Giving Currentseams subscribers first chance at April lessons

It’s that time of year when the phone begins to ring. People want to go fishing! Me, too.

Given my schedule, I want to give currentseams followers first dibs for lessons on what looks like a very limited availability in April. Some dates are already out: every weekend, Monday 4/3 and Good Friday. Between other commitments and my own fishing, I will very likely only have a handful of dates available to take people out. Of course, there’s always May. But if you wanted to get out with me in April, jump on it before it’s gone.

If you’re unfamiliar with my guiding/teaching philosophy, you can find that here. I’ve also updated my Trip Checklist which is basically an FAQ. Thank you again for all your support!

A very healthy brown landed by Jake last spring.

Some Hendrickson thoughts as April approaches

I’ve been fortunate to have had so many fantastic days fishing the Hendrickson hatch on the Farmington River. So naturally, I’m licking my chops in anticipation of this year’s complex action and (hopefully) grand style. Here are some of the things going though my mind on this lovely March morning (which, if it were three weeks from now, would have Hendrickson written all over it).

Mssr. H.

I hope the water comes down. I’ve had many days where the river was way up — with legions of bugs dotting the surface — and nothing was snapping at them. Oh, sure, the trout gorged below, but is there anything more discouraging than seeing the water littered with Hendrickson duns and nothing is trying to eat them?

So, tailor your presentation to to the water level. Most anglers associate the Hendrickson hatch with dry fly action. But I’ve had some crazy days nymphing when it seemed like it was a fish on every cast. You can use specific Hendrickson nymphs, pheasant tails or something like this.

Don’t neglect wet flies. The earliest stages of this hatch are tailor made for wet flies like the Dark Hendrickson winged wet. You’ll know when to switch to dries because you’re not taking a trout — or multiples if you’re fishing three flies — on every cast.

I’m going to try some new things this year. Here’s a post from years past where I riffed on the Dark Hendrickson theme. I’m curious about soft hackles this year, particularly glass beads vs brass beads. More on that as I get out for some field testing next month.

I do really well with The Usual. Of course, I have Comparaduns and classic Catskills-style dries. But I embrace simplicity, and trout almost always display a wanton eagerness to attack Fran Betters’ classic.

Be aware of other hatches. Little BWOs, Mahogany Duns, and especially caddis can come off at the same time. Woe be to the angler who is unprepared for the trout taking something other than H-bombs. I always have a Squirrel and Ginger as the top dropper on my team of three.

Striper Report 3/26/23: And the hits just (don’t) keep on coming

I don’t have much to report about last night’s outing, other than I fished hard, and well, and intensely, and for those efforts I was rewarded with not…a…touch. Ye Olde Striper Spot is once again revealing its pattern. Either: there are no fish there yet. They never set up for the winter (this was my third blank in three trips since January), the herring aren’t yet in, so I’d be foolish to go back tonight. Or: fish congregate in this spot during the winter because it’s a good ambush point, there’s some bait, current, and deep water nearby. Sadly, it’s been all Option A. So, we’ll stay home tonight and hope for the best during the next tide cycle as I really don’t need to be climbing into bed at 3am for casting and mending practice.

I haven’t had an Arturo Fuente Canones in years, so I jumped on this one when I saw it. It was the highlight of the evening. A very pleasing, long-lasting double corona. (That’s a Rock Island flatwing for those who are interested.) Now, where dem strip-ed bass at?

Farmington River Report 3/21 & 3/23: “Two skunks walk into a bar…”

I can’t remember the last time I had two consecutive blanks on the river. But there we are. To be fair, I only fished a couple hours on Tuesday, but yesterday I put in a full half day in five locations for not…a…touch. This was my first time to the Farmington since January. Tuesday was sunny and breezy and chilly. I’d planned on hitting the lower river, but settled for a few miles below the PTMA. Still, the water was about 800cfs. BWOs #20 flitting about. Headed up to hobnob with my friends at UpCountry, then with Sal at Legend’s, and then I re-hit the water. Observed airborne: tiny olives, small tan caddis, and early black stones #14. At my third mark, I stuck a fish, but it quickly became unbuttoned — we’re talking about two seconds of head shakes — which was too bad because it didn’t feel small. And that was it.

I should mention that over the two days, I was dedicated to the nymphing cause. I thought Thursday would be better with the warmer air and damp conditions — the olives loved it — but the Still River bumped up and we had over 600cfs in the PTMA. I nymphed the snot out of three marks, then hit two above the PTMA. Zero. Zip. Zelch. It wasn’t just me. Over the course of the two days, I saw one trout hooked among about a dozen anglers over six hours. In hindsight, I probably should have thrown streamers.

Fellow lefty Paul being bold and daring swinging wets in March. He was so kind and willing to share water, and I thank him for his giving spirit and positive energy. He even let me nymph the deep slot in front of him. Neither of us could believe that I blanked.

But what I really wanted to talk about are the new things I tried. I started with a different butt section for my indicator nymph rig. It’s 6′ long, and I flip-flopped the yellow sighter section with the clear section, making the sighter the bottom of two halves. I didn’t like it, so I’ll go back to my original configuration. (On a side note, everyone sees differently, and the yellow really pops to my eyes. Make sure you can see your sighter!)

The next thing I tried was a three-fly team for nymphing. I’d only done it once before, way out west on the South Platte, but the more I thought about it, the more it makes sense. I kept the bottom two patterns fairly close — about 16″ apart. The top dropper was a soft hackle. Obviously, this setup needs far more field testing with some willing subjects. It goes without saying that good casting form and minimal false casting is paramount to prevent tangles (which you will get).

And finally, I played around with some new flies — that early black stone I posted on Instagram, and a slightly larger version of Pat Torrey’s Little BWO. Once again, more field testing required.

Better fishing days are coming.

Don’t miss more exclusive, meaningful content on Instagram

Happy hump day! Just a wee reminder that if you’re not following me on Instagram — @stevecultonflyfishing — you may be missing out on some good stuff. What goes on Instagram doesn’t usually make it to currentseams. Like this website, I try to keep it informative, entertaining, or useful (and on a good day, all three). So, if you’re not following me on Instagram, hop to it. I just posted this nifty little black stonefly soft hackled nymph….

Steve’s BHSH Little Black Stone. You can find the recipe on Instagram. 🙂

Today’s job: getting the trout vest in Farmington River shape

I have shamefully neglected my trout vest and its accoutrements and baubles and other implements of destruction. So that’s today’s job: get it ready to go for some late winter/early spring fishing. Find a place for everything, and put everything in its place. Make sure I’m not missing anything. And restock the pathetic container that is my subsurface fly box — especially the nymph side, which is embarrassingly barren. Enough self-flagellation. To the tasks at hand!

Steelhead Report 3/14-3/15: March Madness, Pulaski Style

Benjamin Franklin is famous for declaring the absolute certainty of death and taxes. I’d like to offer me with crappy weather for steelheading. It seems that no matter which days I choose months in advance, the conditions will suck.

I submit to the group this Tuesday and Wednesday. There are decent numbers of fish in the upper Salmon river, and the fly zones are absolutely polluted with steelhead. The bite has been, at worst, average. So what did we do? Dialed up a cold front and snow and wind for our two days. Thus endeth the bite.

There is a Christian tenet that says, “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice in it and be glad.” Whatever religion you follow (or don’t) it’s good advice, especially if you’re a can-do kind of angler. There’s nothing we could do about the weather, so better be prepared for it, and be ready to adapt to conditions. I must confess, however, that I was not this happy by the end of the day. Thus endeth the lesson. (Photo by Gordon Culton)
Yes, that’s wet snow blowing sideways across my jacket. After blanking for most of the morning, I stuck this fish in a soft water seam several hundred yards below the Altmar bridge. In fact, I set the hook so hard that I fell over into Gordo’s lap. Poor Gordo! He hooked and dropped a fish in some faster water just above this mark, and that was his only touch of the day. But he stuck it out and never complained. About a half hour after I landed this hen, I also dropped a fish in the same place where Gordo had lost his. Like son, like father? Both of my hookups came on size 12 Blood Dot eggs. If you don’t know that pattern, you should. (Photo by James Kirtland)
We were so miserably cold on Tuesday that we called it around 2pm. Given the slow action, it was decided that if there was any open water in the LFZ on Wednesday AM before launch, I’d give it a few drifts. I don’t normally say exactly where I fish, but the mark opposite the boat launch is no secret, and it’s typically loaded with fish. As there was only one angler there, I waded in. Now, I’ve never fished this mark before, and it didn’t take me long to realize that I’d made a classic rookie mistake of wading too far into the river, too close to where I should drift. Once I adjusted my position, I started hooking up along the soft water edge. The problem was, the fish weren’t eating. I fouled four fish here, one in the tail (“Northbound train hooked on the southern end,” cracked Jim) and one on the dorsal. I didn’t see the third, and the fourth left me a souvenir of a scale. I really don’t like fouling fish — others where having the same experience — and I wanted to get Gordo fishing, so we buttoned up and began our float. (A fond note to Tom who was fishing above me, and was courteous and friendly and matey, and a boo-hiss to the churls below me who waded right where I was drifting, then couldn’t be bothered to move when anyone who hooked up above them had a fish roar down to their position. This is the dark side of crowded water, and it remains astonishing how rude some people can be.) (Photo by James Kirtland)
Gordo had another rough day. He drifted an egg bag over a run with no love. Then I stepped up to bat and hooked up on my first cast with a Copperhead Stone. I stuck the fish good (I was really happy with my hookset speed, power, and direction on this trip) but it came off. A couple hours later, skippy here put a smile on my face in a fast-moving shallow glide/riffle. And that was it. Two-for-four for me on the trip, which isn’t a bad batting average, but I’d sure liked to have had more opportunities. I shouldn’t complain — Gordo executed dozens and dozens of quality drifts and had nothing to show for it. I’m proud of him for his perseverance.

Back from Pulaski and mini-striper report

I just got back form two days of spring — uh, make that winter’s resurgence — steelheading on the world-famous Salmon River in Pulaski. The weather was dreadful and so was the bite. More on that tomorrow. But for now, I’ll give you an image that perfectly sums up our Tuesday. As for the striper report, I went Sunday night for 90 minutes to Ye Olde Top Secret Striper Spot and am excited to report…not…a…touch. So it goes…

This photo needs no caption. Bonus points if you know the mark. Courtesy of Row Jimmy Guide Service.

Stuff I Use: Magnet-ique MagMini Single magnetic fly patch

I have a traditionalist streak a mile wide. So for years, I used one of those old-school wool fly patches. I shudder to think of all the dozens of flies I lost with that system.

Then, fly fishing pack makers introduced the rippled foam fly patch. They conveniently placed this patch inside the front compartment of their packs. Except, if you’re like me and tend to load up your pack, that system is not very convenient. I shudder to think of all the smaller items I’ve dropped into a river trying to get to a fly.

So, can I get an Alleluiah! for the Magnet-ique MagMini Single magnetic fly patch?

This product is absolutely brilliant. I attaches to your vest, pack, jacket — whatever — by means of two powerful magnets and a steel backing plate. (Note: the maker suggests that the magnets are so powerful, they are not advisable for use by anglers with pacemakers.) When you’re done with a fly, you place it onto the patch and it stays stuck. No more flies going AWOL. No more wondering where that midge nymph went. No more struggling to get to your stash.

Magnet-ique is headquartered in England. You can order directly from them, and possibly from your local shop. I actually saved some money by ordering a double (two of the orange units) and an extra backing plate, which gave me two usable separate patches.

The Magnet-ique MagMini Double on my steelhead pack. They also make a smaller, single size. Suffice to say I need the room of the double, especially for steelheading where I may be going through double-digit fly numbers in a day.

I would not feel so all alone, or: Everybody must get a Bead Head Stone, Rubber Legs

This is the “Bead Head Stone, Rubber Legs” pattern from the first edition of Matt Supinski’s Steelhead Dreams. My spies in Pulaski tell me that this time of year, big stones with wiggly jiggly legs are all the rage, so I tied up a few (along with some long-legged Kaufmann Stone variants) to have in my box.

Here’s how I tied the Bead Head Stone, Rubber Legs: Hook: Orvis 1524 #8; Thread: black UNI 6/0; Legs/Antennae/Tail: black Life Flex; Abdomen/Rib: black SLF, copper wire; Thorax: black hen hackle; Bead: copper 5/32″; Head: black SLF.