Farmington River Report 6/21/17: A strange start to summer

The official start of summer isn’t beholden to calendars or warmth or maximum daylight. For me, it begins with liberating my cane rod from the confines of its storage tube and tying a Magic Fly to the end of a 12-foot leader. That this all happened on the 21st of June was a happy coincidence.

Monday’s storm left a swath of destruction in the People’s Forest area. Downed trees and limbs everywhere. The river soared a few hundred cfs, and Grady Allen told me the action Tuesday night was not so good. When I drove through New Hartford yesterday, the roads were wet and steaming from a late afternoon squall. Random piles of hailstones in the woods made me glad that I missed it. The river was down to 450cfs, but still carried a stain and some debris.

Not a lot in the way of catching for me, but I did get a low teens wild brown to hand on a size 18 Usual. I also rose fish to the Magic Fly size 18, Catskill Light Cahill size 14 and 16, and size 10 Convertible (look it up).

To the strangeness. Nothing so odd about the hatches proper: Sulphurs came off like clockwork and 5:30 and 7:30, first the bigger size 16 mayflies, the size 18s following, with the usual 6:45-7:00 lull. A few caddis and Isos here and there. The hatch strength was average. Normally this time of year, the Farmington lights up from 8pm to dark. Last night it was a dimpled surface wasteland. No spinner fall, no straggler hatch, no water boiling with feeding trout. How bad was it? I counted seven total rises during the witching hour (I might expect to see that many in 30 seconds on a good night).

I finished the evening by tossing a size 4 Olive Zoo Cougar into the gloaming. A few bumps and one stuck fish, but that’s not a fly made for cane.

Welcome, summer, even if your entrance was a little oddball.

And the heavens parted and a light shone from above, and a voice seemed to say. “Cast thy flies to the bank, Steve, where the current is softer and many trout are lying in wait.”

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Monster Delaware brown on the Magic Fly

I received this from Keith A. last night:

Hi Steve,
Want you to know that I just caught a monster brown, at the Delaware river, on one of the flies that you tied for me. Size 18. My guess is 24+”.

Thanks,
Keith

No, Keith. Thank you. And well done!

In proper nomenclature, these would be Pale Watery wingless wet variants. I think, however, that Keith would cast his vote in favor of calling it The Magic Fly.

Magic Flies

Farmington River Report 6/19/15: Fishing with Batman

Those of you old enough to remember the classic 1960s series on prime time — or young enough to know it through syndication —  are familiar with the show’s schlocky fight sequences, complete with comic-book graphics: BAM! POW! OOOFF! Hold that thought for a moment, please.

I got to the river at 6pm last night, and I quickly learned two things. One, one of my favorite wet fly runs that might produce one or two fish in the daytime is infested with feeding trout in the evening. And two, I can enjoy it in glorious solitude. Save for the cedar waxwings.

To the hatch: sulphurs (16-18), caddis (16-18), Isonychia (10-12), and BWOs (18). Midges, of course. Then a tremendous sulphur spinner fall at dark. Feeding came in waves; seemingly long periods of nothing followed by five minutes of boiling water. Every fish I took was an active feeder.

Back to Batman. Remember my last report of fish rising to my flies and coming away with nothing? Not last night. These were some of the most aggressive rises I’ve seen in a while. Acts of pure hostility that kept me delighted beyond measure.  Many of the trout were fat, mid-teens rainbows. One was the smallest wild brown I’ve caught on the Farmington. Another was its polar opposite. This guy absolutely murdered my size 16 Magic Fly. One tremendous leap, then the fish tore downstream like he was late for a job interview. My cane rod is outfitted with a click-and-pawl reel — there’s no rim to palm — so the only drag is my fingers on the line. I applied pressure at the end of his second run, then (to borrow from Batman) PLOINK! Popped the tippet. Now, 6x Frog Hair paired with the forgiveness of cane should be able to handle most Farmington trout. I have no doubt that the loss was a result of compromised material — or the misfortune of nylon wrapped around fin. I fantasized about re-catching him and getting my fly back, but I knew that would be an unrealized dream.

A closer look at this bruiser’s mouth reveals that this isn’t his debut with a hook.

Fat Rainbow Dry

What the Isonychia hatch lacked in numbers, it made up for with gorging trout. It was very much like a good Hendrickson hatch, with dozens of reckless fish lacerating the surface with showy takes.

Between 8pm and about quarter past, the pool was strangely quiet. I had just made the decision to move to another spot downstream when the spinner fall commenced. I moved into some water with a smoother surface, and had at a multitude  that were still taking emergers and gently sipping. I stuck my last brown at 9:15pm, when I could no longer see the fly.

All I could say was, WOW!

Excuse me sir, but is that a Pale Watery wingless wet in your mouth?

Magic Fly Rainbow

Notes: Flies I caught trout on: size 16 Pale Watery wingless wet, size 16 creamy Usual, size 12 grey Usual, size 10 Isonychia Comparadun, size 18 and size 12 Light Cahill Catskills dry.

Jefferson, a former wet fly student, made this report from the permanent C&R section: I had an excellent evening. I was fishing wet blue wing olives, size 12 and size 16. Everyone else thought the fish were hitting sulphur spinners (cus it was evening and it was sulphur season, perhaps?) One of the beauties of fishing wet right at dark is that one doesn’t have to obsessively try to see the  fly on the darkening water. All you have to do is watch the line and have a general idea of where the fly is.

A Sulphur Emergence in March

Would that it were so. But for now, I’ll have to be content with two dozen of the Magic Fly (Pale Watery wingless wet) sizes 16 through 20, waiting in the wings. June still seems like a long way off. But you can never have too many sulphur emergers — especially the Magic Fly. If you’re new to this pattern, you can find the recipe and a tying video on this site. You’ll be glad you did.

I’ll drink to a warm June evening when the sulphurs are coming off in numbers and the trout are getting stupid.

Magic Flies

I also see we’re getting near the 300 followers mark. Of course, once we reach it we’ll do another fly giveaway.

Coming soon: another trout streamer. Think out-of-the-box.

Farmington River Report 6/18/14: Thank goodness for 7pm

Kevin and Aidan took my Wet Flies 101 class yesterday evening. The upper TMA was a perfect height, 375cfs, running crystal clear and 55 degrees. A little stream side classroom, then on the water at 5pm. The sulphurs made a showing along with some caddis, but there was nothing rising. We gave the spot 90 minutes, then decided to move. Right call. We found some river that was a good transition point between classic wet fly and classic dry fly water. It had bugs coming off and fish rising. Best of all, it was unoccupied(!?!). The hatch was strongest from 7pm to around 8:15. Plenty of size 16 sulphurs with the trout keyed on the emergers — I didn’t see a single dun taken off the surface. I rigged Kevin up with a Magic Fly for some wet-fished-as-dry action (we started off with an 18 but downsized to a 20) while Aidan stayed subsurface with the swung wet. Both guys did a great job targeting active feeders, and both connected with trout. Around 8pm I rigged Aidan for wet-fished-as-dry and he stuck several fish. Great job, gents. We won the hatch and weather lottery.

Kevin battling a wild brown who fell for a Pale Watery wingless wet.

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A good number of trout were enjoying the sulphur hatch as much as we were.

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Attentive anglers catch more fish. Aidan focusing on his drift, ready to strike.

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After the gig, I took a break and waited for the dark of night. It was not a good night for me to forget my headlamp — it’s an adventure stumbling across a boulder-strewn riffle or trying to stay on the path through the woods in total darkness. Not quite on the darkness, really. The fireflies put on a spectacular light show. I’ve never seen so many, so active.

I fished from 9:45 to midnight, throwing big streamers in hopes of connecting with a big ol’ brown. Not tonight. I did get three bumps, but no hook sets. Oh. And a beaver stalked me in one of the pools I fished. That’s always fun. I was glad I didn’t hook him. Though if I did, it would serve him right.

Farmington River Report 6/16/14: Business (almost) as usual

Since I didn’t get to go fishing on Father’s Day, Monday was my night. I was sure with the warmer weather the bugs would be thick. I was wrong. I arrived a popular dry fly pool on the upper TMA at 5pm. (Thanks to Ed and his friend, whose name I didn’t catch, for sharing the water.) Very little action for the first hour. Even when the hatch picked up (I’d rate the sulphur hatch a four on a scale of ten points) there were few fish rising, and most of them only sporadically. Every trout I hooked over the course of the evening was an active feeder. I fished the first hour with a size 18 cream Usual and landed three browns. Then I switched over to the Magic Fly, size 18. The fly was refused three times, but after I moved down to a 20, no more refusals (the naturals were probably a 16). Once darkness enveloped me, it was the classic Catskill Light Cahill, size 12. Two more on that. On the last one, I completely missed the take. I was picking up the line to recast, and I noticed the leader moving upstream. So, while the hatch wasn’t epic, I managed about a dozen fish. Which is a darn good way to spend the day after Father’s Day.

And still: what’s with everyone leaving once the game gets going? I had the whole pool to myself from 8:15-9:00pm.

Today’s lesson: that tiny rise ring that could only have been formed by a juvey Atlantic salmon that you cast to anyway because there were no other targets? It’s really a well-fed, 14″ wild brown. Happened to me twice.

River stats: 400cfs, 53 degrees, sulphurs, lots of midges (grey and cream), a few small size 18 tan caddis and a few size 16 black caddis.

You find irises like these everywhere on the Farmington River. They’re really quite lovely.

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Farmington River Report 6/11/14: The evening rise is on

Speaking of seasons, ’tis the time to break out ye olde bamboo dry fly rod and cast to trout feeding on sulphurs.

I started out swinging wets on the lower river at 4:30pm. Several hatches were underway, including sulphurs and March Browns. Not a riser to be seen, which may explain why, to my astonishment, I blanked. I am always surprised when I don’t catch anything on wets during a hatch. This was mighty humbling.

Although I love the wet fly, and am an avid practitioner of the ancient art, I do have a soft spot for the dry. After giving the lower river a  half hour, I headed for dry fly water in the upper TMA. At 5:30pm, there were already two anglers in position. I moved to the head of the pool, not an ideal location due to several murderous current seams, eddies, and water that sped along in one place while languishing in another. This would require a series of complex tactical mends to get a good drift. That was fine with me. We like a challenge at Currentseams.

Dense fog blanketed the water (353cfs, and a chilly 52 degrees). A decent rise during the first emergence (sulphurs, March Browns) from 5:30pm-7pm. I was rusty. I dropped the first six trout I hooked. The action waned from 7pm-7:30pm, then picked up again (sulphurs, March Browns, grey caddis, BWOs). I finally got my mojo back, and landed every trout I hooked until 9pm when I called it.

Moonrise through the fog over the Farmington. When I took this shot a little after 9pm, I was the only one in the pool — besides a bazillion bugs and scores of hungry trout.

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I fished three patterns tonight, and caught trout on all of them: size 16 Pale Watery Wingless Wet (treated with Frog’s Fanny and fished on the surface), size 14-16 cream Usual, and a size 10 Light Cahill Catskill once it got dark. I am always amazed that people will leave a pool around 8pm. This time of year, the slot from 8pm-9pm is double-bonus action time. I lost count of the number of trout I landed in that hour. The last two I caught, I couldn’t even see the fly, and the last, not even the rise ring. I just lifted my rod tip and there he was.

My original leader length was 12 feet (6x tapered leader). Once I added three more feet of 6x, I found it a lot easier to get truer drifts.

You haven’t eaten in hours, and now you’re standing by the counter at Five Guys, desperately wanting your burger and fries. Whoever decided to put a big box o’ peanuts (note scoop, encouraging large portions) to  ease the torture of anticipation is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

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