Farmington River Report 6/13/21: Wet fly doldrums, then all dry fly hell breaks loose

I fished a different section of the lower river yesterday, from late afternoon into dark. The water was clear, cool, running at 460cfs — just about right. As is my my custom, I arrived rigged for wet fly, anticipating a typical very late spring pre-hatch wet fly bonanza. ‘Twas not to be. The early evening hatch never materialized. Well, it did if you count three sulphurs and four spotty rises in 90 minutes. But I was sorely disappointed with the lack of activity. I managed a measly four bumps, and only one of them resulted in a hookup. (Then again, the prime wet fly water in the run was occupied.)

At 7:30 I re-rigged for dry fly. It took a while for things to happen, but when they did, it was fast and furious. Observed: sulphurs size 16, tiny BWOs, Isonychia size 12, dark gray stoneflies size 12, and mats of midges. I focused on the yellow stuff, and threw Magic Flies, Usuals, and Catskills Light Cahills, all of which were eaten. Noteworthy: the world’s longest refusal (drifting over a gravel bank into a drop-off, and this guy rose and shadowed the fly for a good fifteen feet, nearly taking it several times before saying no); an epic 50-foot drift where I had three(!) different trout commit to the fly with a splashy take, none of which resulted in a hookset; and a comical take where a brown blasted the fly like it was going to hurt him, which, as it turns out, it did — in his haste to dine he fouled himself in his pectoral fin.

I was fishing in some fairly technical water, which I often prefer with dry fly because of its challenges. (We’re talking longer leaders, precision mends, and tricky drift management.) I didn’t connect as many times as I would have liked to, but I did hook fish from as far away as 45 feet and a close as a rod’s length. The frenzied feeding really didn’t begin until 8:30, and when I dragged myself away at 9:15, I’d just hooked a trout on a drift I couldn’t see.

A strange but pleasant evening. The first outing with the cane pole is always a treat.

This one’s worth repeating. There comes a stage late in the hatch where trout are feeding on both duns and spinners. Then, it transitions solely to spinners. You don’t need to stress about which stage they’re eating if you’re using a Catskills style dry like this Light Cahill. Trout will eagerly take it even when they’re on spinners. Every year, some of my biggest dry fly trout come on this pattern when the only feeding tell is the gentle, subtle spinner rise ring. Pro tip: you can upsize the fly so you can see it in the gloaming.

Best of 2020 #4: The filming of “Summer on the Farmington.”

When director Matthew Vinick asked me if I’d like to appear in his upcoming film on dry fly fishing the Farmington River, I didn’t think twice. Crew and angler assembled on a gorgeous afternoon in late June for my segment. The trout were gathered too, although they were most uncooperative. Sadly, we’d caught them in between feeds, and rises were few and far between. Finally, we got the shot — and the fish — we were looking for, a healthy 17″ Survivor Strain buck, taken on a size 16 Light Cahill Catskills dry. Wouldn’t you know it? After we broke the set, the river lit up and it was trout after trout from 7:30pm till dark. We had a follow-up interview shoot in October. Now all we have to do is wait for director and editor to do their thing.

I don’t have a projected release date for the film, but when I hear more, I’ll let you know.

Farmington River Report 6/16/20: Wait for it.

Tuesday was shooting day on the Farmington. I met filmmaker Matthew Vinick and his crew around 2pm above the Permanent TMA. They reported an active hatch and feeding session in the early afternoon, but by the time we started filming at 2:30, it was…over. Done. Nada.

You keep hoping that it’s going to pick up — I mean, it will eventually, right? — but we were plagued with five hours of virtually no visible hatch activity and no feeding trout. You’d see a trout come up occasionally. But then, nothing. No rhythm, no continuity, no consistency. I felt awful for Cosmo and Byron and Matt, but when Mother Nature feeds you a poop sandwich, ya gotta hold your nose and eat it. And so we did.

It is my considered opinion that the State of Connecticut chose wisely in the naming of its state flower.

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So, after going oh-for-three, I stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth and hit one out of the park. It was a 17-inch (a true rarity among all the 18-inchers on the Farmy, he said with good-spirited sarcasm) Survivor Strain brown buck who was lazily feeding in about a foot of water six feet off the bank.

See that frog water just off the rocks? That’s where the fish was holding, just at the left edge of the frame. I made a lucky cast, and the brown rose with confidence to the fly, fully committed to the take. Cosmo and Matt were shooting on either side of the rise, and I’m hoping they got a great moment of incidental magic on film. 

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Mr. Day Saver, taken on a size 16 Light Cahill dry. Accurately taped at 17″.

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Of course, after the crew went home the river lit up. Many active feeders beginning around 7:45, and continuing till dark. The trout in the faster water were keyed on sulphur emergers (a Magic Fly or Usual would serve you well), while the trout in the slower water were putting on a spinner sipping clinic. I couldn’t buy a fish for hours; in the last half hour, I stopped counting after six. At one point I had a fish on four consecutive casts.

The rousing finale had me galumphing this 20+” wild brown into my net. Taken on a size 16 Light Cahill dry. Here’s the release.

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Needs must have Farmington River flies

The results of a wee tying binge for myself and customers: summer nymphs and dries for ye olde Farmington River. All eagerly awaiting a hungry mouth(s).

Rainbow Warriors, Frenchie variants, soft-hackled PTs, wingless March Browns, Usuals, Catskill Light Cahills, Magic Flies. Be prepared to downsize your dries to 20s this time of year. (Although I had success last week casting big (8-12) stuff to smutting trout in frog water.)

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Farmington River report 7/9/18: Presentation is Everything

I guided David yesterday afternoon into the evening. David wanted to work on his presentations — a man after my own heart — and we began by swinging wets through some choppy water in the permanent TMA. Bug and surface activity was light — nonetheless, I was surprised that we didn’t find any players. We then headed upstream to some classic dry fly water to prepare for the evening rise. We had surface activity from around 4pm through darkness, and a lot more bugs in this pool: sulphurs, Light Cahills, mats of midges and a few caddis. The fishing wasn’t easy — David had dozens of quality drifts that went unscathed — but we fooled quite a few trout and netted some beauties. We fished with a 13-foot leader (9′ 5x) and tippet (4′ 6x) system, and took fish on the Pale Watery wingless (16), Catskills Light Cahill (14-16) and Sulphur Comparadun (18). Great job, David! And man, was that water cold. 56 degrees. I haven’t shivered that much since the winter. Double layers next time.

Mr. Presentation, getting it done.

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The size of the rise doesn’t always belie the size of the fish. This high teens Survivor Strain brown was making tiny swirls along the edge of some frog water. David did an exemplary job with his hook set and landing. All the fish we hooked were fat, healthy, and happy.

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