Farmington River Report 8/5/20: the last second winning drive

I guided Abe yesterday from 2:45-6:45pm. Abe, who said he’d never done particularly well on the Farmington, wanted to focus on wet flies. For the longest time it looked like we’d picked the wrong day. The river was in fine shape, no worse for the wear after the storm. They lowered the flow out of the gate to 160cfs, but the Still was adding another 100 or so to make an ideal summer level, and the water was plenty cold. Getting there was an issue for me: closed roads in Bristol and Farmington turned a 50 minute drive into 90.

We hit four marks and found spotty action at best. Hatch activity was virtually nil, a 1 out of 10. I don’t need to tell you that that meant a paucity of active visible feeders. Nonetheless, we stuck a few fish in the first mark and had an LDR. The second mark was a bust, with only a couple courtesy taps. The third was even worse, without a single fine how-do-you-do? But the fourth…ah, the fourth. We broke out the wading staff and ventured into a snotty, pocketed, riffly run that always holds fish this time of year. I switched out the Hackled March Brown on point for a SHBHPT to give us a little more weight. Time was running out on our session. Whack! Mid-teens rainbow. Bang! Gorgeous wild brown. Bap! JV Atlantic salmon. Three fish in 15 minutes made for a very satisfying end to our session. Kudos to Abe for fishing hard, fishing well, and never giving up!

You’d be smiling, too, if you’d just landed a quality trout on a wet fly on such a slow day. Our quarry was camera shy. Thankfully, Abe isn’t. While angler traffic was light, we didn’t see anyone else hook up all day.

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Farmington River Report 7/19/20: So many bugs!

From the moment I arrived at the river — about 6:00pm — till the moment I left — about 9:20pm — the water and air above was crackling with mayflies and midges. After enduring several recent outings marked by poor hatches, this was Mother Nature’s make-good outing. As a bonus, this was a working session, as I’d planned to shoot video for a new wet fly presentation I’m building. Conditions could not have been better. First it was sulphurs, size 16-18, then an influx of olives, size 18. Micro midges were everywhere. The fish were still feeding when I left the water.

This is a video still, so the quality is not great, but splashy rises like this were everywhere for the first 90 minutes. I enjoyed some spectacular wet fly action, swinging a team of three (Squirrel and Ginger, Partridge and Light Cahill, and Light Cahill winged wet). I took numerous fish on all three patterns, presenting upstream, downstream, and across. There came a time when the fish no longer took the subsurface fly, about 8pm. That’s when I switched to dries.

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Another video still. I can’t say that I can get too excited about domestic rainbow trout, but the Farmington rainbows this year are in a new class of fun. They’re fat, they’re feisty, they’ll bulldog you the entire fight, and many of them are taking on holdover characteristics like intact scales, deep coloration/pink bands, and well-formed fins. Corpulent mid-teens inches rainbows like this one are in faster water everywhere. Most of the browns I took came after 8:30pm.

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Farmington River Report 7/13/20: What hatch?

I guided Don yesterday for four hours mid-though-late afternoon. His goal was to work on wet fly fishing, and we had some great stretches of water to ourselves in and out of the Permanent TMA. Water was 225cfs, an excellent wet fly height, with a hint of stain, no doubt from storms upstream. Spot A produced two fish, a swing and a miss, and some finks that wouldn’t take. Spot B was a disappointing blank. Spot C held some players, and we had fun fooling them with the Hackled March Brown. While it was a very fishy feeling day, the hatches were terrible. I’m being generous by giving them a 1 on the 1-10 scale. Still, Don done good under some truly tough conditions. He’s going to be a dangerous wet fly machine.

Skunk’s off with this lovely rainbow. Check out that pink band! This fish was in great condition.

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Gotcha. I love these smaller wild Farmy browns. See you in a couple years, OK?

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Farmington River Mini-Report 6/16/20: Never leave the river before the spinner fall

Otherwise, you might miss opportunities like this. Taken at 9pm on a size 16 Catskills Light Cahill.

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More details on yesterday’s shoot tomorrow.

Farmington River Report 12/6/19: Dedicated to the (futile) streamer cause

I fished the permanent TMA today from noon to 2:15pm. Air temp was 37, water about the same, clouds and snow showers. The water was flowing at 340cfs. As the title says, I went all in on streamers, but never drew the protein payoff card. I hit three marks, and enjoyed the water (and my cigar, a San Lotano Pyramid) all to myself. There were bugs about (tiny BWOs, midges) and I even saw a few sporadic rises, but that dull thud on the swing and strip was sadly absent. Not much angler activity — one guy 250 yards below me at the second mark, a few hardy souls here and there, but today you pretty much had your pick of water. Fished a Coffey Sparkle Minnow, Hi-Liter, and Deep Threat, all on the full sink tip integrated line. We’ll get ’em next time.

Shooting the streamer line. I had forgotten how a few hours in the cold saps me. I’m wiped out, but looking forward to pizza night.

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Farmington River Report: Not as low, still a bit slow

I guided Glenn and Magnus yesterday from 10:30-2:30. The river was uncharacteristically quiet within the Permanent TMA — we saw only three other anglers the entire day. It was cool and damp and cloudy, perfect for tiny BWOs, but the only bugs appearing in numbers were caddis. Water was 160cfs and leaves were a factor. We fished a combination of indicator nymphing/drop shot and streamers, and although we stuck several fish on both methods, it was not a good day for getting trout to the hoop. Nonetheless, a pleasure fishing with you, gentlemen. (For those fishing streamers, white was the hot color yesterday. I like white when there are colorful leaves in the water.)

Magnus working a run at the head of a pool. We had a brief flurry of activity here, sticking two fish in the space of 5 minutes.

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Glenn waiting for the strike…here it comes…

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Is it OK to fish the Farmington in low summer flows?

I received a great question today: “How about a straight answer about fishing the river at the level it is at right now. I was told I’m crazy for staying away – my thought is it’s not good for the fish or the fisherman. Be honest please.” I’m assuming the question is about the Farmington.

Those of you who know me know I have nothing to sell you but the truth. So here we go.

The simple answer is: most of the time, yes. The Farmington is, after all, a tailwater. If you’re unsure what that means, its flow is generated by a bottom dam release, in this case Hogback Reservoir. In an average year, the reservoir will have a good amount of water in it, such that the bottom strata will be much cooler than the surface. I can tell you from experience that I’ve shivered for hours in the river on a 90 degree day in July. That water is plenty cold.

Fog is what happens when frosty water meets warm, humid air. This shot is from mid-summer.

Morning Fog

What happens in a drought year? In the most extreme years, it can get ugly. Go back to our most recent severe drought year, 2016. The water release was in the paltry double digits, and because there was so little water in the reservoir, what was coming out of the chute was in the mid 60s — not good. Take that water, bake it over several miles, and we had fish kills. The DEEP even declared thermal refuges, unprecedented for the Farmington River. I advised people to not fish.

So what about right now? The release is 118cfs, not great, but it’s coming out cold (the Still is adding 12cfs for a total of 130) as we had plenty of water this spring. Where you fish matters. The run from Hogback to Riverton right is plenty healthy for fish. Naturally, it will warm as it travels downstream. The water may be stressful to trout by the time it gets to Unionville. But every day is different — today it’s cloudy and in the upper 70s, not exactly a river-under-a-heat lamp. If it were sunny and blast-furnace hot, you’d have a different dynamic.

When you fish matters, too. From dawn through when the sun tops the trees is the coolest the river will be on any given summer day.

In conclusion: Use the stoutest tippet you can to get those fish in fast. Don’t take them out of the water. Fish when and where the water is coolest. Use common sense, and you’ll fish with a clear conscience.

 

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 6/17 & 6/18: You should be here. Now.

To say that the Farmington is fishing well would be an understatement. Three outings in the last two days, all of them highly productive. Here’s how it went down.

Monday 6/17/19 6pm-9pm: The 2019 debut of my beloved dad’s cane rod. I always forget how much you need to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n the casting stroke with that rod. Rhythm rediscovered, I quickly got lost in the lyrical motions. Fished below the Permanent TMA, and initial hatch and rise activity was about a 3 out of 10 (Sulphurs size 16, Light Cahills size 12-14, caddis size 16, creamy midges). Swung a single creamy wet for an hour and had two customers. The evening hatch on this river is so predictable: sometime between 6:30 and 7:30 there’s a window of null activity. It can last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. From 7:30 to just past 9pm, the river simmered with rises. I switched over to dries (size 16 Magic Fly, size 16 Usual, size 12-14 Light Cahill) and took trout after trout, mostly rainbows and brookies.

A whole lotta shakin’ going on, as the smoke from an EP Carillo New Wave Connecticut torpedo blends in nicely with the fog.

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Tuesday 6/18/19 11am-3pm: Andrew wanted to learn the ancient, traditional, devastating art of the swung wet fly. Soft hackles and three-fly team thus rendered, we hit two spots, one in the Permanent TMA and one below. Rain, fog, drizzle and downpour could not dampen our mood. Hatch activity was low in the first mark, but we nonetheless stuck several fish. The second spot was money, with several lanes of active feeders (the birds were busy, too) that kept us occupied for nearly two hours. We fished a Squirrel and Ginger top dropper, a Grey Watchet in the middle, and depending on water depth and speed, a SHBHPT, Old Blue Dun, or March Brown caddis on point. The fish found favor with every pattern, which is always gratifying. Andrew did a great job navigating some difficult water, mending across current seams, and waiting for the fish to hook itself. Time (wet) flies when you’re having fun.

How to spot a wet fly angler pre-evening hatch. Note bent rod and tight line. Frontal view would reveal a large smile. Good work, Andrew!

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Tuesday 6/18/19 4:15-5:45pm: My turn to play. Walked a 200 yard run in the Permanent TMA that I had not fished in a long time. OUTSTANDING sulphur hatch: duns in the air, birds working, sloppy splashes from trout gorging on emergers. In 90 minutes I stuck double digit trout, a mix of wild, stocked, and Survivor Strain browns with a bonus rainbow in the mix. This was a classic example of how effective the wet fly can be during a hatch. Thus sated, I headed home after taking a final victory puff on a My Father Le Bijou Torpedo.

I had action on the Squirrel and Ginger top dropper, Magic Fly middle dropper, and Leisenring’s Pale Watery Dun Wingless (pictured) on point. 

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Farmington River Report 5/29/19: Nymph them up

Wednesday was cool, overcast, and there wasn’t a lot of hatch activity (caddis and Light Cahills) until late afternoon. That didn’t stop Sam from sticking a bunch of trout between 10am-5pm. We fished below and within the permanent TMA, four marks total, and we found trout willing to jump on in all of them. Given the water height (880cfs lower river and 575 up north) we spent the entire day working on Sam’s drop-shot nymphing game, using a combination of tight line and indicator tactics. We landed a mix of rainbows and wild & Survivor Strain browns. Good job, Sam! You’re on your way to becoming a lethal subsurface threat.

Deep within the Amazon jungle, native wildflowers…nah. It’s just New Hartford, Connecticut. Darn pretty, though, and as lush and green as the rainforest.

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Men at work: Sam getting it done with a tight line presentation. His reward was a lovely wild brown that came on a size 14 Hare and Copper.

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One of several Survivor Strain browns that made it to the hoop. This one came out of the Permanent TMA. Way to go, Sam!

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