Critical Kensington Hatchery Vote April 1 — No Foolin’

The deadline for the Appropriations Sub-Committee addressing the DEEP budget which includes Kensington Hatchery is this Wednesday April 1st. If any of the committee members represent your town, you are encouraged to phone or email them directly, even if you have already submitted testimony to the entire committee. Please see the link below for Sub-Committee members and phone or email them if you live in a town they represent. The hatchery must survive this step in the process if it is to remain alive. Ask your friends in these towns to also contact their reps.

Here is a link to the list and contact information on flyaddict:

A little help, please?

Rainbow Release

Farmington River report 3/26/15: holdover dreams, fresh stocked realities

Overcast, fog, rain showers, air temps nearing fifty — where do I sign up? The river was running clear and about 350 cfs, 40 degrees in the upper TMA.

So. The day began with my foolish decision to navigate a perilously steep slope down to the river. There was no snow. But, rats! I didn’t take into account the frozen tundra. I slid on my butt for about twenty feet, and my the only reason my ass didn’t end up in the river was because I managed to grab a sapling as I hurtled past. Thus chastised, I waded in, bloody fingertips (ice can cut you quite properly, thank you) and all.

You gotta love the naiveté of fresh stockees. They haven’t quite figured out that they’re supposed to hit that streamer at the head. As a result, I had about 400 hysterical tail nips, with some of the new residents following the fly almost to my rod tip. At least a half dozen of what was put in last week are already dead; I saw them on the bottom of one run, most missing heads and/or eviscerated my some unknown predator. Downsizing the fly from a 4 to a 6 resulted in more hookups. But you don’t need to see photos of recently stocked trout, do you?

If the rain comes, they run and hide their heads. I fished all by myself today. Farmy rain:fog

Since stockees were not why I came out, I headed to the TMA. I had visions of big browns. We’ll quote another British band here: you can’t always get what you want. So I had to be content with three sticks and several Deep Threats presented to appease the river bottom gods. But the smoke from that Rocky Patel The Edge corona gorda looked positively sublime as it mingled with the mists over the rain-speckled water.

And I left the river happy.

Class 1 Quickie

I made my annual early spring pilgrimage to some old favorite Class 1 WTMA waters. Just a quick look-see with some obligatory line wetting. Water was medium height, 42 degrees, and clear. I swung and stripped an articulated white mini bugger, but had no takers, nor did I see or spook any wary wild things. On the plus side, the rest of the world was working and I was fishing. There were signs of a healthy invertebrate population, namely midges and early grey stones. In fact, I saw a couple couples of the stones doing their mating dance, and one depositing her eggs. No photos because I left the camera at home.

Please remember, no small stream fishing this time of year unless it’s a Class 1 (or in one of the allowed tidal zones). All thin blue lines re-open 6am the second Saturday in April (instead of the old third Saturday).

Hang in there, folks. Spring is here.

I could so go for some Hawaiian shorts and t-shirt weather right now. You know?


Farmington River report 3/20/15: The best time to fish

Contrary to popular belief, the best time to go fishing isn’t when you can.

The best time to go fishing is when your mother-in-law has come to visit for the weekend.

The idea of sub-freezing temperatures and snow sounded just about right. Steelhead weather. I figured the river would be deserted (it was — I had my pick of the water). I also figured between the romance of snow flakes and deep overcast, the big browns would come out to play (I figured wrong — only one half-hearted bump in three hours).

Stanley’s Ice-Off Paste is a nice concept, but it’s only good for about a half-hour. Fishing streamers doesn’t help. Icy guide

I bounced all over the TMA. Spot A was an overhead deep run. Next, I walked several hundred yards through the woods to be able to fish a quarter-mile stretch of water. Then, a sortie to a new honey hole I had discovered last time out. One bump, no return. Ended up at another way-deep run where I caught a very nice stick and lost two flies. Streamers were the method, and I experimented with both bright and muted colors as well as retrieves. No interest in anything. River was down, about 225cfs, and running clear. Water temp was down, too, to 34 degrees, and I’m sure that was a negative influence. A few stray midges and some W/S Caddis here and there.

How Mother Nature cleans house. After Wednesday’s and Thursday’s wind, the forest floor was littered with shards of dead trees.

Forest floor       

But I was alone and fishing. If anyone had asked me, “Any luck?” I surely would have answered yes.

Trout streamer: the Hi-Liter

It was the mid 1980s. I’d just landed that coveted first job as a junior copywriter at a mid-sized Connecticut advertising agency. Every job that came across my desk included a creative brief: the background, current situation, brand essence, single most important thought, and support points for what I’d ultimately be creating. I’d pore over the brief with the eagerness of the cub writer I was. But then, I’d want that brief to be even briefer. So I’d reach into my drawer and pull out a highlighter marker. Usually bright green or fluorescent yellow. Sometimes pink. When I was done, that brief would be focused on the essentials. I could see at a glance what was really important.

That’s the energy behind the Hi-Lighter streamer.

The moment it hits the water, trout can see what the most important object in the pool is. It’s that thing. That bright, moving, flowing thing. Can’t miss it. There it is. Never seen a baitfish in those colors. But oh, look how it moves and pulses and flashes. The heck with those little black stones. I want that thing. Now. Better eat it before it gets away.

I’d like to tell you that I thought long and hard about the Hi-Liter, and that I field tested it for months. But the truth is that I made it up on the spur of the moment several years ago just hours before I stepped into the river. The trout liked it that day. And they still do.

The Hi-Liter. It looks substantial here, but it casts small, and slims down dramatically in the water. 

HiLiter studio

Hook: 4XL streamer, size 6
Thread: Chartreuse
Bead: Spirit River Hot Bead 3/16″ Chartreuse, seated with .010 wire
Tail: Hot or fluorescent pink marabou over 8 strands pink Krystal flash
Body: Pearl braid
Wing: 8 strands pink Krystal flash to mid-point of tail
Hackle: 4 turns chartreuse marabou blood quill

A wallflower this streamer is not. Subtlety escapes it. See how the colors pop against muted earth tones? I love the Hi-Liter on bright, sunny days.


All wet. My original prototype from years ago.

Highlighter Streamer

Tying notes: With the bead head and the wire seating, the fly will ride hook point up. The weight addition is subtle; this is not intended as a “carpet bomb the bottom” fly. For a more traditional style streamer, skip the bead and the wire. Besides the marking pen reference, the original color scheme draws from the extensive use of chartreuse and pink in striper files. I also tie this fly with a fluorescent yellow or chartreuse tail, and a white hackle. Try not to over-dress the fly; you want the hackle to act as a veil, creating a translucent effect against the body.


The Hi-Liter Rogues’ Gallery:

Farmington River someteen-inch brown, 3/13/15

16%22 late winter brown


Farmington River, 1/21/15

Streamer Brown 1:15

A Sulphur Emergence in March

Would that it were so. But for now, I’ll have to be content with two dozen of the Magic Fly (Pale Watery wingless wet) sizes 16 through 20, waiting in the wings. June still seems like a long way off. But you can never have too many sulphur emergers — especially the Magic Fly. If you’re new to this pattern, you can find the recipe and a tying video on this site. You’ll be glad you did.

I’ll drink to a warm June evening when the sulphurs are coming off in numbers and the trout are getting stupid.

Magic Flies

I also see we’re getting near the 300 followers mark. Of course, once we reach it we’ll do another fly giveaway.

Coming soon: another trout streamer. Think out-of-the-box.

April Events Calendar: Farmington River NYC TU and CFFA Tyers’ Roundtable

It’s the time of year when the show and speaking circuit winds down and the fishing starts to ramp up. Which is as it should be. After all, who wants to listen to some jamoke yak about fishing when you could be outside doing it? Nonetheless, I shall be presenting and tying for your pleasure on two nights the first full week of April. Monday, April 6: “The West Branch: Southern New England’s Blue Ribbon Trout Stream” at NYC TU. We are 99% certain that the Farmington River will be the subject. If time permits, I will be tying before the meeting. NYC TU meets at Orvis, 489 Fifth Ave, just south of 42nd across from the Library. For more information, please contact or visit their Facebook page. Wednesday, April 8: CFFA Tyers’ Roundtable in East Hartford, CT. This is a cool event where local fly tyers gather to share patterns, information, and camaraderie with everyone in attendance. As I recall, I think I tied two or three flies last year and talked the rest of the time. I’m not sure what I’ll be tying — maybe some streamers this year — but if you go, please stop by and say hi. The event starts at 7pm at Veterans Memorial Clubhouse, 100 Sunset Ridge Drive, East Hartford, CT. For more information visit Tight lines on a rainy early winter afternoon on my favorite river. Bent Rod Other stuff worthy of mention: the word machine has been cranking. Look for more from me this year in American Angler, The Drake, Fly Fish Journal, Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide, and of course, currentseams. More videos are in the pipeline (at least the theoretical one) from tying to Q&A. And now that the weather has broken, I’m going to go fishing. You should, too. As always, I thank you for your readership and your support.

The Streak in Volume 6 issue 3 of FlyFish Journal


Trout streamer: the Deep Threat

When it comes to fly design, I always ask, “What do I want the fly to do?” With the Deep Threat, the answers came easy. I wanted a fly that would sink quickly. I wanted a fly that was highly impressionistic (Sculpin? Salamander? Frog?). I wanted a fly that would create the illusion of life, even if it were at rest. A fly rendered in natural earth tones. Most of all, I wanted a fly I could fish along the bottom, hook point up, in the cold winter waters of the Farmington River.

And here it is. The Deep Threat draws from many patterns. You can see little bits of Woolly Bugger, Zonker, Peanut Envy, and Alaskabou in its lineage. Its core of natural materials will whisper to the trout, “I’m alive.” There’s a calculated minimal use of flash and sparkle; enough to get a brown’s attention without overwhelming the pattern. I’ve been testing the Deep Threat for months, and I’ve been able to get to the bottom of some very deep pools on the Farmington using a full sink tip line and some mends. The fly is officially trout-approved. Fish it, like I do, with confidence.

The Deep Threat

Deep Threat

Farmington River Report 3/13/15: More fun with streamers

Fished the upper TMA for about 2 1/2 hours today. Streamers again (today’s favorite was a slim profile pattern with a gold bead head, and white and chartreuse marabou).  The usual winter setup: full sink integrated line, three-foot leader, letting the fly sink/swing, then a slow, jerky retrieve. The strike pattern that was established on Tuesday’s outing was present today — a swipe by the trout to stun the fly, then the hit-to-eat. Two fat, healthy, sixteen-inch browns to net. One JR Cuban Alternate Cohiba Robusto and a very happy angler smoking it. The water was up a few inches from the other day, but still clear and cold at 36 degrees. A few midges here and there, and the early grey stones came out about 1pm. Snow pack was less of a walking issue, mostly because of last’s night’s freeze. Still, plenty of anglers out for a weekday in March.

Streamer tip of the week: these big browns aren’t eating on the first strike; rather, they’re smacking the fly to stun it. It feels like more of a bump than a tug. Don’t set the hook. Let the fly sit for a moment, or continue to micro strip. The eating strike will come a moment later.  16%22 late winter brown

Farmington River Report 3/10/14: Big Browns (or nothing at all)

Finally. Weather that doesn’t suck. A schedule that is clear. Yes, dammit, there will be fishing today.

I had been planning this trip since last week. Streamers. That’s what I wanted to fish. And that’s what I had been tying over the past few nights.

My plan was brilliant in its conception: target a pool that has been inaccessible to vehicles (and probably 99.9% of potential anglers) for weeks, if not months. Park the Jeep as close as possible, then schlep through hundreds of yards of water and snow pack, all to be able to present to trout that might not have seen a fly since last year.

Good God, what a hike. So overheated and uber-saturated was I that upon arrival, I actually stripped down to my Under Armour. Cheap thrills for the Canada geese who warily eyeballed me. (And if someone hasn’t yet patented the Upstream Slog/Snow Cover Deep Step In Neoprene Boots Workout, I very well may.) On the way out, I passed another angler who apparently had the same delusions of grandeur as I. “Enjoy the walk,” I hailed him. “Any rewards?” was his response. Nope. Two sticks, three lost flies, and not a touch.

The advantage of being able to tally your weight in fractions of ounces is that you don’t sink up to your knees in snow when you attempt to walk across it.

Dinosaur Bug

Spot B was on the walk out, and it likewise was a blank.

The river was running about 400cfs, clear, and 36 degrees. I wasn’t the only person who thought today would be a good day to fish. But when I emerged from the woods at Spot C, I was all by myself.

Bump. “That was a fish,” I thought. I repeated the cast and strip. Again, bump. Then, whack! I could tell it was a good trout — the big ones often sideswipe the fly as if to stun it, then return for the kill shot. Seventeen inches, typed jaw, heavy black leopard-like spotting. Back to my slow walk downstream. Bump-and-whack again, another brown that made my rod creak as he exerted his will against the tension. One more trout hooked, a younger brother, who decided to scamper off from whence he came as I prepared to net him.

A seventeen-inch Farmington brown, endeavoring for gator status. (Come see me when you reach twenty-plus).

Gator Brown 3:14

We liked this fly today: an impressionistic cone-head soft-hackle in earthy colors I’ve been playing around with. Details  to come.


Spot D was a blank. Except for that stick. Not a bad fight, but not worthy of release. So I tossed it up onto the bank.