Learning Ahead: Fishing

Season of Fishing

The summer time is the season for fishing! There are many places to go fishing in Western Massachusetts as a way to connect with the local landscape while spending time outdoors. There are different types of fishing, such as saltwater fishing, freshwater fishing, fly fishing, and ice fishing. Fishing, or angling, is a sport that provides a direct interaction with our rivers and lakes as well as a meditative and tranquil way to relax and enjoy nature quietly.

The art of fly fishing has even inspired writers to create stories based on the sport, such as David James Duncan’s contemporary novel The River Why (1983). Voted the 35th best novel in the San Francisco Chronicle list of “The 20th Century’s 100 Best Books of the American West,” the novel centers on a young man from a fishing-centric family that moves to a small cabin in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range where he spends most of his days fly fishing. The novel was also made into a film in 2010. Check out your local Western Massachusetts library to see if the novel or film is available.

The Westfield River is designated as a National Wild & Scenic River with over 78 miles of headwater tributaries and three major waterway branches. Its East Branch is also a considered favorite of fly fishers. It is one of the best cold water fisheries in Massachusetts and has some of the cleanest water for wildlife and as a source for public drinking water. The rustic beauty of New England in summer can be seen and experienced along the banks of the Westfield River. There are many recreational opportunities besides fishing, such as paddling, hiking, swimming, mountain bike riding, and picnicking. Local citizens form the Wild & Scenic Westfield River Committee which oversees the preservation of the watershed’s resources and its connection to the local community. They often sponsor programs along the river to learn more about the river’s ecology and resources. For more information on their upcoming programs and events, or to learn more about the conservation work they are doing along the river, visit www.westfieldriverwildscenic.org.

Looking for a place to fish in Western MA? The web site, www.visit-massachusetts.com, has a comprehensive list of Berkshire and Pioneer Valley fishing locations.


Think about this:

  • What is the fishing cultural heritage of New England? How has Western Massachusetts participated in this culture as both consumer and through recreation?
  • Before the invention of refrigerators and freezers, who was fish preserved?
  • How were fish caught before the introduction of contemporary materials?
  • Do you know how many species of fish live in the Connecticut River? The Westfield River? The Housatonic River?

Download our July/August edition of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts for embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

[Photo credit: (cc) Virginia State Parks]

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