Farmington River Report 12/13/19: Hot Butter from the Icy Cold

That’s the thing about winter streamer fishing — you just never know what you’re going to get. Last week, I fished without a touch. Yesterday, it was hit city. I visited three marks within the permanent TMA between noon-2:30pm, and found players in two of them. All told, a half dozen good bumps with three that stuck. These were quality wild browns that looked to be in fine shape. I fished the full-sink integrated Teeny line, and the streamer of choice was Coffey’s Sparkle Minnow. Most significant, the hits came on the mended swing or dangle, with not a single strike on the strip.

You know the holiday song about traveling on foot through wondrous snowscapes? Here you go. Flow in the permanent TMA was about 550cfs, which I love for streamers. Water was a shocking 34 degrees, and there were a few ice chunks floating by now and then. Imagine my displeasure when I discovered a leak in the crotch of my neoprenes.

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First fish of the day, a mid-teens wild brown that struck on the mended swing. I love that dull thud of a winter streamer take.

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Numero deux, this one on the dangle in about two-and-a-half feet of water. The most spirited combatant of the day. Sadly, fish number three was camera shy, which is my way of saying I fumbled the shot in the cold.

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The winning fly, Coffey’s Sparkle Minnow. I threw the Hi-Liter for a few minutes, but by then the bite window had closed. Tied on a #2 Gamikatsu B10S. Good on ice or neat.

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Farmington River Report 12/6/19: Dedicated to the (futile) streamer cause

I fished the permanent TMA today from noon to 2:15pm. Air temp was 37, water about the same, clouds and snow showers. The water was flowing at 340cfs. As the title says, I went all in on streamers, but never drew the protein payoff card. I hit three marks, and enjoyed the water (and my cigar, a San Lotano Pyramid) all to myself. There were bugs about (tiny BWOs, midges) and I even saw a few sporadic rises, but that dull thud on the swing and strip was sadly absent. Not much angler activity — one guy 250 yards below me at the second mark, a few hardy souls here and there, but today you pretty much had your pick of water. Fished a Coffey Sparkle Minnow, Hi-Liter, and Deep Threat, all on the full sink tip integrated line. We’ll get ’em next time.

Shooting the streamer line. I had forgotten how a few hours in the cold saps me. I’m wiped out, but looking forward to pizza night.

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Farmington River Report 12/19/17: Busy and slow

If you decided to play hooky yesterday and fish the Farmy, you weren’t alone. I would officially describe the permanent TMA as “mobbed” (for a Tuesday in December the week before Christmas). Air temps in the upper 40s, water temp in the mid 30s, flow at 210cfs. A few bugs flitting about (midges, W/S caddis, small grey stones) but no observed risers. I carpet bombed one pool with nymphs, both indicator and tight line, for about two hours and could manage only one trout. Chucked streamers for 15 minutes to no avail, then moved upriver.

Now dedicated to the streamer cause, I fished an overhead-deep pool and blanked. Moved downstream with about 15 minutes left in my session and connected with a nice mid-teens brown — and decided to leave on a high note.

The Hi-Liter produces again! The Hi-Liter is one of my high-confidence winter streamers. I like it on bright days and medium flows, and you can learn how to tie it here. A cast, a mend, and as I came tight to the line, a dull thud. Many thanks to Nick who graciously shared the pool with me.

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Farmington River Report 2/15/17: Bottom return

There comes a point in the nymphing session — usually after I’ve been at it for a while with no touches, and especially if I’ve been losing a war of attrition with the bottom — when the indicator goes down, I set, and I cannot believe that I’m stuck again.

Depression sets it.

But sometimes the bottom moves. And despair turns into the delightful prospect of possessing that which we love and desire.

It’s a fish, and by the feel of things, a decent one.

Even after walking it down the run a ways, the trout still won’t come, and I wonder if it is fouled. No, it’s just a big ‘ol Farmington brown — nearly twenty inches worth — with my tiny midge lodged firmly inside the white of its mouth.

The prize for hiking a good distance to fish in solitude. Celebrated with the cigar gifted to me by Alton (thank you).

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River conditions: 140cfs, clear, 33 degrees. Not much hatch activity (a few W/S caddis and midges). Most of the pull offs and dirt roads were inaccessible due to snow pack/plowing piles. That may change with the warm weather this weekend. I managed a nice rainbow in another spot, then called it a day after three hours. Two BB shot on the drop shot rig today resulted in a lot of snags, but also produced the kind of slower drift that I think catches more fish in water that’s barely above freezing.

The winning fly, Glenn Weisner’s blue bead head midge. You can read more about on Ed Engle’s Lone Angler Journal.

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I know you’ll ask, so here’s the recipe:

Farmington River Report 12/28/16: Lockjaw

That was the general consensus up and down the river. Theories abounded, from snowmelt lowering the water temps to a grey, blustery day where the air temperatures never really spiked. I’ll throw in a pitiful amount of bugs and be done with it. I nymphed within and above the permanent TMA from 9:30am-2:30pm. Water was a cold 34 degrees, there were a few minor snow showers, and the river was running at the princely sum of 175cfs. Lots of folks out fishing today. Many thanks to those who kindly shared water.

There was a 15-minute window of consistent sunshine in the early afternoon — enough to get a few bugs going — and that’s when I had my only touch of the day. I often tell people that I’ll always sign up for one fish in the winter, and when it’s a tank of a high-teens brown, all the better.

The winning fly, a Frenchie variant, on the day-saving fish.

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Farmington River Report 12/13/16: Subsurface spectacular

Going to be mighty chilly later this week, so I thought I’d get my licks in today. Good call. I fished within the permanent TMA from 9am-1pm, and found very cooperative fish in two of the three runs I fished — not to mention precious solitude. Here are the day’s notes:

Nymphing was incredibly productive for me. Those of you who are currentseams regulars know that I am a huge fan of indicator nymphing, especially in winter. However, in this low (100cfs and falling) and cold (34 degrees) water, I’ve gone away from the indicator to a basic short-line approach. The trout are beginning to stack up in their winter lies, and since the water is so shallow, those lies are very accessible via the long rod. I still like the indicator for covering water and for fishing faster, deeper runs, but in these conditions I’m doing better with the short-line approach. Still using the drop-shot rig, only I’ve added a yellow sighter.

Most of today’s trout were foot-long wild fish like this beauty. I did manage a well-fed rainbow and a mid-teens brown. 

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I fished two flies today: a size 16 2x short Frenchy variant on point and a size 16 March Brown wingless wet dropper. The trout were just about evenly split on both. But it’s interesting to note that my first half-dozen fish came on the top dropper. This came in advance of another strong morning W/S caddis hatch. It could have been that the trout were keying on emergers 1-2 feet off the bottom, or simply that they were looking up. Regardless, droppers continue to be the fastest way to find out what the fish want.

A fascinating mix of strike styles today. Some were oh-so-subtle pauses in the vertical line, others were sharp tugs. Good stuff.

Don’t let the exquisite red spots and delicate parr marks mislead you: this fish fought like a badass. I’d like to rumble with him again in a couple years.

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Finally, support your local fly shop. UpCountry Sportfishing is a good friend of currentseams, and they have a tremendous selection of just about anything you’d need for fly fishing or tying. Make sure Santa knows where to find that new rod, reel, vise, or whatever it is you don’t have — or need more of.

Farmington River Report 2/4/16: Ixnay on the Unkskay

There’s a time and a place to be an intrepid explorer, and that time was…Tuesday. Today I wanted to catch some trout. Winter fishing being like buying real estate — location, location, location — I headed for the retail district. Not too crowded, and people willing to share the water (thanks, Zach and friend).

So it wasn’t stupid good, but it was good enough that after 90 minutes I had enough house money to want to go spend it elsewhere. A few notes about the river and fishing:

The permanent TMA was about 400cfs and slightly off-color. The closer you got to the Still, the murkier the water. And it was cold. I’m guessing 34/35 degrees.

Indicator nymphing was the method. The water I fished was neither slow nor deep, but I decided early on to fish two BB shot on my drop shot rig to slow the drift. It seemed to work.

I took several trout in what I would describe as “softer water,” that transition zone between current seam and frog water.

The takes were on the subtle side. No indicator screeching to a halt, or dramatically plummeting to the depths; it was the equivalent of a trout sipping a midge off the surface. It was simply no longer there. Hook set downstream, and off we go.

All my fish today had an intact adipose and were in the 12″-15″ class. I fished a size 12 (2x short) SHBHPT on bottom, and a size 16 (2x short) new midge emerger/nymph thingy I made up last night on the dropper. I am mildly depressed to report that there was no interest in the new fly. But I’m confident that some day there will be.

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See you Saturday!

 

 

 

Farmington River Report 1/26/16: Avoiding crowds — and fish

Where there’s one trout, there’s probably a bunch more. That’s a fair statement for winter fishing on the Farmington, and one that Torrey Collins reiterated to me as I walked out the door of UpCountry. But you could also say the same for winter trout fishers. And today I wanted to avoid crowds. If there were any fish in that bargain, I would embrace it as a bonus.

I’ve been fairly stubborn about Spot A this winter. I know there’s a healthy population of trout, but I’ve only hit them in the mood to eat once. I spent ninety obstinate minutes bouncing nymphs along the bottom (I had too many false positives to count) and swinging/stripping streamers before I decided enough.

Spot B was a what-the-heck roll of the dice. I don’t like it in lower water (230 cfs, 35 degrees in the permanent TMA) but you don’t know if you don’t go. Ten minutes was all I gave it. Blanked.

The run in Spot C is deep and moving at a good walking pace. The yarn went under with the speed and depth that indicates a substantial fish has committed to your fly. Or you’ve found a fly-eating rock. Bottom 1, Steve 0, and I set about re-tying my rig. Thirty minutes later, another blank.

And that’s when you realize that solitude is nice, but you should probably just deal with whoever’s there and go fishing where the willing-to-eat fish are. Third cast, the indicator goes under and the bottom fights back.

Clearly, this calls for a second cigar.

Down periscope. A nice kype beginning to form on this some-teen inch brown that took a size 12 (2x short) SHBHPT, the day’s clear favorite (they showed no interest in eggs or SH Zebra Midges).

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Farmington River Report 12/10/15: BWOs, anglers, and trout

The permanent TMA was crowded! Smoke ’em if you got ’em, I guess — it’s hard for the mall to compete with near-60 degree weather in December. Andy Lyons moseyed on over to say hi. (Please do likewise if you see me on the water — the internet is a great way to reach out to people, but it can’t replace a handshake. And Andy, if you’re reading this, I want that nymph recipe). (See comments below for Andy’s generous response.) Water was on the low side of medium at 225cfs. Didn’t get a water temp, but I think it’s fair to assume that it’s a wee bit higher than normal. Witnessed: a very strong BWO hatch around 1pm.

To the outing: Mark is an experienced fly angler who is making the transition to trout. He’s all in on the immersion process, and this was our second trip in as many weeks. Like our first time out, we focused on traditional late fall/early winter holding water, with an emphasis on indicator nymphing and streamers. We hit five spots, and found players in two of them.

Mark’s first fish of the day came on a simple egg fly (donated to me the previous night by Gary S of the CFFA). What a lovely early winter brown.

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After our session ended, Mark wanted to keep fishing. I pointed out a likely spot for him to toss some streamers. Look what he found on the second cast. Check out the transparency of that tail. Nice job, Mark!

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Farmington River Report 12/1/15: Close, so I provided my own cigar

I spent three hours on the river today with mixed results. I spoke to one centerpinner who said he took over a dozen trout, some in the 20″ class, on trout beads. Another bait angler report a single fish in the first five minutes, then nothing for two hours.

So, what about us fly guys? I threw a mix of streamers on floating and full-sink lines for two hours. Two sharp bumps that felt like smaller fish, then a chase on the mended swing from a good-sized brown that was hiding behind a boulder; sadly, no hookup, and I could not entice him to play again.

Then, I switched to indicator nymphing, and used a small egg pattern as the bottom fly. And there he was, my only hookup of the day. Nothing to shout about, so no picture. However (and this is significant as winter and very cold water temperatures are nearly upon us) the take was not a full drop of the indicator, but rather a series of quick shudders; I set the hook, and the bottom fought back.

Tiny dark midges were out in force, and there were a couple fish rising haphazardly around 1pm. River was clear and running at 280cfs. A damp, drizzly, raw day, but nonetheless beautiful in the eyes of this angler. (And for those who care about my post titles, it was a Gispert Churchill.)

Why trout beads work. That’s a real egg on the left. This photo is from a steelheading trip in November 2013.

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