“Wet Fly 101” at the October FRAA meeting

I’ll be the featured speaker at the Farmington River Anglers Association meeting, Wednesday, October 16, 7pm in Unionville, CT. My presentation will be Wet Fly 101, a basic overview of wet flies and wet fly fishing. Wet flies have been taking trout for centuries, and the fish haven’t gotten any smarter. If you can’t make the September Hammonasset presentation, hope to see you at this one. You can learn more about the FRAA at their website, fraa.org. As always, If you’re interested in having me speak at your club meetings, you can contact me through this site.

 A Hackled March Brown

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And a big Farmington brown who found it to her liking.

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To my First Fifty: Thank You

Fifty people following currentseams? That just blows my mind. When I started this site in late January, I had no idea what to expect, let alone that dozens of people (technically, there are 53 of you) would want to regularly follow my fly fishing and fly tying chronicles. And here we  are.

So, thank you. Thank you for your interest. Your readership. Your questions. And your positive energy.

I would also like to ask you a favor.

Please tell me what you like about currentseams. My goal has always been to provide you with a source of information about fly tying and fly fishing you might not see elsewhere — not to mention writing that (hopefully) doesn’t suck. What draws you to this site? What would you like to see more of?  How can I make it better?  I’d love to hear from you. You can do it publicly in the comments section or privately via an e-mail. And you don’t have to be a follower to play. Everyone is welcome.

Thanks. I really appreciate it.

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Farmington River Report 8/18/13: Crash, Bang, Wallop

If you put in enough time, eventually you’re going to cross paths with a big fish. Yesterday was my turn.

I’m in the middle of working on a wet fly piece for American Angler, and I wanted to try to get some photos of trout-with-soft-hackle-in-mouth. Right off the the bat, I was into a good brown. Then things slowed a bit.

Conditions were perfect: 75 degrees, overcast, showers, water running at 400cfs and a cool 65 degrees. What the bugs lacked in numbers, they made up for in variety: small BWOs, light-colored caddis, midges, and a few stray Isonychia. The bird were working industriously overhead. I was fishing a team of a March Brown soft-hackle as the top dropper, a Drowned Ant soft-hackle in the middle, and a bead head Squirrel and Ginger on point.

Near the end of a mended swing, she hit the fly with untamed ferocity. I’ve encountered enough of these larger trout now that I can tell immediately there’s a big’un at the end of my wet fly leader. The surface erupts in swirling upheaval, and line is bulled from the reel. That’s the last glimpse I’ll have of the trout for a while. Bigger fish almost always go deep, and this one was no exception.

Now, I was faced with the predicament of where to land her. I was surrounded by treacherous pockets and swift currents. I had to manage both wade and battle — this was the kind of fish you really wouldn’t mind falling in for — but I finally  made it to a calmer section to claim my prize. And here she is.

What a gorgeous creature. It would have been nice to get a full-length shot, but I was flying solo, and I wanted her swimming freely in the water ASAP. A quick measurement against my rod placed her at just over 20″.  Clearly this trout could also be tallied in pounds.

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This was the kind of fish that, after you release it, compels you to sit on a rock mid-stream and contemplate your fine fortune in the scheme of the universe. So I did. And I smiled.

I took a few more fish, including one of the larger wild brookies I’ve caught on the Farmington this year, then headed to another spot. Juvenile salmon city, but at the end of the run I saw a splashy rise in the shallows. One cast, a partial swing, and whack! An eight-inch wild brown took the Squirrel and Ginger. I took a few more pictures, then headed home for dinner.

Nice work (if you can get it).

The winning fly, a Hackled March Brown. It comes from an English book published in the 1930s. Makes a fine Isonychia imitation.

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8/14/13 Farmington River Mini-Report

It was a slow day on the river for most of the anglers I spoke to. We were likely done in by the sudden shift in weather and the noon spike of the dam flow (the Upper TMA jumped from 370 to 480cfs; water was lightly stained and 65 degrees). Still, my friend Pete and his brother got into some very nice larger browns in the Upper TMA. As for your humble scribe, I had to be content with a mob of juvenile Atlantic salmon and one lonely rainbow trout. I was committed to the wet fly cause today — I just got an article assignment from American Angler on wets and was hoping to get some good fly-in-trout-mouth shots. Instead, you’ll have to settle for this simple flora-at-dusk portrait:

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Wet Fly 101 at the Hammonasset TU Meeting, Sept. 19, 2013

I’m kicking off my 2013/2014 speaking schedule with an appearance at the Hammonasset Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Thursday, September 19, 7pm at the Wallingford Rod and Gun Club. My presentation will be Wet Fly 101, a basic overview of wet flies and wet fly fishing. Wet flies have been taking trout for centuries, and the fish haven’t gotten any smarter. Hope to see you there. If you’re interested in having me speak at your club meetings, you can contact me through this site.

The Drowned Ant soft-hackle

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A wild Farmington River brown taken on the Drowned Ant, July 2013

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Farmington River 1, UConn 0

Those of us who love the Farmington River spoke out — and our voices were heard. UConn will be using the CT Water Company, rather than the MDC, to fulfill their future water needs.

The following is a quote from last Tuesday’s Hartford Courant:  “The selection eliminates a controversial $51 million plan by the Metropolitan District Commission to build a 20-mile pipeline from East Hartford that would have drawn water from the Barkhamsted and Nepaug reservoirs. Opponents assailed the plan, saying it would draw down the watershed of the Farmington River, a popular recreation spot.”

Yeah, baby. That’s us. Opponents. Assailants. Righteous defenders of natural resources. Thanks to everyone who spoke up, signed the petition, wrote letters, and sent emails.

Grassroots activism is so underrated.

Winner.

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And, winner.

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Farmington River Report 8/7/13: Foul language and rank stupidity. Plus some trout.

“Hey, you gotta move your @#$%ing truck!”

Clearly, this fishing trip was not starting well.

I had just turned into one of the many dirt pulloffs that border the Farmington River. This particular one holds at least three vehicles. There already was a car in it, facing south. I had been heading north, so the fronts of our respective vehicles were pointing at each other. To leave, we’d each have to back out the way we came in. You know, like you’d do at any gas station.  Rudimentary Driver’s Ed stuff.

I got out and started gearing up. The occupant of the other car was on his cell phone, and from what I could overhear, he wasn’t having a happy conversation. He ended his call, and that’s when he shouted out his unpleasant greeting.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“Move your @#$%ing truck!”

“Really? Are you telling me you can’t back out of here?”

More wrathful profanity, and that’s when I realized: disengage. Now. What if he has a gun? What if he comes back with some friends? What if he vandalizes my truck? Sad to say, but that’s the world we live in. I could back out of the pulloff — and potentially, an even uglier scene — simply by acquiescing. Politely. And keep my dignity in the bargain. So I did.

Still, once I got in the water, I couldn’t enjoy it. I kept looking up at the road, waiting to see if my new friend was coming back to look for trouble. Every sound of an approaching car elevated my heart rate. Thankfully, he never returned.

So, what about the fishing? A slow day for swinging wets. Very little hatch activity, but the water was a perfect height at 321cfs and a delightful 64 degrees, ten out of ten for August. I was fishing a Squirrel and Ginger on point, a Drowned Ant in the middle, and a clumsy deer hair wing/head soft-hackle that suggested a drowned hopper or a big stone fly on top. I had several swirls at the big fly, but no takes.

Finally, on the dead drift, the line stalled, I came tight to the fly, and I had a good fish on. I was hoping for something approaching 20 inches, not only from the size of the fly, but from the fact that the fish immediately went deep and sulked on the bottom. A powerful surge up a whitewater channel, and he went on the reel. In the end, it was a mid-teens rainbow. It was the only trout I took in the 90 minutes I walked the run.

My best trout of the day took this monstrosity, still wet and fresh from the fish’s mouth.

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I decided on the spur of the moment to rig for indicator nymphing. The section I fished is a deep run below some riffles. I gave it 15 minutes, and the only trout I took came on the second cast.

A nice little brown who liked the look of Yerger’s Miracle Nymph, size 16.

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The day ended far downstream, where I took my largest juvenile Atlantic salmon of the year, about nine inches long. Bright silvery flanks, and fat. No wonder. When I was taking the hook out, I peered down his throat. It was loaded invertebrates to the point of overflowing. It reminded me of a bluefish spitting up bait. Off he went. Then off I went.

I had to get @#$%ing home.

Farmington River Report 8/6/13: Are you still there?

I guided Steven today and we had about the nicest August weather you could hope for: sunny, about 80 degrees, and low humidity. The fishing was pretty fair, too. The river was crystal clear, 324cfs in the Upper TMA, and 64 degrees. Not much in the way of hatch activity, but you take what you get and make soup.

Steven had missed my most recent “Wet Flies 101” class at UpCountry Sportfishing, so we spent the day covering the curriculum. He did an outstanding job. Funny thing: the first run we fished, there was a guy swinging wets. We watched him hook and land a nice trout. Turns out it was Ted, who took my class in May this year.

After Ted left, we waded in and took several fish, including this lovely wild brown that was rising on the edge of a shade line in less than two feet of water:

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Next, we headed off to the lower river. Slimmer pickings, with only one juvenile salmon to show. We finished the day in the upper TMA. We fished several very sexy seams and pockets with no love, but then things picked up in the last hour.

“Are you still there?” When my students are fishing wets on the dangle and they feel a strike, I tell them to ask that question before they set the hook. (When swinging flies for Atlantic salmon in the UK, you say, “God save the Queen.”) One of the biggest challenges for a new wet fly fisher is not setting the hook when they feel the tug. It’s a highly challenging reflex to overcome, and failing to do so usually means pulling the hook out of the fish’s mouth. Steven was struggling with it as much as anyone does early on, but by the end of the day, he was proudly announcing, “I waited that time!”

And every time he did, the trout was still there.

8/2/13 Farmington River Report: The obesity crisis among rainbow trout

If you went fishing Friday on the Farmington, you won the weather lottery. Low humidity,  temps in the low 80s, plenty of sunshine, and not a lot of other anglers(!) on the water. I guided Matt from noon into the early evening. We had a mixed bag of success, with a fish on our first couple casts, then a long time with nuthin’. It wasn’t for lack of effort. We bounced around the river, and Matt fished his wets well from top to bottom. Very little bug activity, with water temps in the mid-60s. In the last run we fished, success! This chubby rainbow was the best of the bunch.

This is what a steady diet of cheeseburgers and fries will do to your figure.

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She took a Starling and Herl on the swing. What a terrific fight in the current, complete with aerials. Matt hand-stripped her in. Well done, Matt! I helped him celebrate by smoking the Punch Punch he had offered me.

After Matt left, I fished solo for a half hour. I almost bagged it, as there were precious few bugs coming off. But a pod of fish gently sipping in the twilight talked me into it. Nothing on a size 22 Sulphur spinner. Switched over to a size 20 Pale Watery wingless wet that I fish dry and got two takers, one a brown and the other this dark matter rainbow.

I think this rainbow has been in the river a while. Besides its dramatic coloring, it did not want to come to net. Strong fish. Look at those pectoral fins. Profuse black spots, and then some.

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OK, so I did have a cheeseburger on the way home. But I made up for it with oatmeal for breakfast this morning, and some interval training on the bike this afternoon.

7/31/13 Farmington River Report: “So a guy who can’t hear and a guy who can’t talk walk into a river…”

As Woody Allen said, sometimes 80% of success is just showing up. Pete had gone downstream, and I went to the head of the run. It was a-quarter-to-noon, but the bank was already in the shade. First cast, BANG! The wet flies had barely settled into the water. I saw the splashy rise and felt the weight of the fish. A bantamweight wild brown had delivered a roundhouse right to the top dropper, a Squirrel and Ginger.

A feisty pug of a wild Farmington brown. This fish had an almost perch-like shape, with a tubby midsection that tapered dramatically before the tail.

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I took two more wild browns on the way down to where Pete was fishing. He was also doing well with a combination of wet flies and nymphs. (I was dedicated to the wet fly cause all afternoon.)

What pair we made. I’m partially deaf in one ear. Pete had his vocal chords compromised by recent surgery and can only speak in a whisper.  After my tenth, “What?!?” we decided on a policy of sign language and close-quarters conversation.

After our fast start, though, things slowed. Dramatically. We walked well over a half mile of prime water in the upper TMA with only one dropped fish to show for it. “What?!?” indeed. Very little hatch activity, and the water was running clear and cold.

Pete left around 2:30, so I took a flyer on a spot I hadn’t fished since May. I started off in some snotty water above it and was rewarded with a nice little brown and a few juvenile salmon. Then, in the run proper, I took a beautiful holdover brown on a mended swing. The water was clear enough to see the whole transaction, from the flash of gold as the trout darted out from behind a rock, to its striper-like thrashing on the surface at hook set. Another (dis)satisfied customer on the Squirrel and Ginger (this fly has become an automatic as my top dropper). I took two more smaller fish, then called it a day. A damn fine day. Thanks, July. Ya done good.

This could be a wild fish, but whether it’s stream-born or not, it had large pectoral fins that it used to repeatedly glide into deeper parts of the run.

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