was skunked, and several anglers caught their first (and then their next ten or more) fish on the fly. While we were expecting to get good numbers of smaller fish, we were pleasantly surprised with a few much larger smallies in the mix. Once back at our campsite, we quickly grilled up some hamburgers and were able to get into some excellent evening dry fly trout fishing a stone's throw from our camp. The boys landed several nice rainbow trout, and many more got away. With a big float day ahead, we got to bed early, dreaming of aggressive northern pike coming up from the depths to savagely devour our flies and anything else in their vicinity.
        We woke to a dark and cloudy morning. With rainstorms in the forecast, we asked the kids if they wanted to reconsider the float, but they doubled down like champions. We split into two groups, planning to float for a half-day in a raft and two canoes with each group, while the other group would fish on foot near the camp for smallies and trout. The main target on the float was the northern pike, an apex predator in the freshwater fish world with razor-sharp teeth and an attitude to match. They are not native to the Housatonic but were introduced a while back and have naturalized quite nicely in the river, coexisting with smallmouth and largemouth bass in the slower moving, warm water sections of the river. Pike fishing isn't easy…  it requires big rods, heavy flies, and lots and lots of casting, all in hopes of moving a fish or two. It is one of the most elusive species to target in the Berkshires, especially on the fly. With Ethan at the helm, the group could land one and have a couple more vicious eats that didn't connect. The aggressive smallmouth kept our nets active while we searched. In the evening, we were all exhausted, and after eating a delicious meal of pasta with mushrooms and meat sauce, we quickly fell asleep.

 We woke the group up early this morning (28th) with a long travel day ahead of us to the Cape. After breaking down camp (with a quick pause to check out a majestic Bald Eagle that had landed across the river), we hit the road. Our first stop was in Concord, MA, where we knocked out some laundry and visited Concord Outfitters, a local fly shop where we stocked up on saltwater flies and tying materials to get us ready for targeting stripers. If you ask anyone in New England what their favorite game fish is, chances are pretty high, they will tell you it's the striped bass. These beautiful fish migrate to and from Massachusetts each season, spending their winters in the Chesapeake Bay. They can be targeted all up and down the coast, but nothing compares to wading the white sand flats of the Cape. We are currently at our campsite at Nickerson state park, where we will be spending the next couple of nights eating, sleeping, fishing, and talking about fishing. Some ponds within the state park hold yellow perch, small and largemouth bass, and chain pickerel, which we will target in the evenings. For now, our priority is tightening up our casts so we can effectively fish for these stripers. Saltwater fly fishing is a different animal, requiring heavier rods, longer casts, and sometimes pinpoint accuracy. Luckily, the stripers down here can be pretty forgiving. We will meet with local guides Patrick Cassidy and George Sylvestre super early tomorrow morning to catch the best portion of the tide. We are all very excited to see this fishery and spend some time on the pristine beaches of Cape Cod.

Tight Lines,
Ethan, Mack, Dudley, and the boys

Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions was started in 2010 as a graduate thesis for my Master's Degree in Environmental Conservation Education at NYU. The operating premise was simple - by coupling amazing wilderness fly fishing camps for teens with environmental education and service learning we can help inspire future generations of fly fishing conservationists. We have been growing our unique list of trips and experiences ever since.

When it comes to choosing a summer program for your teen the options are endless. For the teen who loves to fish, be outside, and has a strong sense of adventure we have made the choice easy. We are the leader in teen fly fishing adventures and are dedicated to providing the best backcountry fly fishing experience with opportunities for teens to engage in leadership training, community service, and backcountry camping.


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Will Lillard, Founder/Director/Guide

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Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions
2540 King Road
Pisgah Forest, NC 28768

(828) 577-8204