Farmington River Report 4/6/20: And then, the bottom fought back…

Yesterday’s expedition was dedicated to nymphing the lower River. The action was spotty to say the least: six marks visited, three of them total blanks. But…we’ll get to that in a moment.

First, be advised that Monday is the new Saturday on the Farmington. I’ve never seen the river this crowded on a Monday this early in the season. There were anglers in four of the six pools I hit, sometimes three or more. If you value solitude, gird your loins.

The method was drop shot nymphing, about 25% tight line and 75% indicator. I fished a size 18 soft-hackled pheasant tail on top dropper, and a Frenchie variant on point. I took trout on both flies.

It’s semi-sweet to say that you may have already landed your biggest trout of the season, but it is what is. I was nymphing a deeper run when the indicator dipped and I set the hook. The emotional and logical thought protocols immediately kicked into gear: “Is that the bottom? No, it is not, I can feel a head shake. Let me re-set the hook. OK, that’s a decent fish. Wow, that’s a strong fish. Shoot, he’s sulking on the bottom. Gotta keep him away from that submerged boulder. Gotta move him. I’ll do that steelhead side-to-side rod arc thing. Gotta get him out of the current so he can’t breathe. That frog water looks like a good LZ.”

And then, as you get your first visual, you wish for a bigger net. But you’ve whipped the fish fast (remembering the sage advice of Stu Apte: “To play him long is to play him wrong.”) and now the moment of glory is at hand. Swing and a miss. Again…yessir. Wow!

Hunk-a hunk-a burning Survivor Strain love. Wotta tummy! Wotta tail! And shoulders that simply aren’t done justice by this photo. Easily over 20″, but this is a fish that should be measured in pounds. 

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A trout like that called for a celebration. So I fired up a Rocky Patel The Edge torpedo and did just that.

 

 

Three Great Early-Season Nymphs for Trout

What are the best nymphs for early-season trout? It’s hard to say. “Best,” after all, is not an absolute like the firmness of the earth or the sun rising in the east. But if you asked me make a choice, I’d tell you you could do a lot worse than these three proven nymph patterns — and the trout would agree.

Soft-Hackled Bead Head Pheasant Tail. Size it up, size it down, the pheasant tail remains a classic because it looks like so many things that trout like to eat. I love this version for its buggy peacock herl thorax and so-many-quivering-sexy-legs of a soft hackle. For recipe and tying video, click here.

SHBHPT

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Frenchie Nymph Variant. The same fly as above — but different! We’ve traded the wiggly legs for a flashy hot spot. The result is a slimmer profile with different bite triggers that keeps this a high-confidence early-season nymph. What makes it variant? Unlike Lance Egan’s original, this has a brass bead, not tungsten, and it’s tied on a scud hook. (Since I don’t Euro-nymph, I rarely use tungsten beads in my nymphs.) For recipe and tying video, click here.

FrenchieVariant

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Rainbow Warrior Variant. Another Lance Egan creation, this version uses a brass bead instead of tungsten (see Frenchie, above) and omits the mylar wing case. The Rainbow Warrior takes the flashy attractor nymph to a whole new level.  Good stuff!

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Hook: TMC 2457 size 12-22
Bead: Silver, to size
Thread: Red 6/0 or 8/0
Tail: 5-6 pheasant tail fibers fibers
Body: UTC Pearl mylar, 3/64″
Thorax: Rainbow Sow Scud dubbing

Leisenring’s favorite soft-hackled nymphs, in list form with photos

Last month I published a short feature series on James Leisenring’s favorite soft-hackled nymphs. Leisenring first listed these patterns in his 1941 book, “The Art of Tying The Wet Fly.” Here’s a single reference list of the seven nymphs, a photo of each pattern, and a link to the original post with my comments and tying instructions.

Heed the sage advice of Big Jim: “Now, in nymph fishing your hook must be exceedingly sharp…more fish are lost because of dull, cheap hooks than all other causes combined…” — James Leisenring

Tups Nymph (nymph version)

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March Brown Nymph

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Half-Stone Nymph

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Dark Olive Nymph

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Pale Watery Nymph

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Pale Watery Nymph (light-colored dun version)

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July Dun Nymph

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Tie and fish these soft-hackled nymphs with confidence, just as James Leisenring did nearly one hundred years ago.

 

 

 

 

Striper Report 3/30/20: doubleheader skunking

Not satisfied with yesterday’s Farmington River streamer spanking, I ventured out last night with old friend Bob for some more piscatorial abuse. We fished the Hous from 9pm to nearly midnight. Our reward was…bupkiss. Well, not exactly. Bob managed one tap on his plug (spinning for Bob, fly for me). On the plus side, I reacquainted myself with my two-handed cannon — the rust factor was minimal, and it felt good to bomb out 90 foot casts with little effort. Oh! I also managed to wade through the deepest hole I’ve ever ventured into without breaching my waders. So I suppose dry and skunked beats soaked and skunked. We’ll go with that.

Not from last night. But I did fish a Rock Island flatwing (eaten below), a high confidence herring pattern I developed many years ago. You can read about the Rock Island flatwing here.

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Farmington River Report 3/30/20: Bump. But no WHUMP!

I thought this would be a great day for streamers with the river up (615cfs in the permanent TMA) and the substantial cloud cover. ‘Twas not. I fished four marks from noon-2:30pm, and could manage only two bumps in one of them. At least the river was not the mob scene I expected — I had three runs all to myself. So, the whump will have to wait for another day. Hatch monitors, take note: lots and lots and lots of tiny (size 22-26) BWOs on the water. Thanks to everyone who took the time to say hello!

This was supposed to be a picture of a gator brown, but my quarry was most uncooperative. I’m still really surprised I didn’t get more action, at least from smaller trout. Today’s streamers were Coffey’s Sparkle Minnow (pictured below) and the Hi-Liter. This Sparkle Minnow is the size of a good shiner, one of my favorite baits from my spinning days.

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Small Stream Report: The natives aren’t restless

Thursday was small stream fishing day. March isn’t exactly the wheelhouse for a small stream — there’s no canopy, the water is typically up and cold, and the wild brookies haven’t moved out of their winter lies — but Cam and I went for no other reason than to enjoy the woods and pretend we were many miles from civilization.

As I suspected, the action was painfully slow. We rose and landed one char all day. Yet, what better way to feel alive than to be out on a thin blue line and be so warm you’ve got to start removing layers?

Given the conditions, we decided stealth was in order. Here’s Cam doing a little commando fishing. We started off with bushy size 14 dries; after those went unmolested, I added a tiny nymph dropper to my rig. Still no love, so tied on an ICU Sculpin for Cam to jig in some deeper plunges. That’s what he’s doing here. 

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We saw a decent number of bugs: omnipresent midges, and a few small (size 18) tan caddis. But the brookies remained hunkered down. Finally, as we were bushwhacking out, I invoked the “One More Cast” Rule. The slashing strike came out of nowhere. After a few more rises on a waking presentation, I decided a size 14 Stimulator was too big. On went a size 16 Humpy, and the next cast produced this fine buck.

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Thanks to the Gov for opening the season early!

Leisenring’s July Dun Nymph

We wrap up the series of Leisenring’s favorite soft-hackled nymphs with the July Dun Nymph. No doubt Leisenring thought the July Dun matched the summertime bugs he encountered on his beloved Pennsylvania creeks. Certainly this fly could cover any number of small, dark nymphs that trout would think are good to eat.

I hope you enjoyed this little stroll down legacy fly pattern lane!

Leisenring’s July Dun Nymph

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Hook: 15, 16
Silk: Orange waxed with colorless wax.
Hackle: One turn of very short, soft-rusty-dun cock hackle.
Tail: Three fibers of a ginger hen’s hackle tied very short.
Rib: Fine gold wire halfway up the body.
Body: Darkish-brown-olive seal fur.
Body: Medium-dun mole fur.
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Tying notes: You don’t need to use precious tying silk on a pattern like this one (says the guy who used silk). Hen replaces cock for the hackle. Dark Olive Squirrel SLF Spikey Dubbing replaces seal fur. Leisenring uses mole in many of his patterns; a standard-issue mole skin will keep you in thoraxes till your old age. (Mike Hogue has some good skins at Badger Creek.) If you don’t have a mole skin, try rabbit.