Trout blasting wet flies on the swing with a water temp of 36 degrees? Yes, indeed.
I fished the permanent TMA today from 9am-1pm. I was rigged for nymphs, and I spent the first 30 minutes bouncing along the bottom, desperately trying to ignore the growing number of trout slashing at W/S caddis. After the second or third time of telling myself that I was acting like an angler throwing Clousers at a school of stripers feeding on the surface, I disengaged the shot and re-tied the point fly to match the dropper: size 18 soft-hackled pheasant tail. It was by no means a proper wet fly rig, but what the heck — I’m lazy. Second cast, whack! A lovely late fall wild brown. Next cast, ker-pow! (Those old enough to have watched will recognize the channeling of my inner 60s Batman TV show memories.) And so it went until the hatch waned.
The first fish of the day is always memorable, made even more so when it sports such finery.
I got out to warm up, and after ten minutes the slashing resumed in earnest. Only this time it was tiny BWOs they were after. The fish proved to be more difficult to catch during this hatch; they wanted the fly on the dangle (if they wanted it at all). By now the sun was up good and proper, and the trout were for the most part hugging the shade line of the eastern side of the river. I had to work hard for the two I landed, but when you’re swinging wets and it’s December and you’ve never had this much success with that method this late in the year, you’re squarely in a no-kvetch zone.
One of the BWO trout, a low teens wild thang.
But wait, there’s more. We also had a five-minute-blizzard of a midge hatch. I switched to dries for this, and fooled two on a size infinity Griffith’s Gnat, but sadly didn’t stick either fish.
And at this point, I won’t even bother writing about how I blanked on streamers.
On the way out I spoke with fellow guide Mark Swenson. Mark was Euro nymphing and had done quite well (in fact he landed one while we were chatting). He was also fishing small stuff, size 18s.
But for over two hours, I had the river all to myself. Just me, the trout, the bugs, and a December sunshine that made me feel like summer could come any day now.
Sorry. W/S caddis? I’m blanking…
No worries, Frank. Winter/Summer caddis. Dolophilodes distinctus is one of the few Latin names I know. Do an internet search — it’s a fascinating insect.
Thanks for the response. I’ve got stuff spread out, tying for Montana this spring. What caddis pattern do you recommend???
Frank, I’ve never fished in Montana so I am really unfamiliar with the bugs. I love my Ginger Caddis wet, and I don’t see any reason why that would’t work out west — along with a Grouse and Orange or a Partridge and Orange. Dry-wise, I like to keep things simple, and the Elk Hair Caddis is a favorite. Match the size of these flies to the naturals and present them to the trout they way they are feeding, and you’ll probably be off to a good start. You could also reach out to a local (Montana) fly shop and ask for a recommendation. Good luck!
I read every one of your posts! I am sorry for being so unclear. With my caddis inquiry I was asking about your W/S caddis remark and what flies were appropriate for W/S and the Farmington. i’ll try to engage my brain before I comment again.
Not a problem! So, I was fishing with a sz 18 soft-hackled pheasant tail. I would imagine that a similar sized (18-20) dark fly with dark hackle would likewise do well. As far as dries go, the two most popular patterns are quite different. One is tied on a long shank hook and has a CDC wing and a hackle on the front 1/3 of the body. The other has a foam body and a standard hackle — it looks like a skinny, miniature beetle. You can see a photo of that fly if you search for my Winter Fishing on the Farmington article. Hope that helps!
Love these reports and the photos.
Thanks for saying so, John. You made my morning. 🙂
Hi Steve. Have you ever fished the foam W/S pattern? I can’t seem to get the skittering technique down. 🤔
You betcha. Lots of ways to effort that. You can do a wet fly swing on the surface. You can dangle the fly below you and manipulate (swing) it by mending in the direction of shore. You can try dapping it on the surface with a shorter line. You can raise your rod tip and slowly hand-twist strip it in. See the connection to the wet fly tactics? Of course, many mornings they’re happy to take the fly on the dead drift. Hope that helps!
That’s great, thanks.