Farmington River Report 6/14/17: Confidence catches fish, Sulphur City

I guided Keith on Thursday and his goal was to leave the river with more confidence than when he arrived. I think we accomplished that. Where to fish, how to fish, which flies to use — keeping it simple is usually a good place to start. So we headed of to a spot below the permanent TMA for some nymphing basics. Spring mornings are almost always a good time to nymph. We did both short line and indicator, and on this day indicator was the more successful method. We took fish on both the dropper (size 18 2x short Starling and Herl) and the point fly (BH Squirrel and Ginger).

Next up: Wet Flies 101. I was disappointed with this second location, downriver from the first. Our drifts were good and we covered some fishy water, but you can’t catch what doesn’t want to eat — or what isn’t there — so we headed off to trout central, AKA the permanent TMA.

Good call. As we worked our way downstream into some slower water, we saw active feeders. Even though the water was better suited for dries, properly presented soft hackles can be deadly during a hatch. Caddis was the bug, and we had two caddis patterns on our team of three (S&G top dropper and Winter Brown on point) with a dark fly (Drowned Ant) in the middle.  It wasn’t long before Keith’s line came tight to beautiful brown.

Keith shows us how it’s done, much to the delight of his instructor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

We took fish on all three flies, but only one on the dark middle fly. We got nearly into double-digit numbers, a mix of stocked browns, rainbows, a Survivor Strain brown and a few wild ones. I was intrigued by the parr marks on this rainbow. He wasn’t all that delicate, though, putting on an impressive aerial display during the fight.

DCIM100GOPROG0024412.

~

Finally, I fished from 5pm-7:15pm way downstream in an area that got torched by last summer’s drought. I wanted to see what the Sulphur hatch was like, and, more important, was anything taking advantage of it? Good news, bad news: tremendous sulphur hatch (I’d give it an 8 out of 10) with swarms of yellow bugs everywhere. Bad news: like my experience in April in the same area with Hendrickson, precious little surface activity. Sure, there were a few trout that were feeding, but the rises were infrequent and seemingly random. I rose three trout but failed to get a hookset. Also witnessed were caddis, tiny BWOs, and a few Isonychia. I think we’ll have to wait another year or two for the trout to re-establish.

Hello, old friend. Always happy to see your face.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Farmington River Report 6/21/16: Cane and able

Gadzooks! Can it be June 21st and I have not yet fished the Farmington with my beloved cane pole during my beloved Sulphur hatch? Begone, oh evil scheming time-space continuum! Here are some notes:

Fished the upper TMA. Water was 313cfs, clear, and cold. So cold, that I was shivering. Got to remember the fleece next time.

Hatches: Excellent! Sulphurs (16-18), caddis (18), a few small BWOs (18-20) and the ubiquitous midge. When I arrived at 5:00pm, there were sulphur duns on the water and the trout were enjoying them immensely. I find emerger patterns like the Usual and the Magic Fly to be less effective when the trout are eating duns, and that was the case last night. A classic Catskills-style dry worked nicely. By 7pm, the duns were off the water and the trout were on a second sulphur emergence (splashy rises) and spinners or something smaller (gentle porpoising). Small comparaduns and the Magic Fly size 20 worked for me.

A summer evening, a bent rod, and a My Father Le Bijou 1922 box-pressed torpedo. For one shining hour, all is right with the world.

DCIM100GOPROG0062824.

~

My tastes in dry fly water vary, but I think what I enjoy the most is technical water that requires tricky mends. You know the kind — nasty cross-currents and variable speeds, and if you get one good, natural drift out of ten casts, you’re doing well. My first dry fly session of the year usually exposes the rust — from presentation to hook set — and last night was no exception. I stuck six fish that I lost moments after the strike. I had another dozen quality rises to my fly that came up empty. Still, I landed enough browns and rainbows to keep me chuckling.

I still don’t understand why people leave the river at 8pm. As I point out in the current issue of American Angler, the last hour of twilight in the summer is when the fish go nuts — and get reckless. The rise activity was steady and solid from 5pm-8:15pm, but in the next hour it went off the charts. And I had 75 yards of prime water all to myself. I like a size 10-12 Light Cahill Catskills dry during this time.

Once I can no longer see the fly, I use the bucket method (look it up) of strike detection. That is, unless my line suddenly comes tight because a mid-teens wild brown slaughtered the fly and is now swimming upstream with fierce conviction. Note the kype, haloed spots, white edges and full adipose.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

Farmington River Report 7/16/15: It must be magic

I guided Jim yesterday afternoon into evening, and we started in some faster water in the permanent TMA with a little Wet Fly 101. While we found a few feeders, they were reluctant to jump on. So we headed up river to get situated for some topwater action during the evening rise.

A sulphur emergence of sorts. No editing legerdemain here; some funky macro setting on the camera did this. We had a nice assortment of bugs last night: Sulphurs (14-16), Summer Stenos (18-20), Isonychia (10-12), BWOs, (14, 18-20), and midges. However, the spinner fall was not what I had hoped for. Every day — or evening — is different. Cold again! Water temp in the permanent TMA was 58 degrees. Sulphur Emerger

~

A nice brown that absolutely hammered Jim’s size 20 BWO Comparadun. Terrific hook set by Jim on this fish. Jim BWO Brown

~

Same fish, moments before release. Jim's brown release

~

I waited until what I thought was the right moment during the hatch to introduce Jim to The Magic Fly. This is what happened on his second cast ever with that pattern. Another fat, beautiful wild Farmington brown to net. Jim did a great job, and was a pleasure to fish with.

Jim Magic Fly

~

After Jim left, I banged around the river in the dark from 9:30 to almost 1:00am. While I had plenty of action — close to ten bumps — most of them were smaller fish, with no resulting hookups. Here’s a fifteen-inch brown who did stick. I like the play of water and flash along his flanks.

A Sulphur Emergence in March

Would that it were so. But for now, I’ll have to be content with two dozen of the Magic Fly (Pale Watery wingless wet) sizes 16 through 20, waiting in the wings. June still seems like a long way off. But you can never have too many sulphur emergers — especially the Magic Fly. If you’re new to this pattern, you can find the recipe and a tying video on this site. You’ll be glad you did.

I’ll drink to a warm June evening when the sulphurs are coming off in numbers and the trout are getting stupid.

Magic Flies

I also see we’re getting near the 300 followers mark. Of course, once we reach it we’ll do another fly giveaway.

Coming soon: another trout streamer. Think out-of-the-box.

Tying the Magic Fly (Pale Watery wingless wet variant)

The Magic Fly (Pale Watery wingless wet variant)
Hook: 1x fine, size 16-20
Thread: Pearsall’s Gossamer silk, primrose yellow
Hackle: Light ginger hen
Tail: Light ginger hen hackle fibers
Body: Rabbit fur, color to match the natural

I will be the first to tell you that I don’t believe in magic flies – you know, flies that you tie on and you automatically start bailing fish. This pattern is the closest I’ve found to being the exception. The Sulphur hatch is notorious for producing stillborn flies and frustrated anglers. The same could be said of the summer stenos, which have left me muttering to myself and spitting oaths on numerous occasions. The first time I fished this fly, it was a classic June Sulphur night on the Farmington. I had a whole pool of trout at my command. They rose to the fly with such confidence that I couldn’t believe what was happening. It must be magic! I treat this fly with silica floatant (my favorite is Frog’s Fanny) and fish it like a dry, on a long leader on a dead drift. The soft hackles and spikey body create a must-eat-me-now illusion that turns trout stupid. Alter the size and color and you’ve got a fine match for dorotheas and stenos.

The Magic Fly is based on the old English Pale Watery wingless wet pattern.

If there is a downside to this fly, it’s that it is a victim of the materials that make it such a success. The wet fly hackle quickly absorbs water, sinking the fly deeper into the film. Sometimes this is a good thing. Most nights, though, I find the trout want the fly a little higher on the surface. Even repeated shakes in a floatant canister and a re-dusting of silica won’t keep the fly where it needs to be. So make sure you tie up a half dozen in each size. Speaking of size, of the trout aren’t taking the fly, try going down one size. Sometimes that makes all the difference.

~

The Magic Fly Rogues’ Gallery:

Brown PWWwet

 

~

 

High-teens long, fat Farmington brown taken 7/21/14 on a size 20 Magic Fly

Big Brown on Magic Fly