Farmington River Mini Report 5/31/15: Love that Emergency Bag

The Emergency Bag is probably over-named. Perhaps it should be the “Boy Scout” Bag (Be prepared). Or maybe call it what it truly is, which would be the “Spare Clothes In Case I Fall In and Other Miscellaneous Outerwear I Might Need” Bag. But, I’ve always called it the Emergency Bag, and so it is.

The cool thing about the Emergency Bag is that if you go to the river on the one day of the month when they’re calling for the deluge, and it hits, and you’ve forgotten your Gore-Tex rain jacket, that old rubber one you keep inside its blue confines comes in right handy.

So, to the fishing. I had to run a quick errand at UpCountry Sportfishing, and of course rest stops were an imperative on the drive home. The lower river was low (295cfs) cold, and was largely devoid of hatch activity. I managed to hit two spots before the heavens opened, and took one trout on a size 12 SHPHPT. My final stop produced one more take in a good old-fashioned Noah’s Ark downpour, but as I was bringing the fish in, lightning hit close enough to make me rethink the wisdom of holding an aluminum-tipped pole while standing in a river. So I disengaged and sprinted for the safety of the truck. A little shaken, but quite dry. And I owed it all to the Emergency Bag.

Come to papa. Playing tug-of-war with a standard-issue rainbow.


Striper Report: A little grass shrimp goes a long way

And then there was Plan B. Fished an estuary over the past two nights with mixed results. The first night I missed the tide and most of the fish, although I did get a courtesy tap. There were grass shrimp and a surprising number of small (inch, inch-and-a-half?) clam worms milling about. How nice to see some actual bait and receive the suggestion that there might be something about with stripes other than the skunk.

Last night I was able to negotiate a more favorable tide window. No worms, but a few more shrimp, some silversides, and — what was that? That old familiar pock! echoing across the water. The rise ring was easy to see, and although it took several drifts and dangles over his position, I saw the take and heard the splash before I felt the tug. Lost the next one to a lousy trout hook set, and then all was quiet.

I reconnoitered upstream and sat in the dark, listening for mischief. There it was, though well out of casting range. Then more mischief from the opposite direction. I scrambled into position, but by the time I got set the fish had departed for parts unknown. I gave it another half hour, then decided that I did not want to test the will of the mosquitoes over my fading vitola.

Yeah mon, I caught a striped bass on a bonefish fly. A Crazy Charlie (tan, not the pink you see here) was the middle dropper above an Orange Ruthless clam worm and below a deer hair grass shrimp.

Pink Crazy Charlie

My three fly team looked like this one from last year.


Striper Report 5/26/15: Won’t get fooled again

And so we close the books on what was easily the worst spring for fly fishing for stripers from the shore in Connecticut I’ve experienced since 2007.

How bad was it? By this time in an average year, I’ve already passed the century mark in stripers landed. A good year? Tally it in hundreds. I think I caught ten this year over the course of fifteen trips, and only three of those outings produced fish. Legal bass? Hah! I think I managed one striper over 20″. (Last year was lousy for big bass, too, with only one legal fish for me all spring. Granted, it was a thirty pounder, but oh, how far the mighty have fallen.)

Blame it on a long winter and a cold spring. Blame it on lack of bait. Blame it low flows in the rivers. Blame it on crashing striper stocks. Blame it on shifting channels. Blame it on every year is different. Blame it on plain old bad luck. One thing is certain: If I’m going to spend four hours in a river in the middle of the night, I gotta feel like there’s a reasonable chance I might find some fish. Folks, I ain’t feeling it.

So, time for Striper Plan B. I’ll let you know how that goes.

In another year, this might represent the number of stripers I’ve caught so far. Instead, it’s a painful reminder of yet another long, fishless night.IMG_1858

Farmington River Report 5/23/15: The Light Cahills are here.

On Saturday my son had a soccer tournament in Avon, and I had a two hour fishing window between the afternoon and evening games. So I hightailed it to the lower river for a highly productive and entertaining two hours of fishing between 4:30 and 6:30. Caddis were out (mostly smaller, size 16). But the real story was my first sighting of Light Cahills. (Call them what you will — Vitreous, PEDs, whatever — if they are creamy-colored size 12 mayflies that hatch in the late afternoon in May, I go with Light Cahills.) it was a proper hatch — I’d rate it a 7 on a 1-10 scale — and there were plenty of trout having at them, slashing and splashing and making a general spectacle with their showy takes.

The wet fly is a fine default method for covering water when there’s nothing much happening. But when a hatch is underway and the trout are actively feeding, it can be highly productive. And besides, fishing under the hatch is just plain fun.

There was a lot of this going on. I can’t ever remember two hours of fishing time passing so quickly. DCIM100GOPROG0020581.

I fished two kinds of water. The first was a snotty, boulder-strewn run with seams and pockets, about 75 yards long. I walked its length, covering the fishy looking areas with my team of three wets, and connected with a half dozen trout and a JV Atlantic salmon. The runaway favorite fly was the size 12 soft-hackled bead head Pheasant Tail.

Next, I focused on a run with a mottled surface that was moving at a moderate walking pace. The hatch began to pick up in intensity, but I still had no takes. So I swapped out the bottom and middle flies (SHBHPT and Dark Hendrickson, respectively) for a size 12 Light Cahill winged wet and a size 14 Pale Watery wingless (Magic Fly). That made all the difference. I caught trout after trout for the better part of 75 minutes. They took all three flies (Squirrel and Ginger was the top dropper), but the Cahill and the PWW were the focal points.

What was interesting about yesterday’s hatch was that even though I got into double-digit numbers, I had to work for most of them. Sometimes when you’re fishing under the hatch, the trout are so keen on gorging themselves that you just need to swing the right fly in front of their noses. Not so yesterday. I specifically targeting actively feeding trout, and only two of them took on the first presentation. Most took a dozen or so casts, often with a break between presentations, and several wouldn’t give the flies a sniff. Also, I typically like to fish wets across and/or down. Yesterday I had a lot of success targeting active feeders that were upstream of me.

I had to drag myself away to get back to the last game. Cam’s team won.

So did mine.

Farmington River Report 5/21/15: The Awesome Power of a Single BB Split Shot

I was indicator nymphing a favorite pool this morning that I knew held trout. But despite my best efforts to fish it systematically and cover water, I was blanking. Thirty minutes in and not a single strike. I knew I was fishing deep enough — there had been several false positives provided by the bottom. The water wasn’t particularly fast or deep. Maybe add another BB shot to the one at the terminal end of my drop-shot rig to slow things down a tad? Yessiree Bob. That simple change quickly had me into fish.

A someteen-inch wild Farmington brown that hammered my size 12 black beadhead Squirrel and Ginger nymph. These fish can be quite aggressive in their takes, even when you’re tracking your fly along at the speed of the current. You can immediately sense that you’ve got a good fish on. DCIM100GOPROG0020505.

I fished for a little over four hours today, mostly committed to the nymphing cause, bouncing around to six spots outside the permanent TMA. Water was on the low side of medium (270cfs in the permanent TMA) and 51 degrees. No significant hatch activity, (nor surface activity) although there were caddis just about everywhere. Once I made that adjustment to slow my drift, the fishing was quite good. I found multiple trout willing to jump on nearly every place I fished. They really liked the size 12 black beadhead Squirrel and Ginger nymph; only one trout, an acrobatic rainbow, chose the top dropper, a size 16 soft-hackled pheasant tail. Conditions look good for the weekend. Get out if you can and enjoy this wonderful resource.

Mister brown buck with the big fins, endeavoring for gator brown status (maybe next year?), close to freedom. DCIM100GOPROG0020591.

Farmington River Report 5/17/15: Subsurface Fun

Part One: The Guide Trip

I had the pleasure of guiding the father and son team of Bob and Tim today. They booked this trip a month ago, and they won the weather lottery. Wotta day! We started off outside the permanent TMA and found trout and solitude (and a girl in a bikini). Not a bad way to spend a few hours. Tim had never indicator nymphed before, so I set him up, gave him a quick lesson, then went to go check on Bob. A few minutes later, I turned and saw Tim’s rod doubled over. Way to go, Tim!

Happy nympher. The first of two fish for Tim under the the yarn. His second was a brown. Both fish came on a black bead head Dark Hendrickson soft-hackle.  IMG_3091

Off to Spot B where old pro Bob connected with a feisty rainbow on a wet fly swing. Spot C was in the permanent TMA, and despite a few random rises, we were unable to persuade any trout to jump on. Spot D was on total lockdown (I’ve never seen so many anglers in such a small run), so we headed for Spot E where we had the pool mostly to ourselves. One more trout on a wet and we called it a day. Thanks again so much, Bob and Tim, for such an easy, relaxing day on the river. Water was 280cfs in the permanent TMA, cold, and clear. Midges, caddis, and a few random mayflies.

Part Two: The Quickie

I thought it would be too early for Light Cahills, but I had to see for myself. Besides, the lower TMA was conveniently on the way home, it was evening, and I might find some risers to present to. There were indeed a few trout shattering the surface with splashy takes. No Cahills, but there were size 12-14 tan caddis, sz 20 caddis, and midges everywhere. I fished some snotty pocket water for 30 minutes and took five trout. A plug for the team of three wets: I caught fish on every fly, one on the size 12 Squirrel and Ginger (top dropper), three on the size 12 Dark Hendrickson  (middle dropper) and one on the size 12 Light Cahill (point). Browns and rainbows with one wild brown in the mix. Regrettably, I had to call it (there was a grilled flank steak and a spicy zin awaiting me at home). How exhilarating to see the fish rise to feed, boil on the surface, then feel the tug moments later. I love fishing under the hatch with wets.

Halo, beautiful. Dark Hendrickson winged wet. IMG_3093

Farmington River Mini Report 5/15/15: Trout (nearly) everywhere

Fished from 11:30am till 3:45pm today with the goal of hitting seven spots. I made five, which doesn’t suck. What doesn’t suck even more — or is that less? — is that I found trout willing to jump on in four of the five places I fished (two within the permanent TMA and three outside it — wouldn’t you know the only place I blanked was inside the TMA). I spent most of the time dedicated to the nymphing cause, but at my last stop I switched over to a team of wets and connected with a fat rainbow on a size 12 Dark Hendrickson wet. All the trout today were rainbows.

They bumped up the flow from the dam, and we currently have about 275cfs of cold water coming through the permanent TMA. I didn’t take a temp, but I’m guessing 50 degrees — if that. Hatch activity was slow: caddis, midges, some BWOs, a few stray Hendricksons. There were very few rising fish, even with the low water levels, and what was rising was doing so sporadically. Damn fine weather, and a lovely day for a post-lunch Rocky Patel The Edge Toro.

Fred here smacked my size 12 copper bead head UV pink hot spot dark hare’s ear nymph like it owed him money.


Striper Report: Walkin’ after midnight. Searchin’ for you.

I started on Monday and finished Tuesday. No moonlight or starlight. Rather, one of those misty, showery nights where the atmosphere is so dense it seems you could wrap your fingers around it and grab a handful. Mysterious. Striper. Weather. The five-weight with the new Rio Outbound line and a seductive 9″ Rock Island flatwing fresh off the bench, ready to swim. Hours of greased line swings. Rhythmic mending. The rise and fall of the fly in the current on the dangle. Short pulsing strips on the retrieve. Water haul, tip flexed, the line coils shooting from the basket through the guides. Ears cocked, listening intently in the dank as best you can for the sounds of a swirl or the pop of an open mouth. Nothing. Still, nothing. And more nothing. Just you, the rod, the fly, and your thoughts.

You may ask why I keep doing this when the repetitive result is neither fish nor hits. Because this could be the night I get my first 25-pounder on the five weight. Because the next cast might be the drift over a striper holding in ambush. Because you can’t catch striped bass while you’re asleep in your bed. Because I’m fortunate enough to be able to set my own schedule, and people like you send me comments and emails telling me that when you can’t go fishing, you enjoy reading about when I can.

Most of all, I do it because I love it.

I left home almost five hours ago. I fished hard and I fished well, so I fell asleep as content as an angler could be after a skunking.


The untriumphant return of the five weight.

I don’t think I used the five weight once last spring. Must remedy that. I knew I’d be unable to sleep after my hockey game, so at 10pm I ventured forth into the sultry darkness with a new Rio Outbound 9 weight floating line on the reel and a Crazy Menhaden flatwing to tempt Miss Piggy. I tend to want to get my money’s worth from a line, so I had forgotten how good a new one feels in the hand. The five weight did not disappoint, and conditions were perfect for casting and mending a large fly in the current. Sadly, no bass, no bait. The Meatballs were out in force, though, proudly displaying their coordinates to the world (and perhaps some low flying aircraft) with their headlamps. I must confess to having a smug sense of satisfaction when they left fishless. As did I after two hours of fighting the good fight.

Farmington River Report 5/8/15: We’ll take six

Jefferson took my Wet Flies 101 class today, and he chose a helluva fine day to be out fishing. Sunny, warm, good flows (264cfs, 52 degrees)…and anglers. Lots and lots of anglers. Everywhere. (I didn’t know you could fit that many cars into the Woodshop dirt lot. Whoa! Is that Church Pool or the Wire Hole in Pulaski?) Still, we managed to find some water to call our own not once, but three times around the upper TMA.

Jefferson did a splendid job with his team of three wets. Here he’s making that critical first mend after his cast. And yes, the weather and the river were indeed as clear and lovely as they look.


To the fishing. I have been hearing a lot of reports of strong hatch activity with no fish rising to the bugs. That was our experience today. Spot A was heavy with midges, moderate with caddis, but very little surface activity. What risers we saw never got into any feeding rhythm; it was all rather haphazard. Jefferson still managed to stick four trout, which was four more than I saw anyone else hook. Spot B was largely devoid of hatch activity, except when the sun hid behind the clouds and we had a micro hatch of size 14-16 BWOs. Two fish on at Spot B. Spot C was the scene of a strong Hendrickson hatch (2:00pm-2:30pm) with one lonely trout making a few furtive slashes. He proved most uncooperative. But, we know where he lives. Thanks again to Jefferson for a fun day.

Mr. H stops by to say hello.