The Responsibilities of Chasing Wild Trout

If you love and value wild fish — especially native fish — you have a responsibility to preserve and protect the resource. Yes, fishing is a blood sport. Yes, no matter how careful we are, some of what we catch may perish. But there are ways to dramatically minimize loss. And there are certainly ways to ensure the next angler has the opportunity to enjoy the stream as much as you.

So, I’m declaring this “Wild Trout/Small Stream Week” on As you know, small stream fishing is an experience that is sacred to me. My goal this week is to educate and inform as much as possible. And this wonderful essay by a Pennsylvania angler named “Fly Tier Mike” is a good place to start. In The Responsibilites of Chasing Wild Trout, Mike outlines four best practices for those who fish for wild trout on small streams: Proper wading techniques (staying off of redds); proper fish handling; minimizing damage while taking photos/videos; and the pitfalls of social media that can lead to over-pressuring a stream.

Anyone who fishes for wild trout should read it, if only as a refresher. Thanks for your consideration.

I was gratified and encouraged to see someone else taking a stand for small streams and wild trout. Way to go, Mike!

Small stream recon, or: This is how I do it

Having not gone fishing for weeks, I sought the cure for my ills in a small stream outing this past Wednesday. I was going to visit an old favorite, but instead I decided check out a new section of stream that I’d never fished before. So, armed with my camera and pack and rod and cigar, I had at it. While the fishing was great, the catching was non-existent. So thought you might be interested in how I approached some of the water.

Let’s start here. Why was the fishing so poor? It could have been any or all of these: a cold front approaching; far cooler temperatures than the previous week; trout not yet spread out in the system; complete lack of hatch activity or visible feeding; low, clear, spooky water; or just nobody home. (Sometimes when I ‘m fishing new water for the first time, I’ll stand up and make dramatic movements in an attempt to spook fish I might have missed. In two hours, I rousted only one 3″ char.)

Exhibit A: the long flat pool. This brook had earth banks, so it was essential to walk very slowly and softly near the water. Always assume that stealth is critical. Also, stay out of the water! I began on my knees along the bank in the upper left side of the photo, drifting my flies (dry/nymph dropper, almost never a bad idea for searching) through the wrinkled water to the right of the rock with the large flat face. Looks can be deceiving; the water depth to the right of the rock was over a foot, plenty deep for char to hide out. Having blanked there, I crawled up behind the large rock and had at the main current seam. Still, nothing. Note the cut banks on the left side of the photo; I pounded those and was stunned that I got no love. Perhaps next time. I purposefully fished this pool from an upstream position, as I didn’t want to spook any fish with a fly line landing on the water. Presenting downstream means that any fish will always see your fly first.
Exhibit B: the small, wrinkled plunge. This pool is immediately below the previous pool, and I had high hopes for it. To start, many times in low, clear flows, fish will be far more willing to show themselves in moving, wrinkled water, and especially whitewater. (Insert “You Lose” game show buzzer sound here.) Once again, not a touch. I didn’t fish from this position, which could easily spook any wary char; rather, I fished it from just above, again on my knees and using only bow casts to deliver the flies. Late April sounds about right for a return, or perhaps before if we get a good rainfall and the river is up and lightly stained. One thing’s for sure: it’s a very pretty stream.

Thank you, TU225, and a Farmington River Colebook and Goodwin Dam info sheet

Many thanks to my old friends at the Narragansett TU Chapter for hosting me last night. It’s so wonderful to see everyone again, and I thank TU225 for their continued support. The topic was fishing the Farmington River’s West Branch (the official title is: The West Branch — Southern New England’s Blue Ribbon Trout Stream). It’s an overview of the river that covers everything from popular pools to hatches to gear to when and how. If you’re looking to fill a presentation slot for your club this spring, I still have open dates. Here’s a link to my current presentation menu.

Speaking of the Farmington River, here’s an info sheet — one page, one side — that gives you some good, basic information on the Goodwin (AKA Hogback Dam) and Colebrook Dams. It doesn’t explain the dispute between the MDC and the ACE — or why the MDC is holding the river hostage — but at least you can understand why the water releases have been the way they have been. (What a shock! It’s all about money.) Many thanks to Farmington River Watershed Association for sharing!

Goodwin and Colebrook Dam InfoSheet

An (incomplete) update on Farmington River flows

In case you don’t know, here’s a micro-brief recap: since last summer, the MDC has, for whatever reason, been releasing only the minimum amount of cfs required by law from the Hogback dam. This has resulted in, at times, unnecessary ultra-low flows, transforming the Farmington River from a lush aquatic playground into a pathetic rock garden, and certainly damaging fish and wildlife populations. To my knowledge, no one knows what the MDC’s end game is.

Right now, a group of state senators is crafting legislation that seeks greater transparency from the MDC, albeit in the form of such things as an ethics code and approval on water rates. This doesn’t really help anglers; however, the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters and the Rivers Alliance of Connecticut are also involved. I plan to reach out to those groups and to the biartisan state senator group to voice my concerns. I’ll let you know what, if anything, I find out.

I do know there is going to be a specific forum in the future for concerned parties to express their concerns about the unconscionable way the MDC is treating the river. When I get data’s on that public comment event, you can be sure I’ll post more about it here.

Man, I really need to get out and fish.

The river should look like this. You know, where you can’t see the bottom half of those boulders…

TGIF, or: A little bit of this, a little bit of that

Today is potpourri post day. To start, other paying work has been getting in the way of posting here — and it’s been getting in the way of fishing. That’s just fundamentally wrong, man. Remedies are being planned and schemed as you read this.

So let’s start with fishing. The Farmington River flows are just about perfect at about 300cfs in the PTMA. Two sections of the river were stocked this week, so there’s a whole crew of newbies in the system. My spies tell me that the more experienced anglers are getting into some nice wild and holdover fish, mostly with nymphs. This can be a tough time of year to fish, but with all this warm weather it could be a better than average March.

The book project continues to chug along. I’m talking to a publisher, and am working on some sample chapters for their review. You can be sure I’ll give you updates as they happen.

While my show season is over, I’m still out and about presenting. My next gig is next Wednesday at TU225 in Rhode Island. The topic is the Farmington River.

I’ve also got an upcoming article for Surfcasters Journal on fishing two-handed rods in the salt.

I hope all is well with you, and that you’re getting a chance to fish.

“That is all.”

Soft Hackles at the Yale University Fishing Club

Class was in session last night on the historic Yale University campus. Only instead of pencils and books, there were vises and hooks. And pizza. What would a little Monday night fly tying be without pizza? Anyway, I did two tying sessions with the members of the Yale Fishing Club. We started each one with an abbreviated version of my seminar, “Wet Flies 101.” And then, we hit the vises and tied a simple soft hackle in the traditional North Country Spider format. Some of the members had only rudimentary tying skills, but we made it a no-fail, no-worry zone, and I think everyone had a swell time. I know the instructor did!

The first session was SRO. I’d like to the thank the Yale Fishing Club again for being so enthusiastic and welcoming. Special thanks to their advisor, my friend Sean Callinan, for the invite. This is my second time presenting to the YFC, and I’m already looking forward to the next one.

Getting started on that book project…

I get “When are you going to write a book?” all the time. Trust me, it’s something I’ve asked myself just about every week for the last however many years. It’s not a question to be taken lightly, given the commitment, time suck, and high standards I’d be setting for the finished product. But I’m pleased to say that I am officially getting started.

While I’m not ready to go into specifics, I can tell you that I have decided on a subject. It will be freshwater oriented, and it will be a fly pattern book. Right now I’m in the research and development phase. After that, an outline, a few sample chapters, and the details of publishing. I’m going to do my best to devote a substantial amount of my time for the rest of this month to the project, so that may mean only a couple posts per week on currentseams.

It’s all very exciting, and of course I’ll give you updates with milestones as they happen. Thank you everyone for your continued readership and support!

Here’s another clue for you all…the walrus was not the Pale Watery Wingless variant, AKA the Magic Fly. I apologize for all the mystery. Once I get a bit more organized, I’ll tell you more.

The ASMFC Striped Bass Management Follies, or: A Master Class in Procrastination

I know from procrastination. I’m a professional writer. I’ve been procrastinating since my days at Roosevelt Junior High. I advanced my grasp of the art form in college. And perfected it as an adult.

But I’ve got nothing on the ASMFC’s Striped Bass Management Board.

My best attempt at situation distillation is this: the Board was meeting on the issue of allowing the transfer of commercial quotas between states. They put the issue out for public comment last year. Of the thousands of conscientious stakeholders who responded, a whopping 98% voted in favor of NOT allowing transfers. So the board decided to…(Don’t bother with a drum roll. You probably know where this is going.) …kick the can down the road. Do further studies on the impact of commercial transfers, then come back to the issue in May. Not necessarily awful. But they didn’t even mention the option that the vast majority of stakeholders favored. It’s as if we didn’t exist. Tone deaf, bad form, and so characteristic of a badly broken committtee.

There are two more detailed analyses that I encourage everyone to read. The first is from Charles Witek’s blog One Angler’s Voyage: The Fastest They’ve Ever Done Nothing. The second is from our friends at the American Saltwater Guides Association, Striped Bass Recap From ASMFC Hearing. Both are highly worthy of your time.

At this point it would be easy for all of us to throw up our hands in frustration and quit. I exhort you to not do it. In fact, this should only steel our resolve. Some day, and that day is coming, we are going to win. And so will the stripers.

Waves pounding on the shore. That’s what we need to be.

CFFA Expo 2023: A Little Tyin’, A Little Buyin’, A Little Talkin’.

The best little fly fishing show in New England made its triumphant return last Saturday, and I was proud to be a part of it. Long held at Maneely’s in South Windsor, the CFFA shifted the Expo this year to Nomads. What the new venue lacks in coziness is made up for in space and a large casting area. It was gratifying to see so many familiar faces — even if I am terrible at remembering everyone’s name (a never-ending source of embarrassment for me). Thanks to everyone for your patience!

As usual with the CFFA Show, I had a space on Tyer’s Row. You generally don’t get the chance to do much tying — it’s mostly meeting and greeting and talking — but when I did get to work, I was focusing on soft hackles. (I’m tying a Hendrickson spider here, and you can see a cork of Squirrel & Gingers in front of the vise.) If you stopped by, thanks for taking the time. If you watched me tie, I hope it was useful. Many thanks to Phil Sheffield for taking this shot.
I took this shot around 11am with the show in full swing. What a great turnout! This angler does not live by tying alone, so I took a break and walked the floor. My purpose was twofold: meet and greet, and to do some shopping. I scored a couple patches of deer hair and some slotted tungsten beads from Nick Masi, and then two Whiting/Hebert Miner wet fly hen capes for just 10 bucks each. These capes were only bronze grade, but still, that’s a darn good deal.
I finished up with my 12:45 presentation, Fly Fishing CT’s Small Streams. How gratifying to not only fill every seat, but also have an SRO audience. This ends my show schedule for the season, but I’m still doing talks at clubs around the northeast. You can see me at TU225 in Rhode Island later this month.

Edison 2023, or: The Most Fun You Can Have With A Vise And A Projector

What a fantastic Fly Fishing Show in Edison! I was there for two whirlwind days, stretching the space-time continuum and pushing the fun barrier to its limits. Many, many thanks to everyone who came to a seminar, took a class, watched me tie, or simply stopped to say hello. My apologies if I had to rush off mid-conversation — my schedule was literally back-to-back on both days. If I didn’t get to answer a question or talk fly fishing, you know where to find me.

One of the things I look forward to most is reconnecting with old and new friends. So the first thing I did Friday morning was head straight for the Blue Quill Angler booth to hang out with Chris Steinbeck and Pat Dorsey. I’ve only known Pat for a year, and Chris for even less, but I can tell you these are two people who make the fly fishing world a better place. Chris was my guide in Colorado in August and he taught me a lot. Highly recommended if you’re ever fishing the South Platte.
Walking Tyers’ Row is always a good use of your time. I can’t tell you the number of patterns or techniques that I see every show that I want to try. Like Celebrities, all the tyers are very approachable and ready to discuss tying and fishing. This is Chester Rosocha, my tying tablemate from the International Fly Tying Symposium back in November.
Not a bad lineup! What an honor to be on the same list as these luminaries. Friday was the “easier” of my two days — a seminar, then a Destination Theater talk, then a class. I had a good crowd for the seminar, Finding Small Stream Nirvana, and we had a long follow-up discussion. The DT talk, Wet Flies 101, was also well-attended. I’ve hopefully created some more dangerous wet fly machines. Saturday I was literally running from one place to the next. I got so caught up in the Modern Wet Fly Strategies Q&A session that I forgot I had to be in the DT in five minutes. I was thrilled to have such a large crowd watch me as Featured Fly Tier, and even more thrilled that every hackle I selected for my wet flies and spiders behaved. A shout out and thanks you to everyone who saw me speak, and to those who took my classes. I hope you hit the water this year ready to try some new ideas and new flies.
It’s hard to make out that guy on the left, but yes, it’s me, doing what I love most — helping people become better anglers. This is from Modern Wet Fly Strategies. See you at the CFFA Show this Saturday!