Farmington River Report 6/19/19: Spectacular hatches, wet, and dry fly action

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, it does: another off-the-charts evening session on the Farmington.

Cast three wet fly team. Hookup. Repeat. It was that kind of night. 

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I fished below the Permanent TMA from 6pm-9pm. When I arrived there were a few bugs (sulphurs sz 16, tiny creamy midges, caddis sz 16-18, and the first Isos I’ve seen) and even fewer rises, but that did not discourage me. Conditions were perfect, a magnificent collision of warm, humid air, cloud cover and water height. I tied up the same three fly wet team as yesterday: a Squirrel and Ginger top dropper, Magic Fly middle dropper, and Leisenring’s Pale Watery Dun Wingless on point. First cast, BANG, and it was virtually non-stop action for the next hour. Pow! Smack! It was an aquatic reenactment of a Batman episode. Such splashy, strong takes — these trout were obviously feeding with a vengeance.  Now, if you’ve taken my wet fly class or done a private lesson and the action has been — ahem — slow — you’ve heard me say that when the fish are feeding on emergers and you’re dialed into what they’re eating and how they’re eating it, wet flies can be the most lethal method. This was one of those times. A double-digit outing on wet flies alone.

How good is the Magic Fly? Twice last night I drifted it within a few inches of a natural. Both times the trout chose my fly.

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The dry fly session now seems almost anticlimactic, mostly of my own doing. While the river was boiling around me, I was trying to entice some fish feeding in frog water from a disadvantageous position. (I was doing this on purpose as a personal challenge.)  Suffice to say the usual pattern unfolded: a lull between 7:00-7:30, building activity to 8:00pm, then at 8:30 the trout and bugs go bonkers. Every once in a while I’d treat myself to a fish feeding in the faster water. Magic Flies size 16 and Light Cahills size 14 served me well. Finally, just about when I could no longer see the fly, I made a couple lucky mends and got one of those impossible fish to take.

And so we ended on a high note.

Best fish of the night, a high teens wild hen. She clobbered the middle dropper, the Magic Fly, AKA Pale Watery wingless wet. I’ve made a big deal about fishing the Magic Fly as a dry, but do not underestimate its power as a traditional subsurface wet.

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Farmington River Report 6/17 & 6/18: You should be here. Now.

To say that the Farmington is fishing well would be an understatement. Three outings in the last two days, all of them highly productive. Here’s how it went down.

Monday 6/17/19 6pm-9pm: The 2019 debut of my beloved dad’s cane rod. I always forget how much you need to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n the casting stroke with that rod. Rhythm rediscovered, I quickly got lost in the lyrical motions. Fished below the Permanent TMA, and initial hatch and rise activity was about a 3 out of 10 (Sulphurs size 16, Light Cahills size 12-14, caddis size 16, creamy midges). Swung a single creamy wet for an hour and had two customers. The evening hatch on this river is so predictable: sometime between 6:30 and 7:30 there’s a window of null activity. It can last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. From 7:30 to just past 9pm, the river simmered with rises. I switched over to dries (size 16 Magic Fly, size 16 Usual, size 12-14 Light Cahill) and took trout after trout, mostly rainbows and brookies.

A whole lotta shakin’ going on, as the smoke from an EP Carillo New Wave Connecticut torpedo blends in nicely with the fog.

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Tuesday 6/18/19 11am-3pm: Andrew wanted to learn the ancient, traditional, devastating art of the swung wet fly. Soft hackles and three-fly team thus rendered, we hit two spots, one in the Permanent TMA and one below. Rain, fog, drizzle and downpour could not dampen our mood. Hatch activity was low in the first mark, but we nonetheless stuck several fish. The second spot was money, with several lanes of active feeders (the birds were busy, too) that kept us occupied for nearly two hours. We fished a Squirrel and Ginger top dropper, a Grey Watchet in the middle, and depending on water depth and speed, a SHBHPT, Old Blue Dun, or March Brown caddis on point. The fish found favor with every pattern, which is always gratifying. Andrew did a great job navigating some difficult water, mending across current seams, and waiting for the fish to hook itself. Time (wet) flies when you’re having fun.

How to spot a wet fly angler pre-evening hatch. Note bent rod and tight line. Frontal view would reveal a large smile. Good work, Andrew!

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Tuesday 6/18/19 4:15-5:45pm: My turn to play. Walked a 200 yard run in the Permanent TMA that I had not fished in a long time. OUTSTANDING sulphur hatch: duns in the air, birds working, sloppy splashes from trout gorging on emergers. In 90 minutes I stuck double digit trout, a mix of wild, stocked, and Survivor Strain browns with a bonus rainbow in the mix. This was a classic example of how effective the wet fly can be during a hatch. Thus sated, I headed home after taking a final victory puff on a My Father Le Bijou Torpedo.

I had action on the Squirrel and Ginger top dropper, Magic Fly middle dropper, and Leisenring’s Pale Watery Dun Wingless (pictured) on point. 

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Farmington River Report 6/13/19: Fish on!

Mark is a repeat client, and yesterday he wanted to work on his nymphing. We picked a great day for it: moderate-to-high flows, overcast, rain, showers, cold (54 degrees in mid-June? Really?). We hit three marks below the Permanent TMA and found multiple fish willing to play in all of them. The method was a combination of indicator and tight line nymphing, both using a drop-shot rig. We fished a size 16 Starling and Herl top dropper and a size 14 Frenchie variant on point; the trout found favor with both flies.

Trutta buttah, the best fish of the day, a some-teen inch wild brown that hammered the Frenchie. Love those pecs! Great job playing and landing by Mark.

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Pure paar pulchritude. This yearling was my personal favorite, a testament to the fertile nature of the river. He selected the Starling and Herl. Mark also took a half-dozen rainbows of varying size, all of which were more than happy to treat us to aerials and other obstreperous behavior.

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A shout out to Mark who has vastly improved his nymphing skills: line/leader management, quality drifts, and especially hook sets. Well done, and thanks for a great day.

Mother Nature has spoken: Light Cahills on the lower Farmington

I have not been to the lower Farmington to bear witness, but I know the Light Cahills are coming off because the first rose in my garden bloomed today. On top, a classic Catskills dry or a creamy Usual; subsurface, a legacy Light Cahill winged wet or a Partridge and Light Cahill soft hackle. All will serve you well.

Every year is different, but nature is always on time. This rose is called “Grenada.”

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Wet Flies at Legends on the Farmington

What a swell time yesterday tying and teaching at Legends. Many thanks to Sal for hosting, and the same shout out to the group for making my job easy. This was an all day event, featuring wet fly theory/tactics/strategies in a classroom setting, and most of all, lots of tying. We managed to bang out a half dozen soft hackles, wingless wets, and winged wets. Always nice to have a full class — not to mention a full glass at the end of the day.

The late afternoon view from the great room at Legends. You can’t tell from the photo, but it was a perfect day for staying inside (windy and cold) and tying wet flies. I was digging the fireplace.

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Space Still Available for Legends Fly Tying Weekends

Sal at Legends on the Farmington is not only a good guy, but also a small engine whisperer. Yesterday my snow blower wouldn’t start, and I happened to be on the phone with Sal as I was driving to get a new spark plug. Sal opined that stale gas was the culprit. Bingo! Some fresh petrol in the chamber and she started right up.

Speaking of Sal, he tells me that Legends on the Farmington has a few openings left for their Fly Tying Weekends with Steve Culton (that’s me) March 22&23 (1 opening and room for a guest) and Bruce Marino February 22&23 (2 openings and room for a guest)  These are all inclusive $295.00 two night stays, breakfast Saturday and Sunday, Saturday Fly Tying and how to fish the Farmington, dinner Saturday night, BYOB.  Bring a participating guest to share your room for $159.00 or a nonparticipating guest for $89. Meals included for all guests. Contact Legends directly at 203-650-8767 or email legendsbnb@hotmail.com.

We’ll be tying buggy soft-hackled goodness like this.

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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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