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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Farmington River Report 5/5/18: A wonderful day for wets

Every once in a while, the planets align and the fishing and weather and dam release gods smile upon you. Such was the case for yesterday’s “Fishing Wet Flies and Soft Hackles” class. We had beautiful weather, a perfect 375cfs in the permanent TMA, respectable hatch activity, and cooperative trout. What more could you ask for? How about having the two runs we fished all to ourselves (on a sunny Saturday in early May)? What?!? The answer was yes.

Great job by Andrew, Adam, Ihor, John, and Lou, who are all now officially certified wet fly and soft hackle threats. Guys, it was a pleasure being your instructor.

Every class participant got into trout, and Andrew really lit it up. Here he is doing battle with a spirited rainbow. We had a lot of interest from the fish today on bead head soft hackles fished in the point position.

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Ihor’s first of the day, taken on the swing in some classic wet fly water. We had a tough time later on trying to get a couple of his (the trout’s, not Ihor’s) cousins to eat, despite some tactical positioning and flawless dead drift presentations. I’ve seen it play out so many times on this river: if your wet fly choice and presentation are good, and the fish doesn’t take within the first three drifts, he’s not having it. Let the fish rest and try again later.

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The smallest trout of the day might have been the loveliest. This wild gem courtesy of John and Mother Nature.

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We experienced a moderate Hendrickson hatch in the afternoon, and the trout were clearly on the emergers. Not surprisingly, the action was best while it was feeding time. A wet fly that matches the hatch and is properly presented to an actively feeding fish remains one of my favorite ways to catch trout. Here’s Adam brandishing a pugilistic rainbow. (Note the water runoff. If the fish isn’t dripping wet, it’s time to get it back in the water.)

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Finally, I need to offer a sincere apology to Lou for not getting any shots of his fish. Lou did a great job, and I especially liked how he positioned himself to target a pod of trout during the afternoon rise. We’ll get you a photo op next time!

Farmington River Report 5/4/18: T.G.I.W(ets)

How divine to be swinging wet flies again. The cast, the mend, the tug — it’s all good stuff. Just a quick zip in and zip out today. Three locations on the lower river in two hours. Water was 600+cfs and 54 degrees. The Hendricksons are all but over in the locations I fished, and the activity was spotty, two. But where it was good it was wonderful.

Run A was en fuego. All fat rainbows, interested in every fly (Squirrel and Ginger, Dark Hendrickson winged, SHBHPT), but mostly on the S&G and Hendrickson and a blast in a ripping current. I had trouble getting one in — oh, look, it’s a double, so that’s why. Run B was less productive — one fish in 15 minutes. Run C was mobbed with anglers and I didn’t get so much as a tap. And that was it.

Wet Fly class tomorrow at UpCountry. See you on the river!

Not from today but you get the picture. F-A-T rainbows, with several steelhead aerials into the bargain.

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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.

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

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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.

 

“Fishing Wet Flies & Soft Hackles” class this Saturday, May 5

Pat Torrey was going to lead this class last Saturday, but it had to be postponed — and Pat can’t do it this Saturday, May 5 — so I’m going to step in as guest instructor. As of right now there are three openings. Please do not contact me to sign up — you have to do it through UpCountry Sportfishing. Here is the information from their website:

We had to reschedule the “Fishing Wet Flies & Soft-Hackles” class from 4/28 to Saturday 5/5- Steve Culton will be teaching this one. As of this morning, there are 3 spots still available- call the store at 860-379-1952 to sign up.  “Fishing Wet Flies & Soft-Hackle”

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