Positive waves amidst a seemingly endless winter

Snow. Cold. More snow. More cold. Ditto, ditto, et cetera, et cetera. Stand sure, folks. Spring’s coming. You can see it on the trees — just look at all those buds. If you have forsythia, the stalks are green and the buds are very well-formed, even in this ponderous sub-Arctic snow-making nonsense.

By the numbers, we are just over one week away from March. Eight weeks away from Opening Day (in case you still use that as a marker). Hendricksons will be hot on its heels. And stripers will be on the move well before that.

Hopefully you’re keeping busy doing some reading or tying flies. I’ve just been busy. But I am working on some new material for the site that I hope to have out soon. As always, thanks for reading, and thanks for following currentseams.

Wearin’ of the green. From May last year. IMG_1342

Stopping by Woods on a Sunny Afternoon (Farmington River report, with apologies to Robert Frost)

Whose woods these are – the state’s, I know.

But I have bought a license, so;

They will not mind me stopping here

To swing my streamers in the flow.

~

That little bird must think it queer

For I’m the only angler here

Somewhere within the TMA

My first fly outing of the year.

~

The big brown gives his head a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the scrape

Of line through guides of ice all caked.

~

The river’s lovely, dark and deep,

But I must get back to my Jeep,

Three trout today, none did I keep,

Three trout today, none did I keep.

~

Remnants from the last ice age. The river was clear of shelf ice, running at 550cfs, 35 degrees.

Ice Field

~

First customer of the day. Lovely colors.

Wild Brown 1:15

~

Saved the best for last. Some-teen inches, just hammered the fly as it swung across a seam.

Streamer Brown 1:15

~

Articulated streamers with jaunty names that push water catch trout. So do unnamed single hook streamers tied with a slim profile. I’d used this fly before — it’s a one-off from a couple years ago — and the trout found it to their liking today. Fished on a full sink line with a three-foot leader, swung and stripped. It opens up a bit in the water, but it’s still a fairly sparse tie. Tungsten bead head, so it rides hook point up.

Highlighter Streamer

Thanks to the FRAA for hosting me

You’re never sure how a new fly fishing presentation will play out, but the feedback is in and the final tally is, “The Little Things” does not suck.

Many thanks to the FRAA for hosting me. There were a lot of familiar faces, and it’s always nice to not be the youngest person in the room. And thanks for so many post-presentaion questions. Speakers like lots of questions. Except maybe if you’re President Nixon during a Watergate-era press conference.

“The Little Things” matter in fly fishing. I caught this brown this summer in the shallows just a few feet off the bank as darkness fell.

Dry Brown 7:14

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

A Drop-Shot Tandem Nymph Rig

I can be as stuck in my ways as the next angler. But from time to time, the curious, adventurous, what if? side comes out to play, and I’ll try something new. I first saw a two-fly drop-shot rigging system on Kelly Galloup’s site. Hmm. Intriguing. After storing it in the back of my brain for several months (and not being entirely satisfied with my regular two-nymph rig with the weight above the top fly) I thought I’d give the drop-shot a try.

There’s much I like about the drop-shot design theory. The weight is at the bottom end of the rig, and, consequently, along the bottom of the river. Because the weight tag is made of weakest link leader material, it should break off on a weight snag before anything else. Six inches above the weight is a nymph-style fly, strategically placed to be at the eye level of bottom-hugging trout. Twelve to sixteen inches above the nymph is a soft-hackle, emerger, or pupa-style fly on a dropper tag. You know from my writing and reports that I am a huge fan of droppers — give the fish a choice — and droppers that can swim freely on a dedicated tag. I especially like the idea of using a soft-hackled wet in this position. I wasn’t crazy about the bottom fly having the weight leader tag attached to its eye — I worried that it might make the fly difficult to eat — but it certainly was a better solution than attaching the weight tag to the bend of the hook. Only one way to find out, and that was to fish it.

There are probably dozens if not hundreds of variations of drop-shot riggings; so here’s one more. I altered the specifics to suit my preferences in leader materials (and also to use what I had on hand). Suffice to say, this thing works.

A simple two-fly drop shot nymph rig.

Drop-Shot Nymph Rig

Here’s a pdf of the diagram:

Drop-Shot Nymph Rig

Construction notes: Construction should be fairly intuitive. I’m an indicator-kind of guy, so I’ve dispensed with the sighter butt section. I’ve been using a six-foot length of Maxima Chameleon 12-pound. You could surely go with ten-pound, or any other butt material you like. If you were going to build in a sighter, you’d still keep the top section six-feet long. I added an SPRO size 10 power swivel because of the disparity in the diameter between the twelve and four-pound material. Maxima is still hands-down the best material I’ve used for dropper tags for trout. I tie an overhand knot four times at the end of the weight tag — I haven’t had any issues with shot coming undone — and I’ve been using one or two BB shot, depending on depth and current speed.  

Yup. Drop-shot nymph systems fished under an indicator work.

Big Rainbow 9-14

 Of course, check your local/state regulations to make sure you can fish two flies, and/or place weight below the flies. I am not responsible for any rules violations.  

Farmington River Mid-Labor Day Weekend Report

On Thursday I finally got around to making my first dedicated-to-the-nymphing-cause trip of the summer. As I was walking down to my first spot, an angler upstream — presumably trying to be helpful — shouted out, “There are no fish in there. They’re all gone.” Well, one of us is going to be wrong, I thought to myself. One hour and three trout later, I was pleased that it wasn’t me.

I fished a new nymph setup that day, a drop-shot rig. My version was a leader about 8 feet long, then an emerger-like nymph dropper on a tag of 4# Maxima, then 16″ of 5# Rio nylon, another nymph, then a 6″ tag of the 5# with 2 BB shot at the bottom. The shot tag is tied off the bottom nymph hook eye. (If I get enough interest, I will draw and post a diagram.) The point of the rig is to get the weight on the bottom where it should be, then suspend the flies at different heights just off the bottom. You can fish it neat or with an indicator. I went the indicator route. Obviously, you already know it worked. I did, however, drop three fish in the course of the day, and I wondered if that bottom fly is harder for a fish to grab since it isn’t swinging freely. More research is required. Lucky me!

This rainbow has been in the river for a while. Well-defined pink lateral band, intact scale pattern, perfect fins.

Rainbow Release

Off to the second spot, where I landed a rotund wild brown (all the browns I took today were never wards of the state). Met up with friend Todd, and we each managed fish a ways downstream. By now, though, it was 11:00am and the bite had slowed. Away we went to Spot D, where we met up with Peter Jenkins of Saltwater Edge fame. Todd showed off by catching all the trout.

Mr. High Hook Spot D in action.

Todd Fish On

I dropped one more fish at Spot E before I had to make tracks toward responsibilities. The two flies I fished were a size 16 soft-hackled Pheasant Tail on the top dropper and a BH Squirrel and Ginger on bottom. The fish showed no preference, split right down the middle on the two.

On Saturday, I was able to fish for two hours between games at my son’s soccer tournament. Wet fly was the method, and while I found plenty of fish willing to jump on, they were all juvenile Atlantic salmon. Still, a lovely interlude on the water.

I would not feel so all alone.

Stonefly Case

Reminder: Starting Monday, September 1, the lower TMA becomes catch-and-release.

“A Team of Three Wets” in the current issue of Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide

Calling all wet fly junkies! This article discusses the how and why of fishing a three-fly team of wet flies. It includes a diagram that shows you how to build a three-fly leader. MAFFG is distributed free in fly shops all over the — well, Mid-Atlanctic area. Who knew?

This magazine is an underrated gem.

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How to tie the Dark Hendrickson Winged Wet

The Dark Hendrickson Winged Wet is a fairly easy tie that uses readily available materials. Best of all, it is a real fish catcher. I couldn’t possibly tell you how many trout I’ve taken on the Dark Hendrickson over the past few years. Match the size to the naturals on the river, pick out a rising trout, drift or swing the fly over its position, and hold on.

Farmington River report 3/21/14: It didn’t feel like spring

A sunny day  in late March can be misleading. On Friday, any warmth generated by the sun was fleeting, captured and quickly dispatched by a chilly, gusting wind. The water was only 34 degrees, well below normal for this time of year, lightly stained, and running at 450cfs in the upper TMA. There’s still plenty of snow on the ground that has to melt and become part of the ocean; until that happens, expect cold water.

So, to the fishing. Well, it was what we in the trade call a slow day. Even the guys I spoke to who were fishing shiners were having a tough go of it. I jumped around the river, dedicated to the streamer cause, and the only trout I managed came by accident. I was messing around with the streamer, an articulated white and chartreuse bunny/bugger thing, to see how it looked in the water. Right in front of me, about ten feet away, and this brown rose from the depths and stomped it. Rather lucky than good, but we’ll take it.

Cased caddis everywhere in the last spot I fished. I’m still amazed that a little wormy thing can build a house out of sticks. Please appreciate this photo. My hands and forearms were still cold about a half hour after I took it.

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An occupant. Sorry, little guy, for putting you out on the street. 

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The Hackled March Brown Spider

“March Brown” is a name you see attached to a lot of different wet fly patterns. Some of them are caddis; others, mayflies. This spider is intended to represent the latter. I discovered it on page 116 of Sylvester Nemes’ Two Centuries of Soft-Hackled Flies. It was originally published in 1936 in an English book, Trout Fishing From All Angles.

The Farmington River is not known for its March Browns; while we do experience that hatch, it’s not on the level of, say, Hendricksons or Sulphurs. But we do have a good showing of Isonychia, and I have taken to fishing the Hackled March Brown spider in the late summer to represent those substantial mayflies.

Last August, I was fishing a snotty run that was studded with boulders and pockets. There wasn’t much going on hatch-wise, and I had the Hackled March Brown spider as the point fly on my team of three wets. The hit was one of unrestrained violence and brutality, such that it ripped the line from my hands. The trout went immediately on the reel; I never saw it until I was able to coax it into the shallows. Over twenty inches long, it was my biggest trout of 2013.

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Hook: Wet fly, size 12
Silk: Orange Pearsall’s Gossamer
Tail: Grey partridge fibers
Body: Hareline Dubbin Rust (HD23)
Hackle: Brown partidge

 Tying notes: A straightforward, simple fly to tie. The original calls for a body of “hare’s ear dyed red ant colour.” I have settled on “rust,” and the trout seem OK with it. You could make the body a little buggier than I have here, but I like this fly with a thin profile. There are a multitude of brown feathers on a standard partridge skin; they’re located along the back of the bird.

The Hackled March Brown Rogues’ Gallery:

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