FlyI took a day to fish the Farmington River  recently, not far from where I live in Connecticut. It is a beautiful river, wide and easy for casting, varied in structure, with a flow perfect for wading this time of year. The Fall colors are just starting, and a blue sky lights the clear river water. It is my favorite time of year to fish. A large portion of the river runs through a state park, so the access is surrounded by an old growth forest. It is a nice walk from the car to the water, a transition and a time to think. I always like to rig up on the water, not by the car. Standing in the river, I can listen, watch and plan.

The Farmington, besides being one of the more beautiful rivers I have fished, is also one of the most popular among anglers and gets pressure. But, there are plenty of large rainbows, browns and brook trout to make up for this. At the fly shop on the last trip a guide showed me a picture of a 30 inch brown he had caught earlier that day. This is the type of thing that keeps one coming back. Here they allow bait fishing as well as fly fishing. Fly fishermen and bait fishermen often have to tolerate each other but rarely do they enjoy the other's company. It is sort of like snowboarders and skiers, sailors and power boaters. They have a fly fisherman only section, but today I venture out to the open waters to see what the day brings.

ForestI drive up-river higher than last trip, park the car and begin walking through the forest. I enjoy this part, listening to the forest and river. I am looking for clues, the insects, water color, flow, structure of the river. I scan below the water for signs of fish. Though I pass only a few anglers, I decided that today I need to do things a little differently to be successful. These fish see many anglers over the season and the learn the lures and flies. To start with, I find a spot which is hard to access, down a step embankment. Then instead of the smooth glassy water, I look for the rocky, fast water. This will rule out the bait fishermen who can only fish the deep pools. Most fly fishermen won't wade the rocky water to risk slipping and losing gear. Plus, the trout like this aerated water with plenty of food. The rocks below provide a nice spot to relax after a meal. I call it "pocket water". I see some small insects flying around, but decide to put on a large attractor fly to see if I get a reaction. After a few casts I hook into a nice brown trout, 16 inches. My day is already a success.

RainbowUpriver I see a deep pool where earlier a fellow angler was casting without success. I know this area gets fished often, but for good reason as it holds large rainbows deep below. I walk up and try a few casts. Shortly after I see a fish rising across the current. As a general rule, the largest fish will be in the most difficult areas to reach. It is the survivorship bias as played out in nature. In this case the fish is just on the edge of a swift current, which would sweep a fly line away before it could reach the fish. I move up ahead and scramble out on some rocks for better position and wait. Sometimes the best thing to do while fishing is to stop and wait. He rises again for a small insect. I find that the largest fish tend to eat the smallest bugs. I think they like to challenge the angler; smaller flys are harder to cast and difficult to see on the water.

I scan my fly box for a selection and decide to go with an even smaller bug than normal. I throw several casts over the current into the seam when he is feeding. I try to vary each cast, different lengths, changing the speed or angle. Sure enough, a quick splash and he takes the bug, a beautiful 18 inch rainbow. I tighten up the line and feel the tug on the other end. I focus on keeping the pressure on him and steer him towards the shore as I move off the rocks. A fish quickly landed is much easier to return to the river. I land him a few minutes later. I take a mental picture for the winter months ahead, the red, blue and green colors on his back, his wide oval shape, strong tail slapping on the water, the bright reflection of the sun off his scales. A great day!

I did catch a few more here and there over the course of the day. Doing things just a little bit differently turned the day into a big success.





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5 Comments so far

  1. Russell Pierce on September 25, 2009 5:37 pm


  2. Steve Leslie on September 26, 2009 9:14 am

    Beautiful report. A marvelous literary journey. Thank you.

    I envy you. Growing up in rubber town USA — Akron, Ohio — we did not have much opportunity for flyfishing. A lot of pollution and rugged dingy surroundings. One would have to venture to Lake Erie for fishing or into Canada for such an experience.

    Your writing makes me ponder A River Runs Through It. In my judgment a fantastic movie and one of my all time favorites.

  3. anton johnson on September 26, 2009 11:49 am

    In a sorely anticipated annual ritual, soon I will pack a Sage travel rod, prepare my K1200RS and ride solo the 350 miles to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Planning is deliberately minimal, as are my accommodation requirements, and include traveling a flexible rural route, determined not by efficiency, but by the quality and quantity of hills and curves.

    Fly-fishing can be a potent mind-sharpening pursuit. The evaluation of environmental conditions and ensuing effectual fly selection and presentation requires a mental acuity most easily obtained through solitary pursuit.

    As always, I anticipate returning home rejuvenated in mind, body and spirit, with a renewed patience and focus transformed through a private communion with nature.

  4. Bill Welch on September 28, 2009 9:18 am

    I have not fished the Farmington River in about 12 years. One of my favorite rivers. The Salmon, Farm, Mill, Hammonesett, & Muddy rivers. Ever since I moved to RI I have not done any trout fishing! I miss it. My daughter raises Golden Pheasants if you need feather to tie flies.

  5. Kermit Johnson on October 4, 2009 4:56 pm

    The picture is nice, but I wish it showed someone proficient at casting. Smaller flies are indeed harder to see, especially as I get older, but not harder to cast. Our kids laughed last spring when I told them that I was taking their mother, after thirty-seven years, on an intensive marriage retreat. This is what I call a trip to the Northwest Territories where we throw our thirty-six year-old Zodiac inflatable and a tent camp into a Beaver on floats and get dropped about 170 miles out for fifteen days with the bears and the mosquitoes. One book I took along was "Monte Walsh" that was recommended on this site. I recommend it also. As far as linking it to trading, I believe that it implies that someone, along with lots of hard work, needs to be born with the natural abilities that make him a great trader. One other observation on the trip was that the fish in that difficult environment were extremely cautious about expending any energy if they felt that conditions were not right for feeding. These are the fish that have survived to pass on their genes for countless generations. I have dragged a live eight inch fish through very large schools of lake trout that would not even expend the energy to turn and open their mouths for the meal. I thought that there must be a lesson for trading in that behavior.


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