I fish the way I want to fish, and sometimes that means I go fishless. I’m OK with that. When it lines up, I may be doing battle with multiple high-teens browns. When it’s a day like yesterday, I get the not-a-touch trudge through the snow back to my car, wondering if my feet will ever be warm again.
Not that I’m complaining. I had a blast. Due to the inclement weather, angler activity was almost at its Farmington River-winter-ten-years-ago level. You still can’t access the majority of dirt pull-offs (they’re currently snowplow pile pull-offs) so you’re stuck with the major parking areas. That didn’t prevent me from going for a walk to find solitude. I fished three marks within the Permanent TMA (no slush, 370cfs). I started off tight-lining jig mini-streamers, but that was a problem with the 24-degree air temp; frozen beads of river clinging to the exposed leader. So I switched locations and did the traditional full-sink line. I did catch a lot of the bottom. Sadly, it never fought back.
Then, I decided to experiment. What would happen if I fished the mini-jig under an indicator? I could bounce it along the bottom, or suspend it near the bottom. I had one of my bigger home-brew yarn indicators with me, so I re-rigged and had at it. I tried it in different kinds of water, from fast-moving glides to languid dry-fly pools. In the faster water, I had to constantly check the indicator upstream and mend to prevent the fly from moving too quickly, but the rig proved to be the answer to the iced-up leader problem. Just because I didn’t connect doesn’t mean it won’t work on another day. More research to come…and I encourage you to try new things when you’re on the river.
Shelf ice can be a problem when you’re out on a river — NEVER walk across shelf ice — but it can also be a difference maker when it comes to catching, especially on a river like the Farmington. The Farmington River has hatches of W/S (Winter/Summer) caddis. These bugs emerge, then scoot across the surface of the water towards the shore to mate. Trout know this — not in a cognitive sense, but rather in a programmed-by-nature way. If the water is deep enough, and there’s enough current, you can often find Farmington River trout hanging out near bankside structure in winter, especially ice shelves.
That makes these areas a priority target when I’m winter streamer fishing. If I find an ice shelf over deeper, moving water, I like to pound that water with my bugs. Sometimes I’ll even land the streamer onto the ice shelf, then gently pull it off into the water. The trout will tell you if they want the presentation to be a dead drift, slow retrieve, fast(er) retrieve, or swing.
You can’t really see it in this video, but I’m actually landing my streamer on top of an ice shelf that extends several feet off the bank. On this day, the only hits I had came from using this tactic.
I spent two-and-a-half hours yesterday early afternoon banging around the Permanent TMA. Cloudy, 37 degrees, water about 250cfs. The mission was streamers and the method was tight-lining/jigging and then full sinking line with more traditional patterns. I hit three marks and only found fish in one, and they were more concerned with smutting on some midges than whacking my streamer. I did get one take, but it was so soft I thought it was the bottom; I did a tip set and by the time I felt the head shake, the trout was off. So it goes. By the way, many of the river’s parking pullouts are not plowed, so easy access is limited.
Speaking of reading fly fishing books and discovering little gems: John Nagy’s Steelhead Guide 4th edition is where I found the pattern German’s White Nightmare. It’s the one at upper left. I keep a few in my box for trout, and it was a good choice for the full sink line in yesterday’s lower flows. Oh — it was also the only pattern I had a touch on all day.
It’s been a tough streamer bite my last two outings — another blank, with only two bumps today compared to half dozen on Wednesday. The river is in fine shape, 500cfs and clear, just in time for tomorrow’s deluge. I hit four marks today, all within the Permanent TMA, and had a bump in each of the first two, but neither felt like a good fish. I played around with size, color, and presentation, but whatever I was throwing, and how I was throwing it, the trout just weren’t that interested. So goes the battle. Just a note that if you’re going to fish the Boneyard, there is an active shotgun season, so be safe and wear some blaze orange.
I lost a Barr’s Meat Whistle to the bottom gods in a very deep pool of the Farmington. Even though it’s tied on a jig hook, this happened when my full sink line got tangled around an obstacle.
I fished the permanent TMA today from noon to 2:15pm. Air temp was 37, water about the same, clouds and snow showers. The water was flowing at 340cfs. As the title says, I went all in on streamers, but never drew the protein payoff card. I hit three marks, and enjoyed the water (and my cigar, a San Lotano Pyramid) all to myself. There were bugs about (tiny BWOs, midges) and I even saw a few sporadic rises, but that dull thud on the swing and strip was sadly absent. Not much angler activity — one guy 250 yards below me at the second mark, a few hardy souls here and there, but today you pretty much had your pick of water. Fished a Coffey Sparkle Minnow, Hi-Liter, and Deep Threat, all on the full sink tip integrated line. We’ll get ’em next time.
Shooting the streamer line. I had forgotten how a few hours in the cold saps me. I’m wiped out, but looking forward to pizza night.