Farmington River Report 6/19/19: Spectacular hatches, wet, and dry fly action

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, it does: another off-the-charts evening session on the Farmington.

Cast three wet fly team. Hookup. Repeat. It was that kind of night. 

WetFlyTrout

I fished below the Permanent TMA from 6pm-9pm. When I arrived there were a few bugs (sulphurs sz 16, tiny creamy midges, caddis sz 16-18, and the first Isos I’ve seen) and even fewer rises, but that did not discourage me. Conditions were perfect, a magnificent collision of warm, humid air, cloud cover and water height. I tied up the same three fly wet team as yesterday: a Squirrel and Ginger top dropper, Magic Fly middle dropper, and Leisenring’s Pale Watery Dun Wingless on point. First cast, BANG, and it was virtually non-stop action for the next hour. Pow! Smack! It was an aquatic reenactment of a Batman episode. Such splashy, strong takes — these trout were obviously feeding with a vengeance.  Now, if you’ve taken my wet fly class or done a private lesson and the action has been — ahem — slow — you’ve heard me say that when the fish are feeding on emergers and you’re dialed into what they’re eating and how they’re eating it, wet flies can be the most lethal method. This was one of those times. A double-digit outing on wet flies alone.

How good is the Magic Fly? Twice last night I drifted it within a few inches of a natural. Both times the trout chose my fly.

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The dry fly session now seems almost anticlimactic, mostly of my own doing. While the river was boiling around me, I was trying to entice some fish feeding in frog water from a disadvantageous position. (I was doing this on purpose as a personal challenge.)  Suffice to say the usual pattern unfolded: a lull between 7:00-7:30, building activity to 8:00pm, then at 8:30 the trout and bugs go bonkers. Every once in a while I’d treat myself to a fish feeding in the faster water. Magic Flies size 16 and Light Cahills size 14 served me well. Finally, just about when I could no longer see the fly, I made a couple lucky mends and got one of those impossible fish to take.

And so we ended on a high note.

Best fish of the night, a high teens wild hen. She clobbered the middle dropper, the Magic Fly, AKA Pale Watery wingless wet. I’ve made a big deal about fishing the Magic Fly as a dry, but do not underestimate its power as a traditional subsurface wet.

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Needs must have Farmington River flies

The results of a wee tying binge for myself and customers: summer nymphs and dries for ye olde Farmington River. All eagerly awaiting a hungry mouth(s).

Rainbow Warriors, Frenchie variants, soft-hackled PTs, wingless March Browns, Usuals, Catskill Light Cahills, Magic Flies. Be prepared to downsize your dries to 20s this time of year. (Although I had success last week casting big (8-12) stuff to smutting trout in frog water.)

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Farmington River Report 7/11/18: The heat of the moment

Friends, I’m here to tell you that the Farmington River is cold. Readings of 58 and 54 degrees confirm that, as will Mark, my client — and he’ll also testify that the fishing is incendiary!

So. Mark came to me with the request — like so many of my clients do — to tell him “what I’m doing wrong.” In most of these cases, it’s not so much one grand point of error as it is a bunch of little things that could be improved upon. We started out below the permanent TMA for a little indicator nymphing. Mark took to it nicely, and we stuck a pile of fish on both a size 14 Rainbow Warrior (point) and a size 14 March Brown wingless (dropper).

Off we went upstream for the evening rise, which was that and then some. From 5:00 to 8:30 it seemed like there was always a target to cast to, and often multiple options within a couple rod lengths. We stuck fish on the Magic Fly, the Usual, Catskills Light Cahill, and Sulphur comparadun. The bug activity was mostly tiny BWOs, a few sulphurs, but mostly Dorotheas and perhaps some summer Stenos. The trout were on the emergers as well as duns on the surface. It was an easy night to be a guide. Well done, Mark! You were doing a lot of things right, as your fish count confirms.

Mark landed this nice wild brown on a March Brown wingless. The fish were taking the nymphs in the faster water at the head of the pool.

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The sweet sight of success: bent rod, splashy combatant. (Wide smile on client’s face not visible.) Speaking of visibility, we had varying degrees of fog for most of the evening. It didn’t seem to bother the fish.

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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

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

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

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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

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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.

Monster Delaware brown on the Magic Fly

I received this from Keith A. last night:

Hi Steve,
Want you to know that I just caught a monster brown, at the Delaware river, on one of the flies that you tied for me. Size 18. My guess is 24+”.

Thanks,
Keith

No, Keith. Thank you. And well done!

In proper nomenclature, these would be Pale Watery wingless wet variants. I think, however, that Keith would cast his vote in favor of calling it The Magic Fly.

Magic Flies

Farmington River Report 6/14/15: Just like Summer Stenos

Mid-June on the Farmington means an annual pilgrimage to a popular dry fly pool with the Tonka Queen for the sulphur hatch. I figured the permanent TMA would be jammed — after all, it was a gorgeous weekend day, and the rains were coming — and unfortunately, I was right. The lot was mostly full when I pulled in. I almost bailed right there, but I figured it was worth a look-see. To my surprise, most of the anglers were concentrated in the middle section of the pool. Plenty of room at the head. So in I went.

I fished from 5pm until after it was too dark to see a size 12 Light Cahill Catskills dry. What a strange evening it was.

Sulphurs came off from the time I entered the water until roughly 7:30. It wasn’t a particularly strong hatch, but there were enough bugs to keep me and the trout entertained. I used both The Magic Fly (Pale Watery wingless) and the Usual, sizes 16-20, for the first three-and-a-half hours with mixed results. Oh, I induced a good dozen trout to rise and take — we’re talking some quality boils — but each time I lifted my rod, nothing.

Certainly there was a rust factor in play — first time out with the cane and a long (13 feet) leader — but this felt just like summer stenos, a hatch I love to hate. Present to feeding fish. Perfect drift. Rise. Take. Nothing.

Once dusk arrived, the mosquitoes came out in force. Absent traditional insect repellant, a Gispert Churchill filled in nicely.

Smoke and Bamboo

I did witness several refusals, and this got me thinking that it was possible the trout were feeding on something other than sulphur emergers: size 16-18 BWOs or size 16-18 black caddis. Other factors to consider: multiple rise forms (porpoising gently as for spinners), slashy/splashy rises, and open mouths with a tail kick).

Around 7:30 I finally connected with a nice wild brown on the Magic Fly. The next hour was a puzzling series of casts, mends, and even more swings and misses. As darkness fell, I switched over to the Light Cahill Catskills dry, first size 14, then size 12, and stuck a fish on each, the last when I couldn’t even see the fly.

An outing as frustrating as this one ultimately raises more questions in my mind than I care to mention, but here are a few. Are the fish simply missing the fly? Am I too slow on the hook set (and if I am, how come I hooked those bazillions of trout before tonight with the same speed hook set)? Are the fish committing to the take, then bailing at the last second? How come no one else was catching (over four hours of fishing, I saw six fish hooked, including my three)? What were the trout feeding on besides sulphurs (I suspect it was the black caddis)? How come I didn’t get a sniff on small (size 20 & 22) spinner patterns?

Folks, I guide, teach fly fishing and write articles on the subject, and I have to tell you that I don’t have all the answers. Thankfully. Because now I need to go back and do some more research.

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.