Props to a keen student of wet fly fishing

Don took a wet fly lesson with me in July, and while the bugs and trout weren’t very cooperative, we still had enough action to make things interesting. I always tell my students that if they keep on with this wet fly thing, good things will follow. Don has been in touch since then, asking questions, practicing and tying, and most importantly, spending time with a team of three on the water. That’s how you become a better wet fly angler.

In my report from that day, I stated that if Don learned wet flies, he would become a dangerous fish-catching machine. Although conditions have been challenging in the last couple months, Don has kept at it. Last week he scored this gorgeous brown on a Squirrel and Ginger. I think it’s a Survivor Strain broodstock — that looks like a left-eye elastomer and clipped adipose. Way to go, Don!

Farmington River Report 4/17/20: Hendricksons & spectacular wet fly action

“Do you always fish three wet flies at the same time?” I get this question a lot. “Almost always” is the answer. The “almost” comes from days like today when I had to remove the middle dropper because I was catching multiple trout on every cast.

I certainly didn’t expect it to be that kind of day.

Wind was an issue. Cold was another. The Hendrickson hatch I experienced was nothing extraordinary — I’d give it a four out of ten. But I hadn’t done a session dedicated to wets this year, and the start of the Hendrickson hatch seemed as good a time as any.

Spot A below the permanent TMA was a blank. Off to Spot B inside the permanent TMA, which was fully occupied. (If you haven’t been to river yet, you may be shocked by the number of anglers. Church Pool was as close to looking like the Riverton Opening Day Fishing Derby as I’ve ever seen it.) But then, as luck would have it, one of the anglers decided to leave, and I took his place in the lineup. Thank you, generous stranger, because I discovered a pod of ravenous trout that showed themselves the moment the hatch began.

Today’s lunch, fresh from a captured brown’s mouth. 

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So, for two hours, I bailed trout. The tally was surely in the multiple dozens. I know I had close to ten doubles, even after I took one fly out of the mix. Business was about 10% on the Squirrel and Ginger and the rest on the Dark Hendrickson Winged Wet, which, if you don’t tie, you should. (You can thank me later.)

Having so many active feeders was certainly a plus, but the guy above me was nymphing and I didn’t see him hook up. Ditto the guy below me, who, after I waved him up and he changed to wets, began catching in earnest. I’d say most of my fish came from placing my team over the positions of active feeders. The trout did the rest.

This is great time of year to be swinging wet flies. Hit a prolific hatch (like the Hendrickson) just right, and you’ll be giggling in your waders, too.

Tip of the Week: The wrong fly presented correctly is better than the right fly presented incorrectly

I know, it’s a bit of a mouthful. But it’s so true. And it’s played out multiple times in my last two trout outings. “The Wrong Fly Presented Correctly…” strategy is part of my new presentation, The Little Things 3.0, and I wanted to share it with you so you can catch more fish on your next trip.

Situation A: I’m fishing a snotty dump-in at the head of long pool with several feet of depth. I see small (size 16) caddis and tiny BWOs and what looks like a smaller (size 16) sulphur in the air, and a few swirls of rising trout. Problem: I’ve only got my streamer pack with me; the only wet flies I have are big size 10 white fly soft hackles from a summer smallie trip — not even close to what’s hatching. Nonetheless, I rigged up a makeshift wet fly team of two on 8-lb fluoro. Not ideal on a number of fronts — the fly is way too big, it’s the wrong color, the leader system is clunky at best. And yet, I was making it easy for the buyer to buy — and sometimes that’s all you need to do to make a sale.

This handsome brown proves that it’s rarely a bad idea to feed the fish something that looks alive and good to eat (even if it’s the wrong size and color and species) — as long as you feed it to them the same way they’re taking their food. 

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Situation B: Long, languid water, hardly classic wet fly structure or speed. You’d think dry fly all the way on this mark. The trout are smutting on tiny BWOs, producing gentle rise rings, the kind you see with midges or Tricos or — tiny BWOs. I’ve been fishing streamers, so I’ve got an 8-weight WF line — a really bad choice for this kind of water. I do have some smaller BWO wet fly patterns this time, and so two of them go on the team of three. But I like to give the fish a choice, just in case. So I tied on a size 12 Squirrel and Ginger top dropper. This fly is 10 sizes larger than what the trout are feeding on. But I’m fishing in the film, using a mended swing and dead drift to bring the team of flies to hungry mouths, just like the naturals. You can see where this is going…

Bingo! Wrong fly, right presentation, big brown. Go forth and do likewise. Oh, yes — the same rule holds true for stripers.

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Farmy Mini Report 7/22/19: Not all change is good

I guided Rand and his son Sam yesterday and the break in the heat didn’t seem to do the fishing — make that catching — any favors. We pounded two confidence-is-high runs with nymphs for three hours and only managed to stick one trout. Bug activity was virtually nil. Then we switched to wets and found only one more fish willing to jump on. We didn’t see another trout caught in four hours on the water. Kudos to Rand and Sam for persevering through a tough bite window. Multiple hookups and tight lines for both of you to come!

Rand swinging his wets over some holding water.

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Like father, like son. A pleasure, gentlemen!

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I had a 20 minute window on the way home so I jumped into some snotty pocket water about 1-2 feet deep to swing wets. Here, the trout were open for business, and I managed three wild stunners, one on each of the flies, a size 12 Squirrel and Ginger top dropper, a size 14 Drowned Ant, and a size 12 Gray Hackle. So maybe that kind of water and method was the key to yesterday, although it was not an appropriate run for inexperienced waders.

The first wild brown came on the S&G.

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My wife says the halos are gold. I’d say the entire fish is worthy of such lucre. Last brown, taken on the Gray Hackle.

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Farmington River Report 5/23/19: Nymph-o-Mania!

You know it’s a great 2 hours of fishing when you lose count of the trout you land. Drop-shot nymphing was the method, straight line and indicator, and the action was hot from start to finish. Since the lower river was below 1,000cfs for the first time in a month, and I had limited time, that’s where I headed. I made it to three pools from 12:30pm-2:30pm. and in each of them the trout were eager to jump on: two produced fish on the third cast, the other the first. Despite a strong caddis hatch, I didn’t see any risers, and unfortunately I didn’t make time to swing wets. But if you’re ready to do some nymphing, and you’re looking to book a date, now’s a good time to do it. Thanks to everyone who said hello!

Indicator Nymphing Tips #1 & 2: An upstream wind is great time to indicator nymph, because it slows the pace of the indicator on the surface. Look for a reason to set the hook on every drift. If that indicator twitches, stalls, slows, deviates — it doesn’t need to go under — set the hook! This lovely rainbow was such a case. My yellow yarn was bouncing merrily downstream, then slowed for just a moment. Bam. Set. Fish on.

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When there’s a substantial caddis hatch, and you’re nymphing with two flies, it’s almost never a bad idea to make your top dropper a Squirrel and Ginger. About half my fish came on this pattern (point fly was a Frenchie variant).

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I also had plenty of dramatic takes on the indicator, as in: now you see it, now you don’t. Likewise when I was tight line nymphing. I felt every single hit. This guy, looking very wild, clobbered the fly and fought well above his weight class.

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700 Followers Contest Swag

Congratulations to Ron, Toby, and Michael, our three winners in the Currentseams.com 700 followers contest! Each will be receiving a selection of a dozen wet flies, including classic North Country spiders, Leisenring’s favorites, traditional American wet patterns, and a couple Culton originals. Some of the flies are the actual ones featured in the photos for this winter’s wet fly series.

I had hoped to get these out today, but it will have to wait for the weekend or Monday. I’ll let the winners know when I ship.

A heartfelt thank you to everyone for reading and following currentseams. Without you, I wouldn’t be able to do this. Tight lines to all, and on to 800!

Gentlemen, start your drooling. From left to right, Ron’s, Toby’s, and Michael’s dozen. Get these wet and do us proud, gentlemen — and of course, we want to see photos.

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CFFA Show tomorrow, 2/2/19: Tying and “Wet Flies 101”

A reminder for you to attend “the best little fly fishing show around,” the CFFA Expo, Saturday, February 2 at Maneely’s in South Windsor. I will be presenting my Wet Flies 101 program at 9:30. I will also be on tier’s row, but I have a coaching commitment in the afternoon, so I’ll only be there until 12:30pm. See you there, and be sure to come say hello.

Everyone always wants to see me tie the Squirrel and Ginger. All you have to do is ask. 🙂

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Farmington River Report 6/26/18: Subsurface Success

Chris wanted to work on his subsurface game, so we spent the morning nymphing and swinging wets. Success! We fished three spots below the permanent TMA and found players in two of them.

We started off indicator nymphing (using my homebrew indicators) with a drop shot rig, and I continued my catching-a-fish-while-doing-a-demo streak. (If you want to look cool, pretend you meant to do it.) Chris took over and made a bunch of quality drifts with no love. All of a sudden, it happened. An unseen hatch was underway, the trout were feeding, and we hooked a bunch if fish in 15 minutes.

Wets were next. Run A was a blank, and Run B did not produce in the areas it usually does. No worries — Chris kept a positive attitude (confidence catches fish), and it rapid succession he stuck a bunch of trout tight to the bank. Great job, Chris! The trout should be worried.

We won the weather lottery: Bluebird skies, warm sun, cool air. Of course, a tight line makes any day sunnier.

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We spotted a distressed rainbow in the shallows. It had been hooked, lost, and had the terminal tackle and a short length of mono still attached. Unfortunately, we failed in out attempts to net it.

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Chris kept pounding the banks in a shade line, mended swing presentation, and was rewarded with several slashing strikes. This gorgeous wild brown took the top dropper on his team of three wets, a Squirrel and Ginger.

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After our session, I spent two very entertaining hours swinging wets. I fished a Squirrel & Ginger (caddis) on top, a Drowned Ant middle dropper, and a Light Cahill on point. I saw all three insects out and about, as well as tiny BWOs, midges, inch worms, and sedges. Among the players today were three wild brookies. Funny thing! They all took the Drowned Ant. I don’t think it was a coincidence. This stunner is clearly from the Farmington River hatchery.

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Another hat trick today, thankfully without a broken rod. This low-teens wild brown was feeding just along a shade line in about a foot of water. First cast, bang! Squirrel and Ginger. Catch-and-release works in the wild, too — note the long-ago healed bird wound just above the gill plate. I bounced around to three spots, found hungry fish in all of them, and lost track of both time and fish landed.

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Farmington River Report 7/9/17: Swell fishing. Catching? Ummmm….

My Wet Flies 101 class won the weather lottery yesterday. Sadly, the price of the ticket was one of the worst bites I’ve seen all season on the Farmy. (I’m going with the cold front coming through the night before theory.) There was enough hatch activity (Isos and caddis) to keep our hopes up, and a few splashy risers here and there, but folks, it was tough sledding. The guys did a most excellent job of staying positive and refining their newly learned craft. Keep at it, gents, and you’ll have enough days that will make you chuckle when you think of yesterday. (Really.)

As an instructor, I find sessions where everyone blanks as frustrating as the students. So I fished the lower river on the way home. The run I targeted was located in a section that got annihilated by last summer’s drought. Yet, I took two beautiful wild browns in 30 minutes. The water was swift and snotty (not well-suited for a class) so maybe that was the difference.

Nature finds a way. This is the first fish. He clobbered the Squirrel and Ginger on the dead drift in a deep pocket. Love the way the wild ones hit and battle, and you just don’t get coloration like this at the factory.

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Farmington River Report 6/14/17: Confidence catches fish, Sulphur City

I guided Keith on Thursday and his goal was to leave the river with more confidence than when he arrived. I think we accomplished that. Where to fish, how to fish, which flies to use — keeping it simple is usually a good place to start. So we headed of to a spot below the permanent TMA for some nymphing basics. Spring mornings are almost always a good time to nymph. We did both short line and indicator, and on this day indicator was the more successful method. We took fish on both the dropper (size 18 2x short Starling and Herl) and the point fly (BH Squirrel and Ginger).

Next up: Wet Flies 101. I was disappointed with this second location, downriver from the first. Our drifts were good and we covered some fishy water, but you can’t catch what doesn’t want to eat — or what isn’t there — so we headed off to trout central, AKA the permanent TMA.

Good call. As we worked our way downstream into some slower water, we saw active feeders. Even though the water was better suited for dries, properly presented soft hackles can be deadly during a hatch. Caddis was the bug, and we had two caddis patterns on our team of three (S&G top dropper and Winter Brown on point) with a dark fly (Drowned Ant) in the middle.  It wasn’t long before Keith’s line came tight to beautiful brown.

Keith shows us how it’s done, much to the delight of his instructor.

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We took fish on all three flies, but only one on the dark middle fly. We got nearly into double-digit numbers, a mix of stocked browns, rainbows, a Survivor Strain brown and a few wild ones. I was intrigued by the parr marks on this rainbow. He wasn’t all that delicate, though, putting on an impressive aerial display during the fight.

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Finally, I fished from 5pm-7:15pm way downstream in an area that got torched by last summer’s drought. I wanted to see what the Sulphur hatch was like, and, more important, was anything taking advantage of it? Good news, bad news: tremendous sulphur hatch (I’d give it an 8 out of 10) with swarms of yellow bugs everywhere. Bad news: like my experience in April in the same area with Hendrickson, precious little surface activity. Sure, there were a few trout that were feeding, but the rises were infrequent and seemingly random. I rose three trout but failed to get a hookset. Also witnessed were caddis, tiny BWOs, and a few Isonychia. I think we’ll have to wait another year or two for the trout to re-establish.

Hello, old friend. Always happy to see your face.

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