Farmington River Report 6/14/15: Just like Summer Stenos

Mid-June on the Farmington means an annual pilgrimage to a popular dry fly pool with the Tonka Queen for the sulphur hatch. I figured the permanent TMA would be jammed — after all, it was a gorgeous weekend day, and the rains were coming — and unfortunately, I was right. The lot was mostly full when I pulled in. I almost bailed right there, but I figured it was worth a look-see. To my surprise, most of the anglers were concentrated in the middle section of the pool. Plenty of room at the head. So in I went.

I fished from 5pm until after it was too dark to see a size 12 Light Cahill Catskills dry. What a strange evening it was.

Sulphurs came off from the time I entered the water until roughly 7:30. It wasn’t a particularly strong hatch, but there were enough bugs to keep me and the trout entertained. I used both The Magic Fly (Pale Watery wingless) and the Usual, sizes 16-20, for the first three-and-a-half hours with mixed results. Oh, I induced a good dozen trout to rise and take — we’re talking some quality boils — but each time I lifted my rod, nothing.

Certainly there was a rust factor in play — first time out with the cane and a long (13 feet) leader — but this felt just like summer stenos, a hatch I love to hate. Present to feeding fish. Perfect drift. Rise. Take. Nothing.

Once dusk arrived, the mosquitoes came out in force. Absent traditional insect repellant, a Gispert Churchill filled in nicely.

Smoke and Bamboo

I did witness several refusals, and this got me thinking that it was possible the trout were feeding on something other than sulphur emergers: size 16-18 BWOs or size 16-18 black caddis. Other factors to consider: multiple rise forms (porpoising gently as for spinners), slashy/splashy rises, and open mouths with a tail kick).

Around 7:30 I finally connected with a nice wild brown on the Magic Fly. The next hour was a puzzling series of casts, mends, and even more swings and misses. As darkness fell, I switched over to the Light Cahill Catskills dry, first size 14, then size 12, and stuck a fish on each, the last when I couldn’t even see the fly.

An outing as frustrating as this one ultimately raises more questions in my mind than I care to mention, but here are a few. Are the fish simply missing the fly? Am I too slow on the hook set (and if I am, how come I hooked those bazillions of trout before tonight with the same speed hook set)? Are the fish committing to the take, then bailing at the last second? How come no one else was catching (over four hours of fishing, I saw six fish hooked, including my three)? What were the trout feeding on besides sulphurs (I suspect it was the black caddis)? How come I didn’t get a sniff on small (size 20 & 22) spinner patterns?

Folks, I guide, teach fly fishing and write articles on the subject, and I have to tell you that I don’t have all the answers. Thankfully. Because now I need to go back and do some more research.

10 comments on “Farmington River Report 6/14/15: Just like Summer Stenos

  1. Mike says:

    If you can’t figure it out …It’s certainly a tough situation!
    I just read your new article in American angler(came in saturday) Keep up the great work.

  2. Steve Culton says:

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks so much for reading and for your kind words. That article was fun to write, and I still find many situations where I’m kicking myself for having forgotten the little things.

    Whether you’re a well-known fishing personality or a newbie, we all put our waders on one leg at time.

  3. Josh Kessler says:

    Had a very similar experience on 6/10, swung wet flies for several hours in multiple areas above and in the TMA with little luck and then at dusk a few boils but no takes….frustrating, but still better than work!

  4. Phil says:

    I had the same experience this week. At one point I stopped paying attention to the fly. I made a cast and then fumbled with a fly on my patch. I noticed a boil out where my fly was but was not prepared to set the hook so I didn’t. A good three or so seconds passed. I lifted the rod to recast and to my surprise that fish was hooked. Go figure. Tried the same thing on several others and it worked. Three second count. Elk hair caddis. Tan over green. Size 14.

    • Steve Culton says:

      I typically don’t hair-trigger my hook sets when fishing dries. The fish commits, takes, I get around to coming tight to the fly….and nothing. The last one I hooked in the dark was probably (as you say) a good three seconds. Couldn’t see the fly, but heard the boil, and lifted just for the heck of it.

  5. ted says:

    Steve another great report. But, glad I wasn’t downwind from you. Despise the smell of cigarette and cigar in the middle of a river, or anywhere.

  6. Paul says:

    Steve, I too was out on the Farmington from about 4:30 until dark. Started at the Whittemore pool where the parking lot was full, but I was the only one in the river. The trout were rising here and there and I managed to hook a couple on a size 14 Usual. Later, I moved to my favorite spot (unspecified for obvious reasons) and finished the evening again using Usuals of a variety of color and sizes and caught a total of 9 browns and rainbows, 5 in last half hour. The Usual was king for me that night.

    • Steve Culton says:

      That sounds like a pretty darned good night. Usuals are — if you’ll pardon the expression — usually a very good choice during a sulphur emergence. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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