Farmington River Report 4/6/20: And then, the bottom fought back…

Yesterday’s expedition was dedicated to nymphing the lower River. The action was spotty to say the least: six marks visited, three of them total blanks. But…we’ll get to that in a moment.

First, be advised that Monday is the new Saturday on the Farmington. I’ve never seen the river this crowded on a Monday this early in the season. There were anglers in four of the six pools I hit, sometimes three or more. If you value solitude, gird your loins.

The method was drop shot nymphing, about 25% tight line and 75% indicator. I fished a size 18 soft-hackled pheasant tail on top dropper, and a Frenchie variant on point. I took trout on both flies.

It’s semi-sweet to say that you may have already landed your biggest trout of the season, but it is what is. I was nymphing a deeper run when the indicator dipped and I set the hook. The emotional and logical thought protocols immediately kicked into gear: “Is that the bottom? No, it is not, I can feel a head shake. Let me re-set the hook. OK, that’s a decent fish. Wow, that’s a strong fish. Shoot, he’s sulking on the bottom. Gotta keep him away from that submerged boulder. Gotta move him. I’ll do that steelhead side-to-side rod arc thing. Gotta get him out of the current so he can’t breathe. That frog water looks like a good LZ.”

And then, as you get your first visual, you wish for a bigger net. But you’ve whipped the fish fast (remembering the sage advice of Stu Apte: “To play him long is to play him wrong.”) and now the moment of glory is at hand. Swing and a miss. Again…yessir. Wow!

Hunk-a hunk-a burning Survivor Strain love. Wotta tummy! Wotta tail! And shoulders that simply aren’t done justice by this photo. Easily over 20″, but this is a fish that should be measured in pounds. 

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A trout like that called for a celebration. So I fired up a Rocky Patel The Edge torpedo and did just that.

 

 

A Modest Proposal: Catch Fewer Small Stripers This Year

It’s no secret that our precious striper stocks are stressed. New regs are going into effect (check your state for specifics) that every striper angler should know about. But this year, I’m creating my own reg.

It starts with a question: Do I really need to catch 50 small bass at the mouth of the Hous? Do I really need to catch 20 sixteen-inchers in June during the grass shrimp hatch, or on a flat on the Cape during a sand eel blitz? The answer is no.

I’m asking you to join me. When it becomes clear that it’s a small bass on just about every cast, I’m going to reel up and stop fishing. So yes, let’s still fish. Yes, let’s still have fun. But let’s also give the bass a break. Catching another dozen dinks won’t make you a hero. Walking away will.

Sure, they’re fun. But they’re also ridiculously easy to catch. These bass are the future of the fishery. So please consider giving them a break. And while you’re at it, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the ASGA. This group is gaining traction, and is beginning to have a real, quantifiable effect on the state of the fishery. Thank you.

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Small Stream Report: The natives aren’t restless

Thursday was small stream fishing day. March isn’t exactly the wheelhouse for a small stream — there’s no canopy, the water is typically up and cold, and the wild brookies haven’t moved out of their winter lies — but Cam and I went for no other reason than to enjoy the woods and pretend we were many miles from civilization.

As I suspected, the action was painfully slow. We rose and landed one char all day. Yet, what better way to feel alive than to be out on a thin blue line and be so warm you’ve got to start removing layers?

Given the conditions, we decided stealth was in order. Here’s Cam doing a little commando fishing. We started off with bushy size 14 dries; after those went unmolested, I added a tiny nymph dropper to my rig. Still no love, so tied on an ICU Sculpin for Cam to jig in some deeper plunges. That’s what he’s doing here. 

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We saw a decent number of bugs: omnipresent midges, and a few small (size 18) tan caddis. But the brookies remained hunkered down. Finally, as we were bushwhacking out, I invoked the “One More Cast” Rule. The slashing strike came out of nowhere. After a few more rises on a waking presentation, I decided a size 14 Stimulator was too big. On went a size 16 Humpy, and the next cast produced this fine buck.

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Thanks to the Gov for opening the season early!

Leisenring’s Dark Olive Nymph

James Leisenring’s Dark Olive Nymph is sure to be popular among the finned set. For starters, it’s buggy as hell. Not only does it cover the pre-emergent Blue Winged Olive family, it’s also one of those flies that looks like lots of bugs in general, but not necessarily any one in particular.  That’s the good news. The flip side — if I may editorialize — is that I suspect a soft-hackled Pheasant Tail does the same duty, and is easier to tie. One way to find out!

Leisenring’s Dark Olive Nymph

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Hook: 14, 15
Silk: Primrose yellow
Hackle: One or not more than two turns of the tiniest blue dun hen’s hackle.
Tail: Two or three very short, soft blue dun cock fibers.
Rib: Fine gold wire.
Body: Dark green-olive seal’s fur mixed with a little dark-brown bear’s fur (found next to the skin) spun lightly at the tail and quite heavily at the shoulder or thorax.
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Tying notes: It should take me a few minutes to bang out Leisenring’s Dark Olive Nymph; when it takes longer than that to tie in the bloody “very short” tail, I curse my lot in fly tying and pine for the simplicity of the soft-hackled pheasant tail nymph. At this size, Angora goat (my standard seal’s fur substitute) would be an unruly mess. And since I’m right out of bear, I made the command decision to use Squirrel SLF Spikey Dubbing, dark olive and dark brown. I’m pleased with the results. A single dubbing loop for both abdomen and thorax.

 

The Best Of North Country Spiders in list form and photos

Last winter I posted a very popular series, the Best Of North Country Spiders, a list of thirteen of my favorite ancient and traditional Yorkshire soft hackles. What was missing was a single reference list of the bunch. And now, the remedy: the list, a photo of each pattern, and a link to the original post with my comments and tying instructions.

Best of North Country Spiders. “With the soft-hackled fly, the trout throws caution to the wind…” — Syl Nemes

Winter Brown

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Greensleeves

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Black Magic

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Sandy Moorgame

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Snipe and Purple

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Partridge and Orange

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Poult Bloa

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Yorkshire Greenwell

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Smoke Fly

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Grey Partridge (Grey Watchet)

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Snipe Bloa

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Orange Partridge

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Waterhen Bloa

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There you have them. Fish these patterns with confidence: North American trout have no idea that they’re not in an English chalk stream 200 years ago. As always, if you have trying or fishing questions, I’ll do my best to answer them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A civilized outing at the private fishing club

Being an internationally famous fly fishing personality (or not — but let’s go with the former for the sake of the story) gets me all kinds of cool invites. Yesterday I took advantage of the opportunity to fish some private club-owned waters.

It’s a challenging stream at this time of year, with no canopy, low flows, clear water, and brilliant sunshine. The stream wanders through the woods, mostly longer flat runs and shallows, but pockmarked with intriguing bends, riffles, deep dark holes, and plunges. It’s on the large side of small, or the small side of medium, depending on your point-of-view.

The fishing today was tough. I fished a dry/dropper and streamers. One bump on an olive Squirrel and Herl, and one nose bump on the dry, but I was finally able to connect with a hefty rainbow on spider dropper. My host, John R, managed three. Many thanks for a glorious day on this gorgeous piece of water.

My catch has a great fish story. See that pile of rocks to the right? I had made a cast into the center of the pool from the back side of the pile, and was crawling forward a few feet to get into a better position to manage my drift. When I looked up, my dry fly was gone. So I set the hook, and to my delight found a fat rainbow attached to the North Country spider dropper. Painfully slow currents and mirror-like surfaces made the fishing a triple black diamond challenge.

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Here’s my host John doing battle in the same spot. Many thanks for the invite, kind sir. And if you, dear reader, have issued a similar invitation, I plan to take you up on it — this is simply the one that worked best for me on this day. I appreciate all the offers!

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They’re called classics for a reason. Once again, Our Lady of the Blessed Snipe and Purple did not fail me. Funny thing! On a day where hatches were at a bare-bones minimum, I saw a little black stone, size 18, crawling on my waders moments after I took this photo.

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