Farmington River Report 7/12/15: Nice. I think.

M*A*S*H’s Frank Burns once said, “It’s nice to be nice to the nice.” He’s right. I met some nice people on and off the river last night. Some of them shared water, conversation and positive energy. Some of the fish, though, weren’t particularly nice to me. Nor were my leader and tippet, which insisted on repeatedly wrapping around my rod. Oh. My casting also sucked (I’d rate it somewhere between incompetent and atrocious). A fatalist might offer that the nicest thing about last night was that it proved that every day is different. But to quote George Formby, it turned out nice again.

I fished dries (or wets as dries) from 6:00pm to 9:00pm. The hatches were about a five on the Bug-o-Meter scale: small olives, summer stenos, sulphurs, creamy midges. No caddis that I could see. Sadly, all the consistent risers were either above me or below me for the first 90 minutes. I raised fish on a size 22 BWO parachute, size 20 Magic Fly, and a size 18 Usual. But no hook sets. Surprisingly, I saw some refusals to the Magic Fly. I think a sparse tie on a size 22 hook is in order. I’ll let you know how that plays out.

Jeff, who was kind enough to share the water, was fishing above me and took two trout in the first 90 minutes. By 8:00pm the trout got a little more hungry, and fed until dark.  I switched over to classic Catskills Light Cahils, size 18-12 (I increase the size as dusk deepens) and started hooking trout.

First customer of the evening, a small vessel of a wild brown. Caught him in a — you guessed it — current seam.

And so we ended game one of the twi-night doubleheader. I re-rigged for streamers and tried to warm up (wow, the water is cold for this time of year!) before heading back into the foggy void. Two anglers in the lot said they had done well in the last hour on sulphur spinners. When I got back into the water all signs of feeding (from what I could see) had ended.

I started with a Sex Dungeon (behave, now) which is a dumbbell-eyed, deer-hair headed articulated monstrosity (I use the M-word in a most positive manner). I blanked on it in Run A and Deep Pool B. For Run C, I started with something a little more casting friendly, a horrible black marabou leech mutation of my own doing. No. When I got to some flatter water, I tied on a Zoo Cougar, another one of Kelly Galloup’s patterns (the Sex Dungeon is his). The Zoo Cougar is meant to be fished on a sinking line, but I liked the idea of something quasi-mousy-sculpiny. And what’s there not to like about a commotion near the surface in the near absence of light? Precious little. In a thirty yard stretch of water, I connected with three trout. All of them first whacked the prey to stun it. Two came back for the coup de grace. One, I had a lousy hook set, and since it didn’t feel particularly big, I wasn’t upset when we parted ways. The other was a rather nice way to end the night.

Not super big at sixteen inches, but this wild brown buck (note full fins and intact adipose) gave me a worthy battle as the clock neared the witching hour.

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Farmington River Report 7/9/15: That’ll put a bend in the old cane

It may seem foolish to drive 90 minutes to fish for 90 minutes, but I have no issues when it comes to irrational behavior in the name of fishing. On the water at 7:30pm (many thanks to the angler from Massachusetts for sharing the run) and was greeted by some sporadic splashy rises. The hatch activity was off-the-charts strong, with vast numbers of sulphurs (16-18), summer stenos (18-20), BWOs (18-20) and midges. Unfortunately, the rises were inconsistent and not as plentiful as I would have liked for that level of bug activity. Still, you get what you get and you don’t get upset.

I was fishing the traditional cane rod in some untraditional dry fly water — this was more of a wet fly run, current moving at a good walking pace and with a very mottled surface. I had swings and misses on a size 18 creamy Usual, a size 20 BWO parachute, and two Magic Flies (18 and 20). Nothing on the big guns (Isonychia). The angler below report similar swings and misses.

Air was dense, overcast, with a sprinkle here and there. The hatch ended around 8:15, and the surface activity wound downward.

One small fish had vexed me for the better part of an hour. He’d come up gently. Then disappear. Then resume feeding. Then stop. Couldn’t get a sniff from him, and the little ones are usually easier to fool. At 8:30, for no reason other than visibility in the rapidly advancing darkness, I tied on a size 20 sulphur comparadun. On the second cast, ker-pow! Good hook set. Felt great to finally be on. But why won’t this fish come to net? The current is strong, but this is ridiculous for a fish that size. Unless it’s not a fish that size. Turns out it was hulking brute of a Survivor Strain brown in the high teens length, hooked neatly in the corner of the mouth.

The photo does not do the fish justice, but my hands were shaking and Fred here wouldn’t stay still. Wild and Survivor Strain browns are a different animal on the Farmington — cantankerous comes to mind. What a bend he put in the cane rod, and I was happy to have 5x on so I could get Medieval on him when I needed to. My best guess is that’s a dark green elastomer, making this a four year-old fish that was planted as a yearling in 2012.

Farmington River Report 7/7/15: Scary Monsters

I wish I was referring to the gator browns I envisioned catching, but last night’s late night (or early morning) streamer session produced only three bumps, no hookups, and lots of angst. It’s easy to see why kids are afraid of the dark. Once you are robbed of the sense of sight, the imagination of all things terrible exerts a relentless grip.

A dense fog blanketed the water and woods. The headlamp was useless. It’s not easy working your way through a run in the soggy blackness (while trying to fish) — not to mention having to bushwhack after you realize that you’ve strayed well off the beaten path. I’m a fearless wader, but I have to cop to being a little antsy while negotiating that first run. It’s unnerving to feel the bottom sloping downward, the water rising up toward your waist, getting faster, and you have no visual reference as where your next step might lead you.

That first hit felt like I had snagged a tree stump. Ker-shloosh! The roll on the surface sure sounded like it was a good fish. Tug-tug, and then it was gone. Dammit.

Blanked at Spot B. Surprised at that. Two whacks at Spot C — the same fish, I’m sure — but again, no hook set. I almost jumped out of my waders when I saw the headlamp glowing on the shoreline right behind me. Silly rabbit. It was a firefly.

Spot D was also a blank. Well into the wee hours, time to call it a night. I sang improvised songs as I trekked through the woods. As everyone knows, monsters cannot attack you if you have your music with you.

New class forming: Wet Flies 101, Saturday, July 18

I will be teaching Wet Flies 101 on Saturday, July 18. This popular class is through UpCountry Sportfishing in New Hartford. Here is the course description from the UpCountry site:

Join outdoor writer and Farmington River guide Steve Culton Saturday, July 18, as we explore the wonders of wet fly fishing on the Farmington River. Whether searching, imitating drowned terrestrials, or fishing under the hatch, wet flies can be a highly productive summer tactic. Wet Flies 101 includes streamside and on-the-water instruction, and will cover basics like rigging, fly selection, and presentation. Flies will be included. Class begins at noon and will run approximately 4 hours, leaving plenty of time for you to enjoy the evening rise with your new skills. Tuition is $100, and space is limited to 4 people.

Please do not try to register for this class here. You need to do it through UpCountry: 860-379-1952.

I hope everyone had a safe, happy, celebratory 4th of July.

This gorgeous high-teens wild Farmington brown found a Drowned Ant soft-hackle to his liking on a hot mid-July afternoon.

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