“Wet Flies 2.0” in the works

“Wet Flies 2.0” is the followup to the highly popular “Wet Flies 101” presentation. 2.0 will take a deeper dive into wet fly tactics and techniques — a more advanced course in how-to, where-to, when-to. I began working on it yesterday, and I’m at it again today. “Wet Flies 2.0” will make its debut at the 2019 Fly Fishing Show. I’m excited. I hope you are, too.

The Magic Fly, AKA Pale Watery Wingless wet variant. You betcha I’ll be talking about this one in Wet Flies 2.0.

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Farmington River Report 7/19/18: Generation Next

Yesterday I had the pleasure of guiding the next generation of Farmington River fly anglers. Patrick and his cousin David and I spent the afternoon walking a stretch of water I call “The River Wild.” Wow, a lot of anglers were out enjoying the weather. Seemed more like a Saturday than a Thursday in the middle of the summer. The fishing was slow, but both Patrick and David got into fish. I had Patrick fishing a Stim with a small BHPT dropper, and David fishing a two-fly wet team. The trout liked the Stim and the top dropper on David’s rig, a Squirrel and Ginger. Good job, guys. That was fun, and keep on keepin’ on!

David working the seams of run. We moved into this pool moments after another angler left, and connected with a trout on our second cast.

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This is Patrick’s first ever Farmington River brown. He hit is a snotty riffle in about 18″ of water. 

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Afterwards I went dry fly fishing. Holy crowds, Batman! Nine anglers in Campground Pool at 5pm. So I sought my pleasures elsewhere. I had a tough night of sorts — I fooled well over a dozen fish (they were on larger sulphurs, Dorothea, and tiny BWOs) but only connected with four of them. I completely botched the hookset on one; another broke off at my tippet/leader connection (that’s the end of that old spool, and if you catch a nice brown with a Hendrickson Usual in its mouth, please remove it); the remainder made it in and were released to fight another day. We are now firmly in the summer dry fly fishing pattern. That is, lower water, smaller flies, trout on emergers and spinners, hatches (and therefore action) that seems to randomly wax and wane. I recommend a long tippet/leader setup  (I’ve been going about 13 feet) and be advised that the fish may not be feeding on those bright yellow bugs. The 7:30-to-dark window continues to be productive.

I think it’s about time I headed over to the Hous for some smallies…

Farmington River Report 7/17/18: Big Bang Boom

I guided Paul for four hours yesterday before the fireworks began. Atmospheric, that is — although the fishing was slow, we managed to conjure up plenty of electric action. We fished three locations within the permanent TMA and found players in all of them. The water was down to 237cfs (they dropped the dam 100cfs) but still plenty cold. Wet flies were the first order of business, and we induced a savage strike from a lovely wild brown in the snotty water at the head of a run. Upstream there were trout smutting in that difficult-to-present-to frog water along the edge of a faster current. Then I saw a moth skitter across the surface, and one of the trout snapped at it. We clipped off the SHBHPT on point and tied on a Stimulator. Three trout later, we moved to another spot. This was a very sexy run, but we had no interest in swung wets. I figured there were trout in residence, so we added a BB shot to the middle dropper knot and presented along the bottom. Ding! We have a winner, with Paul landing a gorgeous kyped Survivor Strain brown. Great job by Paul with his casting, wading, presenting, and especially his no-time-wasted landing those trout. They just didn’t stand a chance. A pleasure, sir!

The skunk was off with this lovely wild brown. Man, did he open up a can of whupass on the wet fly.

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Men at work: Paul demonstrating the advantages of a ten-foot rod on the Farmington.

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What the fly saw moments before the take. A good fish, Survivor Strain, well-earned. (There’ll be no pictures of anglers thrusting fish into the camera at arm’s length on this site.)

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Farmington River Report 6/26/18: Subsurface Success

Chris wanted to work on his subsurface game, so we spent the morning nymphing and swinging wets. Success! We fished three spots below the permanent TMA and found players in two of them.

We started off indicator nymphing (using my homebrew indicators) with a drop shot rig, and I continued my catching-a-fish-while-doing-a-demo streak. (If you want to look cool, pretend you meant to do it.) Chris took over and made a bunch of quality drifts with no love. All of a sudden, it happened. An unseen hatch was underway, the trout were feeding, and we hooked a bunch if fish in 15 minutes.

Wets were next. Run A was a blank, and Run B did not produce in the areas it usually does. No worries — Chris kept a positive attitude (confidence catches fish), and it rapid succession he stuck a bunch of trout tight to the bank. Great job, Chris! The trout should be worried.

We won the weather lottery: Bluebird skies, warm sun, cool air. Of course, a tight line makes any day sunnier.

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We spotted a distressed rainbow in the shallows. It had been hooked, lost, and had the terminal tackle and a short length of mono still attached. Unfortunately, we failed in out attempts to net it.

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Chris kept pounding the banks in a shade line, mended swing presentation, and was rewarded with several slashing strikes. This gorgeous wild brown took the top dropper on his team of three wets, a Squirrel and Ginger.

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After our session, I spent two very entertaining hours swinging wets. I fished a Squirrel & Ginger (caddis) on top, a Drowned Ant middle dropper, and a Light Cahill on point. I saw all three insects out and about, as well as tiny BWOs, midges, inch worms, and sedges. Among the players today were three wild brookies. Funny thing! They all took the Drowned Ant. I don’t think it was a coincidence. This stunner is clearly from the Farmington River hatchery.

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Another hat trick today, thankfully without a broken rod. This low-teens wild brown was feeding just along a shade line in about a foot of water. First cast, bang! Squirrel and Ginger. Catch-and-release works in the wild, too — note the long-ago healed bird wound just above the gill plate. I bounced around to three spots, found hungry fish in all of them, and lost track of both time and fish landed.

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Farmington River Report 6/20/18: Going out with a wet fly bang

The last day of spring 2018 was a memorable one for me. The evening wet fly bite was spectacular (where one loses count of fish). I had a Farmington River hat trick (brown, brookie, rainbow). And I landed a porcine high teens rainbow (after it snapped the tip of my cane rod mid-battle).

But let’s focus on the positive. I fished below the permanent TMA from 5:30pm- 9pm. Water was a perfect height and still plenty cold. The bug activity was an 8 out of 10. I had much to work with: midges, a few small (size 18) caddis, lots of size 16 sulphurs and size 14 Light Cahills, and some mongo mayflies (10-12) that were perhaps March Browns or Isos. I fished a three fly team until 7:30pm: Snipe and Yellow size 14 on top, size 16 Magic Fly in the middle, and a winged Light Cahill size 12 on point. All three flies produced. The conditions were perfect for wet flies: bugs, birds working, and a multitude of sloppy, splashy rise forms that went on for hours. I spent most of my time targeting active fish, and often the take came on the first cast. I even caught one dangling my line in the current below me as I walked to the shore to put on my jacket.

Then, disaster. The hit came suddenly and with ferocity. It felt like a decent enough fish, but once I got it in close I could see it was a big rainbow in the upper teens. Fat, spirited, and uncompromising in its belligerence. I didn’t even feel the rod tip snap; suddenly, it seemed, it was just broken. I cursed my luck (as it was). Fortunately, I had brought a second rod stream side: I waded out, re-rigged, and was back at it.

I finished the session throwing dries: Magic Flies, Usuals, and Light Cahills. The trout liked all three. As the gloaming lost its struggle against darkness, I walked back to the truck, unsure how to process the conflicting sensations of delight and regret.

At this size and coloration, most certainly not from the factory. You can’t see it here, but the dorsal side of these fish is dramatically dark. They almost look like chrome steelhead when you’re bringing them in.

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The culprit. The opening of my net is 17″; this little piggy exceeded that. So far, the best trout hit of the year. She took the Pale Watery wingless (Magic Fly), not the Cahill as I previously posted.

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Farmington River Report 6/13/18: Workin’ hard, playin’ hard

On the river for ten hours today and loving every minute of it! I started by guiding Brian from 11am-3pm. Brian had a story that is typical of many of my clients: loves the Farmington, but has had too many encounters with the skunk. He wanted to focus on wets, but I suggested we spend an hour working on his nymphing game, since that is the year-round highest percentage play on this river. Brian has mostly Euro-nymped, but I set him up with a drop shot ring under an indicator. He took to it like he’s been doing it forever. There’ll be no skunk, today, Brian. The first fish was noteworthy because the indicator never went under — it merely twitched. Look for a reason to set the hook on every drift, and like that Brian was on the board.

It was a cool, wet day, and there was precious little bug activity. The water is still unusually cold, with 48 degrees at the bottom end of the permanent TMA, which was running at 330cfs. Nonetheless, we managed a mix of browns and rainbows by (you’ve heard this if you’ve taken my class) moving around and covering water. Nice work, Brian.

Every guide loves the sight of a bent rod and a tight line. Brian did a great job with his hook sets today.

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Thank you for playing. They liked the bottom nymph, a size 14 Frenchie variant.

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Now it was my turn to play. I grabbed a sandwich and headed off to a snotty run to swing wets under a leaden sky. The cold from the river was a stark contrast to the warm and humid air (my lower legs and feet were uncomfortably cold by the time I finished.) By this time (4pm) there was a slight uptick in bug activity. Whack! My second cast produced a gorgeous wild brown.

They don’t make ’em like this in the factory. Absolutely flawless fins.

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Any pre-hatch period is my favorite time to swing wets, and I moved down to a more languid section of water. Sure enough, as the clock moved toward 5pm, there was an uptick in bug activity, mostly Light Cahills (Vitreus) 12-14 and caddis 14-16. The fish were rising a little more regularly now. I was fishing a three fly team of a Squirrel and Ginger on top, a Light Cahill winged in the middle and a Hackled March Brown on point. My strategy was to target active risers, and I caught a bunch of trout on all three flies.

There comes a time during every hatch when the subsurface wet becomes ineffective, and today it was 7pm. I switched over to dries, and had a blast fooling trout on the surface. I fished Magic Flies and Usuals, 14-16, and had a good couple dozen takes — but only about half of them stuck. I was going to leave at 8pm, but I remembered how fiercely I admonish those who depart from the river before the magic hour in June and July, so I stuck around until 9pm. The last half hour, the river was simmering with rise forms. I switched over to classic Light Cahill dries, 12-14, and ended the session with a healthy brown who was just showing the beginnings of a kype.

The best part? There was no one there except for me, the trout, and the bugs.

Our Lady of the Blessed Pink Band. First Farmy trout of the year on a dry. 

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Farmington River Report 5/21/18: Working hard on a glorious day

Adam won the weather lottery when he picked yesterday for his wet fly lesson. It was easily one of the ten best days of the year. The river was 415cfs and 58 degrees in the permanent TMA. The trout were a bit less cooperative, but we stuck with it and ended up with several to net.

The plan was to walk a couple long stretches, actively fishing and picking pockets, swinging through runs, and dangling over likely holding areas. This was one of those days where Mother Nature tells you, “Nice try, boys, but today the trout are going to be stuck to the bottom.” High pressure sometimes does that. So after 90 minutes all we had to show for our efforts was a bump and a missed hookset.

We were standing in a run that I knew held fish. We added a shot to the middle dropper for  a short-line deep presentation, and what do you know? We hooked up on our demo cast. Adam went to work and had a customer in short order.

Bug activity was about a four on the 1-10 scale: small (size 18) caddis, midges, BWOs, and a couple larger un-IDed mayflies. We did see some smutting trout in a classic dry fly pool. Our persistence paid off in the second run we walked through, with the trout nodding their approval to Adam’s soft hackles. Well done, young man!

What we like to see and hear: a bent rod and a singing drag.

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A rambunctious rainbow moments before capture. With the warm of the air and the refreshing splash of cold water on your hands, all is right with the world.

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