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.

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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

Farmington River Report 6/9/15: Lessons learned (and re-learned)

Learned: If you lose your Cocoons on Sunday night in two feet of water because you were stupid enough to try to wedge them over your cap on top of your headlamp, you can return on Tuesday morning to the scene of the bumbling and recover them. (This might have been the highlight of my day.)

Re-Learned: You can follow a nymphing session where you drop nearly every fish with one where you land nearly every fish.

Learned: When caddis are hatching and you’re dedicated to the nymphing cause, a Squirrel and Ginger makes a damn good top dropper on a two-fly drop-shot rig. (Every trout I took today while nymphing came on that top dropper. First time I used that fur-hackled wet in that position, and it won’t be the last.)

Re-Learned: If you want to fish alone, stay outside the permanent TMA.

Re-Learned: When fish start taking emergers, it’s almost never a bad idea to swing a team of wet flies.

Water was medium height, clear, and cold. Midges and a few creamy mayflies (size 12), but mostly caddis (size 14-16).

Off you go. Didn’t think that caddis emerger was going to bite back, didja?

Farmington River Report 5/21/15: The Awesome Power of a Single BB Split Shot

I was indicator nymphing a favorite pool this morning that I knew held trout. But despite my best efforts to fish it systematically and cover water, I was blanking. Thirty minutes in and not a single strike. I knew I was fishing deep enough — there had been several false positives provided by the bottom. The water wasn’t particularly fast or deep. Maybe add another BB shot to the one at the terminal end of my drop-shot rig to slow things down a tad? Yessiree Bob. That simple change quickly had me into fish.

A someteen-inch wild Farmington brown that hammered my size 12 black beadhead Squirrel and Ginger nymph. These fish can be quite aggressive in their takes, even when you’re tracking your fly along at the speed of the current. You can immediately sense that you’ve got a good fish on. DCIM100GOPROG0020505.

I fished for a little over four hours today, mostly committed to the nymphing cause, bouncing around to six spots outside the permanent TMA. Water was on the low side of medium (270cfs in the permanent TMA) and 51 degrees. No significant hatch activity, (nor surface activity) although there were caddis just about everywhere. Once I made that adjustment to slow my drift, the fishing was quite good. I found multiple trout willing to jump on nearly every place I fished. They really liked the size 12 black beadhead Squirrel and Ginger nymph; only one trout, an acrobatic rainbow, chose the top dropper, a size 16 soft-hackled pheasant tail. Conditions look good for the weekend. Get out if you can and enjoy this wonderful resource.

Mister brown buck with the big fins, endeavoring for gator brown status (maybe next year?), close to freedom. DCIM100GOPROG0020591.

A Drop-Shot Tandem Nymph Rig

I can be as stuck in my ways as the next angler. But from time to time, the curious, adventurous, what if? side comes out to play, and I’ll try something new. I first saw a two-fly drop-shot rigging system on Kelly Galloup’s site. Hmm. Intriguing. After storing it in the back of my brain for several months (and not being entirely satisfied with my regular two-nymph rig with the weight above the top fly) I thought I’d give the drop-shot a try.

There’s much I like about the drop-shot design theory. The weight is at the bottom end of the rig, and, consequently, along the bottom of the river. Because the weight tag is made of weakest link leader material, it should break off on a weight snag before anything else. Six inches above the weight is a nymph-style fly, strategically placed to be at the eye level of bottom-hugging trout. Twelve to sixteen inches above the nymph is a soft-hackle, emerger, or pupa-style fly on a dropper tag. You know from my writing and reports that I am a huge fan of droppers — give the fish a choice — and droppers that can swim freely on a dedicated tag. I especially like the idea of using a soft-hackled wet in this position. I wasn’t crazy about the bottom fly having the weight leader tag attached to its eye — I worried that it might make the fly difficult to eat — but it certainly was a better solution than attaching the weight tag to the bend of the hook. Only one way to find out, and that was to fish it.

There are probably dozens if not hundreds of variations of drop-shot riggings; so here’s one more. I altered the specifics to suit my preferences in leader materials (and also to use what I had on hand). Suffice to say, this thing works.

A simple two-fly drop shot nymph rig.

Drop-Shot Nymph Rig

Here’s a pdf of the diagram:

Drop-Shot Nymph Rig

Construction notes: Construction should be fairly intuitive. I’m an indicator-kind of guy, so I’ve dispensed with the sighter butt section. I’ve been using a six-foot length of Maxima Chameleon 12-pound. You could surely go with ten-pound, or any other butt material you like. If you were going to build in a sighter, you’d still keep the top section six-feet long. I added an SPRO size 10 power swivel because of the disparity in the diameter between the twelve and four-pound material. Maxima is still hands-down the best material I’ve used for dropper tags for trout. I tie an overhand knot four times at the end of the weight tag — I haven’t had any issues with shot coming undone — and I’ve been using one or two BB shot, depending on depth and current speed.  

Yup. Drop-shot nymph systems fished under an indicator work.

Big Rainbow 9-14

 Of course, check your local/state regulations to make sure you can fish two flies, and/or place weight below the flies. I am not responsible for any rules violations.  

Farmington River Mid-Labor Day Weekend Report

On Thursday I finally got around to making my first dedicated-to-the-nymphing-cause trip of the summer. As I was walking down to my first spot, an angler upstream — presumably trying to be helpful — shouted out, “There are no fish in there. They’re all gone.” Well, one of us is going to be wrong, I thought to myself. One hour and three trout later, I was pleased that it wasn’t me.

I fished a new nymph setup that day, a drop-shot rig. My version was a leader about 8 feet long, then an emerger-like nymph dropper on a tag of 4# Maxima, then 16″ of 5# Rio nylon, another nymph, then a 6″ tag of the 5# with 2 BB shot at the bottom. The shot tag is tied off the bottom nymph hook eye. (If I get enough interest, I will draw and post a diagram.) The point of the rig is to get the weight on the bottom where it should be, then suspend the flies at different heights just off the bottom. You can fish it neat or with an indicator. I went the indicator route. Obviously, you already know it worked. I did, however, drop three fish in the course of the day, and I wondered if that bottom fly is harder for a fish to grab since it isn’t swinging freely. More research is required. Lucky me!

This rainbow has been in the river for a while. Well-defined pink lateral band, intact scale pattern, perfect fins.

Rainbow Release

Off to the second spot, where I landed a rotund wild brown (all the browns I took today were never wards of the state). Met up with friend Todd, and we each managed fish a ways downstream. By now, though, it was 11:00am and the bite had slowed. Away we went to Spot D, where we met up with Peter Jenkins of Saltwater Edge fame. Todd showed off by catching all the trout.

Mr. High Hook Spot D in action.

Todd Fish On

I dropped one more fish at Spot E before I had to make tracks toward responsibilities. The two flies I fished were a size 16 soft-hackled Pheasant Tail on the top dropper and a BH Squirrel and Ginger on bottom. The fish showed no preference, split right down the middle on the two.

On Saturday, I was able to fish for two hours between games at my son’s soccer tournament. Wet fly was the method, and while I found plenty of fish willing to jump on, they were all juvenile Atlantic salmon. Still, a lovely interlude on the water.

I would not feel so all alone.

Stonefly Case

Reminder: Starting Monday, September 1, the lower TMA becomes catch-and-release.