Farmington River Report 12/6/16: Wet fly action in…December?

Trout blasting wet flies on the swing with a water temp of 36 degrees? Yes, indeed.

I fished the permanent TMA today from 9am-1pm. I was rigged for nymphs, and I spent the first 30 minutes bouncing along the bottom, desperately trying to ignore the growing number of trout slashing at W/S caddis. After the second or third time of telling myself that I was acting like an angler throwing Clousers at a school of stripers feeding on the surface, I disengaged the shot and re-tied the point fly to match the dropper: size 18 soft-hackled pheasant tail. It was by no means a proper wet fly rig, but what the heck — I’m lazy. Second cast, whack! A lovely late fall  wild brown. Next cast, ker-pow! (Those old enough to have watched will recognize the channeling of my inner 60s Batman TV show memories.) And so it went until the hatch waned.

The first fish of the day is always memorable, made even more so when it sports such finery.



I got out to warm up, and after ten minutes the slashing resumed in earnest. Only this time it was tiny BWOs they were after. The fish proved to be more difficult to catch during this hatch; they wanted the fly on the dangle (if they wanted it at all). By now the sun was up good and proper, and the trout were for the most part hugging the shade line of the eastern side of the river. I had to work hard for the two I landed, but when you’re swinging wets and it’s December and you’ve never had this much success with that method this late in the year, you’re squarely in a no-kvetch zone.

One of the BWO trout, a low teens wild thang.



But wait, there’s more. We also had a five-minute-blizzard of a midge hatch. I switched to dries for this, and fooled two on a size infinity Griffith’s Gnat, but sadly didn’t stick either fish.

And at this point, I won’t even bother writing about how I blanked on streamers.

On the way out I spoke with fellow guide Mark Swenson. Mark was Euro nymphing and had done quite well (in fact he landed one while we were chatting). He was also fishing small stuff, size 18s.

But for over two hours, I had the river all to myself. Just me, the trout, the bugs, and a December sunshine that made me feel like summer could come any day now.

Pennsylvania, meet Pulaski (by way of Yorkshire)

It’s cold in Pulaski, but even on the most miserable days there seems to be a midge hatch. I’ve decided that small flies in natural colors are underutilized on the Salmon River. And so, buoyed by last week’s success with the Snipe and Purple, I took to the tying bench.

Here are four classic soft hackles adapted for steelhead: Pheasant Tail, Leisenring’s Black Gnat, Starling and Herl, and a midge-like rendering of Leisenring’s Iron Blue Nymph. Three of them use the Orvis 1641, a 1x short, 2x strong wet fly hook. They’re a size 12, so they’ll effectively fish as a 14. The other hook is a size 12 Daiichi 1120, likewise 1x short/2x strong. Some of the original patterns called for tinsel; I substituted small diameter wire.

Now all we need is a hatch and some feeders.

Steelhead soft hackles, clockwise from upper left: Pheasant Tail, Black Gnat, Starling and Herl, Iron Blue Midge. 



Pheasant Tail
Hook: Daiichi 1120 size 12
Thread: Brown 8/0
Tail/Abdomen: Pheasant tail fibers
Rib: Small copper wire
Thorax: Peacock herl
Hackle: Brown hen
Black Gnat
Hook: Orvis 1641 size 12
Thread: Pearsall’s Gossamer Silk, claret
Body: 3 fibers from a jackdaw secondary wing
Rib: Small red wire
Hackle: Iridescent purple from a starling shoulder
Starling and Herl
Hook: Orvis 1641 size 12
Thread: Pearsall’s Gossamer Silk, claret
Body: Peacock herl
Rib: Small gold wire
Hackle: Starling
Iron Blue Midge
Hook: Orvis 1641 size 12
Thread: Pearsall’s Gossamer Silk, claret
Body: Mole fur spun on silk
Rib: Small silver wire
Hackle: Light blue dun hen

Farmington River Report 7/21/16: The best time to fish in summer is…noon?

Conventional wisdom holds that in summer, Farmington River trout will be most active early in the morning and late afternoons into dark. You won’t get any serious arguments from me. After all, I was plumbing the depths with my drop-shot nymph rig before 8am. Then again, I’ve always been fond of the old saw, “The best time to go fishing is when you can.” I stayed through 1pm, and my best fish of the day came at high noon under blazing, brilliant sunshine.

A Survivor Strain brown in the high teens, taken at noon of one of the warmest days of the summer in about two feet of water. Top dropper was the winning fly, a size 18 soft-hackled  Pheasant Tail.


The action continues to be slow; I managed six fish in five hours. Of the dozen or so anglers I fished near yesterday, I saw only one hook up. I believe one of the keys to success this time of year is to aggressively cover water. I visited seven spots yesterday, blanking in two of them (the method was nymphing) and taking two on four casts in another. I also did some playing around fishing without my beloved indicator, using a section of 12-lb. yellow Stren as a sighter. (I still like the indicator better. So there.)

Farmington River Mini-Report 5/11/16: Hot and not

I fished below the permanent TMA yesterday from 11am-2pm. I started off indicator nymphing in a pool that was infested with rainbow trout. I caught a ridiculous number of fish in a half-hour — not a testament to any skill on my part, but rather to the aggressive nature of these trout. Most of the action was on the bottom fly, a SHBHPT. I was pleased to get one on the top dropper, a new fly for me, Liesenring’s Blue Dun Hackle (size 14). Then I went to explore some virgin wet fly water. Nice run, but I blanked with my team of three. Did likewise in two other favorite runs. (Harrumph. I covered a good third of a mile of river without so much as a tap. Nice day for wading, though.) Finished up nymphing and took one more fish. I have to say that while recently stocked rainbows are not why I fish the Farmington, some of these fish are fat and healthy and display tremendous fighting and leaping instincts. Lots of midges and a few small (size 16) caddis.


One is the loneliest number (but it beats the tar out of zero).

Nymphed the Farmington River today from 11:30am to 1pm. Water in the upper TMA was an average height, clear, and 34 degrees. It was a slow day for most of the anglers I spoke with. Saw very little evidence of hatch activity (save for a solitary charcoal grey midge). I managed a fine holdover brown, but even that was by accident; I was moving a few steps downstream to a new position when the indicator went under. And there he was on my size 18 BH soft-hackle pheasant tail.

Someone’s been eating this winter. I like the bead peeking out of the corner of the mouth, hook right where it’s supposed to be. Note the odd indentation on the upper flank, just below the dorsal. There was no sign of a wound, and the fish appeared to be healthy.


I headed upstream to try some different water, but had no takers on my cased caddis or PT. Of course, there was that double-hooked stick, but since those are out of season I had to let it go. Most regrettable.

Switched over to streamers in some deeper water with an integrated full sink head. The past couple winters I’ve been trying to fish streamers more than I usually do, and today I was trying out a prototype cone head white bunny flashy thing. Nothing, nothing, nothing, THUD! It was a good fish that ran deep, then suddenly decided not to play. I knew he wasn’t coming back, but I gave the pool a few more casts before duties elsewhere called. Off the water at 2:10pm.

But, Mr. Slob Trout, I know where you live. And I’m coming back tomorrow.