Farmington River Report 7/9/20: what a way to go!

I worked with Bill yesterday on his indicator nymphing and wet fly skills. Water conditions were perfect in the Permanent TMA: 325cfs, cold, clear. The trout and bugs were a wee bit more uncooperative. Hatches (sulphurs, caddis, olives) were spotty and the feeding was inconsistent at best. We fished two marks and saw four trout hooked all day, and since we had two of them, we declared victory. On the plus side, Bill landed his PB non-lake-run brown. He nailed it at high noon (we fished from 10am-2pm) while nymphing. I was observing from upstream, and when he set the hook it sure looked like a fish to me. Bill thought he was stuck on the bottom — that happens sometimes with larger Farmy trout — and then, gloriously, the bottom fought back. Sadly, Bill snapped his rod during the battle, but the fish was landed, much to his delight. To say nothing of mine!

Bill’s new personal best, a gorgeous high teens wild brown. Love those halos. He took the took dropper in our nymph rig, a size 18 soft-hackled pheasant tail. Since that hook was a 2x short, it’s effectively a size 22 fly. Do not underestimate the power of tiny soft hackles this time of year. I almost always make my top dropper on my drop-shot nymph rig a soft hackle. Congratulations, Bill!

DCIM100GOPROG0013941.

 

Farmington River Report 4/6/20: And then, the bottom fought back…

Yesterday’s expedition was dedicated to nymphing the lower River. The action was spotty to say the least: six marks visited, three of them total blanks. But…we’ll get to that in a moment.

First, be advised that Monday is the new Saturday on the Farmington. I’ve never seen the river this crowded on a Monday this early in the season. There were anglers in four of the six pools I hit, sometimes three or more. If you value solitude, gird your loins.

The method was drop shot nymphing, about 25% tight line and 75% indicator. I fished a size 18 soft-hackled pheasant tail on top dropper, and a Frenchie variant on point. I took trout on both flies.

It’s semi-sweet to say that you may have already landed your biggest trout of the season, but it is what is. I was nymphing a deeper run when the indicator dipped and I set the hook. The emotional and logical thought protocols immediately kicked into gear: “Is that the bottom? No, it is not, I can feel a head shake. Let me re-set the hook. OK, that’s a decent fish. Wow, that’s a strong fish. Shoot, he’s sulking on the bottom. Gotta keep him away from that submerged boulder. Gotta move him. I’ll do that steelhead side-to-side rod arc thing. Gotta get him out of the current so he can’t breathe. That frog water looks like a good LZ.”

And then, as you get your first visual, you wish for a bigger net. But you’ve whipped the fish fast (remembering the sage advice of Stu Apte: “To play him long is to play him wrong.”) and now the moment of glory is at hand. Swing and a miss. Again…yessir. Wow!

Hunk-a hunk-a burning Survivor Strain love. Wotta tummy! Wotta tail! And shoulders that simply aren’t done justice by this photo. Easily over 20″, but this is a fish that should be measured in pounds. 

DCIM100GOPROG0013613.

A trout like that called for a celebration. So I fired up a Rocky Patel The Edge torpedo and did just that.

 

 

Three Great Early-Season Nymphs for Trout

What are the best nymphs for early-season trout? It’s hard to say. “Best,” after all, is not an absolute like the firmness of the earth or the sun rising in the east. But if you asked me make a choice, I’d tell you you could do a lot worse than these three proven nymph patterns — and the trout would agree.

Soft-Hackled Bead Head Pheasant Tail. Size it up, size it down, the pheasant tail remains a classic because it looks like so many things that trout like to eat. I love this version for its buggy peacock herl thorax and so-many-quivering-sexy-legs of a soft hackle. For recipe and tying video, click here.

SHBHPT

~

Frenchie Nymph Variant. The same fly as above — but different! We’ve traded the wiggly legs for a flashy hot spot. The result is a slimmer profile with different bite triggers that keeps this a high-confidence early-season nymph. What makes it variant? Unlike Lance Egan’s original, this has a brass bead, not tungsten, and it’s tied on a scud hook. (Since I don’t Euro-nymph, I rarely use tungsten beads in my nymphs.) For recipe and tying video, click here.

FrenchieVariant

~

Rainbow Warrior Variant. Another Lance Egan creation, this version uses a brass bead instead of tungsten (see Frenchie, above) and omits the mylar wing case. The Rainbow Warrior takes the flashy attractor nymph to a whole new level.  Good stuff!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hook: TMC 2457 size 12-22
Bead: Silver, to size
Thread: Red 6/0 or 8/0
Tail: 5-6 pheasant tail fibers fibers
Body: UTC Pearl mylar, 3/64″
Thorax: Rainbow Sow Scud dubbing

The best winter nymph patterns are the ones that inspire confidence

I’ve got nymphing on my brain. I’m hoping to get out this week and scratch that itch, but right now I’m chained to the computer. So here are some of my favorite winter nymph patterns. It’s a short list — I like to keep things simple. These are all high-confidence patterns, which makes them the best nymphs for me. What nymphs do you like to fish in the winter?

You’ll find a lot of tiny bugs in the cold months, especially on a tailwater, so going small with your nymphs is usually a good idea. This late winter beauty fell for a size 18 (2x short) BHPT.

3-10-14 Brown

Frenchie Nymph Variant. A little flash, a little color, a little contrast, a little natural brown means a lot of good nymphing mojo

Squirrel and Ginger Beadhead. Sans bead, one of my favorite caddis emergers. Add a black brass bead and deepwater magic ensues.

G-R Blue Bead Midge. Love this fly in winter when the flows aren’t too high or fast. Make it your top dropper, and if the trout are on small stuff, hold on.

Rainbow Warrior. I like this fly on brighter days. (That’s a general rule of thumb for me: if a fly is based on flash and shine, it won’t do its job as well on overcast days). The Rainbow Warriors are on the cork to the left in the linked shot.

Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail. Sizes 12-14, with a bead, this is my point fly on a two-fly nymph rig. Size 16-20, no bead head, it’s a terrific top dropper. Looks like a ton of bugs in general.

Hare and Copper Variant. What’s there not to like about Pheasant Tail, Red Fox Squirrel, and Hare’s ear? Oh, and there’s a copper bead, too. Sign me up!

My tying bench is a mess (oh, like yours is all neat and clean?)

There comes a time every year when I declare my tying bench a disaster area. I’ve been busy churning out flies for clients and myself all summer, and there’s never any time to put things back where they belong — let alone sweep up that mountain of shaved deer hair. OK, if you’re one of those few who keeps things neat and tidy, I humbly bow before your uncluttered presence. For me, a clean tying area is going to have to be a winter project.

Live and in the studio. No edits!

MessyDesk

~

Oscar Madison bench, Felix Unger results. Some bugs for the Farmington this week.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Leisenring’s Favorite Twelve Wets: Iron Blue Nymph

What a deep, dark, buggy design. No wonder Leisenring loved this fly. Although only two medium hook sizes are specified, I can see this translating to a 2x short scud hook in a 16 or 18, and strategically placed as the top dropper in your nymph rig. Not what the creator had in mind, but surely the trout would support the decision. The real beauty of this bug may be in that it does not look like anything in particular, but a lot of things in general. Bravo, Big Jim!

This concludes the series of James Leisenring’s favorite twelve wet fly patterns. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Stay tuned for more good wet fly stuff on currentseams.

Iron Blue Nymph

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

Hook: 14-15
Silk: Crimson or claret
Hackle: Two turns of a very short cock jackdaw throat hackle
Tail: Two or three soft white fibers tied very short
Body: Dark mole fur spun on crimson or claret tying silk with two or three turns of the silk exposed at tail.
~
Tying Notes: As with the Tup’s Nymph, I would suggest a 2x strong hook. I only had jackdaw wings, so I used a short covert for the hackle; you can also substitute California quail throat for the jackdaw, or use a dark charcoal grey hen hackle. White hen for tail. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.

Farmington River Report 9/12/18: Creek’s up

Dave wanted to improve his nymphing game, so we arrived on the river rarin’ to go — only to have to wait a couple hours for the thunder to pass. The river was slightly up (about 480cfs in the permanent TMA and a light stain) but very fishable. The trout were mostly uncooperative, but we did manage to put a nice bend in the rod. Best of all, we had the added bonus of having a couple of hero pools all to ourselves. We worked on both tight line and indicator presentations with a drop-shot rig. Great job, Dave, in some tough conditions.

That’s what we like to see!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

The Farmy produces yet another wild gem, parr marks still visible.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

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.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Farmington River Report 5/2/18: Cold, slow, crowded and beautiful

Believe it or not, before yesterday I had not fished the Farmington since January. I had 15 minutes before I had to head north for my gig with Jeff, so I shook off the rust with a fat rainbow in some prime water below the permanent TMA.

Jeff wanted to work on his subsurface skills, particularly nymphing. We met up at a favorite spot of his and I looped on the same drop-shot rig I had used earlier. Wowee, crowded everywhere — we were one cog in a wheel of a half-dozen anglers on this stretch. And cold! My thermometer wouldn’t budge above 43 degrees. Hatch activity was decent (mostly caddis) but there was very little in the way of surface activity, not surprising given the water’s height and temperature. We done good, though — we saw three fish landed, and two belonged to Jeff. We tried some wet fly, but found no love, before moving downstream to another favorite run. Two anglers from Maryland were happy to share the water (thanks for the positive energy, guys!), but they likewise reported very slow action (only two fish all day for them). And yes, we did see a couple of the H fly.

Great job by Jeff, who is turning into a dangerous subsurface machine.

What a gorgeous wild brown — haloed spots, kype starting to form, full, unmolested fins, intact adipose. All our fish today came on the top fly in the nymph rig, a black bead head Hare & Copper, size 14.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

After catching such a beauty, is there anything more satisfying than releasing it?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

Two more spaces are open for the class I’m leading on Saturday, May 5. From the UpCountry website: There are two spots still available in “Fishing Wet Flies & Soft-Hackles” class this Saturday 5/5 – Steve Culton will be teaching this one, – call the store at 860-379-1952 to sign up.

 

Compleat Angler tying demo Saturday March 31 and contest closing soon

Join me at the Compleat Angler, 541 Post Road, Darien, CT, this Saturday March 31 from 10am-2pm.  We’ll focus on “Trout Flies for Local Rivers” (although there may be a smallie pattern or two thrown in). Here’s how the ad copy reads: “Join outdoor writer and guide Steve Culton as he demonstrates how to tie some of his favorite patterns for the Farmington, Housatonic, and other local rivers. There will be a little bit of everything: wets, dries, nymphs, and streamers, from traditional classics to new designs. These are all high-confidence, proven patterns, and Steve will also discuss how, when, and where he likes to fish them.” The demo is free, low/no-pressure, and a great opportunity to ask questions and talk fishing. For more info, visit the Compleat Angler’s Facebook page.

We’ll be filling some corks for sure.

Squirrel and Ginger cork

~

And don’t forget! The Super Six Hundred Followers contest closes at midnight, Saturday March 31 — so if you haven’t entered, time’s a wasting. You can find all the rules here.