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.

 

 

Farmington River Report 11/5/19: Early fireworks

I guided Drew today, and to celebrate Guy Fawkes’ Day we started off with a bang: two trout on two casts! Drew is new to the Farmington and relatively new to trout fishing, so given the time of year and conditions (cold, 310cfs) our task was to cover some water and work on the nymphing game. The specific method was indicator nymphing, drop shot rig, and we went with a sz 14 Frenchie Variant and a sz 18 SHPT. The trout liked both, the Frenchie being the favorite.

First cast, the indicator merely twitched. Look for a reason to set the hook on every drift!

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Second cast. At this point it was proposed that we quit and go get coffee and doughnuts. The motion failed.

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Angler traffic was light, and we did not see any other fish hooked today. (Thanks to the one gentleman who offered to share the water!) We hit four marks and found fish in two of them. Four trout to net, a few more lost at hookset, and we called it a very good day.  Nice job, Drew!

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Friday Farmy/Hous Mini-Report: Cold and Hot and Not Much in Between

On Friday I guided Mark on a Farmy-Hous doubleheader. While the air was sweltering, the Farmy was pleasantly cool — and the fishing downright cold. We were nymphing, and in two high-probability runs we could only manage to stick one fish. In fact, we shared the water with close to a dozen anglers at various times between 12:30 and 3:30, and we saw only one other fish caught. Hatch activity was slow to non-existent. Feh. Off to the Hous.

Which didn’t fish much better — at first — and was a totally disgusting sweat lodge into the bargain. First spot in the TMA: blank. Second spot: a few customers. Third spot: Really? Nothing? OK, nothing until 8:15, then the switch was thrown, but even then we weren’t exactly lighting it up. Nonetheless, a strong finish to a tough day, and Mark did a great job of working through it.

Yeah, man. That’s what we like to see. The Countermeasures pattern did its usual reliable work at dusk, particularly in frog water and along the edges. Before dark, we had our best action in the “hot” water: bubbling, gurgling oxygenated flows like this.

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Farmington River Report 6/13/19: Fish on!

Mark is a repeat client, and yesterday he wanted to work on his nymphing. We picked a great day for it: moderate-to-high flows, overcast, rain, showers, cold (54 degrees in mid-June? Really?). We hit three marks below the Permanent TMA and found multiple fish willing to play in all of them. The method was a combination of indicator and tight line nymphing, both using a drop-shot rig. We fished a size 16 Starling and Herl top dropper and a size 14 Frenchie variant on point; the trout found favor with both flies.

Trutta buttah, the best fish of the day, a some-teen inch wild brown that hammered the Frenchie. Love those pecs! Great job playing and landing by Mark.

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Pure paar pulchritude. This yearling was my personal favorite, a testament to the fertile nature of the river. He selected the Starling and Herl. Mark also took a half-dozen rainbows of varying size, all of which were more than happy to treat us to aerials and other obstreperous behavior.

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A shout out to Mark who has vastly improved his nymphing skills: line/leader management, quality drifts, and especially hook sets. Well done, and thanks for a great day.

A Simple Drop-Shot Nymph Rig (Revisited)

After last week’s Nymph-o-Mania! post I received a lot of questions about drop-shot nymphing: how to build a rig, can you use it with an indicator, is it better for a tight line presentation, etc. Let’s start with the rig.

A drop-shot nymph rig with sighter for both indicator or tight line nymphing.

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And a PDF of the same diagram: SighterDropShotNymphRig

So: I’ve been drop-shot nymphing for quite some time now. Being the curious sort (and a confirmed autodidact and DIYer) I tend to change things around until I find what works best for me. What you see is my current default trout nymph rig. I’ve been using 6X for the drop shot tag to make it the weakest link in the system. I’m lazy, so I build a sighter into the system whether I’m going to indicator nymph or not. Maxima if the water is high or off-color, 5x if it’s skinny and clear. (Please, use your favorite material to build this rig. It will work whether or not you use Maxima, P-Line, or Stren.)

When to tight line and when to indicator? Chapters in books have been written on this. Here are some of my thoughts in brief.

When to indicator:

  • When I want to cover longer stretches of water
  • When I want to reach pockets and runs farther than a rod-and-arm’s length
  • When I want the nymphs to swirl around in a mixer-like pocket
  • In conditions where takes may be subtle/difficult to feel (winter, windy days, just to name two)
  • When the wind is blowing upstream

Note: The distance from drop shot to indicator on the leader is about 1.5 times what I estimate the deepest water to be. I use my own home brew yarn indicators almost exclusively. They are light, denser that store-bought kinds, don’t spook fish (it seems that every season I have at least one trout hit my indicator) and I am very dialed in to their nuances.

When to tight line:

  • When I’m fishing in close
  • When the water is low and clear
  • When I feel the indicator is difficult to manage/adversely speeding up the drift

Hope that helps. I’m sure there will be more questions and as always, I am happy to answer them.

 

Thanks Russell Library and nymphing tip of the day

Many thanks to the Russell Library for hosting me last night. We had a small but enthusiastic crowd for “The Little Things,” and if you were part of the group, thanks for coming out. Here’s a segment from the chapter on nymphing — three little things to help you catch more fish the next time you’re out on the water.

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Farmington River Report 9/12/18: Creek’s up

Dave wanted to improve his nymphing game, so we arrived on the river rarin’ to go — only to have to wait a couple hours for the thunder to pass. The river was slightly up (about 480cfs in the permanent TMA and a light stain) but very fishable. The trout were mostly uncooperative, but we did manage to put a nice bend in the rod. Best of all, we had the added bonus of having a couple of hero pools all to ourselves. We worked on both tight line and indicator presentations with a drop-shot rig. Great job, Dave, in some tough conditions.

That’s what we like to see!

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The Farmy produces yet another wild gem, parr marks still visible.

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Farmington River Report 9/26/17: low and deep

I guided Ira and Dan yesterday. Hot, sunny, low flows (105 cfs above the permanent TMA), but the water was plenty cold. We spent the first half of the trip sifting through the pockets and seams of a 200 yard-long boulder field with a team of wets. After my success doing likewise on Monday, I was surprised that we didn’t get a touch. I was demoing a short line deep presentation in a deeper run when hook point connected with salmonid mouth. Armed with that new intel, we headed downstream and re-rigged for nymphing.

And that proved to be the difference between fishing and catching. We found fish in the hot water at the head of the run and just below in the front end. Both Dan and Ira proved themselves to be capable, thoughtful anglers, and it was rewarding to see their persistence pay off. The method was short line, no indicator, drop shot.

Ira probing current seams in the boulder field.

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A ray of light. Our first fish was this fine native, taken on a size 14 Frenchie variant.

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Dan being the man. He hooked a bunch of trout in this medium-sized pocket.

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Currentseams Q&A: Of droppers, drop-shot, and indicators

Currentseams reader Steve M. asked this question on the Farmy Report post below. I thought the answer deserved its own thread. Thanks for asking, Steve.

Q: How about a refresher on your dropper nymphing method? Specifically how you use/position the indicator? 

First, some semantics. Dropper nymphing setups and indicator nymphing are two different things. You can nymph with droppers and not use an indicator. Or do you mean drop-shot? Same deal: you can fish a drop shot rig without an indicator. “Droppers” refers to flies that are attached to the rig by tags of leader material. “Drop shot” is a method that uses split shot suspended by a tag below the bottom fly. A drop-shot rig can have droppers or just one fly. Hope that clarifies rather than confuses!

How I use and how I position the indicator are also different things. Generally, I use an indicator when:
I want to cover water/get longer drifts;
It’s cold and the takes might be subtle;
I want to fish the bottom in deeper holes;
I don’t want to feel like my arm is going to fall off after keeping it raised above my shoulder for hours.

I use my own yarn indicators, dense, bushy creations, and I’m fairly dialed in to their nuances. The indicator need not go under for me to want to set the hook. (Look for a reason to set the hook on every drift and you’ll catch more fish.)

The general rule of thumb is to set the indicator at 1.5 times the estimated water depth away from the bottom fly or shot. I’m not sure I follow that so much as I estimate the greatest depth I’ll be fishing and place the indicator on the leader where I reckon the drop shot will be ticking the bottom. It’s more feeling than formula. Specifically, I want to find this equilibrium: the shortest distance between the shot and the indicator, and enough distance to make a natural drift along the bottom. I want to see that indicator bouncing along. If you’re not catching fish and you’re not seeing those bottom return tells, you’re not fishing deep enough. Adjust your indicator (which you can now refer to as a depth regulator) accordingly.

I often check my indicator. “Checking” means that if I feel the indicator is leading or dragging the nymphs downstream at an unnatural pace, I’ll mend the indicator upstream, literally lifting it off the water and placing it where I want it. Remember that current at the surface moves faster than current at the bottom.

Finally, a word about weight. I like to use as little shot as possible. But sometimes you’ve got to go heavier. In winter, the water’s cold, and things slow down, trout included. I’ve been using two BB shot on my drop shot rig this winter — not because the water’s deep or fast, but because that extra weight slows the drift to a pace where a trout has to move less for the fly.

Hope that helps.

Steve’s secret weapon: home brew indicators made from acrylic macrame yarn and a #36 o-ring. I build them dense, and treat them with Gink or Loon Fly Spritz 2 before each use. This is a color I can see easily, and this indicator is about as big as I’d ever use on the Farmington. I know, you want a video tutorial on construction. The answer is yes — I just need to figure out the when.

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Farmington River Report 12/13/16: Subsurface spectacular

Going to be mighty chilly later this week, so I thought I’d get my licks in today. Good call. I fished within the permanent TMA from 9am-1pm, and found very cooperative fish in two of the three runs I fished — not to mention precious solitude. Here are the day’s notes:

Nymphing was incredibly productive for me. Those of you who are currentseams regulars know that I am a huge fan of indicator nymphing, especially in winter. However, in this low (100cfs and falling) and cold (34 degrees) water, I’ve gone away from the indicator to a basic short-line approach. The trout are beginning to stack up in their winter lies, and since the water is so shallow, those lies are very accessible via the long rod. I still like the indicator for covering water and for fishing faster, deeper runs, but in these conditions I’m doing better with the short-line approach. Still using the drop-shot rig, only I’ve added a yellow sighter.

Most of today’s trout were foot-long wild fish like this beauty. I did manage a well-fed rainbow and a mid-teens brown. 

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I fished two flies today: a size 16 2x short Frenchy variant on point and a size 16 March Brown wingless wet dropper. The trout were just about evenly split on both. But it’s interesting to note that my first half-dozen fish came on the top dropper. This came in advance of another strong morning W/S caddis hatch. It could have been that the trout were keying on emergers 1-2 feet off the bottom, or simply that they were looking up. Regardless, droppers continue to be the fastest way to find out what the fish want.

A fascinating mix of strike styles today. Some were oh-so-subtle pauses in the vertical line, others were sharp tugs. Good stuff.

Don’t let the exquisite red spots and delicate parr marks mislead you: this fish fought like a badass. I’d like to rumble with him again in a couple years.

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Finally, support your local fly shop. UpCountry Sportfishing is a good friend of currentseams, and they have a tremendous selection of just about anything you’d need for fly fishing or tying. Make sure Santa knows where to find that new rod, reel, vise, or whatever it is you don’t have — or need more of.