Farmington River Quasi-Report 1/29/19: Shooting in the cold

This seemed like it would be the best day in the foreseeable future to a) shoot some photos for my upcoming Farmington River feature in Eastern Fly Fishing, and b) sneak in a few casts before Arctic winter sets in. So. It was cold. Ice-in-the-eyelets cold, from 11:30am-2:30pm. Water was a low (the new normal!) 680cfs in the permanent TMA. Streamers was the method in the first two hero pools. Not a touch. Went to the nymphing well and did likewise. In the meantime, took many dozens of still life shots and river scenes. Ran into Farmy guide Steve Hogan (who I’ve never met — nice to meet you, Steve!) and got a rack of shots of him nymphing. Mission completed, I drove home.

It’s now 10:35pm and I’m pleased to inform my readers that I am finally warm.

No two winter fishing days are alike. 

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Cold Encounters of the Small Stream Kind

I went for a walk in the woods yesterday. The thin blue line had turned mostly white, as had the forest floor. Here are a few photos from the outing.

Stuff like this beats the tar out of any store-bought Christmas tree — real or plastic.

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The story on the brook was very little fishable water. Somewhere below ice and froth there are brook trout. Sadly, I couldn’t find any that wanted to play.

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With temperatures in the teens, line and leader and fly froze the moment they hit the air. A hike through the snow pack and a Nestor Miranda Habano corona Gorda (and many layers and hand warmers) kept me nice and cozy.

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Farmington River Report 1/12/17: Of flows and floes

I expected to blank yesterday. Rain, snowmelt, and ice would surely make for some challenging conditions, 56 degree air temps be damned. I fished two spots within the permanent TMA, and the first was that dreaded blank. The second, much to my surprise and delight, produced three trout (three more than the guys fishing corn, he said smugly). Over the course of the day, I left my rod on top of my Jeep and drove a quarter mile before I realized my idiocy. Then I rescued someone’s landing net as it floated by. So much excitement! Here are some details.

The river was running at 300cfs, a (finally) proper level. But the water was staggeringly cold — my analog thermometer only managed 32 degrees at 1pm. Water was off-color at the first spot, and less stained at the second. What really surprised me was the amount of ice still on the surface. A day later I’m sure some of it has flushed, but many of the hero dry fly pools were better suited for skating than fishing. Ice floes were also a problem as the day progressed. It’s unnerving to feel that dull thud against your leg while you’re focusing on your drift.

Lots of this going on. Be wary of shelf ice — plant an imaginary “Keep Off!” sign and do so.  January is a bad time to go swimming on the Farmington.

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I did a little short-line nymphing, but with the water back at a near-normal level, I returned to the indicator for most of the day. I prefer indicator nymphing in conditions like these because I can cover a lot more water. I also like the indicator for the more subtle takes you sometimes get with winter fishing. (However, that wasn’t the case today. All three fish struck hard.) Two came on a Frenchie variant (black bead, UV Red Ice Dub), size 12 scud hook. I also went with 2 BB shot to slow my drift. It made for an abundance of false positives, but I think slower was the way to go.

Pure parr pulchritude. Alliteration aside (alas), this is one gorgeous creature. Check out the halos along the lateral line, and the old mouth wounds. He fought like a tiger, and I had a hard time getting him to sit still for a portrait. I will never tire of catching wild Farmington browns. 

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I find the concept of dark flies on dark days agreeable, so I made my top dropper a Starling and Herl, standard hook size 16. I love fishing soft-hackled flies like nymphs or deep emergers.

This was my biggest fish of the day. Starling and Herl.

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Farmington River Report 1/5/17: Ice cold (the weather, too)

In my experience, sudden changes in temperature — especially a drop — are usually bad for business. So it went today. I fished three spots within the permanent TMA, nymphs and streamers, and blanked. Okay, I did have a firm tug on a streamer (solid enough to make me wonder why hook point never found mouth) but that was it. Hatches were virtually nonexistent, and ice was a problem all day. It’s not supposed to get much warmer for a while, and today was my day to get out, so I can live with the skunk.

Note: as I drove past the entrance to Greenwoods/Boneyard, I noticed the dirt road is not plowed and is covered with ice. I wouldn’t plan on trying to navigate it unless you’ve got really good tires and a reliable 4WD. Good luck if you head out, and remember: the fish don’t know that it’s cold.

Shaving cream — be nice and clean — shave every day and you’ll always look keen. Actually, this stuff was frozen solid. It also reminded me of baked Alaska.

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Farmington River Report 2/23/16: Laughter in the rain

For once this winter I guessed right that a lousy weather report would keep most anglers home. I find it generally unbearable when the temperature is in the mid-thirties and it’s raining, but when you’re catching, elements-induced misery somehow slides to the rear.

Winter nymphing on the Farmington this season has been as predictable as Donald Trump’s hair. The fish are in the usual pools, then concentrated within certain sub-areas of those pools. Get your fly into those sub-areas, and you’re an instant expert. Miss them by a few feet, and you’re Baron Von Blankenstein. Today I had a prime spot; the angler across from me did not. We fished the same general area, but I out-caught him 6:1. (This has nothing to do with ability and everything to do with real estate.)

I started with a size 12 BHSHPT on the bottom and a size 18 midge-type on top dropper. They loved the PT. After I lost my rig, I re-tied with a size 14 Hare and Copper and took two more on that. It rained on and off; five minutes into one of the heavier spells the fish put on the feed bag; sadly, it only lasted for about ten minutes. The permanent TMA was running 340cfs, clear, and cold, although I expect the levels and clarity are changing dramatically as I write this.

On the menu today: creamy micro-midges and W/S caddis.

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Farmington River Report 12/17 and 12/18/14: Is it winter yet?

Meteorologically, not quite. And with no snow on the ground and air temps above freezing, it didn’t feel like it. Still, a misplaced hand in the water during a stumble told me right quick that this wasn’t September. Water temp was mid-thirties, flows around 540cfs, very slight stain.

Wednesday, 12/17/14: Ninety minutes of nymphing in the upper TMA. I missed it. By the time I got situated — around 12:30pm — what was apparently late morning gangbusters was now a fading memory. Managed one nice brown, and saw one other trout caught, but the anglers I spoke to said the action was nothing like it was earlier in the day. Of course. So I made plans to return on…

Thursday, 12/18/14: A mini cold front and a NW wind at 10-20 does wonders for keeping anglers off the river. Yesterday I was one of nearly a dozen. Today, all by myself. In place shortly before 11am for…nothing. Not a touch. Changed weight. Changed flies. Changed the side of the river I was fishing on. Finally, a small brown on the upward swing of the nymph. Then another momentary hookup as I was stripping my line in to re-cast. Hmmm. Maybe I should be presenting flies with some motion? A lost nymph rig was the impetus for abandoning the small stuff in favor of streamers. And that, as they say, made all the difference. Kept at it till 3pm. Left tired, cold, and happy.

There you are. First fish on the streamer today. Love the sparkles behind the eye. Looks like some kind of nebula or interstellar dust transposed from deep space to gill plate.

Farmy Brown CU

Dang. Lost him. That was a nice fish. I wonder what happened? Oh. That’s what… 

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One of several that didn’t get away. In fact, I found a whole pod of twelve-to-thirteen-inchers that were rather eager to chase. Fun while it lasted.

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Today’s streamer setup: Teeny integrated full sink tip (4.0 ips) with floating running line. 3-foot leader (18 inches of 15#, 18 inches of 8#). Tungsten cone head in faster, deeper water, brass in slower water. Fished single hook and articulated. Did better with the single.

2/4/14 Farmington River Report: Sunny with a chance of trout

Today was going to be the warmest day of the week. I had to go to UpCountry to pick up my new vise. Chance of a couple hours of fishing, 100%.

Of course, I wasn’t the only person who thought it would be a fine afternoon to fish the Upper TMA. Spots A and B were on lockdown, so I settled for C. And C it was on the old grade point scale, with the guy in spot A bailing trout, the guy in spot B catching a few less, and me coming in with a rock-solid average. Still, hard to complain about fishing on a weekday when the sun is out and there’s only a little ice in your guides. Especially after I lengthened my leader and added another BB shot to adjust for the depth of the water. I indicator nymphed with a size 18 (2x short) soft-hackle BHPT on point and a size 16 (2x short) BH Squirrel and Ginger as top dropper. They liked the S&G. Best fish of the day was a some-teen inch Survivor Strain brown with riveting black spots and fins the size of a barn door.

Didn’t see any bugs. Water temp was 35 degrees. Air temp just under freezing. Flows about 350-400.

A failed attempt at an art shot. But I like the effect of the water, the sunlight, and the spotting in the upper left. This was the Survivor Strain brown. I couldn’t distinguish an elastomer, but the adipose fin was clearly clipped.

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After getting locked out of my first two chosen spots, I headed to a third. Crapass. This guy was fishing right where I would have been swinging streamers. So I figured I might as well get a good photo out of it.

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