Farmington River Report 9/19/18: Better get out the scale…

I waited two years for yesterday. A day after a heavy rain where the river would be up and off-color but still wadeable; preferably late summer or fall; some cloud cover; with most anglers opting out of fishing. Classic streamer conditions. Huck a bug at the banks, strip away, and wait for that telltale thud from a bruiser brown.

I fished three spots in the permanent TMA, and while all of them produced (including a smallie, the farthest north on the Farmy I’ve ever caught one) the action was slow. Still, I made the command decision to stay away from the recently stocked areas in the hopes of trading numbers for size, and that’s what happened. All trout to net were over 18″, including my biggest of this year.

The method: target banks with a full sink line, a longer (7-8 feet) leader and a deer hair head fly to get some neutral buoyancy going. Black is the classic stained water streamer solution, but they wanted it bright yesterday (nothing on black or olive — they were into white, yellow and chartreuse). Every day is truly different.

The type of trout you measure in pounds instead of inches, this pig was sitting six feet off the bank in a foot-and-a-half of water. Second cast, first strip, and he rolled on it. Right away I could see he was a good fish. Taken on a yellow Zoo Cougar, and a worthy opponent in a 750+cfs flow. Wonder what’s in that tummy?DCIM100GOPROG0013068.

 

 

“I’m Not Dead Yet — The last hurrah for wild Connecticut River strain Atlantic Salmon” from American Angler

A long title, but a good quick read on the last few returning Connecticut River strain Atlantic salmon. “I’m Not Dead Yet” (Holy Grail fans will appreciate the reference) is a tale of ambitious environmental intentions and epic fail. Or, if you want to get biblical, what is a man profited if he should gain an industrial revolution and lose a majestic species? “Im Not Dead Yet” first appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of American Angler.

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“Bring out your dead!” These little guys have long since been eaten.

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The best sand eel fly is the one that gives you the most confidence. (Like the Bruiser Big Eelie.)

Here’s another sand eel fly pattern that I can’t do without: the Bruiser Big Eelie. Faithful followers know that Ken Abrames’ Big Eelie template is a tried-and-true favorite that lends itself to all kinds of color variations. “Bruiser” because it’s black and blue and purple — and because this fly has accounted for some of my biggest stripers. Perfect for those dark of the moon nights when the bass are looking up and tracking those telltale thin silhouettes across the surface. I’ve been fishing this fly for close to a decade now, and while the Bruiser has appeared elsewhere, I haven’t presented it here until now. Speaking of presentation: swing it, dangle it, dead drift it, and strip it in ultra-short jerky bursts (my favorite).

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Hook: 3/0 Eagle Claw 253
Thread: Black 6/0
Platform: 30 hairs blue bucktail
Tail: First, a purple saddle, second, another purple saddle, third, 2 strands blue flash and 2 strands purple flash, fourth, a black saddle, fifth, a black saddle. (All saddles pencil thin and tied in flatwing style.)
Body: Purple braid
Hackle: 3-4 turns purple marabou, tied in at the tip
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The Bruiser Big Eelie Rogues’ Gallery:
Block Island, 20+ pounds
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Farmington River Report 9/12/18: Creek’s up

Dave wanted to improve his nymphing game, so we arrived on the river rarin’ to go — only to have to wait a couple hours for the thunder to pass. The river was slightly up (about 480cfs in the permanent TMA and a light stain) but very fishable. The trout were mostly uncooperative, but we did manage to put a nice bend in the rod. Best of all, we had the added bonus of having a couple of hero pools all to ourselves. We worked on both tight line and indicator presentations with a drop-shot rig. Great job, Dave, in some tough conditions.

That’s what we like to see!

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The Farmy produces yet another wild gem, parr marks still visible.

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Striper report: Nine down. Three to go.

Last night’s mission was September bass. Success! But I had to work for it, which made it even sweeter. Got to the spot in plenty of time for the turn of the tide. The water was loaded with worried bait (silversides, peanuts, and even a few rogue mullet) but not a corresponding number of predators. I could hear an occasional frantic bait shower and a pop here and there, but where was that telltale tug? There. Fish on. Then: fish off. Despair. I kept at it, but nothing.

With rain and wind forecast for Monday, I made up my mind that I was staying out until I secured my prize. Off to Spot B which was dead as Julius Caesar. On my way to Spot C I passed Spot A and thought, wouldn’t it be funny if I made a couple casts and caught a bass? What a fine tale that would make. First cast, mend, nibble-nibble. Second, bump! I could tell what was going on: school bass were making hit-and-run passes through the bait balls. It was either a hair trigger hook set or wait for the weight of the fish. No right answer, only the one that works. I went with option B. And on my third cast, I caught a striper on the fly from the shore for nine consecutive months.

School bass like this that are feeding on bait balls can be devilishly hard to catch. Persistence, passive presentation, and a team of three flies are your ally.

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Housy Report 9/6/18: the curse of the cold front

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a weather pattern exists for days, then a cold front comes through and kills the bite with ruthless efficiency. So it was yesterday when I guided John. Air was cool (70 degrees) and overcast, water was up about 100cfs to 500+cfs, but running clear. A few bugs (micro caddis, Isos, sulphurs, tiny BWOs) but nothing substantial. We fished the Cornwall TMA. Right away I could tell we were going to have a tough time. The run was uber-sexy, lots of submerged boulders and seams and not a touch on several proven patterns. We finished by swinging wets to some slashing fallfish, and we had fun catching a half-dozen or so.

Off to Spot B, a slower, deeper run. One really nice bass from this run, taken on a soft-hackled crayfish fished hop-and-drop along the bottom. Spot C is normally infested with smaller bass — on this day it was a barren wasteland. Off to Spot D, where we finally got into some risers at dusk, both trout (which have clearly moved out of some of the thermal refuges) and smallies. John did a great job in some truly tough conditions, always kept a positive attitude, and was rewarded in the end.

Sidebar: I saw more anglers yesterday than I did the entire summer. And that’s not an exaggeration.

Well done, John, seen here delivering a team of two soft-hackled wets on target.

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Look what we found! This dude was sitting in about 3-4 feet of water not too far from where we were standing. He clobbered the fly on the hop phase of the retrieve.

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This fly, still in testing & development. 

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Long Island Flyrodders awarded a 2nd Legion of Cookout Merit (with Romeo y Julieta clusters)

Many thanks to the Long Island Flyrodders for again being hosts with the mosts. I was treated to a fine cookout of cheeseburgers, kielbasa (perfect for someone from New Britski) and salads. Throw in an ice cold beer (thanks, Mike) and — wait for it — top it off with a post feast gift (thanks, Ken) of a Romeo y Julieta Reserve corona gorda, and you’re talking a very fed, very happy presenter. As always, this is a welcoming group, and I enjoyed talking fishing with everyone. Oh — the presentation was “Trout Fishing for Striped Bass,” which I think went over very well. Lots of good post-talk questions. Thanks again!

Dessert. A fine vitola that also kept the bugs at bay.

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As a fellow griller, I can tell you it ain’t pleasant standing over fire on a 90 degree day with a dew point of 69. Kudos to the grillers! And yes, I came back for a second helping of kielbasa.

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