Marlborough Fly Fishing Show postponed — new dates April 22-23-24!

Here’s the official announcement/FAQ: “It wasn’t an easy decision but, after reaching out to our exhibitors, celebrities and staff, we made the conscious decision to postpone the 2022 Marlborough show for a myriad of obvious reasons. The new dates are April 22-24, 2022 We hope you can make it!

Q. What if I already bought an Advanced Show Ticket? A. Your ticket will be good whether you purchased it before or after our date change. Be sure to bring along either a physical or digital copy.

Q. What if I already signed up for a Featured Class? A. If you know you can’t make the show in April, please contact us and we will issue a refund. If you plan to attend you do not need to do anything. You will automatically be transferred unless we have to move a time or instructor. In that case we will reach out once we confirm the class schedule.

Q. How do I purchase advanced tickets for the April show? A. You can purchase advanced tickets by clicking here https://www.eventbrite.com/…/fly-fishing-show….”

I think this was a good decision, and my hope is that those of you who were on the fence about attending will be more comfortable with the new date. I don’t have my revised schedule yet, but I assume that I will still be doing a seminar, class, and tying demo. Note that the Edison Show for Jan 28-29-30 is still on! I’ll be appearing on Friday and Saturday, and I’m hoping for another great showing from my readers.

The Currentseams Best of 2021: #7-#5

(to be read in Casey Kasem’s voice) We’re counting down the 10 most memorable moments of 2021 on currentseams-dot-com. (to be read in singing chorus voices) Number Seven!

#7 Teaching Wet Fly Fishing. I didn’t have as many guide trips this year as usual, mostly because of high water — and then I cancelled most of the summer due to elevated water temps on the Farmington. But in the spring, I did get the chance to do what I enjoy most about being a teaching guide: introducing people to the ancient and traditional art of wet fly fishing. The bite gods generally smiled upon us, and we had multiple memorable outings. You’ll be able to learn more about tying and fishing wet flies from me next month at the Fly Fishing Shows in Marlborough and Edison. Of course, there’s nothing like an on-water lesson. April and May are coming!

Eric was just one of several clients this year who locked up on bunches of fat Farmy trout with wet flies. (I was smiling, too.) Well done, everyone!

#6 Peacock Bass Fishing in south Florida. When you’ve never caught a tarpon or snook, and you’ve been fantasizing about doing so for months, and then your guide tells you that conditions in the Everglades aren’t good so you won’t be realizing your dream today…well, that just kinda sucks. But wait, he says. I’ve got a plan B: peacock bass. If you love smallmouth, you’ll love peacocks. They’re aggressive and feisty and leapers and beautiful fish to boot. Plus, I know a spot. Okay, you say. You’re still disappointed, maybe a even little reluctant. But you go because it is what it is…and then you discover that what it is is fan-freaking-tastic. But wait, there’s more: find the right water and it’s bass after bass after bass. What a delightful way to wreck your forearm.

Hooking a peacock bass is like reenacting a fight scene from the old Batman TV show. Pow! Biff! Smash! Crunch! They blast the fly, and if you apply upward pressure they leap and cavort and tail-dance (and sometimes do that regardless). Tremendous sport, especially in the 2-5 pound range. I love living in a seasonal climate, but there’s something about Florida fly fishing that really appeals to me. Photo by Mark Giacobba.

#5 Being a Contributing Author to the Followup to Surfcasting Around The Block. When surfcasting legend Dennis Zambrotta asked me to contribute a chapter to his new book, I was thrilled. I pretty much knew what I wanted to write about, and after much drafting and polishing I sent it off to Dennis. My piece is called “The All-Nighter and the Nor’Easter.” The book’s working title is Surfcasting For Striped Bass: Fifty Years of Legend and Lore from the Islands of Block and Aquidneck. Target publish date: fall 2022.

Sacred fly fishing grounds. Dagnibbit, you can see all my secret spots!

The Currentseams Best of 2021: #10-#8

Every year, I go through the same angst-ridden process. What will I write about for my top ten year-end wrap-up? Did I even do anything that’s worthy? Maybe it’s due to residual holiday stress. Maybe it’s simply mind clutter. Or maybe I’m just a dork. Because it always turns out that once I make a list, I have so many things to write about that it seems impossible to whittle it down to ten.

2021 was another challenging year. The pandemic robbed us of so many precious in-person moments, from shows to club meetings. Rivers and oceans continued to see an unprecedented number of anglers, and I can’t say that that has improved the angling experience. Climate change continued to wreak havoc on our weather patterns; it seems we were either flooded or baked or parched. Even tailwaters like the Farmington were not immune to the ravages of the new normal.

But, enough of what’s not so good! Let’s have some fun. Ready? Here we go…

#10 Tuesday Night Zooms/Tying Zooms. Pandemic be damned — we can still safely connect via Zoom. These sessions often drew well over 50 people. It’s always cool to be able to see faces and hear voices, even if it’s over the internet. I’m grateful for the gifts some of you sent to show your appreciation — thank you for your generosity. And thank you again to everyone who attended my virtual fly tying classes.

The product of a virtual wet fly tying classes. I also had the opportunity this year to perform one of my favorite tying demos of all time. It was a private virtual gig for a gentlemen in an assisted living home that specialized in early memory-loss issues. He was a former angler and fly tier, and I promised that I would fish with the flies I ted and send him pictures of those fish. I kept that promise, and his caretakers said he was thrilled to see those shots. Wow!

#9 Big Winter Browns. You may not always connect, but when you do, there’s a chance that what you hook on that streamer is going to be good. I still don’t Euro nymph, but I did spend some time tying and learning to fish long-leader jigged mini-streamers. It’s an effective tactic for close-in work. Here’s the proof.

A substantial spawned-out hen. I still relish the sight of those stunning haloed spots on her flank and her golden belly. Photo by Toby Lapinski.

#8 Writing and Finding New Audiences. For years, magazines have been in a sad decline. It’s shame, because when it comes to reading pleasure, there’s nothing more enjoyable for me than the printed word on a paper page. But, this is the modern way. Some print pubs continue to hang on, if not do rather nicely. Others have shifted to electronic formats. Whatever the medium, I’m grateful for the opportunity to write and be read. You could have found me this year in The Fisherman, On The Water, Field & Stream Online, Surfcaster’s Journal, and American Fly Fishing. And, of course, right here at currentseams.com.

You can read my story “Sensei Elmer & The 50-Fish Nights” in this issue of Surfcaster’s Journal, but you’ll need to subscribe or buy the issue. Please support publications that you enjoy reading.

Farmington River Report 8/1/21: Let’s be careful with those water temps

In a normal summer, August water temps are not an issue on a tailwater like the Farmington. When you get into an extended heat/drought matrix, it’s easy to see how water temperatures can get dangerously high for trout. Less obvious is our current situation. As a result of blowing so much water out of the reservoir — July was the third wettest month on record — the lake is now less temperature stratified. What’s coming out of the bottom isn’t in the upper 50s, but rather in the mid-60s. The issue becomes one of day and night-time air temperatures, and sunshine. Lower and lesser is better. The one current saving grace is that there is still a lot of water moving through the system, and more water means it’s harder to heat up. (Yesterday was 540cfs in the Permanent TMA, and 610cfs in Unionville.)

So, please try to use common sense. Check water temps before fishing, and pick and choose your locations (closer to the dam is better) and times (morning is best, cloudy days, and after the sun goes behind the hills also works) — not to mention your tippet and landing strategies. With that in mind, I was curious about both water temperatures and trout vitality. I fished a mark below the Permanent TMA for an hour yesterday, late afternoon. The water temp was below 70. It was a fast-moving, riffly/pocket water section that was sure to be highly oxygenated. I was fishing a team of three wets with Maxima Ultragreen 4#, which is strong enough to quickly land any Farmington River trout. Finally, I resolved to strip in anything I hooked fast. I stuck four fish and landed two. The two I landed were brought to net in under 15 seconds. They both looked and behaved like very healthy fish, with no signs of stress.

This was a surprise. Given the conditions, I debated the merits of taking a photo, but I can tell you this with certainty: the char was landed in 10 seconds, kept within the net in moving, oxygenated water, then removed for 3 seconds for the photo. All we can do is our best.

Housatonic Mini-Report 6/17/21, or: I went smallmouth fishing and ended up catching a bazillion trout

Forgive the brevity, but here’s what happened. I fished from 5:30pm-9:15pm. I started way far below the TMA in search of smallmouth. I managed one on a Gurgler, and a rather large fallfish on a wet fly. The river was lightly stained and running at a normal 575cfs. Water temp was upper 60s. After 90 minutes, I was unimpressed with this mark, so I headed up to the TMA. A massive caddis hatch had occurred, and size 16 tan caddis blanketed the rocks along the shore and swirled everywhere. They were soon joined by a strong showing of sulphurs and Cahills. I managed a stout smallie on a streamer, but the sight of trout eagerly snapping at emergers had me switching to wet fly in a hurry. First cast, bang, and it was all fantastic action until dark. I made the switch to dries around 8pm, and for a half hour it was a trout on every cast. They were greedily feeding just like they do during a Hendrickson emergence, mouths open, launching at the fly. It slowed a bit until I called it at dark, 9:15, but I was still catching on Light Cahill Catskills dries and Usuals. A few rainbows in the mix but mostly browns. With elevated water temps, I used 4x tippet so I could get the fish in fast. All of them looked very healthy. Hopefully they will find the thermal refuges before the water gets too warm.

One of many customers, all of which have been eating well. Spectacular dry fly action!

Farmington River Report 6/17/21: Wet Fly Wizardry

I guided Joe yesterday, and while it wasn’t a textbook wet fly day, we experienced some tremendous action (I lost count of how many trout we hooked and landed). Joe is an experienced angler who has dabbled in wet flies, but wanted some serious instruction in the ancient and traditional subsurface art. We fished from 2:15-6:15pm, and visited two marks, one within the Permanent TMA and one below it, 385cfs and 465cfs respectively. It was a strange kind of wet fly day in that there was no voluminous hatch, nor were there frequent, consistent risers to target. Nonetheless, Joe slayed ’em. This speaks not only to Joe’s abilities, but also to the efficiency of the wet fly. It may not look like anything is going on, but there can indeed be mischief afoot underwater. Joe fished a three fly team of a Squirrel and Ginger top dropper, Light Cahill winged middle dropper, and Hackled March Brown on point. All three flies took trout, a mix of rainbows and wild browns. Several of the rainbows we landed had bird wounds — watch out, trout! A great job by Joe and a fun afternoon of fishing and catching.

After our session, I headed north to catch the “evening rise.” The quotes are sarcastic, as the hatch never materialized. Oh, sure, there were a few caddis and suplhurs and some huge creamy duns, but they were few and far between. The river never got to boiling — the best it could muster was a brief simmer around 8:45pm. I had several swings and misses (I was fishing dry fly) and only stuck two trout. A disappointing performance by Mother Nature, but there are worse ways to spend two hours than standing in a river, waving a stick, and enjoying a fine cigar.

This was the scene for much of the afternoon. I told Joe he was going to become a dangerous wet fly machine, and here’s your proof.

Farmington River Mini-Report 6/7/21: I think I’m done with that spot (for now)

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.

Farmington River Report 6/2/21: Hard wet fly times

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.

There comes a point in the battle where I wonder, “Is this one of those fat stocked rainbows, or a big wild brown?” No disrespect to the rainbows, but I am highly pleased when the answer is the second choice. Here’s the last fish of the evening. I saw him sipping spinners in some frog water along the opposite shore. Both of these last two browns were hefty, spirited, and refused to come quietly to net. You know you’ve got a decent fish when it sounds and heads for the deepest part of the run. See you soon, fellas.

Farmington River Report 5/27/21: Mother Nature hits the reset button

On the heels of Tuesday night’s red-hot wet fly action, I returned to the scene of the crime. We’d had a little rain Wednesday night, so the flow was up 100cfs to 550cfs, which is still a very average flow for the lower Farmington this time of year. I fished from 6:30pm-8:30pm. Despite a warm, sunny day, neither the caddis nor the Light Cahills came off in any numbers. Rather than being surrounded by trout eagerly taking emergers, I experienced a boil here, a boil there, but nothing steady and rhythmic. Whereas all I had to do on Tuesday night was drift my team over a fishy area or target an active riser, on Thursday I had to work hard just to reach a half dozen trout. Not that I mind that. It’s just fascinating to me how unknown factors can have such a dramatic impact on the day-to-day fishing. I also went for my first swim of the season. It’s not an awful time to experience the sensation of water spilling down your waders and soaking into your drawers, but it’s still mighty unpleasant. As I write this today, the lower Farmington has topped 1600 and is no doubt the color of chocolate milk. More rain is on the way. Reset. Pause. Then we’ll start again.

I took a mix of stocked rainbows and wild browns. My first fish came in some pocket water along the bank. Squirrel and Ginger was the winning fly. Parr marks, halos, a never-say-die fighting ethos — man, I love these wild jewels!

Farmington River Report 5/25/21: Spectacular wet fly action

After my Instagram (stevecultonflyfishing) post the other day, I wanted to see for myself. So, following the advice of my rose bushes, I headed for the lower end of the Farmington River to fish the Light Cahill hatch.

The water has come down nicely — in fact, I’d call 445cfs just about right — and it’s still plenty cold. I started off at a favorite mark around 5:30pm, and worked my way down a series of snotty riffles and pockets. The action wasn’t quite what I expected, even though I stuck a half dozen trout. There just wasn’t nearly the hatch activity I’d expected, nor were there many fish feeding near the surface. I’d started out with a Squirrel and Ginger (sz 12) as top dropper, a Starling and Herl (sz 14) in the middle, and a Partridge and Light Cahill (sz 12) on point. After no hookups on the dark middle fly, I made two command decisions: replace the Starling and Herl with a Pale Watery Wingless (sz 12) and move to a new mark.

And those two choices made all the difference. I was in the water by 7pm, and for the next 90 minutes I took trout after trout. It was one of those I-have-no-idea-how-many-fish-I caught nights. What was most interesting to me was the difference a half mile makes. The new spot had more bugs and far more active feeders. The fish were mostly stocked rainbows (and a bonus big brook trout), but I did get a few wild browns in the mix, including a hefty 16″wild thing.

If you’ve taken a wet fly lesson with me, you’ve heard me say that when you hit it right, wet flies will make you look like a fly fishing wizard. I caught every riser I cast to, save for one. I caught them on all three flies. I caught them on the mended swing, the dead drift, the dangle, and the Leisenring Lift. Folks, I hit it right, and you can, too. Wet flies, people. Wet flies.

Lousy picture, nice fish. 16″ of wild Farmington brown taken on a size 12 Magic Fly on a dead drift. He was slashing at emergers at the wrinkled head of a pocket run. It took be a short while to figure out what I’d hooked — it was either one of those fat stocker rainbows or a chunky wild brown. I was glad it was Option B. This guy bulldogged and battled and generally behaved very poorly. I love him for that.