Farmington River Report 6/20/18: Going out with a wet fly bang

The last day of spring 2018 was a memorable one for me. The evening wet fly bite was spectacular (where one loses count of fish). I had a Farmington River hat trick (brown, brookie, rainbow). And I landed a porcine high teens rainbow (after it snapped the tip of my cane rod mid-battle).

But let’s focus on the positive. I fished below the permanent TMA from 5:30pm- 9pm. Water was a perfect height and still plenty cold. The bug activity was an 8 out of 10. I had much to work with: midges, a few small (size 18) caddis, lots of size 16 sulphurs and size 14 Light Cahills, and some mongo mayflies (10-12) that were perhaps March Browns or Isos. I fished a three fly team until 7:30pm: Snipe and Yellow size 14 on top, size 16 Magic Fly in the middle, and a winged Light Cahill size 12 on point. All three flies produced. The conditions were perfect for wet flies: bugs, birds working, and a multitude of sloppy, splashy rise forms that went on for hours. I spent most of my time targeting active fish, and often the take came on the first cast. I even caught one dangling my line in the current below me as I walked to the shore to put on my jacket.

Then, disaster. The hit came suddenly and with ferocity. It felt like a decent enough fish, but once I got it in close I could see it was a big rainbow in the upper teens. Fat, spirited, and uncompromising in its belligerence. I didn’t even feel the rod tip snap; suddenly, it seemed, it was just broken. I cursed my luck (as it was). Fortunately, I had brought a second rod stream side: I waded out, re-rigged, and was back at it.

I finished the session throwing dries: Magic Flies, Usuals, and Light Cahills. The trout liked all three. As the gloaming lost its struggle against darkness, I walked back to the truck, unsure how to process the conflicting sensations of delight and regret.

At this size and coloration, most certainly not from the factory. You can’t see it here, but the dorsal side of these fish is dramatically dark. They almost look like chrome steelhead when you’re bringing them in.

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The culprit. The opening of my net is 17″; this little piggy exceeded that. So far, the best trout hit of the year. She took the Pale Watery wingless (Magic Fly), not the Cahill as I previously posted.

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Farmington River Report 6/13/18: Workin’ hard, playin’ hard

On the river for ten hours today and loving every minute of it! I started by guiding Brian from 11am-3pm. Brian had a story that is typical of many of my clients: loves the Farmington, but has had too many encounters with the skunk. He wanted to focus on wets, but I suggested we spend an hour working on his nymphing game, since that is the year-round highest percentage play on this river. Brian has mostly Euro-nymped, but I set him up with a drop shot ring under an indicator. He took to it like he’s been doing it forever. There’ll be no skunk, today, Brian. The first fish was noteworthy because the indicator never went under — it merely twitched. Look for a reason to set the hook on every drift, and like that Brian was on the board.

It was a cool, wet day, and there was precious little bug activity. The water is still unusually cold, with 48 degrees at the bottom end of the permanent TMA, which was running at 330cfs. Nonetheless, we managed a mix of browns and rainbows by (you’ve heard this if you’ve taken my class) moving around and covering water. Nice work, Brian.

Every guide loves the sight of a bent rod and a tight line. Brian did a great job with his hook sets today.

DCIM100GOPROG0015239.

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Thank you for playing. They liked the bottom nymph, a size 14 Frenchie variant.

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Now it was my turn to play. I grabbed a sandwich and headed off to a snotty run to swing wets under a leaden sky. The cold from the river was a stark contrast to the warm and humid air (my lower legs and feet were uncomfortably cold by the time I finished.) By this time (4pm) there was a slight uptick in bug activity. Whack! My second cast produced a gorgeous wild brown.

They don’t make ’em like this in the factory. Absolutely flawless fins.

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Any pre-hatch period is my favorite time to swing wets, and I moved down to a more languid section of water. Sure enough, as the clock moved toward 5pm, there was an uptick in bug activity, mostly Light Cahills (Vitreus) 12-14 and caddis 14-16. The fish were rising a little more regularly now. I was fishing a three fly team of a Squirrel and Ginger on top, a Light Cahill winged in the middle and a Hackled March Brown on point. My strategy was to target active risers, and I caught a bunch of trout on all three flies.

There comes a time during every hatch when the subsurface wet becomes ineffective, and today it was 7pm. I switched over to dries, and had a blast fooling trout on the surface. I fished Magic Flies and Usuals, 14-16, and had a good couple dozen takes — but only about half of them stuck. I was going to leave at 8pm, but I remembered how fiercely I admonish those who depart from the river before the magic hour in June and July, so I stuck around until 9pm. The last half hour, the river was simmering with rise forms. I switched over to classic Light Cahill dries, 12-14, and ended the session with a healthy brown who was just showing the beginnings of a kype.

The best part? There was no one there except for me, the trout, and the bugs.

Our Lady of the Blessed Pink Band. First Farmy trout of the year on a dry. 

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Farmington River Report 12/19/17: Busy and slow

If you decided to play hooky yesterday and fish the Farmy, you weren’t alone. I would officially describe the permanent TMA as “mobbed” (for a Tuesday in December the week before Christmas). Air temps in the upper 40s, water temp in the mid 30s, flow at 210cfs. A few bugs flitting about (midges, W/S caddis, small grey stones) but no observed risers. I carpet bombed one pool with nymphs, both indicator and tight line, for about two hours and could manage only one trout. Chucked streamers for 15 minutes to no avail, then moved upriver.

Now dedicated to the streamer cause, I fished an overhead-deep pool and blanked. Moved downstream with about 15 minutes left in my session and connected with a nice mid-teens brown — and decided to leave on a high note.

The Hi-Liter produces again! The Hi-Liter is one of my high-confidence winter streamers. I like it on bright days and medium flows, and you can learn how to tie it here. A cast, a mend, and as I came tight to the line, a dull thud. Many thanks to Nick who graciously shared the pool with me.

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Farmington River Report 11/3/17: more anglers than fish

Holy crowds, Batman! But what else could you expect on a 70 degree mostly sunny November Friday? Water was 300cfs in the permanent TMA and probably high 40s/low50s. Leaves were a minor issue today. Hatch activity was virtually nil and I didn’t see any risers. I visited two spots in the PTMA and found fish in both, although the action was slow. I carpet bombed Spot A with nymphs for two hours and produced only two hookups. Indicator nymphing was the method, and both takes were very subtle twitches rather than total submergence. Spot B was a quick in-and-out, one fish in about 20 minutes. Thanks to every who shared water and took the time to say hello. (A reminder that if you see me on the water, you’re not bothering me with questions or hellos. I rather enjoy it!)

What the heck? This used to be a Snipe and Purple. I guess the bozo who tied it didn’t fully secure the silk. Out came the nippers and on went a Zebra Midge soft hackle.

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The ZMSH was a good choice. At least this lovely wild brown thought so.

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A batch o’ nymphs and wets for a client. I used a couple of these patterns today.

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Farmington River Report 10/3/17: On the edge of fishable

Once again, they’ve lowered the flow from the dam, giving us (with the help of the Still River) 75cfs in the permanent TMA. The water is plenty cold and the trout are still there, but it makes for some challenging fishing. David was up to the task, and we attacked multiple locations above and within the PTMA. While we found fish and had a few bumps, we were unable to bring any trout to net. David did a great job keeping up his enthusiasm — perseverance is a powerful asset when the fishing is tough. Short line and indicator nymphing were the methods. We saw a fairly strong caddis hatch above the PTMA at 10am. Most of the risers we witnessed came in the afternoon. The river was mobbed for a Tuesday afternoon in October — surprising given the conditions.

David fighting the good fight. We had a momentary rush of glory in this run in about a foot-and-a-half of water.

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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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Farmington River mini-report 9/25/17

A quick dash to the lower river to see if anyone was home. Water was low, 175cfs, about half of what it normally is this time of year, and felt like it was in the 60s. (Brief editorial: I must confess the logic behind water releases from the dam often escapes me. If periods of drought are the new norm, and September and October are traditionally low water periods, why run 300+cfs from the dam from April through July? Would we have more water now if they only ran 250 or even 200cfs all those months? What am I missing here?)

To the fishing: I swung wets in two runs for about 15 minutes each and came up with two customers, a nice 11″ wild brown and a much bigger, recently stocked rainbow. Both fish took the top dropper, a Squirrel and Ginger caddis. Lots of bug activity (caddis, midges) but nothing rising to it.