Farmington River Mid-Labor Day Weekend Report

On Thursday I finally got around to making my first dedicated-to-the-nymphing-cause trip of the summer. As I was walking down to my first spot, an angler upstream — presumably trying to be helpful — shouted out, “There are no fish in there. They’re all gone.” Well, one of us is going to be wrong, I thought to myself. One hour and three trout later, I was pleased that it wasn’t me.

I fished a new nymph setup that day, a drop-shot rig. My version was a leader about 8 feet long, then an emerger-like nymph dropper on a tag of 4# Maxima, then 16″ of 5# Rio nylon, another nymph, then a 6″ tag of the 5# with 2 BB shot at the bottom. The shot tag is tied off the bottom nymph hook eye. (If I get enough interest, I will draw and post a diagram.) The point of the rig is to get the weight on the bottom where it should be, then suspend the flies at different heights just off the bottom. You can fish it neat or with an indicator. I went the indicator route. Obviously, you already know it worked. I did, however, drop three fish in the course of the day, and I wondered if that bottom fly is harder for a fish to grab since it isn’t swinging freely. More research is required. Lucky me!

This rainbow has been in the river for a while. Well-defined pink lateral band, intact scale pattern, perfect fins.

Rainbow Release

Off to the second spot, where I landed a rotund wild brown (all the browns I took today were never wards of the state). Met up with friend Todd, and we each managed fish a ways downstream. By now, though, it was 11:00am and the bite had slowed. Away we went to Spot D, where we met up with Peter Jenkins of Saltwater Edge fame. Todd showed off by catching all the trout.

Mr. High Hook Spot D in action.

Todd Fish On

I dropped one more fish at Spot E before I had to make tracks toward responsibilities. The two flies I fished were a size 16 soft-hackled Pheasant Tail on the top dropper and a BH Squirrel and Ginger on bottom. The fish showed no preference, split right down the middle on the two.

On Saturday, I was able to fish for two hours between games at my son’s soccer tournament. Wet fly was the method, and while I found plenty of fish willing to jump on, they were all juvenile Atlantic salmon. Still, a lovely interlude on the water.

I would not feel so all alone.

Stonefly Case

Reminder: Starting Monday, September 1, the lower TMA becomes catch-and-release.

Striper Report 8/24/14: Back to Silverside City (with apologies to David Bowie)

Hey man, this report is so late.

Hey man, the fishing wasn’t that great.

Enough of that. To the outing. Hoyo de Monterey double corona on the drive down. Most excellent. Time and tide conspired to create supreme fishiness at dusk. Sadly, the bass did not cooperate. So after an hour of good old-fashioned college trying, I left the windswept rocky shores and rolling breakers for the friendly confines of the inside.

Out of the truck and a walk and wade to spot B. The bad news: weeds. An obscene amount of weeds. Weeds on every cast weeds. The good news: infestation levels of silversides, with bass feeding on them. The challenge: make your fly (or in my case, flies: 2″ super-sparse peanut bunker bucktail on top dropper, a 2.5″ Eelie in the middle, and a 3.5″ September Night [have I mentioned that it is time to tie up some September Nights?] on point) stand out among the thousands of naturals.

On the one cast out of a hundred that I managed to both, I hooked two bass. They weren’t big, but they gave me the illusion that I had triumphed over nature.

Last stop, another spot on the inside. In theory, it was a brilliant move. In practice, it was good for casting. Ten minutes in, I realized that I was tragically flawed as a prognosticator, and I should lick my wounds on the way home. And celebrate my one-in-a-hundred good fortune.

With no listening choices other than AM or FM, I subjected myself to what passes for classic rock, but is in reality dreadful pre-programmed subscription crap for the masses. Seriously, I don’t need to hear “Bohemian Rhapsody” twice in one night. Once every six months would be fine. Ditto anything by Journey or Billy Joel. And I don’t ever need to hear “The Joker” again.

Sorry if you like those artists or songs. Don’t lean on me man.

Here’s a short video of the bait situation. I actually hooked more silversides than stripers tonight.





Farmington River Mini-Report 8/22/14: Wet and wild

I had two hours to fish on Friday afternoon, so I jumped on it. I bounced around the lower river, visiting a few spots that I hadn’t fished all year. The air had a fall-like feel; it was overcast, and the river was running at 417cfs and 66 degrees. Bug activity was sparse and sporadic: a few small caddis, midges, and BWOs. 

This was a dedicated-to-the-wet-fly-cause outing. I swung a team of a sz 12 hackled March Brown on top, a sz 14 Drowned Ant in the middle, and the old reliable sz 12 soft-hackled BHPT on point. (I like a tungsten bead head fly on point when the water is running higher than normal. With a few strategic mends, it sinks the team faster, and also expedites deeper short line dead drift presentations.)

The PT was the runaway favorite fly. I hooked a nice assortment of wild browns with a few JV salmon in the mix. I had some hideous luck as well: not once, but twice I lost a good fish when he went deep and one of the flies on my team got entangled on rocks or vegetation. I lost two-thrids of my rig on the last one and called it a day.

Fat, healthy, and ready to rumble, these wild Farmington River browns are a treat to catch. Many of the takes today were subtle; more of a building of pressure on the mended swing than a clobbering hit. Good stuff.


A team of three wet (fly fishermen)

And so it came to pass that the Culton men went forth on a crisp, sunny August afternoon and swung wet flies on the Farmington River. Okay. So Gordon was fishing a soft-hackled streamer, and was using a spinning rod. The point is — well, if you’ve ever taken your kids, or any kids fishing, you already know.

Watch out for those trees on the backcast. Cam didn’t catch anything, but he did a more than capable job casting and presenting his soft-hackles. Another place and time and he could have been well into some trout. A fly addict is born.


Gordo’s juvenile Atlantic salmon. Dad hooked it on a hackled March Brown spider, Gordon landed it with the ten-and-a-half-foot rod. “Can I hold it?” he wanted to know. You betcha. Just get your hands wet, and watch out. They like to jump.


Public Hearing on Striped Bass Management, August 26, 2014, Old Lyme, CT

This information comes from Charlie Kreitler, a fellow striper and fly aficionado:

Please take a moment to read up on the proposed management plans for striped bass in 2015 and beyond. There is only one public hearing on this in Connecticut, which will be August 26 in Old Lyme.…ddendum-IV/563

The Draft Addendum can be read here:…licComment.pdf

Options that are being considered are:
* What level of harvest reduction should be made?
* Should the reduction in harvest take place over 1, 2, or 3 years?
* Should bag limits and minimum size change, and should a slot be imposed?
Specific options under consideration are in the proposal. I suspect that supporting one of them is much more effective than proposing your own solution, but that’s just me.

Public comment is being accepted in writing or in person at the hearings. 

To me, the most important thing here is that fishery managers are FINALLY acknowledging that the species is not healthy and that action should be taken. Let’s encourage them to be responsible and protect the health of the species.


Thanks to Charlie for the alert. Grass-roots activism, baby. Grass-roots activism. If you can’t attend, make your voice heard and send Mike Waine your thoughts at

How can you refuse a beautiful face like that?




A thought-provoking essay on the coming striped bass crash

That striped bass are a sport fishing species in trouble is not new information. We’ve already been to the edge in our lifetime. What’s most troubling about the situation is that there is no uniform policy in place to protect these fish — and the bait stocks they feed on —  from big government all the way down to grass-roots anglers. There is confusion at the grass-roots level as well — yesterday on Mike Francesa’s show on WFAN, one of his guests waxed nostalgic about what a great job the authorities have done to boost striper stocks. Really? You’re kidding, right? Sadly, he wasn’t.

This piece by Zach Harvey appeared in a recent Rhode Island edition of Coastal Angler Magazine:

A Block Island keeper lives to fight another day. Every year, tens of thousands of her sisters aren’t so lucky.


Steve Culton on HAN Radio’s Yankee Fisherman

I must have a great face for radio. Why else would John Kovach be gracious enough to invite me back on his Yankee Fisherman show on HAN Radio? We covered lots of topics: this summer on the Farmington, the effects flows have on fishing, fishing wets as dries, long leaders, setting the hook, and just what the Dog Days really means.

Thanks again to John and his team for having me. Here’s the link to the show:

A grey, mysterious summer morning on the Farmington. Who knows what possibilities the day will bring?
Morning Fog

What’s going on around here?

Much. Here are some details.

Radio/Podcast: I just recorded a segment on fall/summer fishing the Farmington with John Kovach’s Yankee Fisherman show on HAN radio. I’ll post the link when I get it.

Magazine articles: Look for upcoming articles in the Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide (Salmon Fishing for Stripers); The Drake (W/S Caddis); Fly Fish Journal (The Streak, a 12-month striper odyssey); and American Angler (tbd…this will motivate me to get those story ideas to the editor).

Web articles: Last night I started my 2014 Block Island Diary. I promise it won’t suck. I have a few interviews with Ken Abrames to sort through — exclusives. And of course regular fishing reports and tying articles/videos.

Appearances: Yup, it’s that time of year. I’ll be presenting Wet Flies 101 at the TU Croton Watershed meeting on Thursday, September 18th. You can find directions at I’ll be presenting Eastern Brook Trout at the TU Naugatuck Pomperaug meeting on Wednesday, October 1. You can find directions at

I also see currentseams is approaching 200 members. I think we’ll have to do another fly drawing to celebrate.

We’re not quite yet to this point. But make no mistake — fall is here.

Leaf 10:13

Farmington River Report 8/12/14: Before the rains came

It’s been a slow summer for me swinging wets on the Farmington. Until today.

They dropped the flow from the dam to 340cfs, placing the upper river at a near-ideal 375cfs, and the lower river at 400cfs. Water temp on the lower river at 2pm was 66 degrees, darn good for mid-August, and no doubt cooler still at the bottom.

I visited several locations today on both ends of the river and found plenty of trout willing to jump on the wet fly. I fished my usual three-fly team; today it was a size 12 Squirrel and Ginger top dropper, a size 14 Drowned Ant in the middle, and a size 12 soft-hackle BHPT on point. I caught trout on all three flies, and even had a Farmington River Grand Slam with at least one brown, brookie, rainbow, and Atlantic salmon in the mix. One of today’s salmon was approaching the double-digit inches mark. Salar the Leaper indeed.

A staggeringly beautiful wild Farmington brookie who took a Drowned Ant on a mended swing. This is one of the best fish I’ve ever landed on this river, a tremendous fighter worthy of your applause. Also note the classic contrasting colors of the fontinalis fin.


With the lower flows, my focus was on exploring some treacherous snotty water that had been previously out of reach. I almost went swimming a few times, and I even breached my waders when I stepped into a chest-high hole. (Please use a wading staff when you’re wading swift or difficult sections.)

Very little in the way of hatch activity today, although the Cedar Waxwings were busy.

The big one — 20+ inches —  on a wet fly still eludes me this year. But with a bounty of wild browns like this one, I’m not complaining.


Where stripers come from

Just returned from a family reunion along the shores of the world’s greatest striped bass nursery, the Chesapeake Bay. I didn’t fish, but visiting the Chesapeake always makes me wonder how many of the stripers I’ve caught began their lives here.

If you’re an old Block Island hand, you know Ballard’s is lobster. Welcome to Ballard’s mid-Atlantic cousin, The Crab Claw. They cover your table with heavy paper, then pile your steamed seasoned crabs in front of you along with a wooden mallet and a roll of paper towels. I also had some oysters on the half shell and this apropos of everything ale.



When he’s not catching fish, he’s piloting the boat. Cam at the helm of the Promotion, under the guidance of Rear Admiral George Ellis (Ret.), Annapolis Class of 1945, known to us simply as Uncle George.