Farmington River Mini Report 4/30/15: A good day for wets

My best guess is that everyone looked at the five day forecast and decided that yesterday would be ideal for playing hooky. How else to explain the dramatic reduction in angler traffic today? Not that I’m complaining. I bounced around to several spots on the upper TMA, and fished all by myself for two glorious hours.

Conditions: Cooler than yesterday, mix of sun and clouds, chilly breeze (dammit, I left my fleece vest in the truck). Water 425cfs, 48 degrees, crystal clear. Not nearly as many caddis as yesterday, and that resulted in no takes on the Squirrel and Ginger. Size 12 SHBHPT was the runaway favorite fly. Plenty of midges, and some size 16-18 BWOs. No H bugs. Saw only one rise (as opposed to dozens yesterday).

Yes, dear, you have something on your lip. Hold still and I’ll take it out.


How I fished: three fly team of wets, two size 12 S&Gs and the pictured BHSHPT. The bead was copper tungsten. Mostly casting down and across, but I did some upstream and  short-line deep presentations. I caught them on the swing, the mended swing, the dangle, and the short-line deep. A fair mix of standard-issue and Survivor Strain stockees. I stopped counting after a dozen. I say this not to brag (if you were there you would have likewise caught a multitude) but rather to illustrate how good the fishing was on the wet. If Woody Allen fished, he might have said, “80% of success is just showing up…with wet flies..after they’ve stocked the upper TMA.”

“Tell me, Two Caddis Humping, why do you ask?”


Lessons re-learned: If there’s a sudden pause in what has been fairly constant action, check your three-fly rig for tangles. Yep, that’s not helping. Make sure the line lays out flat on the cast. The wind will screw you every chance it gets. If you’re fishing wets, let the new standard-issue stockees take the fly before you set the hook. If you try to set on the bump/tap, you’ll miss the fish. Let them hook themselves. The Survivor Strain and holdover/wild fish will simply clobber the fly. Bless them. Expect a good fight. Some of the new SS fish are shaped like a rugby ball.

The obesity crisis in Survivor Strain browns. For newly stocked fish, they sure can swim. This one had to be coerced into the net.


Farmington River Mini-Report 4/29/14: The C Word

Everyone wants to know, “When will the Hendricksons be here?” It’s a fair question, but there’s another hatch that happens around now that doesn’t get much juice: tan caddis. I love fishing under that hatch, and today’s glorious weather made it even more enjoyable. The caddis were out in good numbers (as were anglers), with a fair amount of trout feeding on them (the caddis, not the anglers). I fished the upper and lower TMAs and by far my best action was in the upper. Part of this was due to some recently stocked fish; the caddis hatch also worked in my favor. Not much going in in the way of hatch activity for points south. Most of the trout I caught today were recent wards of the state, but I did get one wild brown and a fat 17″ holdover hen, with a head that was dwarfed by her prodigious girth. Wow, did she ever clobber my Squirrel and Ginger on the dangle. That was par for the course today: the stockees were all nip, nip, nip, and the old hands were take-no-prisoners-I’m-gonna-murder-that-fly. Water was at a good height in the upper TMA (433 cfs), and clear (sorry, no temperature, but it felt bracingly cold).

I want to go back. Now.

This 17″ chubbette picked out the Squirrel and Ginger from a team of three different wet flies.

Fat Farmy Hen 4:15

Curl up baby. Curl up tight.

Back to the night shift. Dozing on the couch at 10:45, taking care to not really fall asleep because the bus is leaving at 11:30. On the road, JR Cuban Alternate Cohiba Esplendido ceremoniously lit at the appropriate landmark. Now past midnight, and it’s raining. Maybe it will keep the yahoos away. Only a few cars in the lot. That’s good. The weather people said showers, but this is more like a fine mist. Three other guys out fishing, more than I expected, but better than Monday’s daytime lineup. There are fish around — the spin guy to my left just hooked up. Now it’s really raining. I didn’t order this wetness. Everyone is leaving, and I’m all by myself. Thirty minutes in. The rain stops. A few stars try to wink through the parting clouds. There it is, a sharp pull at the end of the greased line swing. My first keeper of the year? No way. It feels like a short. And it is. Not why I came out tonight, but the stink is off. Working the stretch of water down, then backing up the pool, even though there is no true pool to be backed up. Over an hour of meditative casting, mending, swinging, repeating. Alone. Magnificently alone. Let’s try up there. I haven’t caught a striper up there in a long time. The answer is no. Until the answer is yes. A better fish, struck on the second mend, but still a short. I can see Scorpio and the Summer Triangle and it makes me dream of being out alone on Block Island in July. There’ll be some keepers there for sure. There probably are a few here, but not for me or my Crazy Menhaden. Perhaps when next I return. Big girls. Ready to eat.

Undercover of the night.

That’s AM, people. Very AM.


2015: A Striper Oddity

I never thought I’d be so excited about catching four school bass. But after this crazy spring, yowzah, woo-hoo, awwwright, yessiree Bob, good golly Miss Molly, I am all fired up.


Now that cooler heads have prevailed, I want to tell you about my funny faux pas today at Ye Olde Striper Spot. The wind was gusting out of the NNW, 10-20 easy, and the cloud structure was breathtaking. When I waded in, I was the fifth guy at the end of the line. We were all pretty evenly (and courteously) spaced. After an hour or so, our ranks had swollen to nearly ten. Some people were catching, others were not.  I turned to look behind me and I noticed that the angler above me had closed the gap to about 30 feet. He hailed me. “Do you mind if I ask you something?” I thought I was going to get a question about the two hander, or the floating line, or what color fly I was using. No. “Can you stand back a bit? You’ve moved quite a ways toward me.”

Well, to clean up Jack Nicholson’s line from “A Few Good Men,” didn’t I feel like a freakin’ butt hole.

Sincere apologies were offered, as was a fly. I appreciated his politeness and understanding. We talked about fishing for a few minutes. Then, fences mended, we returned to our precious avocation on this strange grey-green-blue windy day.

Monday’s implements of destruction, drying for the next session. Water temp was 50 degrees.


Skunk cabbage, brookies, and…snow?

Just when you you thought it was OK to go outside without a jacket, Mother Nature throws a day like today at you. Well, I had my heavy fleece on when I stepped into the woods and headed toward yon brook trout stream. But snow? Geez, I knew it was cold (41 degree air temp at 9:30am). I guess I was emotionally unprepared for frozen water to be falling from the sky.

The stream was up, running clear, and warmer than the air. No hatch activity save for one lonely caddis witnessed on the hike out. I don’t know what to make of this stream. In two hours, I pricked ten, landed one. I fished dry upstream and wet downstream. The significance of that is that I drew only two strikes subsurface. I would have expected more action below.

This leads me to several possible conclusions:

1) This stream is continuing the downward trend it has exhibited over the last few years.

2) That cold front last night sucked the life out of the bite.

3) I have absolutely no idea what’s going on.

I can say with certainty that are are far worse ways to spend a morning than wandering along a thin blue line with a fly rod in your hand.

Amidst the dreary browns and greys of winter, wondrous chlorophyl makes a statement.


Holding the first native of the year in your hands — then releasing her — is always a special occasion. She took the dry, a size 16 Improved Sofa Pillow.


“The Streak” in the current issue of The Flyfish Journal

Catching a striped bass on the fly from the shore for twelve consecutive months takes determination, fortitude, and luck. It also takes you to some pretty strange places.

At long last, “The Streak” has arrived in Volume Six, Issue Three of The Flyfish Journal. “The Streak” is about my second attempt to go twelve-for-twelve, January through December. How it ends really isn’t important. It’s all about making the attempt.

Let me know if you get the chance to read it.

The Streak. Read all about it in the current issue of The Flyfish Journal.



Whether they admit it or not, every outdoor writer likes seeing their work in print. When it’s in “fly fishing’s coffee-table bible,” it makes it even sweeter. In addition to the words, I have two photos in the book. I’d also like to give a shout out to my brother David, who earned a full page for his beautiful time-lapse night shot of the SoCo shoreline. David also took the photo of yours truly for the Contributors page.


And on the 500th cast, a striped bass

It’s been a pretty weird spring for those of us who chase striped bass from the shore on the fly. Ye Olde Striper Shoppe, usually overflowing with eager school bass this time of year, continues to fail to produce. You’ve heard me say it before — every year is different — and as Joe Jackson might say, “so there goes your proof.”

I almost didn’t go yesterday because I simply wasn’t feeling it. But I talked myself into it. Not too hard a sell, since it’s got to turn on sometime, right? In the interest of avoiding crowds and trying something different, I went to a place that had no right to be holding stripers. It wasn’t. But I got my money’s worth of casting practice. Oh. And there was that rip. That paramour-sexy rip with its erotically dancing, undulating surface that made brazen overtures to my weaknesses for such water. Mark my words, there’ll be a bass or ten in it sometime soon.

I forgot my good camera. Usually that means a big striper. But you’ll have to settle for this water, weed and sand sculpture.

April sand bar

Switched from the full sink to the floater for a second piece of water. Nearly two more hours of casting practice. It was rejuvenating to perform a proper greased line swing again. (The poetic majesty of the greased line swing cannot be under-estimated.) But, time on this session had run out. Three more casts. And on the third, as the seven-inch long Crazy Menhaden flatwing swung down and across, a firm take worthy of the year’s first striper. A standard-issue school bass, under twenty inches, still wearing the colors of estuary in winter. But for today, a perfect fish.

I gotta tie some more of these. And some Rock Island flatwings, too.

Crazy CU

No Fish Today

Every year is different, and this (April 16) is the latest I’ve ever gone into a year without catching a striper since I started fishing for them. The only question now is: when?

I thought the fly looked tasty enough. But you can’t catch what isn’t there. Not to worry. Instant expertdom is right around the corner.


Soft-Hackled Flatwings, Ready to Swim

Fresh off the vise and ready to be eaten. Grey dun/fluorescent yellow, pink/chartreuse/olive, and white/blue/mallard flank. Of course, endless color variations are possible. Sparse, yet full. These are all three-and-one-half inches long.

SH FW Hybrids

Here’s the basic template:

Hook: Eagle Claw 253 1/0
Thread: 6/0
Platform: 30 bucktail hairs
Tail: Flatwing saddle to match platform color, under 2-4 strands flashabou
Body: Braid
Wing: 30-45 bucktail hairs, under 10-20 hairs contrasting color, under 2-4 strands Krystal Flash or flashabou
Collar: Blood quill marabou, tied in at tip, 3-4 turns; 1 turn mallard flank (optional)
This is one of my favorite patterns for early season stripers.

Three Fly Tying Materials I Can’t Get Enough Of

Your humble scribe is now a guest blogger on the J.Stockard Fly Fishing website. (If you’re unfamiliar with J.Stockard, they have a huge selection of mail-order fly tying materials.) They’ve asked me to make regular contributions to their blog, and this is the first.

The three fly tying materials I can’t get enough of are blood quill marabou, Angora goat, and Ice Dub. You can read all about it here:

This weekend is supposed to be nice. I hope you’re all able to get out and fish.

I can’t get enough red fox squirrel, either.

S&G ready to finish