Farmington River Report 9/1/18: Finishing with a bang

Yesterday I guided Pete and his son Scott. They wanted to learn the mystical arts of the wet fly, so we had a stream side mini-class then had at it. The water was a little higher than I’d like (400cfs+ in the permanent TMA, 64 degrees) and the hatch activity was about a 2 on the 10 scale, but we managed to move a few trout in Spot A. Still, not the action I was hoping for. Off to Spot B where I noticed a few risers. They weren’t having the wet (this is the second time in two weeks I’ve witnessed this) so I switched Scott over to an X-leg Hopper Caddisy thing with a wet dropper. Second cast, we had a rise. A few casts later, pay dirt. Many thanks to both Pete and Scott for being such swell company. Weather was great, and the river was far less crowded than I expected.

Just as time was running out on the session, Scott nailed this stunning high-teens wild brown. What a gorgeous fish!

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Farmington River Report 7/17/18: Big Bang Boom

I guided Paul for four hours yesterday before the fireworks began. Atmospheric, that is — although the fishing was slow, we managed to conjure up plenty of electric action. We fished three locations within the permanent TMA and found players in all of them. The water was down to 237cfs (they dropped the dam 100cfs) but still plenty cold. Wet flies were the first order of business, and we induced a savage strike from a lovely wild brown in the snotty water at the head of a run. Upstream there were trout smutting in that difficult-to-present-to frog water along the edge of a faster current. Then I saw a moth skitter across the surface, and one of the trout snapped at it. We clipped off the SHBHPT on point and tied on a Stimulator. Three trout later, we moved to another spot. This was a very sexy run, but we had no interest in swung wets. I figured there were trout in residence, so we added a BB shot to the middle dropper knot and presented along the bottom. Ding! We have a winner, with Paul landing a gorgeous kyped Survivor Strain brown. Great job by Paul with his casting, wading, presenting, and especially his no-time-wasted landing those trout. They just didn’t stand a chance. A pleasure, sir!

The skunk was off with this lovely wild brown. Man, did he open up a can of whupass on the wet fly.

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Men at work: Paul demonstrating the advantages of a ten-foot rod on the Farmington.

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What the fly saw moments before the take. A good fish, Survivor Strain, well-earned. (There’ll be no pictures of anglers thrusting fish into the camera at arm’s length on this site.)

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Farmington River Report 6/13/18: Workin’ hard, playin’ hard

On the river for ten hours today and loving every minute of it! I started by guiding Brian from 11am-3pm. Brian had a story that is typical of many of my clients: loves the Farmington, but has had too many encounters with the skunk. He wanted to focus on wets, but I suggested we spend an hour working on his nymphing game, since that is the year-round highest percentage play on this river. Brian has mostly Euro-nymped, but I set him up with a drop shot ring under an indicator. He took to it like he’s been doing it forever. There’ll be no skunk, today, Brian. The first fish was noteworthy because the indicator never went under — it merely twitched. Look for a reason to set the hook on every drift, and like that Brian was on the board.

It was a cool, wet day, and there was precious little bug activity. The water is still unusually cold, with 48 degrees at the bottom end of the permanent TMA, which was running at 330cfs. Nonetheless, we managed a mix of browns and rainbows by (you’ve heard this if you’ve taken my class) moving around and covering water. Nice work, Brian.

Every guide loves the sight of a bent rod and a tight line. Brian did a great job with his hook sets today.

DCIM100GOPROG0015239.

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Thank you for playing. They liked the bottom nymph, a size 14 Frenchie variant.

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Now it was my turn to play. I grabbed a sandwich and headed off to a snotty run to swing wets under a leaden sky. The cold from the river was a stark contrast to the warm and humid air (my lower legs and feet were uncomfortably cold by the time I finished.) By this time (4pm) there was a slight uptick in bug activity. Whack! My second cast produced a gorgeous wild brown.

They don’t make ’em like this in the factory. Absolutely flawless fins.

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Any pre-hatch period is my favorite time to swing wets, and I moved down to a more languid section of water. Sure enough, as the clock moved toward 5pm, there was an uptick in bug activity, mostly Light Cahills (Vitreus) 12-14 and caddis 14-16. The fish were rising a little more regularly now. I was fishing a three fly team of a Squirrel and Ginger on top, a Light Cahill winged in the middle and a Hackled March Brown on point. My strategy was to target active risers, and I caught a bunch of trout on all three flies.

There comes a time during every hatch when the subsurface wet becomes ineffective, and today it was 7pm. I switched over to dries, and had a blast fooling trout on the surface. I fished Magic Flies and Usuals, 14-16, and had a good couple dozen takes — but only about half of them stuck. I was going to leave at 8pm, but I remembered how fiercely I admonish those who depart from the river before the magic hour in June and July, so I stuck around until 9pm. The last half hour, the river was simmering with rise forms. I switched over to classic Light Cahill dries, 12-14, and ended the session with a healthy brown who was just showing the beginnings of a kype.

The best part? There was no one there except for me, the trout, and the bugs.

Our Lady of the Blessed Pink Band. First Farmy trout of the year on a dry. 

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Farmington River Report 5/4/18: T.G.I.W(ets)

How divine to be swinging wet flies again. The cast, the mend, the tug — it’s all good stuff. Just a quick zip in and zip out today. Three locations on the lower river in two hours. Water was 600+cfs and 54 degrees. The Hendricksons are all but over in the locations I fished, and the activity was spotty, two. But where it was good it was wonderful.

Run A was en fuego. All fat rainbows, interested in every fly (Squirrel and Ginger, Dark Hendrickson winged, SHBHPT), but mostly on the S&G and Hendrickson and a blast in a ripping current. I had trouble getting one in — oh, look, it’s a double, so that’s why. Run B was less productive — one fish in 15 minutes. Run C was mobbed with anglers and I didn’t get so much as a tap. And that was it.

Wet Fly class tomorrow at UpCountry. See you on the river!

Not from today but you get the picture. F-A-T rainbows, with several steelhead aerials into the bargain.

Matt's Rainbow

Farmington River Report 7/12/17: Jungle Boogie

It was positively tropical on the river today. The only relief from the heat and humidity was provided by the random cooling waves of fog that swept across my face and arms. The method was wet flies — and the trout weren’t having it. I fished three “gotta have a fish” spots and I blanked in all of them. (Well, kind of. We’ll get to that in a minute.)

Spot A was a run in the upper reaches of the permanent TMA. It’s a long stretch that features shade, structure, boulders, depth, and riffles. Today it offered a couple courtesy taps from a JV salmon. Ugh. Off to Spot B, a ways downriver but still in the PTMA. This is a dump-in to a larger pool. It’s loaded with trout. Not a touch. Ugh squared. Off to Spot C, the snotty riffles, swift current and treacherous footing above B. There’s always a fish behind that rock, or in that black hole tight to the bank. Blanks, both of them. Do I hear a third ugh?

So I got stubborn and walked down to B, attached a BB shot above the middle fly of my team of three (S&G, Drowned Ant, Hackled March Brown) and bounced the flies along the bottom. Second cast, fish on the Drowned Ant. Then one on the March Brown. Suddenly, things were looking up.

All because I decided to get down, get down.

 

Farmington River Report 7/9/17: Swell fishing. Catching? Ummmm….

My Wet Flies 101 class won the weather lottery yesterday. Sadly, the price of the ticket was one of the worst bites I’ve seen all season on the Farmy. (I’m going with the cold front coming through the night before theory.) There was enough hatch activity (Isos and caddis) to keep our hopes up, and a few splashy risers here and there, but folks, it was tough sledding. The guys did a most excellent job of staying positive and refining their newly learned craft. Keep at it, gents, and you’ll have enough days that will make you chuckle when you think of yesterday. (Really.)

As an instructor, I find sessions where everyone blanks as frustrating as the students. So I fished the lower river on the way home. The run I targeted was located in a section that got annihilated by last summer’s drought. Yet, I took two beautiful wild browns in 30 minutes. The water was swift and snotty (not well-suited for a class) so maybe that was the difference.

Nature finds a way. This is the first fish. He clobbered the Squirrel and Ginger on the dead drift in a deep pocket. Love the way the wild ones hit and battle, and you just don’t get coloration like this at the factory.

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Wet Fly 101 class, articles, and guiding trips

Busy as usual, but I think there’s some fishing light at the end of the tunnel! Sulphurs, grass shrimp, Block Island sand eels, evening spinner falls, walking some snotty water swinging wets….these are all on my mind right now. And tying. I don’t know about you, but my fly boxes need some serious attention. But first…

Sunday, July 9, 9am-2pm, Wet Flies 101 class through Upcountry Sportfishing. This is both a stream side and an on-the-water class. It’s intended as a basic intro to wet fly fishing. Given our early season water levels, I think this will be a dynamite summer for wets on the Farmington. If you want to catch more fish, the art of the wet fly is a skill set you should have. Please note: you cannot sign up for this class here. You have to do it through UpCountry. For more information, click this link.

Taken on a soft-hackled March Brown on a hot August afternoon. The lengthwise opening of the net is 17″. As your GPS would say, “recalculating…”

20" brown on a soft-hackle

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I recently saw the galley proof for my summer smallmouth article. It’s titled, “Hot Bronze,” and you can read it in the August 2017 issue of Field & StreamMultiple articles coming up in American Angler, too. And if you’re in charge of booking speakers for your club, some new presentations as well.

Finally, if you’re planning on doing a guide trip with me, its a good idea to get out the calendar and pick some date options. Summer is as time-space continuum-challenging for me as the school year, with multiple sports camps/tournaments for the boys and me mostly doing pickup/dropoff. For more information on my philosophy, rates, and contact info, click here.

And as always, thanks for reading currentseams.