Time to tie up some September Nights

Stripers love finger mullet, and I love this finger mullet fly. You’ll find the September Night pattern in Ken Abrames’ classic Striper Moon, and now right here. (And, of course, in my 2015 American Angler article Soft Hackles For Striped Bass.) I was already planning on making this post today, and when I spoke with Ken an hour ago he — unprompted — mentioned that it was indeed September Night time. To the bench!

Ken Abrames’ September Night

Hook: Eagle Claw 253, 1/0-3/0; Thread: white 6/0; Tail: 30 gray bucktail hairs, then two white saddle hackles tied in flat, then two strands silver Flashabou; Body: silver braid; Throat: sparse, long white bucktail tied as a 3/4 collar, both sides and bottom; Collar: white marabou, folded or doubled 3-4 turns; Wing: 30 long white bucktail hairs, then 15 purple bucktail hairs, then 2 strands blue Flashabou, then one natural black saddle hackle.

Farmington River Conditions: And the hits just keep on coming!

What a disaster summer this has been for major river fishing in Connecticut. Pity the poor Farmington: too much rain, too much flow, too much warm water. Its current story is best told by these USGS Waterdata graphs.

They’ve jacked up the flow again. At this rate, we may not have any stratification of reservoir water for weeks…or perhaps months.
Water coming out of the dam is already at a trout-unfriendly — and that’s sugarcoating it — temperature. Who knows what heated horrors exist downstream below New Hartford? Nature will find a way for some trout. Many will not be so lucky.

I regret being the messenger of such dire tidings, but it is what it is and there’s nothing we can do about it. Suffice to say, please don’t fish for trout. And hope those tropical systems out there right now stay away from Connecticut.

In case you’re wondering why the water is so warm, this article by yours truly may help.

Read “Everything You Need To Know About Fly Fishing in Small Streams” at Field & Stream Online

My newest article, “Everything You Need To Know About Fly Fishing in Small Streams” is now live in the Fishing section of the Field & Stream website. This primer will help you get geared up, review basic flies, tell you how to find viable water (no spot burning!) and cover fundamental small stream tactics. I’ll ask you all to do me (and the resource) a favor: Please go barbless, keep photos to a minimum, and keep those precious wild fish wet. Thank you, and thanks for reading.

Small stream pro tip: when I’m fishing a long, languid run with a dry fly, I like to take position well upstream. By feeding line into the drift, I can cover likely holding areas, and not have to worry about spooking fish with a line slap or the movement of the fly rod. While it wasn’t possible in this run, I also like to stay out of the water as much as I can. Photo credit to Cam Culton!

Orvis PRO Wading Boot issues — resolution — and excellent customer service

About a year ago I purchased a pair of Orvis PRO Wadding Boots. I liked them. A lot. So much, that I wrote this glowing review.

A few weeks ago, though, I noticed some bad stuff happening. The soles were coming away from the boots.

The glue was failing on the outer soles. The only thing holding them on were the studs.
On the right boot, the glue was failing on both the outer sole and the midsole.

So I called Orvis and explained the situation. Their website states that they are “100% committed to customer satisfaction.” You bet they are! They offered to send me a shipping label, or the option to return and exchange the boots at a local store. I went with B. At the Orvis Store in Avon, they explained that I had a very early run of the boot, and that they were aware of some issues. (I wish I knew the production run number; suffice to say, if you experience the same issues, Orvis will take care of you.) So, easy-squeezey exchange, and off I went to fish.

Now we play the waiting game. I’m hoping this new pair doesn’t self-destruct. I’m hard on boots, but I’ve had other pairs from other makers that lasted many years. Fingers crossed, as I love how lightweight and supportive these boots are.

“How To Catch Trout in Extreme High- and Low-Water Flows” now at Field & Stream Online

Feast or famine. Flood or drought. It’s the new normal on rivers. But you don’t have to stay home when the conditions are less than perfect. Check out my latest article, “How To Catch Trout in Extreme High- and Low-Water Flows.” You can read it in the fishing section of Field & Stream Online.

Fishing the softer sections along the banks in high water can be highly productive.

Why is the Farmington River so warm? Or: when tailwaters don’t work

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about Farmington River water temps. The basic outline is, “I thought the Farmington is a tailwater. Why is the river so warm?” The answer is pretty simple.

In case you don’t know, a tailwater is a river with a dam release. The flow of the Farmington River West Branch is controlled by water that comes out of gates from the base of a reservoir dam (Colebrook Reservoir and Hogback Dam). If you’ve ever gone swimming in a pond or lake, you know that the water is warmer near the surface and colder near the bottom. This is called thermal stratification. In a larger reservoir, you have three different thermal layers: the epilimnion (the warmer upper layer; the metalimnion (or thermocline, the middle layer); and the hypolimnion, the coldest bottom layer. But I said this was simple, and there I go throwing all kinds of hifalutin hydro-science terms at you.

Ideally, there’s a happy medium of bottom release flows on a tailwater: cold water is never released in amounts that cannot be quickly replenished. But there are two situations that screw everything up.

The first is severe drought. Water that flows into the Colebrook Reservoir is reduced to a warm trickle. The volume of the reservoir shrinks from evaporation. The temperature of the water rises, especially if it’s hot, which decreases thermal stratification. As a result, what comes out of the bottom of the dam is warmer than ideal. (By agreement with the CT DEEP, the MDC must maintain a minimum release of 50cfs.) Because the flow is so low, water downstream warms quickly, trout get stressed, and it’s a bad scene all around. (This was the case in 2016. It was so bad that the DEEP took the unprecedented step of declaring thermal refuges on the Farmington.)

But that’s not what happened this year. This year, we had too much water. All that rainfall in July meant that the MDC needed to bleed water, and lots of it — so much, in fact, that it wiped out any meaningful thermal stratification in the reservoir. They’re still running such a high volume of water that there’s no chance for the stratification to re-establish — at least not in the heat of August. So that’s why at noon today the water was coming out of the dam at a very trout-unfriendly 69 degrees.

Eventually, it will get better. But right now, the best thing you can do for Farmington River trout is play the waiting game.

Taken this winter when the water was very, very, cold. Hang in there, buddy!

Bad times in New Hartford

In case you didn’t hear, the historic New Hartford House building was gutted by fire earlier this week. The three-alarm blaze happened Monday night/Tuesday morning. New Hartford House was the large, stately building with the clock tower in the center of town. Please send your thoughts and prayers to those who lost their homes and businesses, and also to the first responders who were injured fighting the blaze. You can read more about the fire in this story from the Courant.

Meanwhile, you shouldn’t be fishing the Farmington right now. Here’s the Riverton gauge at noon — and the heat wave has only just begun.

We are certainly going to lose some trout (nature will find a way for others). If you must go fishing, pond bluegills are a blast on a small stream rod and an Elk Hair caddis. Bass, striped or largemouth or smallmouth, are other viable options right now. But please, give these stressed fish a break.

Upcoming articles for Field & Stream, and warm water caution

Good Monday afternoon! A bit of a late start for me today as I was out chasing fish last night and didn’t get to bed until the wee hours. August is traditionally viewed as a prime vay-cay month, but here at currentseams we are busy-busy-busy. First up: I have three new articles in the pipeline for Field & Stream Online. In no particular order (these are just working titles): Tactics and Strategies for Fishing High and Low Water; Seven Best Flies for Smallmouth Bass; Small Stream Fly Fishing 101. As I have not yet begun to write, I have no pub date other than ASAP. I’ll get that information out to you when I know it. In the meantime, it’s not all chained-to-my-writer’s-desk energy. I still have fishing — lots of fishing — to do.

To the Farmington River. August is typically an active guide month for me, but I’ve had to make the difficult decision to suspend lessons on the Farmington until further notice. The issue is one of elevated water temperatures, which begets limited time and access. This graph of the water temp out of the gate at Hogback says it all:

A short week ago, you had just a shade over 64 degrees out of the gate, with a spike of a still trout-friendly 66. Today we’re already over 68 degrees (keep in mind that this is Riverton) and it’s not even a scorcher kind of day. With a heat wave projected for this week, it doesn’t take a degree in environmental science to recon that the trout will be experiencing stressful conditions. So please: give the trout a break. Protect the resource. It sucks, but it’s the right thing to do. And, as with gravity, what goes up must come down.

Fish Untamed Podcast Ep 55: “Trout Fishing for Stripers with Steve Culton”

Fish Untamed is website that’s run by Katie. She is self-described as “obsessed with chasing fish” — so right away, we like her! Katie also does podcasts, and yours truly is the subject of her current offering. Or, more specifically, the broad concepts of what I call “trout fishing for stripers.” We talk about that and lots of other things. But enough rambling; you want to listen. Here’s Fish Untamed Podcast Episode 55: Trout Fishing For Stripers With Steve Culton.

A floating line, a striped bass, and a very happy angler.

Stuff I Use: Gear Aid Aquaseal FD

Gear Aid’s Aquaseal FD is a fantastic product. I’ve been using it for years. It has extended the life of numerous waders and served as a trip-rescuer multiple times. I’ve used it on both neoprene and breathables. It’s inexpensive, easy to use and store (pro tip: keep an opened tube in the freezer to extend its life) and it does what it’s supposed to do. What more could you ask from a product? Highly recommended.

Gear Aid’s AquaSeal FD is really, really, good stuff.
First night on Block this year I felt a pinhole leak near my right knee. Sure enough, a closer inspection revealed that the top layer of fabric was compromised, a spot about the size of a 1/8″ bead. Aquaseal to the rescue! I was dry for the rest of the trip. You can see that I made two marks with a pen; the smaller surrounds the actual hole, and the larger is the area I intended to cover.
Two more holes fixed, and seams reinforced. The holes were again in the top layers of fabric; they’re the light colored dot to the left and the right angle shape to the right. This repair extended the life of my waders while I waited two months for a backordered pair to arrive.