Ooh. Ahh. Ohh. (400 Followers Contest Swag.)

Fear not, contest winners, your goodies are on the way! Thank you for your bountiful patience, and of course for your loyal readership.

If you’re new to the site, I have been celebrating each successive century mark of email followers with a giveaway. To win, you have to be signed up as an email subscriber — so there’s your incentive. And we’re now under 75 away from 500…woo-hoo!

Here’s a little something to whet the winner’s appetites.

Gary gets the striper flies. Clockwise from top: Orange Ruthless, Big Eelie, Soft-Hackled Flatwing, September Night, Rhody Flatwing, Herr Blue, Ray’s Fly.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

Kris and Bill went for trout flies. Here are a dozen classic wets and fuzzy nymphs, clockwise from upper right: Soft-hackled bead head Pheasant Tail, Pale Watery wingless, Ginger caddis larva, Brown Hackle, Black Gnat, Hackled March Brown, Drowned Ant, Squirrel and Ginger, Hare’s Ear, Dark Hendrickson, Grizzly and Gray, Partridge and Light Cahill.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

Survivor: Farmington (Browns Built To Last)

“Survivor: Farmington,” an essay about the CT DEEP’s Farmington River Survivor Strain Program, first appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of The Drake. The photo and caption did not appear in the article, and this is my original text. 

by Steve Culton

They took her from the river in September, 2012. She was chosen for her wild traits and rounded belly that indicated a healthy female ready to spawn. Once her eggs were harvested, she was returned to her home waters. But not before a red elastomer was inserted near her left eye. That color and placement would forever identify her as a broodstock female, one of many mothers of the Farmington River Survivor Strain Class of 2013.

The next April, I fished the West Branch of the Farmington. The Hendrickson hatch was winding down, and the trout were transitioning from taking emergers in the film to picking off duns that haphazardly lingered on the surface. Her take was powerful enough to rip the line from my fingertips and cause my drag to buzz in protest. I rarely put trout on the reel; this was going to be my first of 2013. What’s more, this fish was not going to come easy. I ended up walking a fair distance downstream to land her. It wasn’t until I was reviewing the day’s photos that I noticed the elastomer. I had sensed there was something readily distinguishable about the way she hit, bulldogged, and refused to come quietly. Now, it all fell into place. Survivor Strain.

Here she is in all her glory: the actual fish I was writing about.

Big Survivor Strain brown hen

The Farmington River Survivor Strain program was initiated in 1993 by what is now known as the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP). Neal Hagstrom, DEEP Senior Fisheries Biologist, describes the program as, “an attempt to use the river to select the best possible animals for that environment. We take certain trout to the hatchery, spawn them, then put their progeny back in the river, assuming that those fish will be best adapted for the conditions they’ll face.”

Survivor Strain’s inaugural class were descendants of stocked Cortland, Rome, Bitterroot, and Seeforellen browns. “The hope was that we would get improvements in production and survival,” says Hagstrom, “and we saw that in the first year. We went from about a 20% holdover rate to about 50%. We now find fish in the West Branch that are upwards of eight years old.”

Broodstock for the program are collected through electroshocking. Each September, the Metropolitan District Commission draws down the flow from Hogback Dam so that DEEP crews can complete their harvest. Their goal: one hundred brown trout worthy of producing the next generation of Survivor Strain. Like an NFL scout on draft day, Hagstrom explains the DEEP’s talent evaluation process. “We try to get fish that have spent at least a year in the river. We want genetic diversity. We want browns from multiple age classes, and multiple sources like Survivor Strain, and most importantly, wild fish. We want a lot of different parents to get as many possible combinations of genetic material.”

The DEEP harvested approximately 80,000 eggs in 2013. That biomass will generate 70,000 fry. In keeping with the tenet of genetic strength and diversity, the hatchery will set up dozens of parental combinations for the young ‘uns: wild mother/ wild father; wild mother/Survivor father; small wild father/large Survivor mother; and so on. This elasticity creates a population that is well equipped for the natural challenges of the river – not to mention heavy fishing pressure. Young-of-year Survivor Strain are wary of humans, even in their hatchery pens. Where standard-issue stockers are indifferent to people, Survivor Strain fish will dart away. “When we first saw it, it was like, wow, this is really cool!” says Hagstrom. “We had two tanks together, and their behavior was like night and day.”

To facilitate their annual trout census – and inadvertently, enable you to track your catch – the DEEP color codes Survivor Strain trout with elastomers. Left eye placement means the fish is an adult; right eye, a yearling. Colors change every year; 2011 yearlings received red or yellow, while 2012 yearlings received green. Thankfully, for those of us who are color blind, Survivors also have their adipose fin clipped off.

Not surprisingly, anglers are the program’s biggest fans. What’s not to like about cantankerous trout with breathtaking colors that grow to trophy size? As a bonus, the West Branch has seen an explosion in the wild brown population since the introduction of the program. A new record was set in 2013 of just over fifty percent of trout that were naturally spawned in the river. That bodes well for those of us who live for chasing gator browns. Mike Humphries, DEEP Inland Fisheries Biologist, says it’s a myth that the river’s lunkers are pen raised. “The highest percentage of big trout on the Farmington aren’t hatchery fish. They’re wild.”

And to think it all started with one tough mother of a stocked brown.

Three — count ’em, three — hundred followers. Contest time!

Currentseams finally reached the big three-oh-oh. And I have you, loyal reader, to thank. We’ll be doing our usual flies-tied-by-Steve giveaway, only this time it will be three times better — because this time we’re going to have three winners!

One of the prizes will be one of each of the six striper soft-hackles I tied for my article in the next issue of American Angler. The other two will be a selection of trout or striper or steelhead flies. As they say in my kids’ school: “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”

Striper Soft-Hackles

Here are the rules:

1) No purchase necessary.

2) You must be a follower of currentseams to enter.

3) To enter, leave a comment on this thread saying you wish to enter AND tell me a little about what you like about the site, or would like to see more of (this is my grassroots market research method). One entry per person. Deadline for entering is 11:59pm September 3, 2015. Three winners will be chosen at random. The winners will be notified in the comments section of this thread or by email, and will be responsible for sending me their address so I can ship the flies out.

4) All decisions by me are final.

Thanks again for reading and following currentseams.

A few odds and ends on a rainy Monday

Happy June. Although today feels more like early April. But we desperately needed this rain. Nature finds a way.

I have the cover story in the current issue of American Angler. The article is called The Little Things, and it’s about seemingly small adjustments, strategies, and practices that can have a significant impact on your fishing. When I get my copy, I’ll post some pictures and devote a post to it.

Come say hi. “Are you Steve Culton?” This has been happening more and more when I’m fishing, and I’m glad for it. People often follow it with something about not wanting to bother me, which is very polite, but unnecessary. You’re not bothering me. If we’re sharing the same water, please say hello. It’s always a treat to put faces to names.

Help me help you. I get a lot of requests like this: “Can you give me the recipe for (fly pattern name)?” I am always happy to help, but many of the flies I mention in my posts are already archived on this site. You can find them by using the currentseams search function on the right side of the page. It looks like this:

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 4.28.58 PM Just type what you’re looking for in the box, then hit enter or return. If it’s on currentseams, you’ll get a list of links.

Use email or phone to contact me. Many people try to contact me through the comments section of various posts. I respond, then often never hear from them again. If you’re interested in purchasing flies or booking a guide trip, please call me or send an email. You can find that information here.

Speaking of guiding, my schedule should start to open up some in June. June and July are great times to fish the Farmington. As always, I highly recommend weekdays over weekends for a more pleasant, less crowded angling experience.

Closing in on 300 followers. That means another fly giveaway. Of course, we need to hit the magic mark first. In the meantime, this is a good time to thank you for following, thank you for reading, thank you for your positive energy, and thank you for all your kind words. I truly appreciate them.

So, whadja do this year?

Well, here we are. A little over one day left in 2014. I hope the year was good to you. Mine didn’t suck. I got to fish about 100 days — not too shabby for a guy who really loves his wife, has three jobs, and two kids playing travel sports. (I don’t have an exact count on the number of outings because I am grotesquely behind in my journal. Like, August behind.) I did a fair amount of writing, teaching, speaking, and guiding, too. All labors of love.

And, of course, there’s currentseams. The site had over 50,000 views this year, and we’re up to nearly 250 followers. I’d like to welcome the new people, and say thank you to everyone who took the time to read my scribblings. (No, Paul, I have not forgotten about you, and yes, I have started your striper flies.)

Part of what I love about my job is the chance to interact with the angling community on a personal level. So, to that end, please come say hi in the comments section. Tell us something you learned this year, or maybe about that one that got away, or even better, that one who didn’t.

I’ll start things off. I was fortunate to have a number of fish challenge for the highlight reel. But if I had to pick one, it would be my new personal best thirty-pound striper from the shore from spring. That cow had my rod making noises I’d never heard nor imagined it could produce. Good stuff. Learning? I try to find something new on every trip, so it’s hard to pick one. But I’ll go with this: if the steelhead aren’t biting in the run you’re fishing, move on.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Happiness is twice thinking you were snagged on the bottom — and twice discovering that you were not. Lousy photo, pretty spiffy striped bass. Maybe for our next contest we can try to guess how many herring she had in that tummy.

IMG_1367

Farmington River Mini-Report 8/22/14: Wet and wild

I had two hours to fish on Friday afternoon, so I jumped on it. I bounced around the lower river, visiting a few spots that I hadn’t fished all year. The air had a fall-like feel; it was overcast, and the river was running at 417cfs and 66 degrees. Bug activity was sparse and sporadic: a few small caddis, midges, and BWOs. 

This was a dedicated-to-the-wet-fly-cause outing. I swung a team of a sz 12 hackled March Brown on top, a sz 14 Drowned Ant in the middle, and the old reliable sz 12 soft-hackled BHPT on point. (I like a tungsten bead head fly on point when the water is running higher than normal. With a few strategic mends, it sinks the team faster, and also expedites deeper short line dead drift presentations.)

The PT was the runaway favorite fly. I hooked a nice assortment of wild browns with a few JV salmon in the mix. I had some hideous luck as well: not once, but twice I lost a good fish when he went deep and one of the flies on my team got entangled on rocks or vegetation. I lost two-thrids of my rig on the last one and called it a day.

Fat, healthy, and ready to rumble, these wild Farmington River browns are a treat to catch. Many of the takes today were subtle; more of a building of pressure on the mended swing than a clobbering hit. Good stuff.

IMG_2344

Simplifying the currentseams name

To all who follow Currentseams:

Easier is better. Simpler is better. So, going forward, the url for this site will be currentseams.com. New name. But same content, same personnel.

It may take a few hours for the change to manifest. I’m assuming that if you signed up for email alerts, you’ll continue to get them. If not, you’ll know where to find me.

As always, thank you for following currentseams, thanks for reading, and thanks for participating in this wonderful sport.

Steve Culton