I guided Jon yesterday from late morning to mid-afternoon. We had abundant sunshine, the air was crisp and chilly, and we had a bit of a breeze to contend with. But by far the most challenging part was the sheer volume of leaves in the water. It was never-ending. Still, the trout have to eat. The trick is to keep at it, and I like to use flies that offer some contrast to all the yellow and orange and red in the water. We fished four marks in the lower river, which was running about 225cfs, a very respectable height, and far better than the double-digit CFSs we’ve had to suffer though in the Permanent TMA.
So: Jon is a beginning fly angler. We spent the session drop-shot nymphing under an indicator. Jon did a great job sticking with it despite all the infernal flora. And what do you know? The indicator dipped, the hook was set, the battle won, and…Jon’s first Farmington River trout was wild brown! Way to go, Jon!
I fish the way I want to fish, and sometimes that means I go fishless. I’m OK with that. When it lines up, I may be doing battle with multiple high-teens browns. When it’s a day like yesterday, I get the not-a-touch trudge through the snow back to my car, wondering if my feet will ever be warm again.
Not that I’m complaining. I had a blast. Due to the inclement weather, angler activity was almost at its Farmington River-winter-ten-years-ago level. You still can’t access the majority of dirt pull-offs (they’re currently snowplow pile pull-offs) so you’re stuck with the major parking areas. That didn’t prevent me from going for a walk to find solitude. I fished three marks within the Permanent TMA (no slush, 370cfs). I started off tight-lining jig mini-streamers, but that was a problem with the 24-degree air temp; frozen beads of river clinging to the exposed leader. So I switched locations and did the traditional full-sink line. I did catch a lot of the bottom. Sadly, it never fought back.
Then, I decided to experiment. What would happen if I fished the mini-jig under an indicator? I could bounce it along the bottom, or suspend it near the bottom. I had one of my bigger home-brew yarn indicators with me, so I re-rigged and had at it. I tried it in different kinds of water, from fast-moving glides to languid dry-fly pools. In the faster water, I had to constantly check the indicator upstream and mend to prevent the fly from moving too quickly, but the rig proved to be the answer to the iced-up leader problem. Just because I didn’t connect doesn’t mean it won’t work on another day. More research to come…and I encourage you to try new things when you’re on the river.
I did a series of lightning raids on three spots yesterday within the permanent TMA. (I only had 90 minutes to fish.) The method was nymphing, both indicator and tight line. I found one fish that wanted to jump on. The other two marks were blanks. Even in these low, slow conditions there were anglers everywhere. Usually this time of year, on a weekday, I might see three or four angler cars during my travels. I saw three or four cars in several dirt pulloffs, and multiple solo vehicles. Fishing the Hous the last couple months has clearly spoiled me, as I’ve become accustomed to sharing the water with herons only.
Good news is that the water was nice and cool and there were bugs about. Even with all those other anglers, this was the only trout I saw hooked all day. Lovely halos. She took the Frenchie Nymph variant.Leaves were an issue, and will continue to be with this early foliage drop.
This is one of my favorite nymphing maxims. It is one of those abstract truths that proves itself worthy of consideration many times over the course of a season — especially if you like to nymph with an indicator. Sure, false positives mean you also end up wearing your line, leader, and nymph rig around your head more than you’d care to. But those comical moments are quickly forgotten whenever hook point finds fishy mouth.
A few days ago, I set the hook for no reason other than my yarn indicator deviated ever so slightly from its course downriver. It didn’t go under. It didn’t stall. It didn’t shudder like it does when the rig is bumping along the rocky bottom. Nope, it just started to move in a way that neither current nor structure could account for. So I set the hook. And there he was, the best trout of the day, a mid-teens wild brown.
The guide I float with on the Salmon River, Jim Kirtland, likes to say, “It doesn’t cost anything to set the hook.” Make an investment in watching your sighter or indicator like a hawk — and watch the dividends roll in.
There was no mistaking the take of this fish, but I’ve had plenty of hookups with steelhead this size and bigger that began without the indicator going under. Once you think you know what you’re looking for — anything that looks like a remotely suspicious move by your indicator — the fun begins. Remember the sage advice of Ken Abrames: “It’s a fish until proven otherwise.”