North Pond, in Florida, Mass., is probably the prettiest pond in Massachusetts. Tiny and round, set deep into a sharp notch in the woods below an esker whose banks cascade to the water like the face of a waterfall, the pond holds rainbow trout, brook trout and browns, and is surrounded by 14,000 acres of state forest. Its waters are clean and clear. It’s a fine fishing pond whose two smaller ponds nearby are also productive for panfish and pickerel.
Just one of many freshwater fishing gems tucked away in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts, you can’t beat a three or four day fishing stay here in mid-winter, especially if you’re a need-to-get-away angler with the willingness to carry in firewood, water and food to one of four log cabins available for rent from the state. The payoffs are remote loveliness, good fishing, and access to a long and early-starting ice fishing season.
For me though, the operative word at the moment was lost, and becoming more operative by the minute. The morning’s ice fishing had been good. After I finished breakfast in the heat radiating from the cabin’s wood stove, I’d peeled down to my t-shirt and shorts to read n my bunk before heading back out into the woods. Now, here I was, wandering around the woods with fish the last of my concerns.
The night before I’d walked the forest’s central fire road, enjoying the night air and stretching my legs, my headlamp lighting the path ahead, my feet warm and dry. I savored the quiet peace of the woods, enjoying that soothing sense of aloneness one can feel outdoors at night in winter.
Now I was stumbling around in the snow-filled woods, bushwhacking, my feet wet and cold. I was searching for the trail to Adams or North Adams, whichever came first, map in one hand, orienteering compass in the other, as I assessed the landscape’s contours and bends and ice-covered stream beds. Where the hell was I?
I stopped beneath a high tension wire tower that runs through the wire cuts made in a grove of spruce planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930’s. I looked for the power lines on my map. The towers made an abrupt direction change about a mile ahead, according to my map, then skirted a fire road that would take me back to my cabin. I estimated the depth of the valley I was in, counted on the map the contour lines that spiraled down off the hill I assumed I was standing on, and took a stab at my location. Back in the cabin awaited two trout in a cooler, a steak if I wanted it, a box of hot chocolate and a hunk of blue cheese the size of a housebrick. What I wanted more than anything was to find the Blackburnian Loop. As for where I was —
there: a beaver dam I recognized from my trip here last year.
Yes. Once again I’d made it back from one of my lost-in-the-woods hikes. I tramped back to the cabin, lit the stove, took off my wet socks and sweater and lifted from my cooler the fattest trout in there. I cleaned the fish, fried it, ate it, then settled down in my chair with my feet up. I had more bait in the bucket and two more days’ ice-fishing ahead.
This is why I go to work when I’m not on vacation. I lit the candle lantern and opened up my book.
Built by the civilian conservation corps in the 1930’s and cared-for by the state ever since, the cabins at North Pond’s Savoy Mountain State Forest are an angler’s bargain. Aside from their proximity to the pond, the cabins are a short hike away from nearby summits that offer views of the Taconic, Green, Hoosac, and Litchfield mountain ranges and a distant glimpse of the Adirondacks. The hills which roll through the woods near the cabins and fishing pond are gentle and round and undulating, and offer moderate hiking once you’ve had your fill of fish.
As for what you can catch here, it’s a matter of taking your pick among browns, brookies, and rainbows in North Pond. A variety of panfish and pickerel lie in shallower Bog and South Ponds. Ice fishing is an excellent option, but the ponds’ browns offer the most satisfaction, especially if you’re in a canoe, jonboat, or kayak.
Like all browns in the US, North Pond’s browns date back to import effort, in 1882, which brought browns to the US from England. Regarded as native to Massachusetts ever since, browns in North Pond uphold their good reputation for caution, guile and wiliness. There’s lots of structure for browns to gather around: logs, heavily-vegetated banks, low-arching trees that lean in over the water. There are also rock jumbles on the bottom. Browns require finesse, a patient and subtle approach…
When the ice melts, the best gear on North Pond’s brown is fly gear: dry flies in the 12-18 size, one-and-a-half pound tippets, long leaders.
As for the pond’s only truly native trout – brookies – theyfare well in North Pond’s pure waters. Like browns, the trick is to find them. You have to go deep and send your bait to the bottom in summer, or suspend it higher, beneath bobbers, in the colder seasons. The woods release a wide variety of insect hatches in season, including a massive black fly inundation. Daytime feeders, North’s brookies subsist on those hatches and on the pond’s baitfish. If you’re not an ice-fisher, a North Pond fly fisherman who flicks mayflies, caddis flies, stoneflies, etc., or ants, moths, grasshoppers, etc., over the water -anything similar to the week’s hatch, in other words – will do well.
Staying at North Pond’s cabins is not without its challenges. Unless the spring thaw has hit, there is no running water, which means you have to bring your own or use snowmelt. Also, there’s no electricity in the cabins save one. And since each cabin sports its own one-seater outhouse, the squeamish will prefer the centrally-located Clivus Multrum compost toilet, whose whirring fan blows cold air up towards your rear, a surprise on a cold night in winter.
Finally, you’ll need to bring your own pillows, sleeping bags, cooking utensils, pots, plates, flashlights, lanterns, etc. Each cabin has a dining table, chairs, double bunks, wood-burning stove and an outside fire pit.
To get to the North Pond cabins at Savoy Mountain take Route 2 to North Adams. After a roller-coaster ride around and over the hairpin turns through the humorously-named town of Florida, turn left onto Central Shaft, then right onto Central Shaft Road. Forest HQ is on the right, after South County Road. North Pond and the cabins lie two miles ahead on the right.
copyright 2007/Adam Bolonsky/northamericankayakfishing.blogspot.com