Farmington River Report 5/16/23: Things are starting to heat up

Last night’s cold front notwithstanding, the hatches, the water, and (finally!) the action are all starting to heat up on our favorite tailwater. I guided Alan yesterday from 10:30am-2:30pm, and we bounced around to three different marks below the PTMA. The Unionville gauge was reading 507cfs, and the river was running cool and clear. Our focus was drop-shot nymphing under an indicator, a good strategy for that time window this time of year. To give you an idea of how a typical lesson goes, we try to start in some water that isn’t too technical. (Great minds think alike, as Farmington River guide extraordinaire Antoine Bissieux showed up with his client at the same mark.) I showed Alan how I build a drop shot rig, then we moved to fly selection.

Right now, the hero hatch is caddis, caddis, and more caddis. I put an Electric Caddis with bright green caddis LifeCycle dubbing and no bead on point, size 12. For a top dropper I used one of my experimental caddis pupa (as yet un-named, details to come soon) soft-hackles, green body, size 14. Alan did a good job of getting his rig where it needed to be; casting that unwieldy shebang takes a bit of getting used to. Much of nymphing success hinges on managing drifts and setting downstream; those can also be challenging because there’s a lot to think about and tend to in a short period of time. I guess Alan did OK (he said, tongue planted firmly in cheek) as he brought a half dozen trout to net at the first mark!

I remain one of the last holdouts when it comes to client fish photos. There’ll be no arms locked, fully extended, thrusting fish into the camera on this website. This was our first fish, a spunky rainbow that taped between 15 and 16″. Nicely done, Alan! We took two trout on the Electric Caddis, and I’m delighted to report that the rest came on my experiment, which has yet to let me down this spring — every time I’ve tied it on a client’s rig, it has produced.
The second mark was a blank. I think the bulk of the feeding activity took place before noon. We did score this lovely wild brown, about 9″ long, haloed spots and parr marks, in a section of river that got torched last summer. Nature finds a way! This was a good nymphing lesson fish because he took ever so subtly — the indicator never went under, it simply stalled — and Alan, who by now was looking for a reason to set the hook on every drift, drilled it. Great job, Alan!

2 comments on “Farmington River Report 5/16/23: Things are starting to heat up

  1. Nicole Lewis says:


    I love your content! We had you present at our club early in COVID (Ottawa Fly Fishing Society).

    I know that you are a soft hackle fly aficionado. Do you have any experience and tips for fishing soft hackles on stillwaters?


    Nicole Lewis
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

    • Steve Culton says:

      I remember it well, Nicole. Hopefully you all will have me present via Zoom again.

      I have very little experience fishing soft hackles in still water. It’s just not my bag. I would think you’d want to either fish a team of three with a very slow hand-twist retrieve, or fish a dropper off of a dry. Matching the hatch would not be a bad idea (probably lots of midges). You could also try an attractor. Do a search of my website for a trip I made to Scotland a few years ago. That was the last time I fished a team of three in still water. Hope that helps!

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