Gone Fishin’ With Manny Part 1: Colebrook Reservoir

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Years ago, when we first moved to Granby, I bought the book Gone Fishin’…The 75 Best Waters in Connecticut. The original plan was to fish as many of the 75 locations as I could. It seemed like a great way to explore our new home state.

As often happens, though, life has gotten in the way, and I haven’t made much intentional progress on the original plan. So, this year I’m going to try to break it into smaller pieces. My goal is to fish a few of these “Best Waters” and compare my experiences with what the book predicts/recommends.

On its face, this might seem like a fool’s errand. Because Gone Fishin’ was published in 2001, you’d think that the information it contains, now more than two decades old, would be of little value. I’m sure that will be the case with some of the material, like the book’s suggestion that you find a specific lake or stream by using your own “map or atlas”. I’m not sure you can even buy an atlas or map anymore. And younger readers will likely ask: “What’s an atlas?”

But I’ve also found from experience that certain things about good fishing never change. That should be part of the fun, seeing what’s different now, and what isn’t. Plus, in researching whether there have been any updates to the book, I came upon another motivation: paying some tribute to Manny Luftglass, the author.

I quickly found a number of accounts of Manny’s life, and learned that he passed away in early 2020. He was, not surprisingly, a passionate fisherman. One journalist described him as follows:

“Luftglass was hooked on fishing all his life. He always looked at home holding a fishing rod. He fished 12 months of the year and every vacation had to have an opportunity to fish.”

Luftglass found numerous ways to share his passion with others, including: authoring or co-authoring a number of other books; writing columns for several newspapers and magazines; and hosting a radio show. I could not help but feel some admiration for him. It’s one thing to love fishing. That’s the easy part. The tough part is sharing that love in a meaningful way that connects others to the sport and our environment. So yeah, if Manny could dedicate so much effort to sharing his experiences, I figure I can try to learn from them.

But there’s something else that endeared me to Manny: in the early 1980’s, he served as mayor of Somerville, New Jersey. Somerville is a small town not unlike Granby. It has a population of about 12,000 (almost the same as what it was when Manny was mayor), and a strong commitment to its history. And for all you bicyclists out there: Somerville is the home to the oldest competitive bike race in the United States.

Even before he was elected mayor, Manny was a strong advocate for protecting the environment. In the late 1970s he started the first public recycling program in New Jersey. The program was called WASTE (an acronym for “We Are Somerville Together for Ecology”), and some of the proceeds from the program were used to plant hundreds of trees throughout Somerville.

It sounds like Manny was a guy I would have enjoyed fishing with. We certainly would have a lot to talk about, and maybe some opportunity to learn from each other. But, with his passing, I’m going to have to settle for using his book as a guide to enjoying the “Best Waters in Connecticut.”

I’ve decided to start with Colebrook Reservoir. Colebrook is not an easy place to fish. The lake is big, deep and often windy. Finding and holding a position over fish can be tough. But I nevertheless visit the lake, on average, a couple of times a year. I’ll let Manny tell you why. As he points out: “Another fish found in Colebrook is the red-eyed rock bass. In 1989, Ernie Gonsalves established the state record with his 1.3-pound specimen.”

As you Waypoints readers probably know, I’m very fond of rock bass. They eat the same things as smallmouth bass, and they are generally found in the same areas. Both fish are aggressive predators, and both are fun to catch, albeit for different reasons. Smallmouths are fun because they are notorious fighters: they dive, jump and often violently alternate between the two. Rock bass are fun, at least for me, because they do exactly the opposite: they literally give up after a quick burst to confirm that they are hooked.

A Colebrook Reservoir Smallmouth Bass. Submitted photo

So, at places like Colebrook, you get double bang for your buck. When targeting rock bass, you have a good chance of catching smallmouth, and vice versa. And, for a brief instant after your bait is attacked, you’re not sure which you have at the end of your line: a voracious fighter or a conscientious objector.

 I am also intent on breaking Mr. Gonsalves’s record, and, more than thirty years after he set it, Colebrook still presents one of the best opportunities to do so. The lake supports plenty of forage fish and contains lots of the habitat that rock bass prefer.

So, every year I set out with an arsenal that includes jigs, curly-tailed grubs and small plastic worms. I have worked deep water, shallow water, and the transitions in between. To date, I haven’t caught a single rock bass anywhere near the record. I have, though, caught a number of hearty smallmouths. All fought hard, and several were in the three-pound range.

Colebrook, then, meets the expectations Manny set for it. It’s worthy of a spot in the top 75 especially if you are a fan of either rock bass or smallmouth bass.