Small Stream Report: This never gets old

Our time together was all too brief. Really, I’ve got to do a better job of planning. Because a mountain brook loaded with native char is not a place to rush one’s self.

The day was overcast and cool — like so many others this spring. Bug activity was minimal. But the brookies were open for business. They ate my bushy dry, North Country spider, and micro streamers with equal fervor. The cigar was a Rocky Patel The Edge corona gorda, and it was a good as the fishing. I made the promise of “three more casts” three times. Depressingly, I followed through on the final declaration.

Sometimes being responsible sucks.

Even brook trout like the fontinalis fin. The old timers used to cut the fins off and use them for bait. This one remained on the fish, and he’s swimming around in the same pool I caught him in as you read this.

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I found a long run that held a few occasionally rising fish. I couldn’t see what was coming off, but I tied on a size 14 Winter Brown North Country spider and swung it along the length of the pool. I took several brookies, then prospected some deep plunges with weighted mini buggers and ICU Sculpins. This was my last char of the day. A perfect fish.

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Farmington River Report 5/29/19: Nymph them up

Wednesday was cool, overcast, and there wasn’t a lot of hatch activity (caddis and Light Cahills) until late afternoon. That didn’t stop Sam from sticking a bunch of trout between 10am-5pm. We fished below and within the permanent TMA, four marks total, and we found trout willing to jump on in all of them. Given the water height (880cfs lower river and 575 up north) we spent the entire day working on Sam’s drop-shot nymphing game, using a combination of tight line and indicator tactics. We landed a mix of rainbows and wild & Survivor Strain browns. Good job, Sam! You’re on your way to becoming a lethal subsurface threat.

Deep within the Amazon jungle, native wildflowers…nah. It’s just New Hartford, Connecticut. Darn pretty, though, and as lush and green as the rainforest.

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Men at work: Sam getting it done with a tight line presentation. His reward was a lovely wild brown that came on a size 14 Hare and Copper.

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One of several Survivor Strain browns that made it to the hoop. This one came out of the Permanent TMA. Way to go, Sam!

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A Simple Drop-Shot Nymph Rig (Revisited)

After last week’s Nymph-o-Mania! post I received a lot of questions about drop-shot nymphing: how to build a rig, can you use it with an indicator, is it better for a tight line presentation, etc. Let’s start with the rig.

A drop-shot nymph rig with sighter for both indicator or tight line nymphing.

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And a PDF of the same diagram: SighterDropShotNymphRig

So: I’ve been drop-shot nymphing for quite some time now. Being the curious sort (and a confirmed autodidact and DIYer) I tend to change things around until I find what works best for me. What you see is my current default trout nymph rig. I’ve been using 6X for the drop shot tag to make it the weakest link in the system. I’m lazy, so I build a sighter into the system whether I’m going to indicator nymph or not. Maxima if the water is high or off-color, 5x if it’s skinny and clear. (Please, use your favorite material to build this rig. It will work whether or not you use Maxima, P-Line, or Stren.)

When to tight line and when to indicator? Chapters in books have been written on this. Here are some of my thoughts in brief.

When to indicator:

  • When I want to cover longer stretches of water
  • When I want to reach pockets and runs farther than a rod-and-arm’s length
  • When I want the nymphs to swirl around in a mixer-like pocket
  • In conditions where takes may be subtle/difficult to feel (winter, windy days, just to name two)
  • When the wind is blowing upstream

Note: The distance from drop shot to indicator on the leader is about 1.5 times what I estimate the deepest water to be. I use my own home brew yarn indicators almost exclusively. They are light, denser that store-bought kinds, don’t spook fish (it seems that every season I have at least one trout hit my indicator) and I am very dialed in to their nuances.

When to tight line:

  • When I’m fishing in close
  • When the water is low and clear
  • When I feel the indicator is difficult to manage/adversely speeding up the drift

Hope that helps. I’m sure there will be more questions and as always, I am happy to answer them.

 

Mother Nature has spoken: Light Cahills on the lower Farmington

I have not been to the lower Farmington to bear witness, but I know the Light Cahills are coming off because the first rose in my garden bloomed today. On top, a classic Catskills dry or a creamy Usual; subsurface, a legacy Light Cahill winged wet or a Partridge and Light Cahill soft hackle. All will serve you well.

Every year is different, but nature is always on time. This rose is called “Grenada.”

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Farmington River Report 5/23/19: Nymph-o-Mania!

You know it’s a great 2 hours of fishing when you lose count of the trout you land. Drop-shot nymphing was the method, straight line and indicator, and the action was hot from start to finish. Since the lower river was below 1,000cfs for the first time in a month, and I had limited time, that’s where I headed. I made it to three pools from 12:30pm-2:30pm. and in each of them the trout were eager to jump on: two produced fish on the third cast, the other the first. Despite a strong caddis hatch, I didn’t see any risers, and unfortunately I didn’t make time to swing wets. But if you’re ready to do some nymphing, and you’re looking to book a date, now’s a good time to do it. Thanks to everyone who said hello!

Indicator Nymphing Tips #1 & 2: An upstream wind is great time to indicator nymph, because it slows the pace of the indicator on the surface. Look for a reason to set the hook on every drift. If that indicator twitches, stalls, slows, deviates — it doesn’t need to go under — set the hook! This lovely rainbow was such a case. My yellow yarn was bouncing merrily downstream, then slowed for just a moment. Bam. Set. Fish on.

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When there’s a substantial caddis hatch, and you’re nymphing with two flies, it’s almost never a bad idea to make your top dropper a Squirrel and Ginger. About half my fish came on this pattern (point fly was a Frenchie variant).

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I also had plenty of dramatic takes on the indicator, as in: now you see it, now you don’t. Likewise when I was tight line nymphing. I felt every single hit. This guy, looking very wild, clobbered the fly and fought well above his weight class.

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Speaking Engagements for Fall and a New Presentation

I’m marking up my calendar with speaking engagements, and you should be too. So far, it’s a busy October.

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Tuesday, October 15 at Thames Valley TU (subject tbd).

Wednesday, October 16 Capital District Fly Fishers (Albany, NY, not confirmed but very likely, subject tbd).

Thursday, October 17 Farmington Valley TU (subject tbd).

Speaking of speaking, I will have a new presentation ready for fall: The Little Things 3.0. More seemingly insignificant things that can have a huge impact on your fishing. Giddyup!

…rehearsing and nursing a part, we know every part by heart… (Bonus points if you can ID the classic cartoon theme song that’s from!)

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R.L.S. Black General Practitioner

What’s the best shrimp fly pattern? You could go with the philosophy of, “There ain’t no best,” and you’d get no argument from me. Or you could weigh in with the General Practitioner — and you wouldn’t be wrong.

General Practitioner = G.P. = Impressionistic shrimpy goodness.
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Trey Combs writes in Steelhead Fly Fishing that the original prawn was tied by Colonel Esmond Drury in 1953. The General Practitioner then got really famous as a west coast winter steelhead pattern. Today there are all manner of versions and colors; this one is a variant developed by Ken Abrames as published in A Perfect Fish.

Ken introduced me to the pattern many years ago. He handed me a black G.P., and with a knowing confidence, told me to fish it as part of a three fly team. Sadly, I’ve long since lost that fly, but I still have one of Ken’s olive G.P.s. tucked away in the never-to-be fished-again archives. When tied just so, G.P.s are magical creations that bask in their impressionistic glory. Picture this fly near the surface on a greased line swing or a dead drift, easily visible to a striped bass even in the mucky outflow of a salt marsh. Wait to feel the weight of the fish — and then hang on. Stripers love shrimp, and when they are keyed on this bait, feeding on station, they will often ignore all other offerings and stripped presentations.

R.L.S. Black General Practitioner

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Hook: Atlantic salmon 2-8
Antennae: Black and blue bucktail, mixed
Head: Black golden pheasant neck feather
Eyes: Golden pheasant tippet
Body: Gold flat tinsel
Ribbing: Gold oval tinsel
Hackle: Natural black
Carapace: Metallic black turkey feather
Back: Same
Tail: Same
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A view from below. You can imagine all those hackle fibers gently quivering in the current and whispering to a striper, “I’m alive…”

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Tying Notes: Ken called for an Eagle Claw 253, but I like the badass black of Atlantic salmon hooks. No gots turkey feathers? Me either, so I used dyed black pheasant rump. The majority of the black G.P.s I’ve seen use far too much bucktail; remember, you’re tying the antennae of a grass shrimp (the steelhead pattern calls for 10 bucktail hairs; I used 20) not an opaque jig. To form the eyes, cut a V-shape in the tippet and then lacquer with head cement. The “eye stalks” will narrow from the head cement. You don’t have to use the tinsels; gold braid works just as well. The body and top feathers are somewhat of a pain; tie in the carapace at the tail, then tie and wind the tinsel and hackle to the mid-point of the shank, tie in the back (like a little roof), continue forward with the tinsel and hackle, then tie in the tail feather, again like a little roof. Make a spiffy head and go fish.