Farmington River Report: A good time to tie flies

I drove along the lower Farmington TMA yesterday, and it was either frozen over, framed with shelf ice, or filled with slush.

Of course, the closer you get to the dam, the more open water you’ll find. Still, I’m going to save my chips, wait for a wee thaw, and tie some flies.

Take heart, cabin feverish types: Hendrickson spinners are just a little over three months away.


Odds and ends on a cold January night

I built a fire last night because I didn’t feel like turning on the downstairs heat. While an open fireplace is considered to be an inefficient method of heating, you can’t beat it for ambience. I did manage to raise the temperature five degrees, and it felt rather grand to stand on the hearth. No fire tonight, but I’m staying warm with a nice Italian red (Caparzo Sangiovese Toscana 2013, an absolute steal at $11.99).

Farmington River: If you’ve been out fishing, good on you. Me, I’m saving my chips for warmer weather. And transferring my fishing energy to tying.

Steelhead: There is a sense of derring-do about embarking on a single-digit temperature adventure, but see “Farmington River” above.  If you’re not aware, there’s been a fish kill this season on the Salmon River. Here is the latest theory:

Small streams: I’ve driven past a few, and after the last two nights they are looking more like frozen tundra than running water.

Stripers: I used to fish for them in January. Right now, the pragmatist in me is crushing the romantic. Not that the romantic really minds.

Currentseams: I see we have surpassed the quarter-century mark in followers. Thank you all for your readership and support. If you’re new, stop by and say hi. The shortest distance between two people is a hello.

I remember this day. It was about 400 degrees in the shade. Tonight, not so much.

Smallstream canopy

The Un-Dead of Winter

One from the archives. I wrote this several years ago to remind myself that Pete Seeger was right. Not to mention Paul.

The Un-Dead of Winter

By Steve Culton

© 2009. All rights reserved.

I was heading out of the office on a freezing January afternoon when the receptionist, noticing how I was dressed, asked me if I was going fishing. I told her yes, and she responded with an incredulous, “In the dead of winter?!?”

I smiled in affirmation, but on the way to the stream, her words got me thinking about the bum rap winter takes when it comes to natural rhythms  — and angling — especially if you plan on forsaking the homey comfort of the ice fishing hut in favor of wading. The reality is, fall is when things die. Winter is when life begins. And it truly is a wonderland, alive and well and overflowing with vitality.

Step into your backyard or some nearby woods. The trees and bushes are already covered with buds, nature’s amazing automated leaf and flower systems, full of life (in the dead of winter!) and waiting for the warmth of spring to pop. As I write this, the mercury is well below freezing, yet my forsythia is as green as a springtime lawn, stems so bud-laden I can only imagine the yellow riot that awaits me in April. Mountain laurel and rhododendrons proudly display the evergreen banner, and from my window I can see a cardinal and his mate searching for seeds in the compacted snow.

An exquisitely parr-marked Farmington River brown. Even on a cold January afternoon, she was more than happy to chase a swung fly.


Even on the small stream I was fishing the day our receptionist questioned my sanity, there was life in the air and beneath the water. Though the high never made it past 30 degrees, size 14 charcoal grey midges flitted about. Wild trout were holding low on the river bottom, ready to gobble any food that came tumbling along. It started to snow, and as my cigar smoke drifted slowly into the windless air, creating a tapestry with the chunky flakes, I felt as alive and happy as I would be sipping lemonade a warm July afternoon.

A few weeks later, I was fishing a salt estuary in Rhode Island. The temperature had plummeted into the low twenties, and a bitter west wind tormented the exposed skin on my face. Yet, there were snails and grass shrimp and, as this was the new moon, perhaps even clam worms doing what they always do: living. (The stripers, sadly, were living somewhere out of casting range.)

What mysteries remain uncovered along the frozen banks of our rivers and shores? You don’t know if you don’t go.


I used to view winter as a time to store the rods and gear and prepare for the reawakening rituals of spring. No longer. I’m out on our streams and rivers and in the salt, almost always gloriously alone, left to my thoughts, the wonders both seen and unseen, and the bounty of life that reminds me spring is on the way.

Farmington River report 1/17/14

Today was a pretty darn nice day for January, and there was no shortage of anglers taking advantage of the last of the thaw. Plenty of vehicles in Greenwoods, Woodshop, along Church Pool, and in the lot. The upper TMA was running about 550cfs, clear, and in the low thirties. High air temp was low forties (no ice on the guides — huzzah!), abundant sunshine, and a good southerly breeze that kept most of the dry fly anglers away. Not much to write about in the way of hatch activity. I nymphed from 11:30am to 1:00pm under an indicator, and the trout preferred the smaller of my two flies, a size 22 (really an 18, 2x short) soft-hackled BHPT. Always a happy moment, landing your first Farmington River brown of the year — or for that matter, landing a trout in January. An angler below me  also did well on small nymphs. Switched over to streamers and ventured to some different water, but could find no takers, though I did speak to another angler (Colin — pleased to meet you) who told me he had gotten into two trout on streamers. The cold is coming, so get out while you can.

Remnants from the last ice age — about two weeks ago.