I can be a massive creature of habit. But sometimes I like to return to a mark several times within a short period of time simply because I’m curious how things change, evolve, or otherwise go chaotic. I had a little over two hours Monday night, so I revisited an old favorite place on the Lower River. This is where I slayed them two weeks ago, and had a slow night last week. Monday was a repeat of last week: little-to-no hatch activity and even fewer fish rising. I got into a half dozen trout, including some lovely wild browns, but I had to work my butt off for them. I was most disappointed in the lack of a hatch. You’d think with a warm, sunny day, cool water, and not too much of it, you’d get a gangbusters sulphur emergence. Nope. So off to parts elsewhere, when I can, that is. Busy rest of the week. I would think that the vast majority of the Farmington above Collinsville is in its very late spring wet fly wheelhouse. Catch ’em up!
No, I have not forgotten about you. Your time is coming.
I guided Larry yesterday and we fished from 2pm-6pm within the Permanent TMA. The river was a very manageable 500cfs, with good water clarity. Angler traffic was light, so we had our pick of pools. Unfortunately, hatch activity — and especially feeding activity near the surface — was also light, and we struggled to find fish that were willing to jump on. We fished three different marks and managed only one hookup. So I had to give Larry the speech that I hate to give. It goes something like this: “You’re not doing anything wrong. Those are fish-worthy drifts. If you do these same things on another day, you will be a wet-fly fishing catching machine.” Kudos to Larry for sticking with it and maintaining a positive attitude! I’m looking forward to getting that email from him where he tells me he hit it right and it all came together. It’s going to happen.
After our session, I ventured upriver to inspect the evening rise. It was a slow wet fly experience there as well (that should make you feel better, Larry!) as I could only manage one trout from 6:30-7:30pm. Hatch activity was solid, with midges, small caddis, and sulphurs, but again the surface activity was not where I would have liked it to be. I switched to dry flies at 7:30 and fooled fish on a mix of Magic Flies, Usuals, and Light Cahill Catskills dries. My two best fish came very late in the game during the spinner fall, both on the Light Cahill, both chunky mid-teens wild browns. A fine finish to a challenging day.
Mark contacted me over the winter about learning the ways of the wet fly. He booked two half day sessions, a brilliant move on his part, as we experienced a mixed bag of weather and catching on the first day, and then the Farmington River at its finest today. We fished both days from 11am-3pm. Water was 425cfs in the Permanent TMA, and 600cfs below it. The water is a little colder than usual, due to not only the weather but also the greater percentage influx of water from the dam. Caddis is king right now, and we saw good numbers both days, particularly today. Midges, too, and some tiny olives on Monday, par for the damp day course.
Monday 5/17: We started out with brilliant sunshine, then got poured on. Our first mark had the dreaded guide-catches-on-the-demo-cast (I’d rather the client do that), but we eventually connected with a couple fish, though none of them made it to the hoop. There was a decent amount of bug activity, but little in the way of consistent risers.
Thunder eventually drove us off the water. Rather than wait it out, we solved the problem by driving miles away from it. We finished up below the Permanent TMA, and this set the stage for Tuesday. We found some trout that were willing to eat, and even though the numbers were not what I expected, the day absolutely qualified as a good one. Mark was a solid caster, a dedicated student, and best of all, a strong wader. That meant we could get into some areas that many anglers would find a challenge to navigate.
…Tuesday 5/18, we would pick up at the same mark where we left off Monday. I wanted to see if the warmer air temps and sunshine would kickstart the hatches –and the trout — and that’s exactly what happened. Caddis, caddis, everywhere, size 12-14 — and then huge swarms of micro caddis. We didn’t fret about those, since the trout were more than eager to jump on the bigger flies. We took them on Squirrel and Gingers (top dropper), Starling and Herl (middle dropper), and generic bead head gray soft hackles on point. We took them on the dead drift, the mended swing, the dangle, and with upstream presentations. I lost track of how many trout, which is always a good day on the river. On Monday, I had kept telling Mark, “You’re doing everything right. You just need to find some cooperative trout.” I’ve made that speech to numerous clients, so it was gratifying to be there when the cooperative trout showed up. We played through the run, then walked 500 yards upstream where Mark — now a dangerous wet fly machine — connected with a spunky rainbow. Great job, Mark!
I guided Don yesterday for four hours mid-though-late afternoon. His goal was to work on wet fly fishing, and we had some great stretches of water to ourselves in and out of the Permanent TMA. Water was 225cfs, an excellent wet fly height, with a hint of stain, no doubt from storms upstream. Spot A produced two fish, a swing and a miss, and some finks that wouldn’t take. Spot B was a disappointing blank. Spot C held some players, and we had fun fooling them with the Hackled March Brown. While it was a very fishy feeling day, the hatches were terrible. I’m being generous by giving them a 1 on the 1-10 scale. Still, Don done good under some truly tough conditions. He’s going to be a dangerous wet fly machine.
Skunk’s off with this lovely rainbow. Check out that pink band! This fish was in great condition.
Gotcha. I love these smaller wild Farmy browns. See you in a couple years, OK?
Today’s my day in the limelight. Filmmaker Matthew Vinick is making a short feature on fly fishing the Farmington River, and I’ve been asked to participate. I met Matt in the Permanent TMA during the Hendrickson hatch, and he was sufficiently impressed by my wet fly prowess to want to include me. While the focus is on Farmington hatches and dry fly fishing, my part will be largely wet fly fishing. So…everybody send positive hatch waves, please.
Smile! The camera’s on you, miss soft-hackle eating beastie.
Many of you have reached out to me regarding guide trips on the Farmington, in particular learning how to fish wet flies. My advice remains the same: we should wait out this water volume. Yes, the Farmington is fishable at this level (850cfs and change in the Permanent TMA as I write this) and yes, I know of people who have been catching trout on dries. But if it were me, I’d be focusing on nymphs and streamers at this water level. So: if you really need to get out on the river, sure, let’s do it. There are a ton of fish to be had. But if you really want to focus on wet flies, let’s wait until the water gets to 500cfs or below. (Don’t even get me started on the lower Farmington — 1380cfs right now — or the Hous, a disgustingly high 2710cfs.) And of course, there are always small streams. You know where to find me.
Last year at this time it was sunny and the Farmington was — dare I say it? Wadeable.
Jefferson took my Wet Flies 101 class today, and he chose a helluva fine day to be out fishing. Sunny, warm, good flows (264cfs, 52 degrees)…and anglers. Lots and lots of anglers. Everywhere. (I didn’t know you could fit that many cars into the Woodshop dirt lot. Whoa! Is that Church Pool or the Wire Hole in Pulaski?) Still, we managed to find some water to call our own not once, but three times around the upper TMA.
Jefferson did a splendid job with his team of three wets. Here he’s making that critical first mend after his cast. And yes, the weather and the river were indeed as clear and lovely as they look.
To the fishing. I have been hearing a lot of reports of strong hatch activity with no fish rising to the bugs. That was our experience today. Spot A was heavy with midges, moderate with caddis, but very little surface activity. What risers we saw never got into any feeding rhythm; it was all rather haphazard. Jefferson still managed to stick four trout, which was four more than I saw anyone else hook. Spot B was largely devoid of hatch activity, except when the sun hid behind the clouds and we had a micro hatch of size 14-16 BWOs. Two fish on at Spot B. Spot C was the scene of a strong Hendrickson hatch (2:00pm-2:30pm) with one lonely trout making a few furtive slashes. He proved most uncooperative. But, we know where he lives. Thanks again to Jefferson for a fun day.