Farmington River Report 3/21/17: Trout on the move

The fish didn’t feel that big, so I was surprised when I saw that it was a mid-teens brown. Almost immediately, its lackluster fight, dull colors, and ragged, undersized fins registered: this was a recently stocked fish that had already travelled several miles up or downriver. You see, I was standing in the middle of the permanent TMA, an area that hasn’t yet been visited by the DEEP tanker truck.

I fished two spots. I shared the first with another angler (thank you, kind sir!); he was Euro nymphing, and I went with a mix of tight line and indicator presentations with my trusty drop-shot rig. Despite the sexy water and a decent midge hatch, we both blanked. Off to spot two, where I hooked Mr. Recent Ward Of The State followed by two long-time residents. All fish came on the bottom dropper, a size 14 Frenchie variant.

The takes of the two wild fish were odd. The indicator made a little nudge, immediately followed by a dip. It was as if the nudge was the actual take, and the dip the trout retreating with the prize. I’m constantly trying to refine my technique: playing around with indicator positioning, drift speed, trying to figure what’s bottom and what’s not, ditching the indicator and seeing which takes I can feel and which I can merely see. Every day is different; once I knew what to look for with the indicator, I was ready for that little nudge, and on that second trout I was in the process of setting the hook after the nudge when the yarn went under.

The TMA was packed for a Tuesday in March. Most of the anglers I spoke to said the action was fair to slow. Water was 233cfs and 37 degrees. Runoff may have impacted the bite. Many road entrances and dirt pulloffs (like Greenwoods and Woodshop) were still inaccessible.

That’s more like it. An equinox wild brown with an impressive power train. Note the deep gold coloring from the underside of the mouth to the gill plate.

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Farmington River Report 3/7/17: What’s all this, then?

Let’s start with some good news, where a picture is worth 200cfs:

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Add to that 100+cfs from the Still, and we finally have a proper level in the permanent TMA, running clear and 34 degrees. Of course, we need to keep those rain dances at the ready. A little more snow in the Berkshires wouldn’t hurt, either.

To the fishing. Spot A was a blank, and friends, I want to tell you that I nymphed the snot out of that run for the better part of 90 minutes without a touch. Spots B and C were dedicated to the streamer cause but with the same result. At this point I paused to reflect upon the manifest iniquity of fishing — and to consider newly received intel that there had been a recent significant melting of ice shelves where I had been fishing .

La Aroma De Cuba Reserva Bellicoso in hand (well, mouth, too) I headed north.

And that’s where I found a whole bunch of trout that were most eager to eat my nymphs. They were fairly split between the size 16 Weisner’s midge dropper and the size 14 Frenchie variant. I used two BB shot to keep my drifts nice and slow. The takes were on the subtle side, but nonetheless my indicator received a good soaking. By 3pm the action had tailed off, and I called it a day.

Several of my fish were well-fed browns in the mid teens. No wonder this hen gave me a battle. Look at the size of her pectoral fin.

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Another fine specimen from the chilly waters of the permanent TMA.

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Small Stream Report: We’ve got bugs

Yesterday seemed like far too fine a day to spend shackled to my laptop. Priorities in order, I headed for a thin blue line in the northwest hills.

Glory, what a good decision. The sun was warm, the water cool, and the smoke from my Rocky Patel Special Reserve Sun Grown Maduro robusto danced around the budding branches. Lots of bug activity: the rocks were coated with little black stones (16-18), and I saw caddis (16), midges (tiny) and two large un-IDed mayflies (Blue Quill?) locked in a fervent mating embrace. Water was an excellent height and running clear.

You can still find snow in the woods, albeit in isolated patches.

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Inclement weather has a tendency to place branches and even entire trees in rather inconvenient locations. So I spent a few minutes doing some in-stream flora removal where needed. Here are my rules-of-thumb: if it’s living, it doesn’t get touched, no matter how badly it cocks up a pool. If it’s dead and in the water, and provides cover or generates seams and oxygenation, it doesn’t get touched. Anything else is fair game.

Pricked a bunch, mostly on the 2x short size 18 nymph dropper, and landed a half-dozen. I did see one fish rising to something small in a long, flat pool. I couldn’t hook him, even on a size 20 Bivisible. Due to the bright sun, most of the fish were holding deep or near structure. This lean, mean fighting machine grabbed the nymph.

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Finally, a reminder that any small stream that’s not a Class 1 WTMA is now closed until 6:00am second Saturday in April. I know, it doesn’t make any sense, but we’re stuck with it.

Farmington River Report 2/15/17: Bottom return

There comes a point in the nymphing session — usually after I’ve been at it for a while with no touches, and especially if I’ve been losing a war of attrition with the bottom — when the indicator goes down, I set, and I cannot believe that I’m stuck again.

Depression sets it.

But sometimes the bottom moves. And despair turns into the delightful prospect of possessing that which we love and desire.

It’s a fish, and by the feel of things, a decent one.

Even after walking it down the run a ways, the trout still won’t come, and I wonder if it is fouled. No, it’s just a big ‘ol Farmington brown — nearly twenty inches worth — with my tiny midge lodged firmly inside the white of its mouth.

The prize for hiking a good distance to fish in solitude. Celebrated with the cigar gifted to me by Alton (thank you).

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River conditions: 140cfs, clear, 33 degrees. Not much hatch activity (a few W/S caddis and midges). Most of the pull offs and dirt roads were inaccessible due to snow pack/plowing piles. That may change with the warm weather this weekend. I managed a nice rainbow in another spot, then called it a day after three hours. Two BB shot on the drop shot rig today resulted in a lot of snags, but also produced the kind of slower drift that I think catches more fish in water that’s barely above freezing.

The winning fly, Glenn Weisner’s blue bead head midge. You can read more about on Ed Engle’s Lone Angler Journal.

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I know you’ll ask, so here’s the recipe:

Pre-storm small stream and thanks, EJTU

Busy day yesterday at currentseams. We started at 10:30am on a small stream. In terms of snow and ice, the northwest part of the state is very different from the central, particularly in the woods and the ravines carved out by small streams. I was truly surprised by the amount of white stuff.

Intricately laced ice shelves lined the edge of the stream. I took this photo first thing before I started fishing. As I was packing up the camera, I happened to look down into the shallow riffle you see here. Not six feet away, a good sized brookie was taking nymphs and emergers, maneuvering laterally in the current to pick off each tasty morsel. Wild trout are usually super-spooky, but obviously the feeding instinct overcame the flight reflex.

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Water temp was low 30s, air temp 40s and climbing. That made for an ethereal sunlit fog effect. There were some decent sized (16-18) midges, and the trout were eager to feed despite the near-freezing water that was entering the system. I saw several brookies hanging out in sunlit shallows, where the water was no doubt warmer. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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The fishing was good, and surprisingly, so was the catching. (The cigar was swell, too, a Nat Sherman Explorer maduro gifted to me last month at the TVTU meeting.) I presented a size 16 Improved Sofa Pillow dry with a 2x short size 18 Frenchie variant dropped off the hook bend. I pricked a dozen or so and probably landed 2/3 of them. They were fairly split among the two flies. This one liked the nymph.

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All good things must end. Or should I say, end one good thing, then begin another?  Off I went to New Jersey for my Farmington River presentation to the EJTU chapter. We had a sizable crowd, a good energy, and some excellent post-presentation questions. Thanks so much for having me.

And a final shout out to Zinburger. Spicy green chili fries, an El Diablo burger, and a yummy glass of zin made for a most excellent pre-game meal. We need a Zinburger in the Hartford area!

Farmington River Report 1/12/17: Of flows and floes

I expected to blank yesterday. Rain, snowmelt, and ice would surely make for some challenging conditions, 56 degree air temps be damned. I fished two spots within the permanent TMA, and the first was that dreaded blank. The second, much to my surprise and delight, produced three trout (three more than the guys fishing corn, he said smugly). Over the course of the day, I left my rod on top of my Jeep and drove a quarter mile before I realized my idiocy. Then I rescued someone’s landing net as it floated by. So much excitement! Here are some details.

The river was running at 300cfs, a (finally) proper level. But the water was staggeringly cold — my analog thermometer only managed 32 degrees at 1pm. Water was off-color at the first spot, and less stained at the second. What really surprised me was the amount of ice still on the surface. A day later I’m sure some of it has flushed, but many of the hero dry fly pools were better suited for skating than fishing. Ice floes were also a problem as the day progressed. It’s unnerving to feel that dull thud against your leg while you’re focusing on your drift.

Lots of this going on. Be wary of shelf ice — plant an imaginary “Keep Off!” sign and do so.  January is a bad time to go swimming on the Farmington.

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I did a little short-line nymphing, but with the water back at a near-normal level, I returned to the indicator for most of the day. I prefer indicator nymphing in conditions like these because I can cover a lot more water. I also like the indicator for the more subtle takes you sometimes get with winter fishing. (However, that wasn’t the case today. All three fish struck hard.) Two came on a Frenchie variant (black bead, UV Red Ice Dub), size 12 scud hook. I also went with 2 BB shot to slow my drift. It made for an abundance of false positives, but I think slower was the way to go.

Pure parr pulchritude. Alliteration aside (alas), this is one gorgeous creature. Check out the halos along the lateral line, and the old mouth wounds. He fought like a tiger, and I had a hard time getting him to sit still for a portrait. I will never tire of catching wild Farmington browns. 

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I find the concept of dark flies on dark days agreeable, so I made my top dropper a Starling and Herl, standard hook size 16. I love fishing soft-hackled flies like nymphs or deep emergers.

This was my biggest fish of the day. Starling and Herl.

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Farmington River Report 1/5/17: Ice cold (the weather, too)

In my experience, sudden changes in temperature — especially a drop — are usually bad for business. So it went today. I fished three spots within the permanent TMA, nymphs and streamers, and blanked. Okay, I did have a firm tug on a streamer (solid enough to make me wonder why hook point never found mouth) but that was it. Hatches were virtually nonexistent, and ice was a problem all day. It’s not supposed to get much warmer for a while, and today was my day to get out, so I can live with the skunk.

Note: as I drove past the entrance to Greenwoods/Boneyard, I noticed the dirt road is not plowed and is covered with ice. I wouldn’t plan on trying to navigate it unless you’ve got really good tires and a reliable 4WD. Good luck if you head out, and remember: the fish don’t know that it’s cold.

Shaving cream — be nice and clean — shave every day and you’ll always look keen. Actually, this stuff was frozen solid. It also reminded me of baked Alaska.

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