Farmington River Report 5/4/21: North, Miss Teschmacher

I guided Andrew and Brett yesterday and they wanted to focus on wet flies. Monday’s rain was more than I expected, and I didn’t like the height or the color of the Permanent TMA. So we headed north to the friendly confines of WBATSR (West Branch Above The Still River. I just made that up.) This was a good call as the water was running a crystal clear and very wadeable 200cfs. I really liked that height, and I thought there were dozens, if not hundreds of pockets and seams and slots and riffles that would hold trout. Sadly, the trout didn’t get the memo, and we had a very slow day. (We didn’t see any angler other than our group hook and land a fish.) It was the kind of day where I find the next great piece of water, and think to myself, “this is going to be it,” and then nothing happens. These episodes make me throw up my hands and say, “I quit.” Of course, I don’t really mean it, and of course we don’t quit, but I get frustrated just like everyone else.

Andrew had fished with me before, and on that day we had far more active fish than today. Brett is a relative newcomer to fly fishing, and once we smoothed out a few wrinkles he was swinging like a pro. I alternated between both anglers, and we worked downstream, covering several hundred yards of water. Bug activity was very light, with two confirmed Hendricksons and a handful of BWOs, but that was it. As you can imagine, angler traffic was heavy, especially with that section of river the only clear water game in town. With today’s rain and increased flows, I would guess that streamers and nymphing will be, by far, the most productive methods for a few days.

Andrew doing battle with a chunky rainbow. He scored two trout, both on the bead head soft hackle I had tied on in the point position. In my experience, wet fly can be challenging in high flows, so I’d wait for the water to get down to 500 or less before swinging. Great job, Brett and Andrew, for persevering though some tough fishing conditions!

The best soft hackles and wet flies for fishing the Hendrickson hatch

“What are the best soft hackles (or wet flies) for fishing the Hendrickson hatch?” is one of those questions I get a lot this time of year. As always, the best flies are the ones in which you have the most confidence. I should also make this clarification: technically, with Hendricksons you’re fishing wet flies under the hatch. On the Farmington River, prime time for swinging Hendrickson wets is generally in the 11 am-to-3 pm window. Every day is different. Once you see duns on the water, and trout snapping at them, the wet fly game is all but over. But if you want to catch more trout, you should be swinging wets in this pre-hatch time frame. (Of course, you’re fishing a team of three wets. Here’s how to build a wet fly leader.) And so, in no particular order, these are some of my favorite Hendrickson wet fly and soft-hackled patterns.

Bead Head Soft-Hackled Dark Hendrickson
Dark Hendrickson winged wet
Hendrickson Spiders. Size 12, wet or dry fly hook, gray or rusty brown thread, tail material of your choice, a dusting of muskrat fur or dubbing, then brown partridge or dark dun hen hackle.
Bead Head Soft-Hackled Pheasant Tail
Old Blue Dun
Squirrel and Ginger. Yeah, I know. Not a Hendrickson pattern. But on the Farmington, we often get a strong caddis hatch around Hendrickson time. If you place this as your top dropper, you’ll be covered if the trout are selectively feeding on the caddis.

Farmington River Report 4/27/21: trading numbers for size

Monday’s Hendrickson hatch in the lower end of the Permanent TMA was a solid 8 out of 10. (The pre-hatch bite was slow, and the duration of the duns-on-the-surface feeding frenzy was brief, otherwise I would have graded it higher.) So I headed back yesterday to see what secrets the river would reveal. Crowds continue to be a factor; if you’re looking for solitude within the Permanent TMA, you will be disappointed. I chatted up my new buddies from yesterday, Andy and Bob, who were likewise back for more, and when some water opened up — people do leave — I jumped on it. Conditions were as nice as you could hope for, with a clear flow of 275cfs and hazy sun and far less wind than Monday.

The section I fished was perfect wet fly water: moving at a brisk pace, mottled, multiple current seams. Wet fly continues to be a highly productive method for fishing under the Hendrickson hatch, especially when it appears as though nothing is going on. While many other anglers are lounging on the river bank, or standing mid-stream like statues, I am working the water with a team of three wet flies. Wet fly anglers will always discover that something is afoot subsurface before dry fly anglers, and that was proved again yesterday. Around 1pm, I had an intense flurry of activity for 15 minutes, including hits on four consecutive casts. Then the action slowed.

This 16″ Survivor Strain brown crushed my BH Hendrickson soft-hackle on the mended swing. In heavier current, trout will set the hook if you let them; you feel the hit, wait, and ask “Are you still there?” The answer will always be yes.

Then, just like that, it was over. I added a shot above my middle dropper to see if I could tight line nymph up some trout, but they weren’t having it. (This is something I teach my clients: when you walk into a pool, you simply don’t know what’s been happening. The trout may have had the feed bags on for the previous hour, and now they’re simply just done.) So I got out of the river to warm up a bit. With the pool rested and my legs a little less frozen, I waded back in around 2pm.

Since I was hoping to find the fish that were already looking up, I switched out the bead head on point for a fly I’d never fished before. It was the Old Blue Dun, one of Leisenring’s favorite twelve. I’d always thought it would make a fine Hendrickson, and since to this point I’d seen more olives in the air than Hendricksons, it seemed like a proper why not? moment. It was a good decision, as a rugby ball-shaped survivor strain brown hammered the fly on the dangle.

With superabundance of meat on his flanks, this 16″ Survivor Strain brown gave me a challenging battle in the swift, cool waters of the Farmington River.

On Monday, the Hendrickson duns were on the surface thick by 3pm. That was not the case yesterday; we probably had about two-thirds less mayflies. Still, I brought several trout to net on Hendrickson Usuals and Comparaduns, two patterns I like in choppy water as they provide a good profile when viewed from below. I had to be off the water by 3:30, so reluctantly, I pulled myself away from pleasure and headed off toward responsibility.

Farmington River Mini-Report 4/21/21: First wet fly fish of the year

I only had 90 minutes to fish, so I chose the lower Farmington because it was closer to my house, and also to where I needed to be at 2pm. Plus, there was that front bearing down on us. Didn’t want to get stuck in that mess, especially after witnessing a foreboding fork of lightning slicing through the sky. After waiting for the dark clouds to disperse, I was on the water a little before noon. The plan was to swing wets and see if there was any Hendrickson action. Conditions weren’t great — 600cfs is a little high on the Farmington for wet fly, so I used a tungsten bead head Pheasant Tail soft hackle on point to sink things a bit. Still, the water I fished was fast and heavy, and if I was interested in numbers, nymphing would have been the way to go. I had a half dozen whacks in the fast water, with no hook sets, before I connected in a deeper slot. The wind was also a factor — forget roll casting for any distance — and I had to be vigilant to keep the rig from tangling. But by the end of the outing, I had three trout to hand, two on the BHSHPT and another, the biggest, on the top dropper, a Squirrel and Ginger. A My Father Le Bijou 1922 Gran Robusto proved to be a fine companion. Speaking of fronts, I can’t believe how much the temperature has dropped.

It always feels good to land the first wet fly trout of the year, even if it is a stocker rainbow. This one treated me to two aerials. The last two were fatter, and took a bit of forceful coaxing to come to net. I didn’t see any Hendricksons or caddis, but then again I only fished until 1:30pm. My wet fly box desperately needs a restocking!

Farmington River Report 5/2/18: Cold, slow, crowded and beautiful

Believe it or not, before yesterday I had not fished the Farmington since January. I had 15 minutes before I had to head north for my gig with Jeff, so I shook off the rust with a fat rainbow in some prime water below the permanent TMA.

Jeff wanted to work on his subsurface skills, particularly nymphing. We met up at a favorite spot of his and I looped on the same drop-shot rig I had used earlier. Wowee, crowded everywhere — we were one cog in a wheel of a half-dozen anglers on this stretch. And cold! My thermometer wouldn’t budge above 43 degrees. Hatch activity was decent (mostly caddis) but there was very little in the way of surface activity, not surprising given the water’s height and temperature. We done good, though — we saw three fish landed, and two belonged to Jeff. We tried some wet fly, but found no love, before moving downstream to another favorite run. Two anglers from Maryland were happy to share the water (thanks for the positive energy, guys!), but they likewise reported very slow action (only two fish all day for them). And yes, we did see a couple of the H fly.

Great job by Jeff, who is turning into a dangerous subsurface machine.

What a gorgeous wild brown — haloed spots, kype starting to form, full, unmolested fins, intact adipose. All our fish today came on the top fly in the nymph rig, a black bead head Hare & Copper, size 14.

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After catching such a beauty, is there anything more satisfying than releasing it?

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Two more spaces are open for the class I’m leading on Saturday, May 5. From the UpCountry website: There are two spots still available in “Fishing Wet Flies & Soft-Hackles” class this Saturday 5/5 – Steve Culton will be teaching this one, – call the store at 860-379-1952 to sign up.

 

Farmington River Report 5/6/16: Hendricksons (and then some)

Sometimes I have no idea what I’m talking about.

Exhibit A: As we waded into the Farmington at 2pm, I remarked to my client Paul, “We’re going to out fish those guys four-to-one.” Some splashy rises had me convinced we were going to clean up with wet flies in this snotty run. The two anglers below us were casting dries in a more moderate flow. Cue game show wrong buzzer sfx. They got one, we got one.

Exhibit B: On Wednesday, I said to Paul, “The Hendricksons are pretty much finished here,” “here” being near the bottom of the permanent TMA. Yesterday, we were fishing well downriver, and the splashy rises were due to an outstanding Hendrickson emergence. The water surface soon became littered with Hendrickson duns. How strong was the hatch? It was raining steadily, and the flies were still easy to pick out on a mottled surface flecked with raindrops. The problem was there was nothing feasting on these easy meals. Paul persevered, and induced a rainbow to eat the middle dropper, a gray/brownish wingless wet.

We decided to head upstream. This is where it got good. The hike to our spot took us past some glassy water where a large pod of trout were picking off Hendrickson duns at will.  We gave them a brief sniff of the wets — nothing. Then I suggested that we clip off the subsurface patterns in favor of a dry. The Usual size 12 was the fly, and the trout loved it. (Apparently, sometimes I do know what I’m talking about.) All you had to do was drift it over a feeder, and BANG! Game on. It was one of the better Hendrickson hatches I’ve experienced on this river. I know Paul had fun.

We went back to the wets for the last hour and managed a couple more trout. A very productive four hours, in terms of both catching and learning. Paul is well on his way.

Water was 275cfs, 49 degrees and clear. Air was 60, clouds and rain. The fishing was quite a bit hotter.

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This isn’t the best underwater shot I’ve taken, but I do like the reflection of the spots on the surface film. Since I know where you live, see you sometime this summer.

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Farmington River Report 4/19/16: “I suck at nymphing.”

That’s how my client David summed up his subsurface skills on the phone.

It may have been true a few days ago. But not today. No sir.  Today, friends, David was a steely-eyed nymphing missile man. He put a hurting on the trout with a yarn indicator, a single BB shot, some Pheasant Tails, and a fierce resolve to overcome that northern banshee we call wind. I don’t usually count fish, but we surpassed the dozen mark today. Way to go, David!

It must be the height of Hendrickson madness if the UpCountry lot is full at 8:45am on a Tuesday. We fished two spots outside the permanent TMA, and did well in both locations. (You know it’s going to be a good day when you hook a fish on your first demo cast.)  We fished a drop-shot rig under one of my home-brew yarn indicators; the top dropper was a size 16 soft-hackled Pheasant Tail, and our point fly was a size 12 BHSHPT or an Eagan’s Frenchie (thanks, Pete!) We took fish on all three flies.

Wind was a constant challenge, but I think we’ll take unfavorable conditions if a good bite is part of the package. Hatches were meh. There was a micro burst of Hendricksons shortly before 3pm, but it was over in a matter of minutes. David capped off his day by swinging a team of wets and hooking his first trout on that setup.

Yup. Today did not suck.

A portrait of a dangerous nymphing machine.

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Farmington River Report 4/18/16: that was fun

Spent three hours below the permanent TMA, from noon to 3pm. Some caddis and a few stray Hendricksons in the air. Water cool, clear, and about 300cfs. Walked a snotty run and swung a team of three wets (from top to bottom: Squirrel and Ginger, Dark Hendrickson, BHSHPT). One recent ward of the state liked the point fly on the dangle. Ended up at the pool the run dumps into and that’s when things got fun. Landed a dozen fish — including a double — that were a mix of stocked browns and rainbows, all on the S&G and the PT. Two of the fish were active risers that I targeted; the rest were holding in likely places. Took them on the dead drift, the swing, and the dangle. Some friends fishing nearby had great success nymphing during this same period.

I thought we might be in the midst of a day to remember, but sometime around 1:30 someone hit the off switch. An hour later, some more Hendricksons came off, and a few fish began slashing at the emergers. But whatever mojo I had earlier in the day disappeared, and I could only manage one more trout.

Poor me (he said, tongue planted firmly in cheek).

What are they doing in the Hendrickson House? I’d give today’s hatch a four out of ten.

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Farmington River Report 3/31/16: Beware of the Double-H

You know of the HH: Hendrickson Hype.

Yes, Hendricksons have been spotted on the lower river. No, the hatch has not yet begun in earnest. Of course, as a currentseams reader, you have a measured response to the HH. You know that nature is always on time no matter when she shows up. And that the hatch will happen when it happens, and not a moment before, no matter how much one wishes it were so.

I can tell you it didn’t happen today. I visited four locations on the lower river from Canton to Unionville, and there wasn’t a single subvaria to be found. On the other hand, there were plenty of caddis — the Rodney Dangerfield of early spring hatches — and though there were no risers, the trout were ready and willing to jump on a swung wet fly. On my second cast of the spring with a team of three wets, whack! A fine, fat rainbow on the top dropper, a Squirrel and Ginger. How glorious to feel that tug as the flies dangled in the current below me.

Warm but uncomfortably windy today. I nymphed for about an hour, but had no takers.  The bite dropped off after all those seed thingys blew into the water. 420cfs and clear.

Soon, my friends in fly fishing. Soon.

My top dropper today — heck, it’s usually my top dropper from April through August. Size 12 on a 2x short scud hook.

Squirrel & Ginger

Farmington River Report 5/8/15: We’ll take six

Jefferson took my Wet Flies 101 class today, and he chose a helluva fine day to be out fishing. Sunny, warm, good flows (264cfs, 52 degrees)…and anglers. Lots and lots of anglers. Everywhere. (I didn’t know you could fit that many cars into the Woodshop dirt lot. Whoa! Is that Church Pool or the Wire Hole in Pulaski?) Still, we managed to find some water to call our own not once, but three times around the upper TMA.

Jefferson did a splendid job with his team of three wets. Here he’s making that critical first mend after his cast. And yes, the weather and the river were indeed as clear and lovely as they look.

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To the fishing. I have been hearing a lot of reports of strong hatch activity with no fish rising to the bugs. That was our experience today. Spot A was heavy with midges, moderate with caddis, but very little surface activity. What risers we saw never got into any feeding rhythm; it was all rather haphazard. Jefferson still managed to stick four trout, which was four more than I saw anyone else hook. Spot B was largely devoid of hatch activity, except when the sun hid behind the clouds and we had a micro hatch of size 14-16 BWOs. Two fish on at Spot B. Spot C was the scene of a strong Hendrickson hatch (2:00pm-2:30pm) with one lonely trout making a few furtive slashes. He proved most uncooperative. But, we know where he lives. Thanks again to Jefferson for a fun day.

Mr. H stops by to say hello.

Hendrickson