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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