Housatonic Streamer Report: Party Like It’s 1986

I can still remember that October day almost thirty years ago. I had just been let go from my first job, and since I was still living at home (opportunity), I decided to fish my brains out before my parents starting bugging me (motive) about acting like a responsible young adult. One of my adventures took me to the Hous. It was sunny. The flows were perfect. And I had two containers of mealworms and a can of corn to impale on my Eagle Claw snelled hooks. This was at a point in my fishing life where counting fish was critical to defining success. (Idiot.) The final tally was seventeen trout. I couldn’t wait to get home and brag to my father.

These days, the upper Housatonic doesn’t get nearly as much attention from me as it should. Even today, I only managed two-and-a-half hours. But, oh my goodness, what an amazing little session.

The plan was streamers. Last night I tied up a couple old favorites, soft-hackled versions of the classic Black Ghost and Mickey Finn on #6, 3x long streamer hooks. Since I would be fishing with a floating line, I added a large black brass cone head, seated with weighted wire. Ten minutes in, I still hadn’t had a bump. What was a spotty sprinkle hard turned into a steady rain. I was thinking this might not be my day.

Wrong. Once I moved out of the shallows (I still don’t know the river as well as I’d like) and started delivering the Black Ghost into some deeper runs, the hits began in earnest. They took the streamer on the swing. The dangle. And the strip. Sometimes they’d swipe, miss, and come back for more.

After a half-dozen or so, I switched over to the Mickey Finn. Boom! What a pig of a rainbow. Most of the customers were cookie cutter foot-long rainbows, but this wannabe steelhead went on the reel almost immediately. A few of the rainbows today had those telltale wide pink bands, large intact fins, and the disposition of a feral cat. I really wanted that gator brown, but these fish were keeping me well-entertained. I looked at my watch. Two hours in. I had no idea how many fish I had done battle with.

On the way out, I stopped at one of the name pools to watch another angler cast to rising fish. I only stayed for five minutes. Dozens of trout were feeding in a gentle foam line, sipping tiny BWOs.

When I got into my Jeep, the gas gauge said almost empty.

Bullshit. My tank was full.

Long before I started fly fishing, I knew the Mickey Finn was an effective streamer for fall trout on the Hous. While I’ve made a few changes in materials for my soft-hackled version, the color scheme is the same. Yup. Red and yellow and silver and black are tasty.

10:14 Housy Raindow

One is the loneliest number (but it beats the tar out of zero).

Nymphed the Farmington River today from 11:30am to 1pm. Water in the upper TMA was an average height, clear, and 34 degrees. It was a slow day for most of the anglers I spoke with. Saw very little evidence of hatch activity (save for a solitary charcoal grey midge). I managed a fine holdover brown, but even that was by accident; I was moving a few steps downstream to a new position when the indicator went under. And there he was on my size 18 BH soft-hackle pheasant tail.

Someone’s been eating this winter. I like the bead peeking out of the corner of the mouth, hook right where it’s supposed to be. Note the odd indentation on the upper flank, just below the dorsal. There was no sign of a wound, and the fish appeared to be healthy.

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I headed upstream to try some different water, but had no takers on my cased caddis or PT. Of course, there was that double-hooked stick, but since those are out of season I had to let it go. Most regrettable.

Switched over to streamers in some deeper water with an integrated full sink head. The past couple winters I’ve been trying to fish streamers more than I usually do, and today I was trying out a prototype cone head white bunny flashy thing. Nothing, nothing, nothing, THUD! It was a good fish that ran deep, then suddenly decided not to play. I knew he wasn’t coming back, but I gave the pool a few more casts before duties elsewhere called. Off the water at 2:10pm.

But, Mr. Slob Trout, I know where you live. And I’m coming back tomorrow.

Farmington River report 1/17/14

Today was a pretty darn nice day for January, and there was no shortage of anglers taking advantage of the last of the thaw. Plenty of vehicles in Greenwoods, Woodshop, along Church Pool, and in the lot. The upper TMA was running about 550cfs, clear, and in the low thirties. High air temp was low forties (no ice on the guides — huzzah!), abundant sunshine, and a good southerly breeze that kept most of the dry fly anglers away. Not much to write about in the way of hatch activity. I nymphed from 11:30am to 1:00pm under an indicator, and the trout preferred the smaller of my two flies, a size 22 (really an 18, 2x short) soft-hackled BHPT. Always a happy moment, landing your first Farmington River brown of the year — or for that matter, landing a trout in January. An angler below me ¬†also did well on small nymphs. Switched over to streamers and ventured to some different water, but could find no takers, though I did speak to another angler (Colin — pleased to meet you) who told me he had gotten into two trout on streamers. The cold is coming, so get out while you can.

Remnants from the last ice age — about two weeks ago.

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Chunky Farmington browns on streamers

On Thursday night, the Farmington crested in the upper TMA at around 1,500cfs. By this afternoon, is was still pumping out 750. Winds were gusting to 30mph. What a great day for some streamers.

I felt like fishing something new, so this morning I went down to the bench and pulled out a size 6 streamer hook. Since I didn’t know how much the water had cleared, I went for high-visibility. On went a gold bead, seated with some heavy wire. Made a tail out of marabou and gold Krystal flash, a body of gold mylar braid, and a doubled white marabou collar as long as the fly. On top, some silver Krystal flash. Any self-respecting ambush predator should be able to see that.

Line choice was a bit of a puzzler. I hemmed and hawed, and finally decided to go with an integrated full-sink tip, not so much to get the fly down — that would certainly be welcomed in areas where the current slowed — but mostly for casting in the banshee wind, and to keep the line below the flotsam that was sure to be bobbing merrily on its way downriver.

Yowzah, it was cold. I immediately regretted leaving my fleece vest in the truck. The wind chill had to be in the 40s or 30s. Some pinhole leaks in my waders and 53 degree water certainly didn’t help. But at least I was no longer slinging mulch in my garden. Even if I was able to do that in the comfort of a t-shirt.

The river was off-color, more of a tea-stain than muddy. As I suspected, lots of leaves/branches/twigs combos in the water. There were bugs out, but their presence was mostly belied by the legions of swallows working overhead. And yes, there were trout.

I spent most of my two hours working the banks, casting and stripping in short bursts. In my first cycle through the run, I took four browns and dropped a couple more. The trout weren’t particularly big, but most of them were chunky holdovers that fought well in the current. (Sorry, no pictures. Left the camera at home. Too cold/lazy to get the iPhone out.) I had a few swipe, miss, and come back for seconds. That’s always good for a thrill.

Dropped a handful more on my second and third go-rounds, and that was it. Pretty soon it will be time for streamers under cover of the night. And if I’m lucky, I’ll be fishing in shirtsleeves.

Paul’s First Brook Trout

I had the pleasure of guiding Paul for four hours today on the Farmington River. Paul told me he wanted to concentrate on fishing streamers, so we set off for the upper TMA rigged with a beadhead black and grey bunny thingy fly. Believe it or not, before today Paul had never caught a brook trout. We took care of that in the first half hour with a kype-jawed buck.

The size of the fins on this brookie lead me to believe that he’s lived in the Farmington his entire life.

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Today the trout took the fly on the dangle and on the strip. It rained on us, but we both found it relaxing and beautiful. Either way, it beats sitting at a desk. Adding a couple more notes: water was about 430cfs (that figure has gone way up with the afternoon rains), lightly stained, and temp was low/mid-fifties. Very little in the way of hatch activity: a few clunky light colored caddis and a smattering of tiny BWOs. We saw only one rise.