Farmington River Report 4/29/22: Hendricksons, spectacular wet fly action, mystery bug ID

I fished the lower end of the Permanent TMA yesterday afternoon and we had much better flows (under 400cfs) for swinging wet flies. So much, in fact, that after a while I replaced my tungsten bead head soft hackles with non-weighted bugs, the better to target all the slashing risers. Atmospheric conditions were as they have been: chilly, windy, and uncomfortable.

I arrived late, about 1:30pm, and as I approached the mark, I recognized the faces of the two anglers who had beaten me to it. It was Bob and Andy. I’d seen them here last year, introduced myself, and we shared the water. These guys are very giving, and a pleasure to fish next to. I’d like to thank them again for being so matey and kind.

Right away, I was into fish. I’d made the comment earlier to Torrey Collins at UpCountry that if you hit this hatch right, fishing with wets is almost unfair. I took them on the swing. I took them on the Leisenring Lift. I took them dead drifted deep on a short line. Active feeders almost always hit on the first cast. I even managed my first double of the year.

Then, the bugs came. Lots and lots of Hendricksons. I’d give this hatch an 8 out of 10. The point where the trout would no longer take the wet came at 2:45pm. Once I figured out what they wanted — it wasn’t, to my surprise, The Usual, with which I usually do boffo box office — I managed a bunch on the surface. (The winning fly was a Comparadun.) Dry fly was very much a challenge in the fierce gusts. But it’s supposed to moderate, so tight lines to those brave souls venturing out this weekend. I expect the hatch to continue to ramp up and move upriver. Enjoy!

‘Nuff said.

To this week’s mystery bug. I appreciate everyone’s input and guesses. My first thought when I observed them was some kind of early BWO. They were clearly too small for Hendricksons. After I captured a couple specimens, I was able to see that they all had only two tails. I ended up going to two people who have a far deeper technical knowledge of these things than I, and they both independently identified the creature as a Baetis. That’s good enough for me! (In case you’re wondering, my panel of experts consisted of Torrey Collins and Derrick Kirkpatrick. Those guys have forgotten more about Farmington River hatches than I currently know.)

The best soft hackles and wet flies for fishing the Hendrickson hatch

“What are the best soft hackles (or wet flies) for fishing the Hendrickson hatch?” is one of those questions I get a lot this time of year. As always, the best flies are the ones in which you have the most confidence. I should also make this clarification: technically, with Hendricksons you’re fishing wet flies under the hatch. On the Farmington River, prime time for swinging Hendrickson wets is generally in the 11 am-to-3 pm window. Every day is different. Once you see duns on the water, and trout snapping at them, the wet fly game is all but over. But if you want to catch more trout, you should be swinging wets in this pre-hatch time frame. (Of course, you’re fishing a team of three wets. Here’s how to build a wet fly leader.) And so, in no particular order, these are some of my favorite Hendrickson wet fly and soft-hackled patterns.

Bead Head Soft-Hackled Dark Hendrickson
Dark Hendrickson winged wet
Hendrickson Spiders. Size 12, wet or dry fly hook, gray or rusty brown thread, tail material of your choice, a dusting of muskrat fur or dubbing, then brown partridge or dark dun hen hackle.
Bead Head Soft-Hackled Pheasant Tail
Old Blue Dun
Squirrel and Ginger. Yeah, I know. Not a Hendrickson pattern. But on the Farmington, we often get a strong caddis hatch around Hendrickson time. If you place this as your top dropper, you’ll be covered if the trout are selectively feeding on the caddis.

Farmington River Mini-Report 4/21/21: First wet fly fish of the year

I only had 90 minutes to fish, so I chose the lower Farmington because it was closer to my house, and also to where I needed to be at 2pm. Plus, there was that front bearing down on us. Didn’t want to get stuck in that mess, especially after witnessing a foreboding fork of lightning slicing through the sky. After waiting for the dark clouds to disperse, I was on the water a little before noon. The plan was to swing wets and see if there was any Hendrickson action. Conditions weren’t great — 600cfs is a little high on the Farmington for wet fly, so I used a tungsten bead head Pheasant Tail soft hackle on point to sink things a bit. Still, the water I fished was fast and heavy, and if I was interested in numbers, nymphing would have been the way to go. I had a half dozen whacks in the fast water, with no hook sets, before I connected in a deeper slot. The wind was also a factor — forget roll casting for any distance — and I had to be vigilant to keep the rig from tangling. But by the end of the outing, I had three trout to hand, two on the BHSHPT and another, the biggest, on the top dropper, a Squirrel and Ginger. A My Father Le Bijou 1922 Gran Robusto proved to be a fine companion. Speaking of fronts, I can’t believe how much the temperature has dropped.

It always feels good to land the first wet fly trout of the year, even if it is a stocker rainbow. This one treated me to two aerials. The last two were fatter, and took a bit of forceful coaxing to come to net. I didn’t see any Hendricksons or caddis, but then again I only fished until 1:30pm. My wet fly box desperately needs a restocking!

Best of 2020 #3: Hendrickson Wet Fly Mania

When I give a wet fly lesson, I always tell my clients this: “If you hit a hatch just right, you can have one of those days you’ll never forget.” And it so it was for me on a cool afternoon in April. Hendrickson season can be tough on the Farmington, especially if you’re looking for an unoccupied mark. But sometimes luck smiles upon you, and on this day it was so. The run I wanted to fish was on lockdown, but just as I arrived, an angler left, leaving a prime lie open. Armed with a three fly team of wets, I proceeded to wreak havoc upon the residents. This was one of those days where I quickly lost count of fish, but it was easily in the multiple dozens range. (Fresh fish + epic Hendrickson hatch + wet flies = stupid good.) I had doubles galore. I finally quit because it was so ridiculous for so long. Really. You can read about it here.

I had several evenings of spectacular wet fly action during the sulphur hatches of 2020, but nothing that equaled the craziness of this day of Hendrickson mania! If the water is 450cfs+, or if you want to sink your team a little more, try this tungsten bead head Dark Hendrickson soft hackle on point.

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.