And, we’re underway

Kicked off my 2014 guiding season yesterday with Matt. Matt wanted to take my Wet Flies 101 half-day course, and we headed to the upper TMA in search of feeding fish. Two-thirds of nature cooperated; an absolutely glorious late April sunshine, and a snow flurries-like caddis hatch (with a few Quill-something mayflies and mounds of midges for good measure). Unfortunately, the third that really counts was in absentia. Not a damn riser anywhere. Nothing for the nymphers, and even the spin guy only managed one on his Rooster Tail. Off to below the upper TMA, where Matt rousted up a nice brown on a bead head soft-hackle Pheasant Tail. Speaking of Matt, it was gratifying to see how much he improved over the course of just a few hours. So often, you get out of something only what you put in, and he worked hard on his mending and wet fly presentations. By the end of the day, quality drifts were the rule rather than the exception. Well done, Matt!

Matt executing a mended swing, focused, intent, and best of all having fun.

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After our session ended, we headed downstream where we found some fish willing to jump on. I also saw the first Hendricksons of the year, although two doesn’t make me do handsprings — and there was nothing rising to them. Not to be a wet blanket, but my enthusiasm is also tempered by the fact that we’re in for some cold, wet weather over the next few days. But come, they will.

An intriguingly marked rainbow that took my BHSHPT. Love the colors on the gill plate. Landed a nice wild brown as well, and LDRed a third. A fun way to end the day.

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Farmington River Report 9/29/13: Blue ribbons all around

First Place Winner: James. James is an experienced fly angler who wanted to learn the ancient and traditional ways of the wet fly. He aced Wet Flies 101, got into double digits of fish, and even had a double on a February Red and a Squirrel and Ginger. Good job wading, good job mending, good job presenting. If he keeps at it, James is going to be a dangerous machine. Trout, you’ve been warned.

Almost a grownup. The signature ink of youth has just about faded away from his flanks. A spirited fish, this one. I’m amazed he held still long enough for a photo.

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First Place Winner: The weather. Cool air. Warm sun. Blazing, brilliant sunshine. All day long. Water temp 59. Whoever ordered this day, I’d like to buy you a drink. And a cigar.

First Place Winner: The bite. Thank you, trout, for making my job easy. Your recklessness creates the illusion of genius in the form of a fishing guide. I really appreciate it.

First Place Winner: The hatches. See “The bite.” Caddis (smaller creamy size 16 and big tan size 12s), midges, BWOs, and especially a bumper crop of Isonychia. All our trout came on the Squirrel and Ginger (caddis) size 14, size 12 February Red, and size 12 Hackled March Brown.

James’ brown. The hardest working trout in the Farmington River? Or simply one of the many fish James brought to net?

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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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Farmington River 7/19/13: What hatch?

With the air temp in the upper 90s and a miserably high dew point, even standing in the brisk waters of the Farmington River offered little relief. Then the sun went below the tree line, and things were quite nice, thank you. I didn’t even need a jacket after dark, despite the cooling effects of some dense fog banks.

5:45pm found me wading a stretch of swift riffles, made all the more challenging by the MDC’s decision to bump the dam release up 125cfs. Along with the Still dump-in, that gave the upper TMA about 575cfs. I was swinging a team of three wets, and had several hits before landing a nice wild brookie.

A wild Farmington River brook trout. He was feeding right where the main current met the slower water in the shallows. Got him on the dangle on a size 12 March Brown soft-hackle.

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There were all kinds of birds working over the water, and sure enough there were caddis and sulphurs coming off. Since I had my heart set on some dry fly action, I closed up shop and headed to one of my favorite pools. Sadly, 575cfs is not an ideal height for this spot. Worse, nothing developed hatch-wise. I gave it a good long wait, but by 8:30 I decided to take a walk downriver and see if anything was happening there. I found some smutting trout in a glassy pool about 70 feet out, in water that I could only reach with a shorter cast-and-long-drift-presentation. I managed to fool one of them, a densely-spotted wild brown about 10″ long. Sorry, no pic. He give me the slip before I could shoot him.

Walked back up to my previous location at 9pm to see if it had begun. It had not. So I packed it in for some night streamer duty. I’ll make quick work of this: fished two long, deep pools. Not a bump. Not a lot of bugs out, either. Usually you can see thousands of spinners in your headlamp beam. Tonight, it was more like dozens.

McDonald’s is a poor substitute for Five Guys. But when you’re out close to the witching hour and your stomach’s been howling at the moon for two hours, you take what you can get.

Just like with fishing.

Wet Flies 101 Class on the Farmington River, 7/27/13

Come explore the wonders of wet fly fishing on the Farmington River with my Wet Flies 101 class Saturday, July 27, from 9am to 2pm. Whether searching, imitating drowned terrestrials, or fishing under the hatch, wet flies can be a highly productive summer tactic. Wet Flies 101 will cover basics like rigging, fly selection, and presentation. Flies will be included. Cost of this 5 hour class is $100, and space is limited to 3 people. To enroll, please contact UpCountry Sportfishing at 860-379-1952.

A fine Farmington River holdover brown, taken last week on a Squirrel and Ginger wet fly.

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Farmington River Report 7/8/13: Wet, dry, then very, very wet

Good God, man! Has it been over a month since I fished the Farmington? Incessant rain, work, and home improvement projects have kept me from my beloved river. But not yesterday. There would be fishing for trout, come hell or high water.

As it turns out, I ended up with both.

Started off in the Upper TMA in a run that rarely gets fished. While most of what I’ve caught there in the past few years has been of the smaller, home-grown-in-the-river variety, there are some big trout that lurk within. I fish it not only because it’s textbook wet fly water, but also, as my friend Eric once said, to keep it honest.

It was still steambath hot at 6pm, and even in the cool confines of the water I was dripping with sweat after a few minutes of wading. I was mostly fishing lazy wet fly swings and dangles as I worked my way downstream, with the occasional upstream presentation. In certain spots, the saplings extended a fair distance over the river, and an upstream water haul, lob, and heave was the only way to cast. My wet fly team consisted of a Squirrel and Ginger top dropper, Partridge and Cahill middle dropper, and an Alexandra on point. I had a few touches in the first 50 yards, but no hookups.

Then, in a nondescript run, I was making a series of upstream casts, taking in the slack line as the rig flowed toward me, then throwing mends as the flies continued downstream. On one of those casts, my floating line stalled. I immediately set the hook.

I fought the good fight with the hand-stripping method, but in the end this big brown buck made the put-it-on-the-reel decision for me. Twice I almost had it to net. Twice, it darted away into the current, pectoral fins flared and tail powering it with strong, determined strokes.

Someteen inches of holdover Farmington River brown, taken on an an upstream wet fly presentation. It choose my Squirrel and Ginger caddis emerger, the top dropper on a team of three wet flies. The more I fish this fly, the more it proves itself as a core subsurface pattern.

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There’s a logjam just below the run I was fishing. I took two of his little brothers, both on the Alexandra, then decided to seek my pleasures elsewhere.

Classic wet fly water: broken surface, about three-to-four feet deep, and moving at a brisk walking pace. I’m thinking that nymphing here is now on the short-term bucket list.

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I love fishing wets, but since I missed the June sulphur hatch I thought I’d better make it up to myself with a little dry fly until dark session. The good news was that I had one of the upper TMA’s most popular pools to myself; the bad was that at nearly 600cfs, it wasn’t the placid, easily wadeable water I love to fish on the surface. What few trout were rising were out of reach for me. Since there was no hatch to speak of, I thought I’d make one. I tied on a size 16 Usual variant with an Antron tail. I had just released a fine 9″ wild brown when I head the low grumble of thunder. A steady drizzle soon followed. As I waded toward shore to put on my raincoat, lightning shattered the rapidly darkening skies. Moments later, I was in a good old-fashioned southern Baptist downpour. Picture me crouched on the forest floor in an electrical storm with rain so heavy it extinguished my cigar. When I timed a lightning strike at less than a quarter mile away, I made the command decision to sprint for the car.

By the time I reached Canton, the rain was over. I relit my cigar. I had just enough of it to last me till I got to Five Guys, where I had a very important appointment with a cheeseburger.