Farmington River Mini-Report 1/22/21: The fastest two hours

I got a late start and had to run a few errands, so I didn’t get to the river until noon. I fished above and within the Permanent TMA. I made the decision to look for unpopular winter water, and so I had three marks all to myself. The river was up a tad from last week (400cfs) and we had a few snow showers. Observed: midges and Winter/Summer caddis, although not many of either. The method was tight line\small jig streamer. I only had one take, and I missed the fish; it was a very subtle pause, and I didn’t even get a head shake into the bargain. Wow, where did the time go? Reluctantly, I left to tend to responsibilities that were far less fun than tracking a drift through a fishy-looking run.

It’s beginning to look a lot like winter.

Farmington River Report 1/14/21: Jiggin’ and Strippin’ and Catchin’

Yesterday I fished with Toby Lapinski, a long overdue payback for all the striper outings he treated me to this fall. We decided to go for big instead of numbers, so streamers it was. We started in the Permanent TMA, although we first bounced around looking for a mark that didn’t have the equivalent angler population of Manhattan. (Hint: stay away from the big name pools.) Conditions were perfect for winter streamers: 325cfs, clear, no slush ice, 40 degree air temp and overcast with occasional mists and drizzle.

Rule one of winter streamer fishing: find the fish that want to eat. We decided to mix it up at the first mark. I was long-leader-tight line small black jig streamer in faster water; Toby was traditional fly line with a white jig streamer in slower, deeper stuff. I blanked, but Toby scored a big, bad brown. You can’t see it in the photo, but that’s just over 20″ of trutta buttah. Awesome trout. Observed: a modest midge hatch and trout rising to them in the frog water. We started with the place all to ourselves; by the time we left, there were five other anglers.

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Although anglers were seemingly everywhere, we had the second mark all to ourselves. Oh. This guy was there, too. He was hanging out in some faster water and hit on the drop as the streamer was jigged downstream. I missed him on that first take, but fortunately I didn’t deviate from the presentation, and he came right back and struck on the drop again. Here’s to second chances! Great photo by Toby. I had one more hit on the jig, then I switched over to a traditional streamer winter streamer setup: full sink tip line and short leader with a weighted fly (Coffey Sparkle Minnow).

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Winter fishing requires attention to detail. If you’re not ready, you might miss it. Here’s a hawk-eyed Toby focusing on his sighter. I had one little bump on the Sparkle Minnow, then we moved to the third mark. Only one angler there, but he left after 5 minutes and again we had a long section of river all to ourselves. I managed a fine 13″ wild brown and then we called it a (victorious) day. We fished from 11:30am-4:00pm, and I was grateful for the time spent on the water, the action, and the good company.

The Next Currentseams Tuesday Night Zoom: “Winter Fly Fishing” Jan 12, 8pm

I’m pleased to declare war on cabin fever with another free Currentseams Tuesday Night Zoom, tomorrow, January 12 at 8pm. The subject will be winter fly fishing, and you can read all about it on the poster below. Hope to see you there!

Plus, if you haven’t done so already, there’s still time to sign up for my first winter fly tying Zoom class, Tying the Soft-Hackled Fly, this Saturday January 16th. This class is a pay-to-play event, and the cost is a very reasonable $10.

Farmington River Mini-Report 12/4/20: What streamer bite?

It’s been a tough streamer bite my last two outings — another blank, with only two bumps today compared to half dozen on Wednesday. The river is in fine shape, 500cfs and clear, just in time for tomorrow’s deluge. I hit four marks today, all within the Permanent TMA, and had a bump in each of the first two, but neither felt like a good fish. I played around with size, color, and presentation, but whatever I was throwing, and how I was throwing it, the trout just weren’t that interested. So goes the battle. Just a note that if you’re going to fish the Boneyard, there is an active shotgun season, so be safe and wear some blaze orange.

I lost a Barr’s Meat Whistle to the bottom gods in a very deep pool of the Farmington. Even though it’s tied on a jig hook, this happened when my full sink line got tangled around an obstacle.

Dr. Deeplove, or: How to stop worrying and learn to love the full sink line.

I was fascinated by a recent fly fishing forum thread that warned of the dire consequences of using full sink lines for streamer fishing in rivers. What perdition awaited those who had the temerity to throw the heavy, thin line?

Hard to cast.

Always getting snagged on the bottom.

It was like re-imagining the opening of “The Right Stuff” with a fly fishing bent. “There was a demon who lived in the water…” But, that’s a movie for another day.

Nonetheless, I found it disappointing on a number of levels, among them: sinking lines are only hard to cast if you do it wrong; I don’t get hung up on the bottom any more with a full sink line line than I do with a nymph rig (probably less); internet forums can be a minefield when it comes to getting good advice.

Most of all, when you’re asking the question, “What do I want the fly to do?” sometimes a full sink line is a critical part of that answer. Here are a few quick tips to help you navigate the waters with a full sink line on your next streamer outing. For our purposes, I’m using a Teeny T-Series Integrated Line, and I’m fishing in a river.

One good false cast, and boom, out she goes. As Dr. Strangelove asserted, “It would not be difficult!”

ShootingSinkingLine

Casting. The key to casting a full sink integrated line is to get the full sink part out of the water. I strip line in (whether I’m using a strip presentation or not) so the head is at the rod tip. A roll cast to get the line out, a backcast to aerialize the line, then bombs away. Maybe a couple false casts. Because of their head weight and thin diameter, I find full sink lines fairly easy to cast. You’ll want to use a shooting basket for the running line. And of course, match the grain weight of the line to your rod and casting style.

Snags (or not). Every day is different, but the last time I used my full sink line on the Farmington River I didn’t get terminally stuck on the bottom once — and I was using a weighted fly. Current speed, depth, mending, retrieve speed, sink rate of the line, fly profile and weight — all are factors. The lower and slower the water, the greater your chances are of getting stuck. So pick and choose your water and conditions. Pools and runs with submerged logs, branches, sharp-edged rocks, and boulder fields are often bad places to throw the full sink. If you do get stuck, try this trick: don’t try to horse the fly out. Come taut to the fly, then do a few roll casts. Often that’s enough to free the fly. Finally, if you’re trying to present along the bottom — as with nymphing — touching the bottom is part of the price of admission. The false positive of a snag is confirmation that you’re getting deep. And remember to check those hook points. Sticky sharp!

What do you want the fly to do? This is the million-dollar question that many anglers never consider — but should. I’ll pull out the full sink integrated line for streamer fishing when:

  • It’s summertime and the river has come up and is off color, and I want to get a neutral buoyancy effect from the heavy line (consider it split shot) and a deer hair head fly. (Leader length would probably be around 7 feet.)
  • The water is cold and I suspect the the fish are holding close to the bottom. (Shorter leader, usually no more than 3 feet.) Check out this streamer leader diagram.
  • I want to get the fly, even if it’s weighted, to sink as quickly as possible. This usually indicates a very deep hole as the target zone. Again, shorter leader.

High late summer water, full sink line (weight) + Zoo Cougar (wants to float) = neutral buoyancy. Oh. And this trophy trout, too.

DCIM100GOPROG0013068.

I hope that helps, and as always, if you have questions I’m happy to answer them.

 

 

 

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 2/15/18: Two Hours of Fun with Streamers

Some days I get so ambivalent about how and where to fish that it annoys the hell out of me. Not today. In fact, I knew last night it would be the Permanent TMA and streamers. The water was receding but still up (550cfs) and that along with heavy cloud cover suggested to me that some big browns might be on the hunt.

Spot A was a blank. One other angler was there, nymphing. He reported a blank, too. Spot B produced two fish, although I dropped the second to an incredibly bad hookset. I should have known what to look for after the first fish: no dull thud or sharp tug, but rather the sensation that the fly was hung up on the bottom, with the bottom then moving. I assumed the second fish was a rock, set with the tip, and a few seconds later the trout was off.

While I had Spot B all to myself, Spot C was a regular angler’s convention. (There were a lot of people out in the Permanent TMA today.) Everyone blanked there.

Fished the full sink integrated line and a short (<3 foot) leader.

I don’t often fish articulated streamers, but the trout liked this olive Peanut Envy today. Here’s a nice mid-teens brown.

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A classic Survivor Strain adipose bump.

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Housy Mini-Report 12/8/16: Lots of water — action, not so much.

I missed my annual October/November Housy streamer trips this year, so I went yesterday. The HRO website declared that at 860cfs, it was a good time to fish big streamers on a full sink line. I concurred. Sadly, the trout did not. I fished five familiar, favorite pools and came up blank. Not a touch. Oh, I nicked the bottom many times, and sacrificed three streamers to the river gods, but ’twas not my day. Fast water, slower water, pocket water, shallow and deep — bright colors, muted naturals — fast retrieve, slow retrieve, no retrieve — nada. On the positive side, I had the entire river to myself, always a bonus. We’ll get ’em next time.

With both air and water temperatures in the 30s, this is sound advice.

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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 12/15/15: Low and slow

I really don’t like the river at this height (170cfs and falling in the the permanent TMA), especially in winter. Still, it’s hard to argue with air temperatures in the mid 50s in December. I bounced around to a bunch of spots today, switching between nymphs and streamers. Not a touch on the nymphs. The streamer thing was a little more interesting.

I had one solid bump (no hookup), bagged a juvy salmon, and had over a half dozen quality chases/follows that did not result in a hookup. A couple of the spots I fished allowed me to stand on submerged rocks or riverbank boulders. In addition to making casting easier, these also offered a tremendous vantage point for sight fishing to cruising trout — and to watch how they reacted to my offerings.

There’s one spot on the river where I’ve moved a fish my last two outings. He comes out of his hole, flashes at the streamer, then bails. Since I know where he lives, it is a moral imperative that I catch him this winter. Another fish today was an upper teens brown that was waiting in ambush below a ledge. Every time I changed flies, he came out to inspect it. During one follow — there were three of them — he even nudged the fly (Deep Threat) with his nose. But no completion of the transaction. Again, we have his address.

I had a conversation with Grady at UpCountry about all this on my way home, and we were in agreement that a faster retrieve is probably a good plan of action. Although I did plenty of speedy retrieves today, such as you can do with the fly rod.

If you’re heading out, be prepared for crowds. Of the six places I fished today, there were people in four of them — unheard of most Decembers — and none of the pools were named for a house of worship.