The shortest distance between two anglers is a hello

This has been happening more and more: I’m fishing near people, and later in the parking lot they come up to me and introduce themselves. That’s great, because I love meeting currentseams readers. But invariably they tell me that they didn’t say hello on the water because they didn’t want to “bother” me (the air quotes are mine). Folks, you’re not bothering me. Please introduce yourself.

Sure, if I’m guiding a client, I probably can’t have an extended conversation with you; that would be unfair to my client, who deserves my full attention. But it’s no secret that places like the Farmington River are more crowded than ever. Space in prime fishing marks is often scarce. So instead of me looking at you as a potential hostile invader — and vice versa — wouldn’t it be better if we could share the water without angst? Come say hello. If you’re looking for a place to fish, ask if there’s room. (Maybe if I get there after you, I’ll ask you!) If there is, we’ll make it work. If there isn’t, there’s always next time. And at the very least we now have faces and names connected. That’s a win for everyone.

Speaking of sharing water, I want to thank everyone I’ve encountered this season who has been so darned friendly and accommodating about doing so. I typically expect the worst from people, so it is a delight to be proven wrong about human nature. Kindness from strangers is a blessing. May the river gods bestow the tightest of lines upon all of you!

These gentlemen came all the way from Spain (really) to say hello.

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Farmington River Mini-Report 6/7/21: I think I’m done with that spot (for now)

I can be a massive creature of habit. But sometimes I like to return to a mark several times within a short period of time simply because I’m curious how things change, evolve, or otherwise go chaotic. I had a little over two hours Monday night, so I revisited an old favorite place on the Lower River. This is where I slayed them two weeks ago, and had a slow night last week. Monday was a repeat of last week: little-to-no hatch activity and even fewer fish rising. I got into a half dozen trout, including some lovely wild browns, but I had to work my butt off for them. I was most disappointed in the lack of a hatch. You’d think with a warm, sunny day, cool water, and not too much of it, you’d get a gangbusters sulphur emergence. Nope. So off to parts elsewhere, when I can, that is. Busy rest of the week. I would think that the vast majority of the Farmington above Collinsville is in its very late spring wet fly wheelhouse. Catch ’em up!

No, I have not forgotten about you. Your time is coming.

Farmington River Report 5/25/21: Spectacular wet fly action

After my Instagram (stevecultonflyfishing) post the other day, I wanted to see for myself. So, following the advice of my rose bushes, I headed for the lower end of the Farmington River to fish the Light Cahill hatch.

The water has come down nicely — in fact, I’d call 445cfs just about right — and it’s still plenty cold. I started off at a favorite mark around 5:30pm, and worked my way down a series of snotty riffles and pockets. The action wasn’t quite what I expected, even though I stuck a half dozen trout. There just wasn’t nearly the hatch activity I’d expected, nor were there many fish feeding near the surface. I’d started out with a Squirrel and Ginger (sz 12) as top dropper, a Starling and Herl (sz 14) in the middle, and a Partridge and Light Cahill (sz 12) on point. After no hookups on the dark middle fly, I made two command decisions: replace the Starling and Herl with a Pale Watery Wingless (sz 12) and move to a new mark.

And those two choices made all the difference. I was in the water by 7pm, and for the next 90 minutes I took trout after trout. It was one of those I-have-no-idea-how-many-fish-I caught nights. What was most interesting to me was the difference a half mile makes. The new spot had more bugs and far more active feeders. The fish were mostly stocked rainbows (and a bonus big brook trout), but I did get a few wild browns in the mix, including a hefty 16″wild thing.

If you’ve taken a wet fly lesson with me, you’ve heard me say that when you hit it right, wet flies will make you look like a fly fishing wizard. I caught every riser I cast to, save for one. I caught them on all three flies. I caught them on the mended swing, the dead drift, the dangle, and the Leisenring Lift. Folks, I hit it right, and you can, too. Wet flies, people. Wet flies.

Lousy picture, nice fish. 16″ of wild Farmington brown taken on a size 12 Magic Fly on a dead drift. He was slashing at emergers at the wrinkled head of a pocket run. It took be a short while to figure out what I’d hooked — it was either one of those fat stocker rainbows or a chunky wild brown. I was glad it was Option B. This guy bulldogged and battled and generally behaved very poorly. I love him for that.

Farmington River Report 5/24/21: finding fish with wet flies

I guided Eric yesterday and we had a mix of sun and clouds and moderate, cold flows (380cfs in the Permanent TMA and 445cfs on the lower River). We fished two marks with mixed success. At the first, there was very little hatch activity and we observed no fish rising. One bump was the best we could do, so we decided to seek our pleasure elsewhere.

And that’s one of the best pieces of advice I can give you if you want, like Eric, to learn how to fish wet flies: if one spot isn’t producing, find one that is. And, once you get there, work the water. Cover as much of it as you can. Determine where you think the trout will be holding and feeding. We fished a three fly team of a Squirrel and Ginger on point, a dark soft-hackle of Eric’s creation in the middle, and a BHSHPT on point. All of our action came on the point fly. Eric did a great job of navigating some not-that-easy-to-wade water (sometimes it pays to get into those more difficult areas). While the second mark was not as productive as I’d hoped — the caddis hatch was disappointing, and there were no regular, active feeders — Eric managed to stick four nice trout.

The answer to the question, “Why is this man smiling?” can be seen in the foreground. Great job, Eric! You’re on your way.

Farmington River Report 7/19/20: So many bugs!

From the moment I arrived at the river — about 6:00pm — till the moment I left — about 9:20pm — the water and air above was crackling with mayflies and midges. After enduring several recent outings marked by poor hatches, this was Mother Nature’s make-good outing. As a bonus, this was a working session, as I’d planned to shoot video for a new wet fly presentation I’m building. Conditions could not have been better. First it was sulphurs, size 16-18, then an influx of olives, size 18. Micro midges were everywhere. The fish were still feeding when I left the water.

This is a video still, so the quality is not great, but splashy rises like this were everywhere for the first 90 minutes. I enjoyed some spectacular wet fly action, swinging a team of three (Squirrel and Ginger, Partridge and Light Cahill, and Light Cahill winged wet). I took numerous fish on all three patterns, presenting upstream, downstream, and across. There came a time when the fish no longer took the subsurface fly, about 8pm. That’s when I switched to dries.

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~

Another video still. I can’t say that I can get too excited about domestic rainbow trout, but the Farmington rainbows this year are in a new class of fun. They’re fat, they’re feisty, they’ll bulldog you the entire fight, and many of them are taking on holdover characteristics like intact scales, deep coloration/pink bands, and well-formed fins. Corpulent mid-teens inches rainbows like this one are in faster water everywhere. Most of the browns I took came after 8:30pm.

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Farmington River Report 7/9/20: what a way to go!

I worked with Bill yesterday on his indicator nymphing and wet fly skills. Water conditions were perfect in the Permanent TMA: 325cfs, cold, clear. The trout and bugs were a wee bit more uncooperative. Hatches (sulphurs, caddis, olives) were spotty and the feeding was inconsistent at best. We fished two marks and saw four trout hooked all day, and since we had two of them, we declared victory. On the plus side, Bill landed his PB non-lake-run brown. He nailed it at high noon (we fished from 10am-2pm) while nymphing. I was observing from upstream, and when he set the hook it sure looked like a fish to me. Bill thought he was stuck on the bottom — that happens sometimes with larger Farmy trout — and then, gloriously, the bottom fought back. Sadly, Bill snapped his rod during the battle, but the fish was landed, much to his delight. To say nothing of mine!

Bill’s new personal best, a gorgeous high teens wild brown. Love those halos. He took the took dropper in our nymph rig, a size 18 soft-hackled pheasant tail. Since that hook was a 2x short, it’s effectively a size 22 fly. Do not underestimate the power of tiny soft hackles this time of year. I almost always make my top dropper on my drop-shot nymph rig a soft hackle. Congratulations, Bill!

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Stripers Forever “Release A Breeder Club”

This just arrived in the mail and it seems like an artifact from another age. While I’m proud to say that I’m a three-time member (all on the fly while wading, which makes it even more of a challenge) it didn’t happen last year and I don’t see it going down this year, either. Of course, I’m quite willing to be proven wrong.

In case you’re unfamiliar, Stripers Forever is an organization whose mission is to make the striped bass a gamefish. The “Release A Breeder Club” was started years ago to encourage anglers to release stripers over 36″. In today’s climate, that’s a no-brainer. Plus, you get a spiffy certificate to display your worthiness. Keep the fight short, keep ’em wet, let them do their job to repopulate the East coast!

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Block Island All-Nighter X preview: not too shabby

I did my tenth Block Island All-Nighter this past Sunday into Monday. My fishing partner was old friend Peter Jenkins from The Saltwater Edge. I’m still in recovery mode (and playing catch-up on a bunch of other projects) so I haven’t had time to do a full write-up. But here are some broad brush strokes.

We flayed the water from 9pm to 6am. The fishing was good enough — 6.5 of 10. No consistent feeding, but stripers did show up in small bunches (and if you were willing to walk to find them). No keepers, a grim reminder that we are in a downturn, but on the flip side no micros: the vast majority of bass were 20-24″ with an occasional 26 mixed in, and those fish are great sport on a fly rod. Sand eels were the bait (and Big Eelies the fly) not present in great numbers but there. And yes, we had a darn good time.

A spunky 22-incher, set against a mosaic tile bottom. We repeatedly marveled at the raw power of these fish. Happy Father’s Day to us!

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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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