Followers and readers already know that I tend to fish how, where, and when others don’t — especially when it comes to stripers. I’ve always considered currentseams to be a teaching platform, and to a large extend that is what drives the content of this site. Still, there are times when I feel like a lonely island being battered by the waves of conventional wisdom. So when I get a letter like the one below, it restores me. I’ve edited some of it for brevity, but I think its message is important. Fans of 1776 will get the title reference — and the importance of the answer, “yes.”
On the river for ten hours today and loving every minute of it! I started by guiding Brian from 11am-3pm. Brian had a story that is typical of many of my clients: loves the Farmington, but has had too many encounters with the skunk. He wanted to focus on wets, but I suggested we spend an hour working on his nymphing game, since that is the year-round highest percentage play on this river. Brian has mostly Euro-nymped, but I set him up with a drop shot ring under an indicator. He took to it like he’s been doing it forever. There’ll be no skunk, today, Brian. The first fish was noteworthy because the indicator never went under — it merely twitched. Look for a reason to set the hook on every drift, and like that Brian was on the board.
It was a cool, wet day, and there was precious little bug activity. The water is still unusually cold, with 48 degrees at the bottom end of the permanent TMA, which was running at 330cfs. Nonetheless, we managed a mix of browns and rainbows by (you’ve heard this if you’ve taken my class) moving around and covering water. Nice work, Brian.
Every guide loves the sight of a bent rod and a tight line. Brian did a great job with his hook sets today.
Thank you for playing. They liked the bottom nymph, a size 14 Frenchie variant.
Now it was my turn to play. I grabbed a sandwich and headed off to a snotty run to swing wets under a leaden sky. The cold from the river was a stark contrast to the warm and humid air (my lower legs and feet were uncomfortably cold by the time I finished.) By this time (4pm) there was a slight uptick in bug activity. Whack! My second cast produced a gorgeous wild brown.
They don’t make ’em like this in the factory. Absolutely flawless fins.
Any pre-hatch period is my favorite time to swing wets, and I moved down to a more languid section of water. Sure enough, as the clock moved toward 5pm, there was an uptick in bug activity, mostly Light Cahills (Vitreus) 12-14 and caddis 14-16. The fish were rising a little more regularly now. I was fishing a three fly team of a Squirrel and Ginger on top, a Light Cahill winged in the middle and a Hackled March Brown on point. My strategy was to target active risers, and I caught a bunch of trout on all three flies.
There comes a time during every hatch when the subsurface wet becomes ineffective, and today it was 7pm. I switched over to dries, and had a blast fooling trout on the surface. I fished Magic Flies and Usuals, 14-16, and had a good couple dozen takes — but only about half of them stuck. I was going to leave at 8pm, but I remembered how fiercely I admonish those who depart from the river before the magic hour in June and July, so I stuck around until 9pm. The last half hour, the river was simmering with rise forms. I switched over to classic Light Cahill dries, 12-14, and ended the session with a healthy brown who was just showing the beginnings of a kype.
The best part? There was no one there except for me, the trout, and the bugs.
Our Lady of the Blessed Pink Band. First Farmy trout of the year on a dry.
The Orange Ruthless has long been one of my favorite striper flies. It’s a simple pattern, and a good place to start if you’re just getting into flatwings. I like this fly about 2 1/2″ long, but I’ll tie it even smaller if the bait size warrants. The Orange Ruthless gets a lot of swim time as part of a three-fly team; I tend to place it in the point position. Although it’s a clam or cinder worm, it does double duty as a grass shrimp (or at the very least something that looks alive and good to eat.)
The SC15 hook does not sharpen well, but it is sticky sharp out of the pack and holds its point for a long time. I chose it because it’s easy to find and very light. You can get away with strung hackle for both the tail and the body, but make sure the feathers have plenty of web.
If you have Ken Abrames’ A Perfect Fish, you’ll find a fly called the “R.L.S. Ruthless” in the chapter on single-feather flatwings. This is a variant of that pattern, taught to me by Ken himself at a Tuesday night tying session many years ago. It was the first striper fly I ever tied, and I had the good fortune to be seated next to the artist, lashing bucktail, flash, and feather to hook under his watchful eye.
Got back yesterday from a 36-hour Cape Cod stripers on the fly trip. I met a friend from England who fishes out there several weeks this time of year, and a couple other guys I knew from the SOL forum. Tuesday night we fished an outflow. I took a 20″ bass on my first cast, and I supposed that it was going to be one of those lose-track-of-the-count-after-a-dozen nights. Or not. That was my only striper of the evening.
Wednesday AM we fished the mouth of an estuary. I could sense almost right away that it wasn’t going to happen, and it didn’t. The most fun I had that morning was casting Mike’s (the Englishman who is also a rod maker) cannon of a two-hander. (Good Lord, I need one of those for windy days.) Or maybe it was breakfast. It was pretty tasty. I think I’ll go with breakfast. We headed for a bay to catch the last of outgoing, but with the wind in my face, a tired body, and the only bass around being in the stocked trout size range, I decided to save my chips for later.
Good call. The Wednesday dusk and night bite was off-the-charts good for numbers (not so much for size) but you take what the striper gods give you and offer thanks. Mike and I started by working a beach, and we ran into a good old-fashioned classic blitz, with terns dive bombing the bait and a striper on just about every cast-and-strip. We were fishing about 25 feet off the beach, walking down current, casting parallel to the shore. This went on until dark, and we fairly giggled about it on our walk over to where Chris and Chuck were fishing.
I loved this second spot: an outflow with stripers holding on station, unwilling to chase, feeding on something small. I was feeling lazy, but after Chris mentioned the deer hair grass shrimp he’d seen in my box the night before, I realized that the standard baitfish fly was going to be nothing but casting practice. While bass popped around me, some within a rod length away, I tied up a three fly dropper team with the shrimp on top, a 1.5″ saltwater Hornburg, and a Gurgler on point to suspend the rig. I generally avoid the phrase “that was the ticket,” but I beg to report that that was, indeed, the ticket. For the next hour, the skunk turned into a touch or multiple touches on just about every cast. The fish were small and hard to hook, and with the action winding down, I decided to end on a high note after I took a double.
Mike demonstrates the proper technique for serving tea in the field, taken directly from the pages of the British Commando manual. Tea and milk on the beach after a night’s fishing. How civilized! Yes, the weather was October cold.
Chris with the best fish of our 36 hours, taken in an outflow on a Big Eelie. A fine demo of proper catch-and-release.
I’m right in the middle of editing a new tying video for the Orange Ruthless clam worm flatwing. (No, really. You can see visual proof below.) I hope to have it done some time this week.
The cathedral was built at the end of the last ice age. As the glacier receded, it carved out the path of the stream and dotted its edges with granite boulders. Tens of thousands of years later, I came to worship at its altar.
In one of the Beatles’ Christmas records, John Lennon waxes romantic about the Elizabethan high wall. Here’s to the New England low wall. What was once farmland is now dense woods, and every once in a while you stumble across one of these gems, as if it were part of some random design plan.
I’ve been fishing this stream for years, and in late May you can always count on a good hatch of yellow sallies. I spent 15 minutes sitting beside a pool watching the char rise in earnest to both midges and stoneflies.
I started with a dry (Improved Sofa Pillow variant)/nymph (Frenchie variant) dropper and had interest in both. I switched out the nymph for a North Country spider, the Partridge and Orange, to which the answer was a resounding yes. White micro bugger, ICU Sculpin, Squirrel and Herl — they liked them all. Pricked dozens, landed a few less, and spent most of the morning giggling about it.
I love how the brookies change their colors to match their environment. This guy came from a shallow, well-lit run with a light stone bottom…
…while his cousin came from the depths of a plunge pool that may only see sunlight for a few days each year.