Out to the Farmington today to take some scenics for my upcoming feature in Eastern Fly Fishing. As you might have imagined, the warm weather brought out anglers in force; it seemed like every major pool or run had a rod probing its depths. Didn’t see any fish hooked. Wished I was fishing. But I had decided to visit a small stream after my photography work was done.
Not surprisingly, much of it was unfishable. Part of this brook flows through a hollow, and the sun had yet to work its melting magic.
I did find some relatively open water. Not a touch for me today; again, no surprise, probably due to snow melt which tends to drop that water temp. Here’s a helpful small stream hint: sometimes I purposefully cast my line or leader over a rock to hang up the fly in the current. The waking fly is particularly attractive to kamikaze wild trout. I try to make sure the fly is holding over a likely lie. In this case, I was fishing a dry/dropper — this is a great tactic for a submerged soft hackle. You can see the leader going over the left third of the rock; the fly is at 10 o’clock.
I’m a count-your-blessings kind of guy, and to be able to fish for wild native char on a secluded woodland stream is certainly at the top of the tally sheet. There’s something both poetic and romantic about catching a fish whose direct ancestors lived in the same waters for tens of thousands of years.
Even in winter. A dark horse from February.
200 years ago this was a farmer’s property line.
Biggest small stream brookie of the year, taken on a micro bugger in deep plunge pool. An old fish who made it through flood, drought, and bitter cold, I didn’t even take him out of the net for a beauty shot.
A couple of hardy anglers had the temerity to fish the Hous Friday evening. 1,300cfs is certainly doable, if not challenging. We hit three spots and found fish in two of them. I had my first customer on that marabou crayfish prototype, and it was a solid smallie, just under a foot. I had the brilliant idea that I should try to catch a bass on the surface in that turbid flood, and by casting back to the bank…what do you know, a couple of customers. Both were too small to get their mouth around the hook, but I’d had my fun. Today the river is even higher and rising. Ugh, ugh, ugh.
This morning I had a 90 minute window, so I nymphed two spots on the lower Farmington. 550cfs, very cold for this time of year. First spot was a blank. Very surprised by that. I know I was getting deep enough because I lost my drop shot tag. Move around, find the fish, etc., so I changed locations and first cast, bang, a hefty rainbow that broke my leader at the top fly junction. After post-loss inspection, the leader above the break was frayed, so it was either compromised before hookup or Mr. Rainbow took me for a ride around a rock. Re-rigged, and landed one of the nicest brook trout I’ve ever taken on the Farmington. Both fish hit the top dropper in the rig, a size 16 Wingless March Brown.
Mr. Long Kype Jaw also has some shoulders and a complete set of dramatically contrasted fontenalis fins.
The cathedral was built at the end of the last ice age. As the glacier receded, it carved out the path of the stream and dotted its edges with granite boulders. Tens of thousands of years later, I came to worship at its altar.
In one of the Beatles’ Christmas records, John Lennon waxes romantic about the Elizabethan high wall. Here’s to the New England low wall. What was once farmland is now dense woods, and every once in a while you stumble across one of these gems, as if it were part of some random design plan.
I’ve been fishing this stream for years, and in late May you can always count on a good hatch of yellow sallies. I spent 15 minutes sitting beside a pool watching the char rise in earnest to both midges and stoneflies.
I started with a dry (Improved Sofa Pillow variant)/nymph (Frenchie variant) dropper and had interest in both. I switched out the nymph for a North Country spider, the Partridge and Orange, to which the answer was a resounding yes. White micro bugger, ICU Sculpin, Squirrel and Herl — they liked them all. Pricked dozens, landed a few less, and spent most of the morning giggling about it.
I love how the brookies change their colors to match their environment. This guy came from a shallow, well-lit run with a light stone bottom…
…while his cousin came from the depths of a plunge pool that may only see sunlight for a few days each year.
I noticed as I was driving through my neighborhood that every dog owner seemed to be out with rover for walkies. Same deal in the other residential areas I passed through. Who could blame them? With the sun cheerfully sharing its warmth, it felt more like early April than late February. But would the fishing be for the dogs?
My original intention was to throw streamers on the Farmington. Time and space got in the way, so a quick shot to a local brook was the new plan. The water was high, clear, and very cold — I’d guess upper 30s. Any snow and shelf ice had long since made its way to the Connecticut River or maybe even Long Island Sound. The trout were still holding in their winter lies. I fished a bushy dry/dropper and a couple micro streamers. Pricked five, landed three, and all of them came on the subsurface fare. (This tells me that while we may be dreaming of spring, the char are still in winter mode.)
A fine example of local folk art. This handsome native took an ICU Sculpin that was swung and then jigged through a deep plunge pool.
There are two ways to look at this mess. Both are emotional: Thanks, Mother Nature, for totally cocking up this neat little section of water. Or, what a great place for brookies to hang out! I feel that come spring, the intrepid angler who can figure out how to drift a bushy dry into this wooded Gordian Knot will be richly rewarded.
Last week I visited three local small streams, partially because I could; partially because the weather didn’t suck; partially because I was curious to see if anyone wanted to play; but mostly because I just plain love small streams.
I began Wednesday afternoon at Stream A. The air temp was just about freezing, and there was still a solid white shelf of ice framing this woodland brook. Didn’t see any bugs, and the action was slow. No love on a bushy dry/nymph dropper, so I switched over to an ICU Sculpin. I was jigging the fly in a plunge pool when I felt some weight. The next thing I saw was an open mouth rising from the depths. And then the char was gone. That was enough to keep me smiling, though.
Remnants from the last ice age. This stuff should pretty much be gone by the middle of this week. However, I’d still expect the water temperatures to be very cold.
Streams B and C are in more urbanized locations. They’re not for everyone, especially if you desire the unspoiled by humans angling backdrop. So while they lack the classic beauty of the high-gradient mountain brook or lilting meadow stream, they are, nonetheless, charming in a “cool, I hooked a section of heater hose” kind of way. I went Friday, and I thought that with the heavy cloud cover and late afternoon timing, I might get an offer to buy with my white mini bugger sales pitch. Nothing doing. Although I did have a rather tasty cigar.
So much depends
a brown tree
glazed with rain
beside the white
Snuck out for a couple hours the other day on Ye Olde Brook Trout Emporium. The catching was a bit on the slow side, but the fishing was tremendous. At last! Freedom! I took them on the dry (size 16 Improved Sofa Pillow) and the wet (size 20 Snipe and Purple) dropper. Water was 56 degrees and medium low. Bugs everywhere: midges, some large dark un-IDed mayfly spinners (mahogany duns?), caddis, and my first confirmed sulphur sightings of 2017.
Sky of blue, sea of green. The canopy is filling in, and the wooded wetlands are in their glory.
While I was disappointed in the number of fish that wanted to play, I did see more actively feeding char on this stream — especially in slower, deeper water — than ever before. Those that were coming up for the naturals were also quite willing to inspect my dry, even though it was substantially larger than what was hatching. This fellow pounced when the opportunity presented itself. You can see the beginnings of a kype.
Ray Bergman, you magnificent bastard, I read your book! This brookie was quietly sipping, forming delicate rise rings in some glassy water. I approached from upstream, made a long cast, and got him on the wet dropper by raising the rod tip and doing a hand-twist retrieve. By far the hardest hit of the day.