Farmington River Report 12/6/16: Wet fly action in…December?

Trout blasting wet flies on the swing with a water temp of 36 degrees? Yes, indeed.

I fished the permanent TMA today from 9am-1pm. I was rigged for nymphs, and I spent the first 30 minutes bouncing along the bottom, desperately trying to ignore the growing number of trout slashing at W/S caddis. After the second or third time of telling myself that I was acting like an angler throwing Clousers at a school of stripers feeding on the surface, I disengaged the shot and re-tied the point fly to match the dropper: size 18 soft-hackled pheasant tail. It was by no means a proper wet fly rig, but what the heck — I’m lazy. Second cast, whack! A lovely late fall  wild brown. Next cast, ker-pow! (Those old enough to have watched will recognize the channeling of my inner 60s Batman TV show memories.) And so it went until the hatch waned.

The first fish of the day is always memorable, made even more so when it sports such finery.

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I got out to warm up, and after ten minutes the slashing resumed in earnest. Only this time it was tiny BWOs they were after. The fish proved to be more difficult to catch during this hatch; they wanted the fly on the dangle (if they wanted it at all). By now the sun was up good and proper, and the trout were for the most part hugging the shade line of the eastern side of the river. I had to work hard for the two I landed, but when you’re swinging wets and it’s December and you’ve never had this much success with that method this late in the year, you’re squarely in a no-kvetch zone.

One of the BWO trout, a low teens wild thang.

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But wait, there’s more. We also had a five-minute-blizzard of a midge hatch. I switched to dries for this, and fooled two on a size infinity Griffith’s Gnat, but sadly didn’t stick either fish.

And at this point, I won’t even bother writing about how I blanked on streamers.

On the way out I spoke with fellow guide Mark Swenson. Mark was Euro nymphing and had done quite well (in fact he landed one while we were chatting). He was also fishing small stuff, size 18s.

But for over two hours, I had the river all to myself. Just me, the trout, the bugs, and a December sunshine that made me feel like summer could come any day now.

Big room news: “Wet Flies 101” at the Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, MA

Once again, I will be presenting “Wet Flies 101” at the the Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, MA. Only this time, on a bigger stage.

I’ve been elevated to Seminar status for Friday, 1pm, January 20th, as I present “Wet Flies 101” in the Catch Room. On Saturday the 21st, I’ll be making the same presentation at 10am in Room A of the Destination Theater.

And so, dear reader, I’d like to ask you a favor: if you’re planning on going to the show, please try to come to the Friday the 21st show in the big room. I’d to have as full a house as possible. If you can make it, good fishing karma and positive tight line energy shall be bestowed upon you. And of course, if you’re there, please come say hi.

For more information, visit the Fly Fishing Show’s Marlborough website.

Here’s your chance to visit Yorkshire without ever leaving New England.

Soft-hackles

I went to Pulaski and all I got was this lousy snow storm

The trip started poorly. Whiteout conditions in the Berkshires followed by heavy lake-effect snow near Syracuse turned a five hour drive into six and a half. They had been forecasting 3-8″ of snow showers and 20 mph winds — not exactly the model of fishing-friendly weather — but we had reservations and deposits and the will to see things through. By the time we (this was my annual late November trip with #2 son) woke up Monday morning, we realized this was going to be far worse than your standard-issue Salmon River Sunshine. Winds of 20-30mph with gusts up to 50. Snow that covered the rear bumper of the Jeep (the Syracuse area received up to 30″). No shovel or plow in our near future. We  stomped on the snow to flatten it, and we made it to the Byrne Dairy OK, but when our guide’s truck and trailer had to be towed out of a drift, the bummer decision was made: no fishing today.

And that’s how Cam and I spent most of last Monday afternoon watching the Science Channel in the Pulaski Super 8.

You often hear exaggerated  claims of precipitation falling sideways. But we can attest that it does really happen. This was one badass storm.

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We made a brilliant plan to fish the creeks on Tuesday. So brilliant that I was already counting our fish on the drive north. Water levels had been up for two days, and those two days were dark and perfect for legions of steelhead to have safely made their way upstream. I’ll cut to the chase and tell you we blanked. We fished long, hard, and thoroughly at multiple fishy spots, but as far as any of us could tell, the closest steelhead were still somewhere in Lake Ontario. The only angler we could find who had any fish to hand was AJ Berry, who took several domestic rainbows on egg sacks. (I mention AJ’s name because he was incredibly generous in sharing water with us.)

I realize that steelheading is not fair. But I would be lying to you if I said this trip didn’t sting more than a little.

The salve for that sting is that we went winter steelheading. We had an adventure. There is honor in attempting something difficult — and whether we succeeded or failed is really a matter of your point-of-view.

The day after the big one. If it looks nippy, it was. Iced guides were a constant hassle, and residual winds made casting an adventure. Highest marks to Cam, who didn’t complain once during two days of truly challenging circumstances. Asked to sum up the trip, Cam said: “It was cold. It snowed. We tried to fish. The fish didn’t help.”

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Further implements of steelhead destruction

Or, an angler can hope. Either way, fly boxes must be replenished, here with an eclectic selection of attractors, eggy fare, classic soft hackles and gaudy streamers. A few hungry customers is all I ask.

The best flies for Great Lakes steelhead are the ones that get eaten. Surely a delectable morsel lies within this diverse menu.

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Maryland’s 2016 striped bass YOY count: not good

This is an annual census taken by Maryland’s DNR to determine recruitment strength for the previous spring’s (as in a few months ago) class of new-born striped bass. The number was 2.2 (the long-term average is 11.9). While every year is different, this only continues a downward trend that began the year after the banner class of 1996.

You can read more about the count on the stripersforever.org website here.

It’s a long, long way from 1996. 

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A striper skunking, appearances, and a rain miss

Last night I fished a spot in Connecticut that, upon further reflection, is having me believe that I’m Einstein insane. It should hold fish. Others have told me they’ve caught fish there. Nonetheless, every time I’ve fished it over the last three years, I’ve blanked. As in not a touch. On the plus side, I had a lovely walk through a salt marsh. And I bombed out some perfect laser shots with my switch rod. But would it be too much to ask for some players? No cigar, as we’re still healing after last week’s oral surgery.

Two appearances this week:  Tuesday, October 11, 7pm: Mianus Chapter TU, “The Little Things 2.0” Waveny House, New Canaan, CT. For more information and directions, visit mianustu.org.

Thursday, October 13: Hammonasset Chapter TU, “The Little Things 1.0” (pretty sure we settled on this — I’ll update if incorrect). Quinnipiac Watershed Association Building, 540 Oregon Road, Meriden, CT. For more information and directions, visit hctu.org.

Finally, the weather. Today’s rain was great for my yard — or any stream in eastern, central, or southern Connecticut. Unfortunately, it almost completely missed the northwestern end of the state — so we’re still talking rock gardens on the Farmington and Hous. Bleah.

Time to fire up the steelhead end of the tying bench.

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TU225 Awarded the Order of the Triple Jalapeño Cheeseburger (with Octoberfest Clusters)

TU225 in Narragansett, RI, has been a long-time friend. They were hiring me to do presentations when I was a nobody (or at least far less of whatever I am today). I truly appreciate their continuous support and kindness. Last night they treated me to dinner (a fed presenter is a happy presenter), and then we had the debut performance of “The Little Things 2.0.” I think it did not suck. But you’d have to ask them.

Afterwards, I went striper fishing. School bass were set up in the current, ambushing silversides on the outgoing tide. Today I notice that parts of my right index finger, thumb, and palm are destroyed.

Yes, it was a very good evening.

Last night’s power supply brought new meaning to the phrase, “the dangle.”

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