Farmington River Report 8/5/20: the last second winning drive

I guided Abe yesterday from 2:45-6:45pm. Abe, who said he’d never done particularly well on the Farmington, wanted to focus on wet flies. For the longest time it looked like we’d picked the wrong day. The river was in fine shape, no worse for the wear after the storm. They lowered the flow out of the gate to 160cfs, but the Still was adding another 100 or so to make an ideal summer level, and the water was plenty cold. Getting there was an issue for me: closed roads in Bristol and Farmington turned a 50 minute drive into 90.

We hit four marks and found spotty action at best. Hatch activity was virtually nil, a 1 out of 10. I don’t need to tell you that that meant a paucity of active visible feeders. Nonetheless, we stuck a few fish in the first mark and had an LDR. The second mark was a bust, with only a couple courtesy taps. The third was even worse, without a single fine how-do-you-do? But the fourth…ah, the fourth. We broke out the wading staff and ventured into a snotty, pocketed, riffly run that always holds fish this time of year. I switched out the Hackled March Brown on point for a SHBHPT to give us a little more weight. Time was running out on our session. Whack! Mid-teens rainbow. Bang! Gorgeous wild brown. Bap! JV Atlantic salmon. Three fish in 15 minutes made for a very satisfying end to our session. Kudos to Abe for fishing hard, fishing well, and never giving up!

You’d be smiling, too, if you’d just landed a quality trout on a wet fly on such a slow day. Our quarry was camera shy. Thankfully, Abe isn’t. While angler traffic was light, we didn’t see anyone else hook up all day.

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Another terrific Witek striper/ASMFC essay, that fly you asked for, the 800 contest, and smallies on the brain

Out favorite dysfunctional — or is that non-functional? — committee met this week to begin formulating its future plans for striped bass. In another insightful essay, Charles Witek asks the question, “How Do you Define Success?” Suffice to say, the ASMFC grades itself on an absurdly low curve.

So where’s that Gurgling Sand Eel pattern you asked for? On its way. No, really. I’m hoping by the weekend.

Also coming soon: the official 800 followers celebration. Get your comments ready!

Last but not least, it’s been a tough summer due to drought and heat, but I fish in cycles, and right now I’ve got smallmouth on the brain. Big time. Nonetheless, to the Farmington I go. Guiding today.

Warm, low water doesn’t bother him. He liked the look of a TeQueely.

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Some wet fly notes and lessons from recent outings

If you want to catch more fish, pay attention to the little things. You’ve heard that from me before — heck, I’ve got three presentations and written several articles on the subject — but it bears repeating. Here are a few lessons I hammered home to both clients and myself (we all have to pay attention to the little things) on some recent wet fly outings.

On the swing and especially the dangle, don’t set the hook. Let the fish set itself. When you feel the strike, ask yourself, “Are you still there?” The answer will always be yes, if you allow the fish to turn away and drive the hook point home.

Look for consistent, active feeders on emergers. You’ll know the bug/feeding stage from the rise form (slashy, splashy, showy) and that there are no duns visible on top of the water. Those are the fish that will rush to eat your wet flies. Just left of center in this photo is what I’m talking about.

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Match the hatch! If you see size 16 creamy/sulphury mayflies coming off, and you don’t have anything like that on your leader, get some on. Now.

Give the fish a choice. Droppers are always the fastest way to find out what the fish want. Different sizes, colors, species, life stages. The fish will always tell you when you get it right.

The Hackled March Brown continues to be a consistent summer big fish producer. It’ll be my default point fly pattern through August.

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Farmington River Report 7/29/20: “We can catch that fish.”

I guided Andrew yesterday and our focus was wet fly fishing, reading water, and finding productive water. We fished two marks into late afternoon/early evening, one within the Permanent TMA and the other above it. Conditions were as about as good as you could want for this time of year, with a healthy 270cfs flow and the water plenty cold. The first mark was frustrating as we found feeding fish, but not a high percentage of players. Like many beginning wet fly fishers, Andrew needed to learn to let the fish set the hook. In fairness, most of these trout were smaller, their feeding sporadic, and as I told Andrew, the bigger fish don’t miss when they commit to the wet fly.

The second mark was a snotty run loaded with boulders, pockets, and all kinds of rocks that wanted to trip you up if you’re not careful. But Andrew was game and we went exploring. Things began slowly, but then we started to see sulphurs, olives, and Isonychia, along with one giant yellow mayfly (Potomantis?) and a corresponding spike in feeding. We found a big rainbow carelessly slashing at emergers at the end of a pocket run, and I said to Andrew, “We can catch that fish.” And then, “Remember, don’t set the hook.” Second cast, bang! Off to the races.

You can see that smile all the way through the mask. Andrew and his prize, a mid-teens chunker rainbow. Not an easy fish to land in a ripping current, but the trout hooked itself neatly on a Hackled March Brown. (Note arms bent at a 90-degree angle. There’ll be no fish thrusting on this site!)

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The battle won, the fish kept wet in the net until a quick photo is taken, then the release. Always a  highly gratifying moment.

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We finished up in another long pocket run that was populated with trout feeding on sulphur emergers. They proved to be tougher customers, but we landed a few on the Partridge and Light Cahill and called it a day. Great job, Andrew! I took a break and then got in a little wet then dry fly session. Hatch and feeding was about a 5/10. But you get what you get and you don’t get upset, especially when you have and entire pool to yourself at dusk.

Gurgling Sand Eel

Here’s something I played around with on Block Island this summer. For now I’m calling it a Gurgling Sand Eel. I stole the idea from one of the guys at Block Island Fishworks, either Hank or Eliot — I can’t remember — but thanks for the inspiration! I made a few changes to suit my style, and here it is. If there is interest I can post a recipe.

I tied two prototypes with different trailing hooks.

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The bass said yes!

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Steve Culton Fly Fishing Zoom Presentations

Even though it’s the middle of summer, it’s not too early to start thinking about your fly fishing club’s fall/winter meeting schedule. I know a lot of groups are playing it safe and holding virtual meetings — I’m right with you on that. In fact, I can help. Thanks to the wonderful world of technology, you can still hold a meeting and host a national-level fly fishing speaker.

I’ve been using the Zoom platform, and it translates well to a virtual meeting. I give my talk — you can choose from an extensive fly fishing presentation menu — and then I do a Q&A session for your members, just like I would if I were there. Some members can’t make the session? No worries! I let you record the session and keep it on your website or YouTube channel for two weeks.

Best of all, this a ideal way to expand your fly fishing speaker horizons, whether you’re in a nearby state or several time zones away. I’ve already filled two dates in September.

For rates and to book me, please call 860-918-0228, or email me at swculton@yahoo.com.

Zoom is the new presentation normal. It’s also the next best thing to being there. This was part of a series I hosted this spring.

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Farmington River Church Pool Poachers (call the TIP line: 800-842-4357

This hook came out of the mouth of a trout recently caught by one of my clients. The reg is clear: single barbless hooks only within the TMA. (Of course, you’re fishing barbless everywhere, right?) Later that day I witnessed an angler (fishing with bait or eggs) who was landing and releasing trout by grabbing the hook with pliers and roughly shaking the fish loose, no doubt made more difficult by his barbed hooks.

What to do: don’t confront people. Call the TIP (Turn In Poachers) line and let EnCon handle it. Program this number into your cell phone: 800-842-4357. Your call works two ways: an officer shows up — and if one doesn’t, the calls have a cumulative effect. We’re all in this together. Thank you!

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Another great essay by Charles Witek on striped bass management policy failure

If you fish for and love striped bass, Charles Witek is a national treasure. He stays on top of nearly every important meeting, issue, and decision regarding striped bass stock management, and reports back to us. Here’s a terrific essay from his blog, One Angler’s Voyage, “ASA Striped Bass Webinar Omits Key Rebuilding Issue.”

I can’t remember the last time I took a legal fish. Might have been Block last summer.

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Tip of the Week: Find the moment you should switch from wets to dries

Late afternoon into early summer evenings can be a highly productive time to fish wet flies, especially if you have a strong hatch and active feeders. Of course, it’s a good idea to fish a team of three (give the trout a choice) and match the hatch (you can match multiple hatches with a team of three wets). If you hit it right, you’ll be the angler that everyone wants to quiz in the parking lot.

Wets will often out-fish dries during the early and mid-stages of a hatch. But there comes a time when you should stop fishing wets and switch to dries. Some of the cues are visual: you begin to see trout taking insects off the top of the water, or the rises leave a bubble (indicating the fish has broken the surface while eating). Others are self-evident: you’ve been pounding up fish on wets for an hour, the feed is still in full swing, but you’re no longer getting hits. Learn to find this moment in time consistently, and you’ll be on your way to catching more fish. Keep a dry fly leader in a handy pocket so you can make the switch even faster.

I have not been fishing Stewart’s Dun Spider nearly enough this summer. This soft hackle has sulphurs written all over it. Change the silk to a light olive for Attenuata? Hmmm…

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800 Followers and Growing

According to today’s tally, there are 807 people officially following currentseams.com. The number tends to go up and down a little every week, but as most of you know, I do a fly giveaway contest every 100 followers. This isn’t the official announcement — I’ll be making it sometime in the next few weeks — but I wanted to take this time to thank all of you for your loyal readership. I truly appreciate it.

It’s almost contest time! You too could be the proud owner of fly swag like this.

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