Farmington River Report 10/29/15: More leaves than water

Even after Wednesday’s rain and a healthy bump in water levels (up to about 450 cfs, slight stain), the story yesterday was leaves. Lots and lots of leaves. A couple midges, a stray caddis, some lonely mayflies, and what seemed like the castoffs from every tree in People’s State Forest. Streamers were the plan, and if I threw enough mends to sink the fly I hooked less flora, but for the two hours I fished there was a distinct lack of fauna.

And there it is, in a nutshell.

Streamer leaf

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And it almost didn’t happen. I opened the back of my truck to discover I’d left my waders at home. Sal to the rescue! Sal is a friend and the owner of Legends On The Farmington. Did he have a pair of waders I could snag for a couple hours? You betcha. A JR Cuban Alternate robusto for a pair of Simms. Done and done. Sal’s place is gorgeous, and it’s right on the river at Greenwoods.

So much depends on a pair of tan waders, glazed with river water beside the white door.

Hanging waders

Put the Limestone in the Coconut (with apologies to Harry Nilsson)

Doctor, ain’t there nothing I could take to relieve this fishing ache? Yup. Accept an invitation from Dean Keister to join him at the lovely Limestone Trout Club in East Canaan, CT, and you’ll be in fine fettle, Steve. As the brochure copy reads, Limestone offers fly fishing in a scenic 94-acre parcel, featuring six unique ponds (old limestone quarries).

There’s something about fishing within a gated area that makes you feel suitably impressed with yourself (even if you’re just a guest). But there’s not a whiff of snootiness at Limestone. Everyone is so kind and welcoming.

Limestone Trout Club Gate

So. Fishing at Limestone is like fishing in a natural aquarium. Squadrons of trout cruise past your feet, oblivious to your offerings. Every so often the water erupts with the mighty crash of a trout chasing a caddis or whacking a bug. The fish are impressive, to say the least — not only long (over 20″ is not rare) but also fat. It’s cool and and it’s beautiful, and I want to go back.

I had a quality take at a size 16 beetle, and several delicate rises to a size 20 archival English midge pattern (Smut #1, black wool body with a white soft-hackle), but sadly, no hookups for me that day. Refusals came early and often. I tried streamers, and witnessed many follows, and felt a few bumps, but again no hook sets.

Thanks so much for the invite, Dean, and to all you Limestone trout: I know where you live.

I think this gentlemen’s name is Bill McDougall — we shared the same pond and had numerous fish interested in the small black flies we presented on the surface. This trout slammed Bill’s tiny black caddis like it was a mouse pattern. What a gorgeous fall day!

Limestone trout battle

Soft-Hackled Bead Head Pheasant Tail

Consider the humble Pheasant Tail. Basic brown. Unpretentious. Traditional. Looks like nothing specific and a lot of things in general. Add a bead head — copper, if you please, which feels more understated than gold. But let’s not stop there. Let’s give our fly the breath of life. A soft hackle will do. Webby brown hen that pulses and moves and whispers to the fish, “I’m alive.”

If you told me I had to choose one fly to fish for trout for the rest of my life, it would be a soft-hackled bead head Pheasant Tail.  You can fish it like a nymph, fish it like a wet, or do both. All on the same drift. Woo-hoo!

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Hook: Orvis 62KC size 8-12 (steelhead), 2x strong/2x short scud size 10-20 (trout)
Thread: Brown 6/0 or 8/0
Bead: Copper, sized to hook
Tail/Abdomen: Pheasant tail
Rib: Small copper wire
Thorax: Peacock herl
Hackle: Soft brown hen
When I first tried to catch a steelhead with a fly that used all-natural materials and drab colors, I chose this pattern. Mission accomplished, and now it’s a staple.
~
The Soft-Hackled Bead Head Pheasant Tail Rogues’ Gallery:
Late winter Farmington brown, size 18.
3-10-14 Brown

Tying at Arts Of The Angler Show Saturday October 31

Calling all fly tying and fishing geeks — the planets have aligned and I will be tying at the 2015 Arts of the Angler show in Danbury, CT, Saturday, October 31. From the Catskill Fly Fishing Center’s promotional materials: “It’s about flyfishing.  It’s about flytying. It’s about rodmaking. It’s about collectables, it’s about tackle, it’s about destinations, techniques, people and you.”

I will probably focus on soft hackles for trout, but I won’t rule out some striper soft hackles, bucktails, and flatwings. If they have a writer’s roundtable on Saturday, I’ll be doing that, too. If you’re there, please be sure to come say hello. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/CFFCM

Arts of the Angler ad from Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide

Arts of the Angler ad

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More upcoming appearances:

Thursday, November 5, “Wet Flies 101 — The ancient and traditional art of subsurface fly fishing” at the HFFA meeting, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Wallingford. For more information and directions, visit https://www.facebook.com/HousatonicFlyFishermen

Wednesday, December 9, “The Little Things” at the CFFA meeting, Veterans’ Memorial Clubhouse, East Hartford. For more information and directions, visit https://www.facebook.com/CTFlyFish

Thursday, December 17,  “The Little Things” at TU Croton Watershed Chapter, Orvis store in Ridge hill
Shopping Center in Yonkers, NY. 
For more information and directions, visit https://www.facebook.com/cwctu

Plus, a steady supply of stories and articles (both online and in print), and tying videos.

Whew. I really need to go fishing.

A Back-Country Brookie Adventure

Due to the prolonged drought, I have been keeping my distance from my precious small streams. But, my patience extends only so far. So with the recent cooler weather, I decided to head out. As expected, the water was low, clear, and cold. I find that in lower flows, topwater flies are the best producers. Of course, you can find subsurface action in the deeper plunge pools, but the vast majority of my action came on dries: Elk Hair Caddis, Improved Sofa Pillow, Ausable Bombers, etc.

I pricked dozens and landed quite a few. Most of the fish were smaller (<5″) but there were a few more substantial char in the mix. Even though the summer was dry and hot, nature finds a way. In one small, glassy pool I call “The Incubator,” I witnessed a burgeoning population of young-of-year brook trout. My guess is that thousands of generations have come of age there — something wondrous to ponder while you’re sitting streamside blowing smoke rings from your Aging Room corona gorda.

Some days I’m in full camera geek mode, actively seeking out shots. Other days, like this one, I’m far less motivated. Still, when incidental magic occurs, you take advantage. I had just squatted down into position at the head of a run when I looked down at the rock at my feet. From the chaos of falling leaves comes order. Have a nice day.

Have a nice day

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One of the best fish of the day, probably 7″-8″, about to make a dash for the depths. He took an Ausable Bomber.

Brookie on the bottom

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Dark char. I am fascinated by how brookies change colors to match their surroundings. On one limestone stream I fish, the fish have a lighter background cast to their flanks. This guy came from a deeply shaded pool. His head is almost black.

Dark Char

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Paul was out hiking and shooting, and asked if I wouldn’t mind posing for him. I found fish on the dry from the head of the plunge to the submerged rock halfway down the run. Surprisingly nothing subsurface. It’s a gorgeous shot, even if the model doesn’t quite reach the level of the beauty of his surroundings.

Fishing waterfall

FVTU Awarded the Currentseams Legion of the Cheeseburger with Crossed French Fries

Hats off to another welcoming group that understands that a fed presenter is a happy presenter. Many thanks to the Farmington Valley TU for hosting me last night. Good to see some old familiar faces, and some new ones, too. Another strong post-presentation Q&A — well done, everyone! Looking forward to next time.

Pre-game dinner: Cheeseburger. Fries. Beer. What else could you ask for? Oh yes — a Mets victory! Thanks Jake, Thor, Murph, and Jeurys.

Cheeseburger

Shakespearean Steelhead in the Fall 2015 Issue of The Drake

A little angst and black humor, something any steelheader can relate to. It’s called “Steelheading: A Tragedy in Several Acts,” and you can read it in the current issue of The Drake. It makes the supposition that Shakespeare may not have really been writing about Danish princes, Roman emperors, and star-crossed Italian lovers….

Did Shakespeare chase chrome? Let’s find out.

Drake Cover Fall 2015