Farmington River Report 4/28/17: To the Vicky belongs the spoils

I guided Vicky today and she did a bang-up job banging up some trout under the trusty yarn indicator. Vicky vastly undersold her fishing capabilities to me. She did a great job casting, mending, managing her drifts, keeping a positive vibe, and wading into some challenging water (750cfs, 50 degrees below the permanent TMA). Vicky told me she’d only caught five fish on the fly before today; we managed to hook nearly twice that many and land a bunch, all fat, healthy rainbows. We fished a size 14 Rainbow Warrior on top dropper and a size 14 Frenchy variant on point and took fish on both flies.  Our action picked up once the sun warmed the water (weather lottery winners, us) and a few Hendricksons started popping, but persistence and covering water paid off the most.

The skunk is off. We didn’t see a lot of fish caught, but we sure did see a ton of anglers for a weekday. Thanks to everyone who said hi.

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This got to be a familiar sight. Way to go, Vicky!

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Farmington River Report: A good day for Hendricksons (and nymphing)

There’s been plenty of  discussion about the possible negative effects of last year’s drought on the river. One concern was bugs. Friends, I’m here to tell you that the lower river near Unionville — an area that got torched last summer — was buzzing with Hendricksons today. Bugs everywhere. The hatch started around 2:15pm and it was still going in earnest when I left at 3pm. The bad news? High (930cfs) and cold water had only a few scattered trout slashing at the emergers.

Let’s back up a bit. Starting at 11am, I hit six spots below the permanent TMA and found trout willing to jump on in five of them. Most came via nymphing, no surprise, but I did get my first trout of the year on a swung wet. Before the Hendricksonstravaganza, I had seen only one H-word mayfly, seemingly lost among the prolific caddis and midges hatches.

We’re due some relatively dry, warm weather, so the good news will be a drop in cfs and a spike in water temperature. That should really get the trout going. Good luck if you’re out this weekend. Me, I’m avoiding that madness.

Hey! I know you. Missing most of the middle fork of the tail, but still the mayfly we all know and love.

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Gordo rides again, or: First steelhead of 2017

My status as a fly fishing personality gets me all kinds of cool perks. Like walking into Stefano’s and telling the hostess, no, we don’t want that table in the blinding sunlight, we want that one over there in the shade. Turns out we were seated next to some fellow Nutmeggers who recognized me, and we got to talking. They’d been up for several days and, like everyone else, were finding the fishing challenging. But on that day they’d discovered a whole bunch of steelhead that were willing to jump on. Hold that thought for a moment.

It was below freezing when we launched from Pineville. We focused on high percentage holding water, but the height of the river (1.65K dam release, 2K at Pineville)  and its temperature (42 degrees) meant that the drop backs really hadn’t started dropping back in earnest. I found this natural work of art during a little shore leave.

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Look what Gordo found! At least the skunk was off for him. 

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The river looks totally different at 2K. Here Gordo takes us through Upper Sportsman’s. Talk about winning the weather lottery! We fished hard, but by 11:30 we realized that the numbers weren’t on our side. So we decided to trailer the boat and focus on some recently acquired intel (thanks, guys!) 

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We made the right call. Third cast, I was on. Small fish, but now the skunk was wholly vanquished. A half-hour later, I was working upstream, picking pockets, when I tied into a nice post-spawn buck. He gave me a few firm head shakes and surface boils, and made one impressive run toward the lake. Problem: no landing net, no good LZ, Jim and Gordon upstream out of assist range. Solution: improvise. I got him into a relatively shallow micro-eddy, gently corralled him between my legs and the bank, then lifted his head out of the water for a quick selfie.

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And if you want proof that steelheading isn’t fair, they started dropping the flows the day we left. Jim tells me the fishing has been great the last two days.

(Insert sighs and grumbling here.)

 

How I’d rate the 2017 striper season so far

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What else is going on?

— I’ve been working on (and testing) a new large flatwing design/color scheme. I’ll publish it this spring.

— Just got back from a steelhead trip with youngest son Gordon. Report (meh, but fun) coming soon.

— Contest winners! Some of your flies have been tied, others are still bare hooks. I’ll try to get those out by the end of the month.

— Just finished a feature on summer smallmouth for Field & Stream. You can read it in a few months. Lots of other stuff in the publishing pipeline!

— Finally, while I don’t mind (and even appreciate) last minute guide requests, the best thing to do if you want to fish with me is book well in advance. (The people I’m taking out this week booked me moons ago.) Basically, my weekends are filled from now through June, so weekdays are best.

As always, thanks for reading currentseams.

“Mainly Misunderstood — Five Myths and Realities About Using Floating Lines For Striped Bass” in the current issue of American Angler

Why are floating lines so underused for striped bass fly fishing? Are intermediate lines  truly versatile? These questions and more are answered in “Mainly Misunderstood,” and you can read all about it in the current (May/June 2017) issue of American Angler. If you’re looking to open the door to a whole new world of presentation options, the floating line is the antidote to the mind-numbing metronome of cast-and-strip.

If you want to catch keeper bass like this with flatwings fished on a greased line swing, you’re gonna need a floating line.

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I love fishing floating lines in surf around structure.

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Lockjaw trout, ravenous stripers

First, Happy Easter!

Next, a few late mini reports. Last week they bumped up the flow from the Hogsback dam. I fished the Farmington below and in the permanent TMA on Thursday. The results were poor: I hit five spots and found fish that wanted to eat in only one of them. Could have been a combination of higher water, cold water, high pressure, or just not my day. But when I guided Joe and Wayne on Friday, the fishing wasn’t any better. The weather was glorious and there was plenty of hatch activity, but we had a tough day. Both Joe and Wayne fished well and hard — in the end, the river won. We’re already looking forward to the re-match.

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Good Friday is my traditional striper outing in honor of the greatest fisherman ever, Simon Peter. The Bass-O-Matic was humming along at full tilt — fishing partner Bob Griswold and I caught dozens and dozens of stripers. If you’re a glass is half full kind of person, the good news was that these 14″ fish represent a strong local showing of the class of 2015. There were a few low 2o-inchers in the mix to keep things interesting. The bite shut down at dusk, and we called it a good striper thumb day.

Representing the Class of 2015, Mr. I-Can’t-Keep-Away-From-Your-Fly. Very aggressive feeders, and legions of them. Where’s my five weight?

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Of small streams, stripers, and stockers

I’m getting my money’s worth from the jolly old yo-ho-ho State of Connecticut this week. Monday I went small streaming. Tuesday was our semi-annual grandfather-father-son Salmon River outing followed by a little late night striper (non) action. Here’s how it went down.

Monday’s flow in the brook was medium-high, perfect for this time of year. I didn’t get a water temp, but it was enough to make the locals highly active. I saw charcoal gray stoneflies (size 16, and a few size 12), caddis (16), and Quill Something-or-Other spinners (10-12). No char were observed feeding on the surface, but they drilled the dry (size 16 Improved Sofa Pillow) as well as the nymph (Frenchie variant size 18) and the micro-streamer (ICU Sculpin size 14). This parr-marked beauty took the dry.

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You can’t see the kype on this buck, but at 7-8 inches he surely is an old fish on this stream. He swung and missed at the dry, then crushed the dropper. I took two fish in the last pool I fished on the ICU Sculpin. The fly had barely slipped beneath the surface before each fish struck.

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Tuesday was one of the ten best weather days of the year: 75 degree air filled with blazing, brilliant sunshine. The Salmon was running clear and at a perfect height, and there were a lot of other anglers out taking advantage of the conditions. Here, the man who taught me how to fish reminds my sons that knots are not worthy of their trust.

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Gordo was fishing a Hi-Liter streamer with a couple BB shot on the leader when I saw his rod tip dip. I asked him if it was a rock or a fish. “Fish, I think,” he said. I told him that it’s a fish until proven otherwise. Next cast, bang! Hello, Mr. Recently Stocked Rainbow.

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I think if I were going teach a weekend-long class in nymphing, I might start by having everyone bounce worms along the bottom. I hadn’t caught a trout on a worm in decades, but I got back to my roots when my dad took a break and handed off his rod to me. Here’s my prize sulking on the bottom after release.

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All things must pass, including good fishing. So I finished off my piscatorial binge last night with a proper striper skunking. Lines were greased and flatwings were swung, but commotion near the ocean ’twas not to be. It must’ve been around this wee hour or so when I climbed into bed. Tired and happy is a most excellent way to fall asleep.

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