Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Summer on the Farmington

I really try not to get my hopes up when I go to the Farmington. I've had some epic days there. And some thorough skunkings. Not exactly the result you're looking for after driving almost 200 miles in a day to fish.  Not to mention, the last time I went to there happened to be one of those fishless trips. The memory is still raw. This time I arrived at the trout management area around 11:00 am, fully expecting an empty river on a hot summer Tuesday. I could not have been more mistaken. Every single pull off had a vehicle in it. Including the one that can easily accommodate three cars, but was occupied by a lone pickup parked smack in the middle, blocking anyone else from parking. Genius or dick move, depending on your perspective… I lean towards the latter. I found a place to park at the very end of the line, about as close to the dam as you can park. Turned out to be the best move I made all day.

I had ended up parked right next to a spot on the river that has served me well in the past, so it wasn't the worst scenario. Far from it, actually. This spot happened to be very well shaded at the moment, unlike most of the river downstream. And it's a perfect little run between some large rocks. I had decided on the drive that I would start out fishing with terrestrials- a hopper and ant dropper. My second cast was hammered by a nice brown that ran downstream and grudgingly came back up and into the net. Well, there goes the fear of getting skunked. The hopper fly was now thoroughly waterlogged so I put on an indicator, just to see if it would work. A couple casts later I had another fish on. A drowned hopper was just as appealing, apparently. I hooked and landed four more browns on the soggy hopper and one rainbow that took the ant, for whatever reason. They were all 14-16 inches and none of them broke off or spit the hook. It was one of those extremely rare times that I actually felt like I knew what I was doing. As things slowed down and I started to think about moving on, a bad side cast wrapped my rig firmly around a low branch. That's more like it. I felt like the decision had been made for me. Lunch time.

I left the car after lunch and hiked downstream a bit. By now the crowd had thinned and there were some newly vacant spots to check out. These local guys clearly knew what they were doing, it was mid day by now and the entire river was exposed to the blazing sun. I wasn't having any luck with the hopper/dropper rig I had retied, so I tried nymping in the riffles for a while. Nada. Seemed like the entire river had decided to take a nap. I'd already done better than expected in the first hour, so I just decided to slow down and enjoy the afternoon. I had a beer and watched the water for a while. There's really nothing quite like that cold, damp breeze that comes from a cool tailwater stream every so often on a hot day. I kept fishing, but it was really more like passing the time until dusk when I knew the river would awaken again. I figured those crowds would return, so I staked out a good spot at the tailout of a long pool. Sure enough, around 5:00 I heard car doors slamming through the woods. The pool ahead of me was fully occupied in minutes. Five separate guys fishing shoulder to shoulder. They fish close in Connecticut, I've noticed. I stayed put at my spot, somewhat territorially, but no fish were being taken by any of us. There were some sulphurs, caddis and some very tiny mayflies around, but not much in the way of rising trout. I did see a beautiful yellowy brown jump completely out of the water right in front of me, but no dry fly I threw seemed to bring him back up. The guys upstream were casting away, but nothing was happening. Seemed like a change of location was in order. I waded much further downstream, where it was rocky and fast. The current was much stronger and wading was getting tougher and tougher. Never wade the Farmington without a staff, I've learned. I was still rigged with a dry fly, the trusty elk hair caddis, and just started casting into the riffles. Bang. A trout snatched it from the boiling water and took off downstream. I knew if would be a tough fight in this current, but instead of breaking off it got tangled in a stick underwater and got unstuck. At least I had found fish willing to bite. I carefully made my way back up through the riffles, casting blindly. I had some more takes and misses, but nothing made it to the net. As it got dark,  I made my way back up to the tailout and the pool above it was still being methodically worked over. I saw one guy land something, but it still looked slow. I decided to pack up and hit the road, it had been a long, tiring and very satisfying day. And I still had 90 miles to go.