Westfield River, the East Branch
The East Branch of the Westfield River (one of three), better know as The Westfield, is to Western Massachusetts as the West Branch of the Ausable is to Upstate New York. With its headwaters beginning high in the Berkshires, it is by far the longest of all three. Majestic state forests can be seen with the river cutting its way through the ledges and gorges surround these headwaters, in Savoy and Windsor, until itís slowed by the Knightville and Littleville Dams.
Driving along Rte. 9 through Cummington, you will view some of the wider stretches of the East Branch branch with plenty of access for the fishermen to park along the way. In early spring, fishing is very good through this area in the rapids and cuts and as the water recedes, pools and pocket water are the best choices for the fly fishers.
Where the flow of the Westfield meets the westerly bank of the mountain, it is joined with a stream called the Swift (not to be confused with the Swift River in Belchertown) and flows in a southerly direction towards Rte. 143 and into the fabled Chesterfield Gorge. You can have plenty of good fishing in between Rte. 9 and Rte. 143, but you must be willing to make a full day trip to allow for site seeing, exploring the water and of course fishing. Donít be surprised by the swimmers you may encounter deep into this section too, but once past this area good pocket water fishing continues on to Rte.143.
Beginning here, some of the better flyfishing is found in Western Massachusetts, where the longest single uninterrupted stretch (7 miles) is designated for Catch and Release only (artificials only), which starts about a mile downstream from the 143 bridge. With this river being a mostly freestone bed, be prepared for some of the slipperiest and uneven wading you may have ever encountered, but offering such rewards as fantastic rainbow, brookie and brown trout fishing with beautiful mountain scenery. This area is unique, as itís owned by the state, the town maintains the road, but the Army Corp. of Engineers maintains the entire reservation watershed.
What makes this area so appealing is that the very rough logging road is minimally maintained, so it is accessed best by 4wdís, and is gated off to all vehicles after about the first ĺ of a mile or so. That means you hike in to the remaining 6 plus miles of catch and release. In the summer water levels can become dangerously low for the fish causing them to seek the deeper pools, cuts and banks for safe harbor. Summer thunder storms will cause this river to swell beyond safe wading conditions, which I have personally witnessed this river do in a matter of less than two hours. Once the water becomes a fishable high and is on itís way down, outstanding flyfishing is usually the result. This section is best fished with a local guide so not to waste valuable fishing time looking for productive water, even though it all looks great and for the most part is!
The Chesterfield Gorge may be the most fabled part of the Westfield, but there is equal fishing on the other branches. With well-shaded runs and pools, operating and broken down dams and falls, trophy fish can be found almost anywhere in this three river basin.
Along with the west branch, which is definitely worth exploring because of its foliage cover and cooler waters in the summer, is another favorite called the main stem. This sections runs through the town of Westfield along Rte. 20, which has outstanding trophy flyfishing mostly all season and allows easy access with many pull offs along the way.