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.

Farmington River Report 7/21/16: The best time to fish in summer is…noon?

Conventional wisdom holds that in summer, Farmington River trout will be most active early in the morning and late afternoons into dark. You won’t get any serious arguments from me. After all, I was plumbing the depths with my drop-shot nymph rig before 8am. Then again, I’ve always been fond of the old saw, “The best time to go fishing is when you can.” I stayed through 1pm, and my best fish of the day came at high noon under blazing, brilliant sunshine.

A Survivor Strain brown in the high teens, taken at noon of one of the warmest days of the summer in about two feet of water. Top dropper was the winning fly, a size 18 soft-hackled  Pheasant Tail.

DCIM100GOPROG0013432.

The action continues to be slow; I managed six fish in five hours. Of the dozen or so anglers I fished near yesterday, I saw only one hook up. I believe one of the keys to success this time of year is to aggressively cover water. I visited seven spots yesterday, blanking in two of them (the method was nymphing) and taking two on four casts in another. I also did some playing around fishing without my beloved indicator, using a section of 12-lb. yellow Stren as a sighter. (I still like the indicator better. So there.)

Farmington River Report 2/23/16: Laughter in the rain

For once this winter I guessed right that a lousy weather report would keep most anglers home. I find it generally unbearable when the temperature is in the mid-thirties and it’s raining, but when you’re catching, elements-induced misery somehow slides to the rear.

Winter nymphing on the Farmington this season has been as predictable as Donald Trump’s hair. The fish are in the usual pools, then concentrated within certain sub-areas of those pools. Get your fly into those sub-areas, and you’re an instant expert. Miss them by a few feet, and you’re Baron Von Blankenstein. Today I had a prime spot; the angler across from me did not. We fished the same general area, but I out-caught him 6:1. (This has nothing to do with ability and everything to do with real estate.)

I started with a size 12 BHSHPT on the bottom and a size 18 midge-type on top dropper. They loved the PT. After I lost my rig, I re-tied with a size 14 Hare and Copper and took two more on that. It rained on and off; five minutes into one of the heavier spells the fish put on the feed bag; sadly, it only lasted for about ten minutes. The permanent TMA was running 340cfs, clear, and cold, although I expect the levels and clarity are changing dramatically as I write this.

On the menu today: creamy micro-midges and W/S caddis.

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Farmington River Report 2/4/16: Ixnay on the Unkskay

There’s a time and a place to be an intrepid explorer, and that time was…Tuesday. Today I wanted to catch some trout. Winter fishing being like buying real estate — location, location, location — I headed for the retail district. Not too crowded, and people willing to share the water (thanks, Zach and friend).

So it wasn’t stupid good, but it was good enough that after 90 minutes I had enough house money to want to go spend it elsewhere. A few notes about the river and fishing:

The permanent TMA was about 400cfs and slightly off-color. The closer you got to the Still, the murkier the water. And it was cold. I’m guessing 34/35 degrees.

Indicator nymphing was the method. The water I fished was neither slow nor deep, but I decided early on to fish two BB shot on my drop shot rig to slow the drift. It seemed to work.

I took several trout in what I would describe as “softer water,” that transition zone between current seam and frog water.

The takes were on the subtle side. No indicator screeching to a halt, or dramatically plummeting to the depths; it was the equivalent of a trout sipping a midge off the surface. It was simply no longer there. Hook set downstream, and off we go.

All my fish today had an intact adipose and were in the 12″-15″ class. I fished a size 12 (2x short) SHBHPT on bottom, and a size 16 (2x short) new midge emerger/nymph thingy I made up last night on the dropper. I am mildly depressed to report that there was no interest in the new fly. But I’m confident that some day there will be.

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See you Saturday!

 

 

 

Tag Team Nymphing

I’ve been teaching Rob how to fly fish, and Friday afternoon we met for a quick indicator nymphing lesson. Even though Rob is completely new to the fly game, he landed a juvenile Atlantic salmon his first time out. Friday was our second session, and it was slow going. There wasn’t much (if any) visible hatch activity, and the water was slightly stained from the day’s earlier rains. Rob did great job casting, mending, and presenting.

Everyone learns differently, and after an hour Rob said he wanted to watch me fish. We were targeting a riffle that dumps into some deeper water, and as the two-fly rig completed the dead-drift phase, the flies began to swing up. The indicator went under, and I handed the rod off to Rob, who landed this fine wild brown.

Some substantial shoulders on this wild Farmington brown. You can just make out the faint parr remnants, and those haloed spots speak volumes about how lovely these fish can be. Taken on the bottom fly of a two-fly rig, a size 14 olive Iron Lotus.

wild Farmington River brown