Farmington River Report 6/1/17: Heavy water experiments

The rains that came through last night boosted the flows in the permanent TMA to over 500cfs. But I wasn’t going to pass up my first good opportunity in weeks to fish the Farmington.

I was dismayed to see four cars in the lot, then delighted when I walked through the woods and there was no one in the main pool. So I waded in and had at it. Nymphing was the method, 54 was the water temp, caddis was the hero hatch, and the weather was New England crazy. I fished in brilliant sunshine, mixed clouds, dead calm, gusty wind, and a couple of steady downpours — all from 11:15am to 2:30pm. While I had to work for them, I got into a double-digit number of trout. Here are some particulars.

Things started slowly. My fish came in bunches, leading me to believe that their feeding activity was matching the hatch cycle. Some dry fly guys told me later that they had the same experience.

I found all my fish in the hot water, mostly at the heads of pools. If it was raging and boiling, it was good. No luck along the softer edges, which surprised me in this many cfs. Shows you what I know.

Intriguing markings and dramatic dots on this one.

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The rigging was drop shot with two BB shot, two fly system. Fished three patterns: a size 14 Squirrel and Ginger nymph on point, and a size 18 Starling and Herl or a size 14 Hare and Copper on the dropper.  All caught fish.

I did some indicator nymphing (and caught fish), but the rest of the time I went with the short line/tight line approach. I felt the indicator was moving along too quickly in the heavier flows, and the wind was affecting its drift as well. That being said, the indicator did me proud when I had to reach some far-off currents I couldn’t wade close to.

Almost all my tight line hooksets today were tactile; that is, I felt the strike before I saw the sighter lag behind vertical. Still trying to dial in to the straight line presentation and strike detection thing. More experiments necessary. (Dang.)

Fish don’t lie. They’ll always tell you when you get it right.

DCIM100GOPROG0014267.

Farmington River Report 1/12/17: Of flows and floes

I expected to blank yesterday. Rain, snowmelt, and ice would surely make for some challenging conditions, 56 degree air temps be damned. I fished two spots within the permanent TMA, and the first was that dreaded blank. The second, much to my surprise and delight, produced three trout (three more than the guys fishing corn, he said smugly). Over the course of the day, I left my rod on top of my Jeep and drove a quarter mile before I realized my idiocy. Then I rescued someone’s landing net as it floated by. So much excitement! Here are some details.

The river was running at 300cfs, a (finally) proper level. But the water was staggeringly cold — my analog thermometer only managed 32 degrees at 1pm. Water was off-color at the first spot, and less stained at the second. What really surprised me was the amount of ice still on the surface. A day later I’m sure some of it has flushed, but many of the hero dry fly pools were better suited for skating than fishing. Ice floes were also a problem as the day progressed. It’s unnerving to feel that dull thud against your leg while you’re focusing on your drift.

Lots of this going on. Be wary of shelf ice — plant an imaginary “Keep Off!” sign and do so.  January is a bad time to go swimming on the Farmington.

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I did a little short-line nymphing, but with the water back at a near-normal level, I returned to the indicator for most of the day. I prefer indicator nymphing in conditions like these because I can cover a lot more water. I also like the indicator for the more subtle takes you sometimes get with winter fishing. (However, that wasn’t the case today. All three fish struck hard.) Two came on a Frenchie variant (black bead, UV Red Ice Dub), size 12 scud hook. I also went with 2 BB shot to slow my drift. It made for an abundance of false positives, but I think slower was the way to go.

Pure parr pulchritude. Alliteration aside (alas), this is one gorgeous creature. Check out the halos along the lateral line, and the old mouth wounds. He fought like a tiger, and I had a hard time getting him to sit still for a portrait. I will never tire of catching wild Farmington browns. 

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I find the concept of dark flies on dark days agreeable, so I made my top dropper a Starling and Herl, standard hook size 16. I love fishing soft-hackled flies like nymphs or deep emergers.

This was my biggest fish of the day. Starling and Herl.

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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. 

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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
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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
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Starling and Herl
Hook: Orvis 1641 size 12
Thread: Pearsall’s Gossamer Silk, claret
Body: Peacock herl
Rib: Small gold wire
Hackle: Starling
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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