Farmington River Report 6/26/18: Subsurface Success

Chris wanted to work on his subsurface game, so we spent the morning nymphing and swinging wets. Success! We fished three spots below the permanent TMA and found players in two of them.

We started off indicator nymphing (using my homebrew indicators) with a drop shot rig, and I continued my catching-a-fish-while-doing-a-demo streak. (If you want to look cool, pretend you meant to do it.) Chris took over and made a bunch of quality drifts with no love. All of a sudden, it happened. An unseen hatch was underway, the trout were feeding, and we hooked a bunch if fish in 15 minutes.

Wets were next. Run A was a blank, and Run B did not produce in the areas it usually does. No worries — Chris kept a positive attitude (confidence catches fish), and it rapid succession he stuck a bunch of trout tight to the bank. Great job, Chris! The trout should be worried.

We won the weather lottery: Bluebird skies, warm sun, cool air. Of course, a tight line makes any day sunnier.

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We spotted a distressed rainbow in the shallows. It had been hooked, lost, and had the terminal tackle and a short length of mono still attached. Unfortunately, we failed in out attempts to net it.

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Chris kept pounding the banks in a shade line, mended swing presentation, and was rewarded with several slashing strikes. This gorgeous wild brown took the top dropper on his team of three wets, a Squirrel and Ginger.

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After our session, I spent two very entertaining hours swinging wets. I fished a Squirrel & Ginger (caddis) on top, a Drowned Ant middle dropper, and a Light Cahill on point. I saw all three insects out and about, as well as tiny BWOs, midges, inch worms, and sedges. Among the players today were three wild brookies. Funny thing! They all took the Drowned Ant. I don’t think it was a coincidence. This stunner is clearly from the Farmington River hatchery.

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Another hat trick today, thankfully without a broken rod. This low-teens wild brown was feeding just along a shade line in about a foot of water. First cast, bang! Squirrel and Ginger. Catch-and-release works in the wild, too — note the long-ago healed bird wound just above the gill plate. I bounced around to three spots, found hungry fish in all of them, and lost track of both time and fish landed.

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A follow-up to the 6/21 Farmy report

On the way home from the river, I stopped by my friend Sal’s place (Legends, a gorgeous B&B/lodge on the banks of the river — see the icon/link in the right hand column). Sal was fishing Greenwoods (right outside his back door) that evening and reported finding ants in the water. When he tied on an ant pattern, his hookup rate shot skyward.

Don Butler wrote, “ants is good food.” Sal’s experience is a reminder that it’s that time of year. Once we near fall, look for wet/humid days to produce swarms of flying ants, too.

One of my favorite summer wets is the Drowned Ant.

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Farmington River Report 8/12/14: Before the rains came

It’s been a slow summer for me swinging wets on the Farmington. Until today.

They dropped the flow from the dam to 340cfs, placing the upper river at a near-ideal 375cfs, and the lower river at 400cfs. Water temp on the lower river at 2pm was 66 degrees, darn good for mid-August, and no doubt cooler still at the bottom.

I visited several locations today on both ends of the river and found plenty of trout willing to jump on the wet fly. I fished my usual three-fly team; today it was a size 12 Squirrel and Ginger top dropper, a size 14 Drowned Ant in the middle, and a size 12 soft-hackle BHPT on point. I caught trout on all three flies, and even had a Farmington River Grand Slam with at least one brown, brookie, rainbow, and Atlantic salmon in the mix. One of today’s salmon was approaching the double-digit inches mark. Salar the Leaper indeed.

A staggeringly beautiful wild Farmington brookie who took a Drowned Ant on a mended swing. This is one of the best fish I’ve ever landed on this river, a tremendous fighter worthy of your applause. Also note the classic contrasting colors of the fontinalis fin.

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With the lower flows, my focus was on exploring some treacherous snotty water that had been previously out of reach. I almost went swimming a few times, and I even breached my waders when I stepped into a chest-high hole. (Please use a wading staff when you’re wading swift or difficult sections.)

Very little in the way of hatch activity today, although the Cedar Waxwings were busy.

The big one — 20+ inches —  on a wet fly still eludes me this year. But with a bounty of wild browns like this one, I’m not complaining.

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Farmington River Report 8/6/14: Follow the Heinie Trail

It seemed stupid to spend close to two hours driving to fish for only seventy-five minutes. But I did it anyway.

I turned my attentions to a snotty section of the lower river. At 510 cfs it was a challenging wade. I didn’t bring my thermometer, but it felt about 65 degrees at index finger depth. Not bad for early afternoon on a sunny day in August.

This year, the wet fly fishing has been slower than usual for me. I think some of it has to do with the elevated flows. I probably should be doing more nymphing. At least the trout are happy. I fished size 12 Squirrel and Ginger on top dropper, a sz 12 Drowned Ant in the middle, and a size 12 soft-hackleBHPT (tungsten bead) on point. I had several raps from those pesky JV salmon; I landed one of them. What a tub of fish flesh. Almost perch-shaped. I dropped a brown who was hiding behind a rock with a dopey reaction hook set. The one brown that came to hand was wild and in the foot-long class. He was quite exuberant in his reluctance to come to net.

That one fish was just enough to cover my lack of good judgement.

Classy litterers only leave premium cans behind. This says, “I’m not just a rude, ill-bred person; I’m a rude, ill-bred person with exceptional taste.” 

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Someone enjoying a snack in the cool shade of the tree-lined riverbank.

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Tip of the Week: Whitewater

You know all those snotty, pocketed riffles on the Farmington that were impossible for you to fish during the rains and high flows of June and early July? Well, no one else could fish them either. But now you can. And they’re loaded with trout that haven’t seen an artificial fly in weeks. I know, because I waded one of those runs today.

In just two hours, idly swinging and dangling wets, I caught over a dozen fish. I fished four flies — a deer hair head/wing soft-hackle, a BH Squirrel and Ginger, a March Brown soft-hackle, and the Drowned Ant — and caught trout on all of them.

Regardless of June rains, this time of year is a good time to focus on riffly water. As water temps rise, trout move into these oxygen factories. You’d be surprised at how big some of the fish are, even though the water’s not even knee high. Wet fly, nymphing, even bushy dries like a Stimulator will all take fish.

Here are some of today’s customers.

Several smaller wild browns like this one. They fight like tigers.
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All the really cool stoneflies hang out on this rock to smoke cigarettes and shed their exoskeletons.
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The last fish of the day, taken on a size 12 March Brown soft-hackle.
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On the Drowned Ant, size 14. This one had some shoulders, and really clobbered the fly.
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The Drowned Ant soft-hackled wet

Farmington River dry fly angler extraordinaire Don Butler likes to say, “Ants is good food.” He’ll get no argument from me – or the trout. As we move into deeper into summer, terrestrials — ants, beetles, hoppers, crickets, and even field mice — become a significant food source for opportunistic feeders. This fly is a variation of the classic soft-hackle Starling and Herl. All I’ve done is add a few wraps of thread to form an ant-like body segment. You can also treat this fly with Frog’s Fanny and fish it like a dry. A lethal summertime wet, especially on small wooded streams with wild trout populations. I also do very well with this fly on the Farmington River. Now, I’ve never seen an ant tread water in a three-knot current, but I get plenty of trout fishing the Drowned Ant on the dangle. This pattern is so impressionistic it could easily double for any number of darker bodied caddis or stoneflies. Only trout know what they think it is, and at the very least, it’s that it looks like something alive and good to eat. I almost always have this fly tied on my wet fly dropper rig from June through September.

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Hook: 1x fine, size 10-18
Thread: Black 8/0
Hackle: Iridescent starling body feather
Body: Two strands peacock herl, twisted on a thread rope
Segment: Working thread
 
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A head-on view. Starling is a fragile hackling material, but it does wonderful things in the water.
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Tying notes: For a more durable fly, make a rope of herl and thread before you wind the body. I tie this on a fine wire hook, and fish it as the top or middle fly in a three-fly team. When I was working this pattern out in my head, I considered using a more solid material for the body, like wool, working thread, or floss. But there is something about peacock herl and its mystical ability to attract fish that enchanted me. Besides, peacock herl is a traditional material, and seemed a proper nod to the heritage of wet fly tying. There are all kinds of feathers on a starling. Look for those iridescent purplish ones to add another subtle splash of magic to this terrific little fish-catcher.
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The Drowned Ant Soft-Hackle Rogues’  Gallery:
 
7/21/13, Farmington River
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 8/12/14, Farmington River
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