Farmington River Report 6/25/19: Another double-digit wet fly day

Longtime currentseams follower Greg wanted to add the art of the wet fly to his arsenal. Trout should now consider this man to be armed and extremely dangerous. We fished two marks within the Permanent TMA from 3pm-7pm. To say the action was good would be an understatement — we hooked and released a double-digit number of trout during four very productive hours. A tremendous job by Greg casting, mending, and letting the trout set the hook! We got rained on a bit, and the fog was a constant, but we ended the outing bathed in sunshine.

I saw a lot of this today. After an initial slow start, the bite picked up and we never looked back. Here Greg demonstrates the result of mending the whole line (rather than a portion of it) to slow the drift and bring the flies to the trout.

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Incoming, Magic Fly in mouth. We fished a sz 12 Squirrel and Ginger on top, a sz 16 Magic Fly in the middle, and (after I saw a couple Isos) a size 12 Hackled March Brown on point. All three patterns took fish, the majority on the caddis and the sulphur.

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Greg had the Farmy hat trick today, with a mix of rainbows, stocked and wild browns, and a hefty brookie. Here’s one of the nicer browns, a mid teens buck starting to develop a snout and kype.

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We hit the jackpot at the second mark, finding a shaded run with a substantial number of fish that wanted those wets. You can still see the parr marks on this gorgeous creature, with some handsome dots and halos thrown in for good measure. 

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And then, I went solo in search of dry fly pleasure below the Permanent TMA. I found it, you betcha, with a massive sulphur hatch and trout boiling everywhere. I fished until I couldn’t see my fly, and then even past that. One more cast, you know?

Best of North Country Spiders: Waterhen Bloa

You’ll often find BWOs on the greyest of days, so ’tis fitting that this ancient-and-tradtional Olive pattern sports the same somber hues. It also makes a fine Early Grey Stone.

Waterhen Bloa

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Hook: Dry or wet fly, 14-18
Silk: Yellow
Body: Silk dubbed with water rat (muskrat) or mole fur
Hackle: Waterhen under covert feather
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Tying Notes: Waterhen is difficult to track down. Starling or blue-grey dun hen are suitable replacements. You should be able to see the thread clearly through the dubbing — I call it “dusting the thread.” This fellow is slightly on the heavy side of dubbing. Keep enough thread waxed (I used cobbler’s wax) to avoid having a bright yellow head. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.

Steve Culton Fly Tying Weekend at Legends, March 22-23-24: Wet Flies for the Farmington

My friend Sal is hosting a series of fly tying/fishing weekends this winter at his lodge Legends, and I’ll be the featured presenter on March 23.  In Sal’s words, “Escape the craziness of winter and social media and join us for an exciting weekend of tying, fishing (weather permitting), and telling stories over dinner with legends and soon-to-be legends who share your passion for fly fishing.”

All weekends include tying class, lodging Friday and Saturday night, continental breakfast Saturday and Sunday and a delicious family style dinner Saturday evening all for just $295.00 single occupancy.

Please bring your favorite vise and tools, all materials will be supplied. If you are in need of a tying kit, just let us know ahead of time. If Mother Nature makes roads impassible, the weekend will be cancelled with full refund.”

Here are a few more details: On my weekend, I will be there Saturday only. Sal says, “Steve will be teaching his Wet Flies for the Farmington. Steve’s class will be a combination of tying instruction and suggestions on how to improve your fly fishing experience using wet flies. If time permits he will also share a few go-to patterns for stripers.”

My plan is to present parts of my Wet Flies 101 and 2.0 courses, reinforced with tying and classroom fishing instruction. It should be a lot of fun.

Now: you cannot book this event through me. You have to do it through Legends. Reservations can be made by calling 203-650-8767 or emailing  legendsbnb@hotmail.com.

Coming to a vise near you.

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Robert Smith on tying North Country spiders

Since we’re in fly-tying mode, I wanted to share this. It’s written by Robert Smith, a new friend and fellow aficionado of the soft-hackled fly.

“As some of you will may know, I am a descendant of a famous North Country angler/author. And this simple quirk of fate has in many respects dictated my views in regards to tying the patterns. (Best not mention number of hackle wraps!)

But for the most part, it is the beauty of the materials we use in dressing spiders that has always driven me. I revel in using hackles from antique and obscure sources from the likes of Fieldfare, Owl and Wren. Each hackle has its own individual quality, both from a tying point of view and an aesthetic point of view. As you change individual hackles, the individual barb count changes, and as a result your tying technique changes to compliment these barb counts. (One of the reason why I don’t prescribe to the two turns of hackle mantra!) On some of the denser hackles I strip on side off, on others I wrap with a full hackle. Stripping one side of the hackle allows me more control of the barb count and also produces a neater fly, providing you strip the leading edge of course!

The subtle colouration and shading found in many of the birds we use in dressing spiders is to me at times breath-taking. Simple things such as a Magpie tail or Starling skin, shimmer and radiate an amazing spectrum of colours. Others such as the brown speckle of a Partridge hackle, just seems born to compliment orange silk and bright gold wire! Last year, a friend sent me a Lapwing that he picked up from the field. I was stunned at the beauty of the plumage when I opened the Tupperware box, so much so, that even now utilising its hackles within a simple fly has become a reverential act. The bird and plumage was beautiful, and to my mind, it is only right that the fly I fashion matches this. For me, there is something spiritual about using a fly constructed in some part, from materials obtained from the very landscape that surrounds me.

Though dubbings are often rather overlooked when discussing spiders, I love using old standards such as Fox ear and yes Water-rat. Though modern synthetics have their place, and we have to give Davy Wotton a big thank you in regards to the quality of modern synthetic dubbings. Nothing beats natural dubbings. Years ago after buying a collection of tying materials, I came across an old dried small tin of Crawshaw’s Red Spinner dye, the same used in the dressing of Edmonds & Lee’s March Brown. I’m not afraid to admit that I had tears rolling down my face, as mixed up enough to dye a rabbit skin so I could follow the original tying recipe. And even more so when the fly landed a 12” brownie from the same pool illustrated in their book.

Though the techniques involved in dressing spiders is somewhat simple compared to the complexity of other fly types. They are nevertheless, in many ways harder to master. Simply put, when dressing spiders, you have nowhere to hide! Each wrap of silk has to be deliberate and precise, because a poorly placed wrap of silk has a habit of becoming obvious on a finished fly. The hackle fibres that slant backwards because the first binding wrap of silk is crouching in and collapsing the desired umbrella spread. Peacock herl heads that show tying silk in front. All these things are easy to avoid, but surprisingly often go un-noticed until we hold up the finished fly.

Unlike other fly types, tradition dictates that I can’t even hide my deficiencies under a bulky fur coat of dubbing. Because I’ve taken the words of Pritt, Edmonds & Lee, Leisenring and Hidy to heart, and cover my silks with only a sparse misting of dubbing.
To sum up, there is a quiet confidence exhibited in a well tied spider or soft-hackled fly. They don’t need to scream out with the use of modern materials or convoluted tying techniques. They simply need to be dressed neatly and proportionally, and with a sympathetic understanding of the materials involved.”

One of Robert’s lovely ties, the Black Snipe, No. 62 from Pritt’s book.

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