Farmington River Report 7/13/20: What hatch?

I guided Don yesterday for four hours mid-though-late afternoon. His goal was to work on wet fly fishing, and we had some great stretches of water to ourselves in and out of the Permanent TMA. Water was 225cfs, an excellent wet fly height, with a hint of stain, no doubt from storms upstream. Spot A produced two fish, a swing and a miss, and some finks that wouldn’t take. Spot B was a disappointing blank. Spot C held some players, and we had fun fooling them with the Hackled March Brown. While it was a very fishy feeling day, the hatches were terrible. I’m being generous by giving them a 1 on the 1-10 scale. Still, Don done good under some truly tough conditions. He’s going to be a dangerous wet fly machine.

Skunk’s off with this lovely rainbow. Check out that pink band! This fish was in great condition.

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Gotcha. I love these smaller wild Farmy browns. See you in a couple years, OK?

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You oughta be in pictures

Today’s my day in the limelight. Filmmaker Matthew Vinick is making a short feature on  fly fishing the Farmington River, and I’ve been asked to participate. I met Matt in the Permanent TMA during the Hendrickson hatch, and he was sufficiently impressed by my wet fly prowess to want to include me. While the focus is on Farmington hatches and dry fly fishing, my part will be largely wet fly fishing. So…everybody send positive hatch waves, please.

Smile! The camera’s on you, miss soft-hackle eating beastie.

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Farmington River Report 6/10/20: Verrry interesting…but not funny

Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the game changes. Nature’ll do that to you. Yesterday was a perfect example.

We had a warm, humid day with stable flow conditions. The late afternoon/early evening  sulphur hatch was a shell of its Monday self — I’d give this one a 3/10 at best. Very few caddis, thousands of super small midges, and I saw one lonely Iso. Correspondingly, the wet fly action was slower. I landed only a half dozen trout on wets from 5:15pm-7:30pm, although I did have one hot stretch during a micro flurry where I scored trout on three consecutive casts. (Biggest fish, a hefty rainbow, came on the Magic Fly.) And there was the strange trout behavior: I had two incidences where the trout struck at the wet, but failed to grab it. This rarely happens when I fish the subsurface wet during the sulphur hatch. Certainly the feeding activity just wasn’t at the same level as Monday. Yet, that is.

Sidebar: I was also hampered by the fact that I couldn’t move around freely to prospect some prime feeding lanes. Crowding continues to be an issue on the Farmington. (I plan on addressing this problem in a future post.)

One sulphur pattern remained stable: the 7:00pm-7:30pm doldrum. Things picked up as the hour hand moved north, and around 8:00pm the switch was thrown. This hatch was easily a 9/10, with the air and water surface cluttered with size 16 yellow duns. By now I’d switched to dry fly, but I messed up. The hatch was so intense that the trout were gorging on the bugs with the same ferocity as shoppers racing for the hot new toy at Walmart on Black Friday. Usually, the transaction is a more patient process; the Magic Fly or the Usual serve the angler well when the sulphur emerger or cripple is the food. I missed ten minutes of trout dry fly fantasy camp before I realized they wanted the fly high and dry. Once I switched to Catskills Light Cahills, it was a trout on every cast.

Anglers of a certain age will reflect upon the title with a smile. At the time, I didn’t see the humor in the trout ignoring so many perfect presentations. But since I’m willing to learn, the joke ended up on them.

For years, I’ve been using classic Catskills dries like the Light Cahill with great success. I carry them in sizes 10-18. My SOP is fairly consistent: match the hatch size, then move to increasingly larger as the light begins to fade. This makes it easier for me to track the fly, and as the darkness grows the trout become less concerned with size matching. What’s more, if the menu changes to spinners, Catskills dries continue to be effective. Here’s a great tying tutorial from my friend Tim Flagler.

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“Wet Flies & Soft Hackles” class March 14: Special Offer!

Sal, the owner of Legends on the Farmington, has authorized me to make the following special offer to currentseams readers: you can now attend my Wet Flies & Soft Hackles class for one day only, Saturday, March 14, dinner included, for just $99!

If you want to catch more fish, you should be tying and fishing wet flies like the Squirrel and Ginger.

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What: “Wet Flies and Soft Hackles” is a tying and how-to fishing class. We’ll do plenty of tying (bring your vise, tools, and threads and I’ll supply the rest of the soft-hackled magic) and we’ll have a little classroom presentation/discussion here and there.

When: Saturday, March 14. Starts around 9am. Goes all day, then we enjoy a delicious dinner prepared by Sal.

Where: Legends on the Farmington, a gorgeous lodge on the banks of the river.

How: You cannot sign up/resgister through me or my website. Please contact Sal at legendsbnb@hotmail.com or visit their site at legendsbnb.com.

This class will sell out, so make haste. See you there!

The Leisenring Spider

The Sports Illustrated Book of Wet-Fly Fishing came in the mail last week. I’ve wanted to track down a copy for years, and finally got round to it. It’s written by Leisenring’s disciple Vern Hidy, and it lists tying instructions for three patterns, one of which is Leisenring’s Spider.

They (very literally) don’t make ’em like this anymore. A little dog-eared but just as relevant today as it was in 1961.

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You don’t hear much about Leisenring’s Spider today. (I first encountered it in a Wingless Wets piece written by Mark Libertone almost 15 years ago.) It’s not listed in his book, which is strange considering it’s got fish magnet written all over it. Leisenring used his version of a dubbing loop to form the body, and I suspect buggier and nastier is better than perfect. A so-simple soft-hackle to help you clean up during the next caddis hatch. Hang on!

The Leisenring Spider

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Hook: Wet or dry fly 12-16 (this is a Partridge SUD2)
Silk: Primrose yellow
Hackle: Brown partridge
Body: Hare’s ear spun on thread
Rib: Fine gold wire

 

The Edison Plan for Friday Jan 24

Tomorrow, Friday, January 24 is my only day at the Edison Fly Fishing Show. Here’s my plan:

Arrive noonish or a little before. Walk the floor, make the rounds, say hello. You can always text me if you’re looking for me — you can find my number here. I’m going to try to catch parts of a few presentations before my Seminar, which is 4:30pm in the Catch Room, Wet Flies 101. Of course, I’ll see you there. Right?

Thank you to everyone for your continued support.

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I’m officially in at the Edison Fly Fishing Show

I don’t have my complete schedule, but I can tell you that I will be appearing at the Edison, NJ Fly Fishing Show next month. I have a seminar, Wet Flies 101, in the Catch Room at 4:40pm Friday January 24. I’m hoping to have another gig on Saturday Jan 25th — as soon as I have details, I’ll pass them along to you. Hope to see you there!

Wet flies have been fooling trout for centuries, and the fish aren’t getting any smarter. This big Housy brown was taken this fall on a simple soft hackle.

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“Wet Flies 101” in Bridgeport November 19

Someone recently asked, “When are you going to be presenting Wet Flies 101 again?” I have your answer: Tuesday, November 19, Nutmeg TU, 7pm, Port 5, Bridgeport, CT. If you’re interested in this highly effective and underutilized subsurface method, Wet Flies 101 provides an overview and gateway into this ancient and traditional art. Hope to see you there!  You can find the Nutmeg TU Facebook page here and their website here.

This nearly two foot-long wild brown is one of the best fish I’ve ever taken on a wet fly — and provides testimony to the devastating efficiency of the method.

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Leisenring’s Favorite Twelve Wets: Light Snipe and Yellow

Inspired by classic North Country flies, James Leisenring developed an arsenal of reliable patterns to match the hatches of his beloved local streams. You can clearly see the Snipe Bloa and Poult Bloa influence in the Light Snipe and Yellow. Farmington River trout love this fly, a lesson that is repeated on cool June nights when Light Cahills or Sulphurs are emerging and the water surface is boiling.

Light Snipe and Yellow

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Hook: Dry or wet fly, 14
Silk: Primrose yellow
Hackle: Snipe undercovert
Rib: Fine gold wire
Body: Primrose yellow buttonhole twist
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Tying Notes: Instead of working silk, Leisenring used buttonhole twist (the thread that’s used on the borders of buttonholes) for the body. You don’t need to do that — your favorite silk or thread will work. But if you’re shooting for authenticity and can’t find buttonhole twist, try DMC embroidery floss. It comes in a bazillion colors (this is #744). It’s multi stranded, so cut a length then separate a single strand for the body. No snipe? Try starling or woodcock undercovert. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.

Best of North Country Spiders: Partridge and Orange

He probably had no idea, but the first angler who took a feather from the game he’d shot and attached it to a hook with some thread borrowed from his wife’s sewing kit was creating a classic. Today, there’s something poetic about catching a trout on a pattern that is hundreds of years old. From Olde England’s North Country to New England, nothing is lost in translation. I like the Partridge and Orange as a caddis imitation. It also makes a fine spinner.

Partridge and Orange

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Hook: Dry or wet fly, 12-16
Body: Orange silk
Hackle: Grey speckled partridge
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Tying Notes: If you’re new to soft hackles and North Country Spiders, this a great place to start. By varying the color of the thread and the size of the hook (and even the color of the partridge — the back is covered with brown speckled feathers) you can match just about any hatch. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.