Wet Fly Questions Answered

I’ve been getting a lot of wet fly questions, and I thought I’d share my answers with the group. I’m excited that so many of you are interested in this ancient and traditional art. So here we go:

Q: What size and length rod are you using on the Farmington? A: My dedicated wet fly stick is a 10-foot 5-weight Hardy Marksman II. I don’t hate it, I don’t love it. It’s got a good backbone for helping manage bigger trout in snotty currents, but I wish it were a bit softer in the flex. What’s important is that it’s a 10-footer, which I find useful for mending. Note: I still take the 7’9″ Tonka Queen out for an occasional wet fly jaunt, albeit in moderate/slow currents. That cane pole is a dream for mending.

The Queen in action. This rod gives me an ultra-fine level of line control.

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Q: Do you use an indicator? A: My joke answer is “yes” — the splash of the take, the spray of water, and the jolt of the rod tip all indicate a strike. The real answer is no, not in the traditional sense. The vast majority of time, you need no visual aid to tell you the fish has taken the fly. An exception would be when you’re fishing upstream, drawing the line toward you as the rig moves downstream. I’m watching the tip of the line like a hawk for stalls, shudders, or stoppage that would indicate a delicate strike well below the surface.

Q: Do you use a floating line? A: Yes. (I’m a line control freak.)

Q: When you’re casting and mending, is it basically a dead drift, then the flies start swinging and rising? A: Kindof. Unless you introduce slack into the presentation, you’ll never really have a true dead drift. So even when I’m doing a quartering down or straight across cast and mend, the flies are moving downstream and across, albeit in a slower manner than they would with a traditional wet fly swing.

Q: You’ve said that in spring, you focus more on pool-type water, and faster water in the summer. I’m having trouble finding the right type and depth of water. Any advice? A: Generally speaking, the colder it is, the greater the chance that trout will be in deeper pool-type water. That doesn’t mean you won’t find trout in 1-foot deep riffles in December. The bottom line is: there is no substitute for experience on the water. Get out and explore. Keep a log. Where and when did you fish? Were you catching? Were others catching?  What was the weather like? What was the water height? You can see where this is going. And finally, a wee plug for myself: take a lesson. I hear this a lot from clients: “I’ve driven past this spot a hundred times and never thought to fish it.”

Q: I fished wet flies and only had one bump. What was I doing wrong? A: (This person was out on the Farmington this week.) You’ve got a lot of elements working against you. For starters, I don’t like to fish wets in the Permanent TMA in any flow over 500cfs (it’s been 750cfs and higher). 250cfs-400cfs is the wheelhouse. Hatch windows also have a lot to do with the wet fly bite. For example, right now (Hendrickson and caddis hatches) you want to be swinging anywhere from 11am to 3pm-ish. You’re trying to entice the trout that are taking the emergers. And this cold, wet weather isn’t helping, either.

When you hit the emergence just right, the results can be magical.

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Keep on swinging.

Zoom Thanks, Zoom for your Fly Fishing Club, Zoom Fly Tying Lessons…

So much Zoom. So little time. In the wake of two highly popular Zoom talks, I’m getting a lot of inquiries about how this translates to other fly fishing arenas. Here are some answers.

First, if you’re looking for a remote speaker for your fly fishing club, that’s a can-do. This of course would be a private presentation, limited to your club members — pretty much the same thing I do when I present in person, only online in the Zoom format. (These talks are far more detailed than what I’ve been doing online.) You can find my current presentation menu here. For rates and more information, please email swculton@yahoo.com or call 860-918-0228.

Next, I just started doing online fly tying lessons. Same deal: we connect through Zoom for a private one-on-one session. The rate is $65/hour. Please call or email to set one up.

Finally, thanks so much for the great turnout last night. I appreciate your interest and your enthusiasm. I’ll let you know about my next Zoom presentation when I figure it out. Stay safe and stay healthy!

Now we can do something like this from the safety and comfort of our homes.

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How to free your nymph rig when it’s snagged on the bottom

No matter how you nymph, sooner or later you’re going to get snagged on the bottom. In fact, you might say snags are the price of admission for nymphing. A false positive strike isn’t necessarily a bad thing — it’s a good way to tell that you’re fishing deep enough — but then you’ve got to get the whole shebang back, often easier said than done.

Some snags are most cooperative and come free with just a little coaxing. Others, not so much. Most of the time, the worst thing you can do is start yanking and flailing the rod around like a madman — it just sets the snag deeper. Here are two tricks you can try to free your rig and get you back to fishing fast. (And you won’t go broke from having to constantly buy new flies!)

 

It’s another Tuesday Night Zoom! “Trout Fishing For Striped Bass,” 4/28, 8pm

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That about says it all. Hopefully we’ll be relatively glitch-free this time. If not, we’ll figure it out…

Bead Head Soft-Hackled Dark Hendrickson

Or BHSHDH for short.  The Bead Head Soft-Hackled Dark Hendrickson is simply a weighted riff on the classic Dark Hendrickson Winged Wet. Take the basic color scheme. Add a tungsten bead to give it some serious weight. Tie it on point, and the next time the the creek is up you’ll get your rig down fast with a few strategic mends. (Recipe by request, because at currentseams.com, we aim to please.)

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Hook: 2x strong wet fly 12-14
Bead: Black tungsten, to size
Thread: Grey
Tail:  Lemon wood duck or dark blue dun hackle fibers
Body: Muskrat fur
Hackle: Dark blue dun hen

Tying Notes: I hate to lose the lemon wood duck of the winged wet, so I usually tie this fly with that wonderfully variegated buggy feather in the tail. Having said that, the fly pictured uses hen. Muskrat is the traditional body fur; you could substitute any grey fur or dubbing blend. The feather I happened to choose for this fly has a mysterious dark center; it’s just a random occurrence. Sometimes I’ll use a black Sharpie to color the eye of the hook — it’s a quick visual code that tells me I used a tungsten bead.

 

Farmington River Report 4/23/20: Fishing with Montresor

“I have my doubts.”

“And I must satisfy them.”

Aficianados of classic American literature will know the reference. As for me, my doubts yesterday hinged on weather and flows: cold, overcast, 45 degrees and 750cfs. Not exactly the stuff that gives me confidence in the swung wet fly. So I ventured forth to satisfiy them.

I fished in the Permanent TMA from noon to a bit after 3pm. I started off nymphing, which, as I suspected, was the most productive method. Hatch activity was virtually nil. (I’d give the Hendricksons a 0.5 on the 1-10 scale, if seeing two Hendricksons in three hours warrants even that.) I also spent a good portion of my time on situational filming for future presentation/projects.

Tip of the week: if you must swing wets in higher flows, try adding a tungsten bead head pattern on point. With a few strategic mends, you’ll be able to sink your team to a greater depth. It’s often the difference between fishing and catching: yesterday all of my wet fly trout took the point fly, a tungsten beadhead Hendrickson like this one.

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I finished up at a reliable wet fly mark and was able to get a few browns and rainbows to hand. All the action came in a 15-minute window when I could see some fish working emergers near the surface. Doubts cast aside, I decided to end on a high note. Later, I celebrated with a highly satisfying Montepulciano.

Amontillado would have to wait for another day.

NOTE: If you value solitude, the Permanent TMA will try your patience. There were six(!) vehicles in the dirt pullout by Woodshop. Greenwoods was a gauntlet the length of the pool (I stopped counting at 15 anglers). Also, be careful wading at these flows. I’d consider myself a sure-footed, confident wader, and I struggled to keep my footing at the last mark. A wading staff is your friend. As always, if you see me on the water and have questions or just want to say hello, please do. Thanks to everyone who did so yesterday — always a treat to put faces to subscriber names. Be safe and be healthy!

A podcast for Blockheads: Surfcasting Around the Block with Dennis Zambrotta

Peter Jenkins of the Saltwater Edge continues his excellent podcast series with surfcasting legend Dennis Zambrotta. Yeah, I know, the focus isn’t fly fishing. But if you’re a total Block (Island) Head like me, you’re going to want to give this a listen. You can find the Saltwater Edge “Surfcasting Around the Block with Dennis Zambrotta” podcast here.

Pay particular attention to what Dennis has to say about seaweed…

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