Farmington River Report 6/21/17: A strange start to summer

The official start of summer isn’t beholden to calendars or warmth or maximum daylight. For me, it begins with liberating my cane rod from the confines of its storage tube and tying a Magic Fly to the end of a 12-foot leader. That this all happened on the 21st of June was a happy coincidence.

Monday’s storm left a swath of destruction in the People’s Forest area. Downed trees and limbs everywhere. The river soared a few hundred cfs, and Grady Allen told me the action Tuesday night was not so good. When I drove through New Hartford yesterday, the roads were wet and steaming from a late afternoon squall. Random piles of hailstones in the woods made me glad that I missed it. The river was down to 450cfs, but still carried a stain and some debris.

Not a lot in the way of catching for me, but I did get a low teens wild brown to hand on a size 18 Usual. I also rose fish to the Magic Fly size 18, Catskill Light Cahill size 14 and 16, and size 10 Convertible (look it up).

To the strangeness. Nothing so odd about the hatches proper: Sulphurs came off like clockwork and 5:30 and 7:30, first the bigger size 16 mayflies, the size 18s following, with the usual 6:45-7:00 lull. A few caddis and Isos here and there. The hatch strength was average. Normally this time of year, the Farmington lights up from 8pm to dark. Last night it was a dimpled surface wasteland. No spinner fall, no straggler hatch, no water boiling with feeding trout. How bad was it? I counted seven total rises during the witching hour (I might expect to see that many in 30 seconds on a good night).

I finished the evening by tossing a size 4 Olive Zoo Cougar into the gloaming. A few bumps and one stuck fish, but that’s not a fly made for cane.

Welcome, summer, even if your entrance was a little oddball.

And the heavens parted and a light shone from above, and a voice seemed to say. “Cast thy flies to the bank, Steve, where the current is softer and many trout are lying in wait.”

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Farmington River Report 6/1/17: Heavy water experiments

The rains that came through last night boosted the flows in the permanent TMA to over 500cfs. But I wasn’t going to pass up my first good opportunity in weeks to fish the Farmington.

I was dismayed to see four cars in the lot, then delighted when I walked through the woods and there was no one in the main pool. So I waded in and had at it. Nymphing was the method, 54 was the water temp, caddis was the hero hatch, and the weather was New England crazy. I fished in brilliant sunshine, mixed clouds, dead calm, gusty wind, and a couple of steady downpours — all from 11:15am to 2:30pm. While I had to work for them, I got into a double-digit number of trout. Here are some particulars.

Things started slowly. My fish came in bunches, leading me to believe that their feeding activity was matching the hatch cycle. Some dry fly guys told me later that they had the same experience.

I found all my fish in the hot water, mostly at the heads of pools. If it was raging and boiling, it was good. No luck along the softer edges, which surprised me in this many cfs. Shows you what I know.

Intriguing markings and dramatic dots on this one.

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The rigging was drop shot with two BB shot, two fly system. Fished three patterns: a size 14 Squirrel and Ginger nymph on point, and a size 18 Starling and Herl or a size 14 Hare and Copper on the dropper.  All caught fish.

I did some indicator nymphing (and caught fish), but the rest of the time I went with the short line/tight line approach. I felt the indicator was moving along too quickly in the heavier flows, and the wind was affecting its drift as well. That being said, the indicator did me proud when I had to reach some far-off currents I couldn’t wade close to.

Almost all my tight line hooksets today were tactile; that is, I felt the strike before I saw the sighter lag behind vertical. Still trying to dial in to the straight line presentation and strike detection thing. More experiments necessary. (Dang.)

Fish don’t lie. They’ll always tell you when you get it right.

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Farmington River Report 4/28/17: To the Vicky belongs the spoils

I guided Vicky today and she did a bang-up job banging up some trout under the trusty yarn indicator. Vicky vastly undersold her fishing capabilities to me. She did a great job casting, mending, managing her drifts, keeping a positive vibe, and wading into some challenging water (750cfs, 50 degrees below the permanent TMA). Vicky told me she’d only caught five fish on the fly before today; we managed to hook nearly twice that many and land a bunch, all fat, healthy rainbows. We fished a size 14 Rainbow Warrior on top dropper and a size 14 Frenchy variant on point and took fish on both flies.  Our action picked up once the sun warmed the water (weather lottery winners, us) and a few Hendricksons started popping, but persistence and covering water paid off the most.

The skunk is off. We didn’t see a lot of fish caught, but we sure did see a ton of anglers for a weekday. Thanks to everyone who said hi.

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This got to be a familiar sight. Way to go, Vicky!

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Farmington River Report: A good day for Hendricksons (and nymphing)

There’s been plenty of  discussion about the possible negative effects of last year’s drought on the river. One concern was bugs. Friends, I’m here to tell you that the lower river near Unionville — an area that got torched last summer — was buzzing with Hendricksons today. Bugs everywhere. The hatch started around 2:15pm and it was still going in earnest when I left at 3pm. The bad news? High (930cfs) and cold water had only a few scattered trout slashing at the emergers.

Let’s back up a bit. Starting at 11am, I hit six spots below the permanent TMA and found trout willing to jump on in five of them. Most came via nymphing, no surprise, but I did get my first trout of the year on a swung wet. Before the Hendricksonstravaganza, I had seen only one H-word mayfly, seemingly lost among the prolific caddis and midges hatches.

We’re due some relatively dry, warm weather, so the good news will be a drop in cfs and a spike in water temperature. That should really get the trout going. Good luck if you’re out this weekend. Me, I’m avoiding that madness.

Hey! I know you. Missing most of the middle fork of the tail, but still the mayfly we all know and love.

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Lockjaw trout, ravenous stripers

First, Happy Easter!

Next, a few late mini reports. Last week they bumped up the flow from the Hogsback dam. I fished the Farmington below and in the permanent TMA on Thursday. The results were poor: I hit five spots and found fish that wanted to eat in only one of them. Could have been a combination of higher water, cold water, high pressure, or just not my day. But when I guided Joe and Wayne on Friday, the fishing wasn’t any better. The weather was glorious and there was plenty of hatch activity, but we had a tough day. Both Joe and Wayne fished well and hard — in the end, the river won. We’re already looking forward to the re-match.

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Good Friday is my traditional striper outing in honor of the greatest fisherman ever, Simon Peter. The Bass-O-Matic was humming along at full tilt — fishing partner Bob Griswold and I caught dozens and dozens of stripers. If you’re a glass is half full kind of person, the good news was that these 14″ fish represent a strong local showing of the class of 2015. There were a few low 2o-inchers in the mix to keep things interesting. The bite shut down at dusk, and we called it a good striper thumb day.

Representing the Class of 2015, Mr. I-Can’t-Keep-Away-From-Your-Fly. Very aggressive feeders, and legions of them. Where’s my five weight?

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Farmington River Report 3/21/17: Trout on the move

The fish didn’t feel that big, so I was surprised when I saw that it was a mid-teens brown. Almost immediately, its lackluster fight, dull colors, and ragged, undersized fins registered: this was a recently stocked fish that had already travelled several miles up or downriver. You see, I was standing in the middle of the permanent TMA, an area that hasn’t yet been visited by the DEEP tanker truck.

I fished two spots. I shared the first with another angler (thank you, kind sir!); he was Euro nymphing, and I went with a mix of tight line and indicator presentations with my trusty drop-shot rig. Despite the sexy water and a decent midge hatch, we both blanked. Off to spot two, where I hooked Mr. Recent Ward Of The State followed by two long-time residents. All fish came on the bottom dropper, a size 14 Frenchie variant.

The takes of the two wild fish were odd. The indicator made a little nudge, immediately followed by a dip. It was as if the nudge was the actual take, and the dip the trout retreating with the prize. I’m constantly trying to refine my technique: playing around with indicator positioning, drift speed, trying to figure what’s bottom and what’s not, ditching the indicator and seeing which takes I can feel and which I can merely see. Every day is different; once I knew what to look for with the indicator, I was ready for that little nudge, and on that second trout I was in the process of setting the hook after the nudge when the yarn went under.

The TMA was packed for a Tuesday in March. Most of the anglers I spoke to said the action was fair to slow. Water was 233cfs and 37 degrees. Runoff may have impacted the bite. Many road entrances and dirt pulloffs (like Greenwoods and Woodshop) were still inaccessible.

That’s more like it. An equinox wild brown with an impressive power train. Note the deep gold coloring from the underside of the mouth to the gill plate.

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Farmington River Report 3/7/17: What’s all this, then?

Let’s start with some good news, where a picture is worth 200cfs:

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Add to that 100+cfs from the Still, and we finally have a proper level in the permanent TMA, running clear and 34 degrees. Of course, we need to keep those rain dances at the ready. A little more snow in the Berkshires wouldn’t hurt, either.

To the fishing. Spot A was a blank, and friends, I want to tell you that I nymphed the snot out of that run for the better part of 90 minutes without a touch. Spots B and C were dedicated to the streamer cause but with the same result. At this point I paused to reflect upon the manifest iniquity of fishing — and to consider newly received intel that there had been a recent significant melting of ice shelves where I had been fishing .

La Aroma De Cuba Reserva Bellicoso in hand (well, mouth, too) I headed north.

And that’s where I found a whole bunch of trout that were most eager to eat my nymphs. They were fairly split between the size 16 Weisner’s midge dropper and the size 14 Frenchie variant. I used two BB shot to keep my drifts nice and slow. The takes were on the subtle side, but nonetheless my indicator received a good soaking. By 3pm the action had tailed off, and I called it a day.

Several of my fish were well-fed browns in the mid teens. No wonder this hen gave me a battle. Look at the size of her pectoral fin.

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Another fine specimen from the chilly waters of the permanent TMA.

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