The Farmington River and the, â€œOtherâ€, Farmington River.Â
Connecticut is amazing to me. Have lived next to it all my life and never gave it a second thought. Not even a first thought most of the time as far as Trout Rivers go. Rhode Island is flat and is lowland for the most part. Connecticut is not the Rocky Mountains but it has elevation and some fairly big rivers. Long ones too.
The Farmington is one of those and I discovered that it is a very interesting place to fish both in its upper reaches where it is pristine and beautiful and woody and forested and quite large and wadable to its lower regions where it changes and becomes quite brawny and rocky and full of chutes and runs and great big trout. The river has many faces indeed and I like all the ones I have seen and I like the caliber of the fishermen I met while I was there.
I fished there once before, last year on a long weekend when the river was very low and at a reduced flow and I liked it and the water was cold and there were trout rising through out the day and into the evening and it was restful and sweet and I saw a lot of places on the upper river, that section from Ovation pool above the bridge in New Hartford up to the Riverton area which is where most people fish. There were lots of people and I would say that it was a bit crowded on that excursion. This time was different.
I had local help.Â
I stayed at Paul Rossmanâ€™s bed and breakfast not knowing him at all and to my pleasure I met one of the most creative and innovative fly tiers around. Salmon flies, trout flies, caddies, mayflies, pupa, CDC duns and dries and spinners and all sorts of state of the art trout flies I had never seen before or even conceived of and this guy was fluent in that language. We talked for hours each evening after I came back from fishing and he was a wealth of great insight and information about trout and flies and presentation and we did that evening talk for three days. His place, the Pine Meadow House, was just a few doors up the road from the Upcountry Fly Shop where each morning I met the folks who took me fishing that day. It was easy. There was no heavy lifting involved. I was taken care of wonderfully by everyone.Â
Joe Klinger who fishes with me in R.I. for stripers on Tuesday nights had e-mailed me asking if I would like to fish with him and his friend Gary who had also come to the Tuesday night fishing several times and I said yes. They met me on Wednesday morning and took me out to breakfast and then on a long car ride down river past several towns and through a maze of turns and highways and back roads to what was to be a series of secret spots but ended up being one spot that we never left.Â
The river was big, full of rocks and drop offs and the rocks were tough to navigate around and over in waders. I found out the necessity of having a wading staff that day as I had to move very slowly and cautiously and was restricted in my movements due to the treacherous footing but I canâ€™t wait to go back. There were no paths along the river. No one fishes there and the banks are wild and overgrown with bull briers and rose thorns and downed trees and impassible blow downs and rubble from past floods and all sorts of things to hinder ones progress butâ€¦ I canâ€™t wait to go back.
Gary had been telling me tales about afternoons and evenings there during the Hendrickson hatch in the recent past and I was smiling to myself as they sounded unbelievable. Twenty, thirty fish over sixteen inches and many over 18â€ with a few twenty plus thrown in a few hours fishing every time out, browns and rainbows all fat as footballs and no pressure on them from anglers. I was smiling at these fish stories as I said. This is New England not Montana or Alaska after all and what did I know. Nothing, it turned out.
Gary rigged me up with a furled leader and gave me some tips and told me how he fishes with it and then he and Joe went out into the river chasing some trout that were rising to caddis flies. He told me about the deep sections and how to wade to get across and up the pool. I told them that I would be along shortly and they left me by myself to get a feel for things. I took off my gear and got a little net and chased some bugs and poked around here and there and finally got into the water and headed downstream by myself.
I fished here and there without too much enthusiasm and saw one fish rise one time.
I came back up about two hours later and Joe was still chasing the risers in the pool but Gary was nowhere to be seen. Joe called down to me and told me that Gary was upriver around the bend and that he had found some fish feeding. I headed up river through the woods and met the briars and brambles and blow downs and ravines and rocks and took a left to some higher ground and a pine forest with easy walking and headed to where I thought I might find the river. It must have taken me a half hour to get to where I could hear the river again and I headed toward it and I found it on the other side of more brambles and briars and blow downs and holes and when I found it, it was fast and steep and looked like a mountain river tumbling down a gorge and Gary was no where to be seen but across the way there was a spin fisherman casting a spinner. Hummmm? I wondered how he got there and I was thinking I must have missed Gary somewhere below and I was not going to attempt to bushwhack my way further upstream and there was this spin fisherman guy there and then I heard a voice call out, â€œJoeâ€, and I headed for it. I found him just above where the spin fisherman was standing on the far bank.
â€œThis is the place where I had that great fishing on the Hendricksonâ€™s â€œ, he said and then he said, â€œI have been catching them all along this stretchâ€, and pointed down stream to a raging torrent, (you have to keep in mind I am a lowland river guy and I have not fished in this kind of water except perhaps for stripers in the surf). â€œReally,â€ I said.
I showed him my fly and he said, â€œI think it is a bit too dark. Try one of theseâ€, and he gave me a GR Hares ear wet fly. NOT a modern one but the old fashioned one from the Stone Age and I was very pleased as I am from the Stone Age and feel comfortable being immersed in it when it comes to trout fishing.Â
He was using a two fly rig with the dropper tied into the hook bend and he gave me a little explanation of how he fishes it. He had a caddis larvae as the head fly and the little Hares Ear hanging off it. I had on 3 .5 lb tippet and asked him if it was heavy enough for this water and he told me he was using 2 lb. â€œOhâ€! I thought. (I think twenty pound is a bit light for most of the fishing I do but I was there to learn something and I asked him if he thought it would be all right to use what I had on.
I asked him what kind of a knot the used and he said a five turn clinch knot.
â€œHow about tying this on for meâ€?Â
And he did.
â€œHow do you fish it? I asked looking helpless.Â
I wanted to get everything I could out of this time with him.Â
He then rigged me up with a BB split shot about eighteen inches up from the fly and gave me an explanation of how to cast the rig on a short line upstream into the chute (not quite a water fall) where this gusher of water was spilling down from a pool.Â
â€œ Cast up and let it drift down, almost tight and when it comes abreast tighten and let the fly come up like a caddis rising from the bottom. Watch the end of the furled leader and if it hesitates or stops it is a fish and they are hitting it as it rises for the most part. I donâ€™t like using strike indicators and the furled leader is easier to see than regular mono.Â
I prefer itâ€.Â
I made my first cast and a fish took it. That is how the rest of the day went.
A cast, a fish, he cast, a fish and on and on and then I realized that these fish were kind of big. Some times they werenâ€™t but most of the time they were. Damn big.
His net was 18â€ long and most of them were longer and they came, and came, and we took pictures just because I know no one would believe this without pictures, and I do not like to convince people I am telling the truth.Â
I like to enjoy telling a story without having to swear on the bible.Â
We took pictures.Â
Denise had to see the pictures to be convinced.
They were beautiful fish deeply colored and the big ones were all browns fat as footballs. They were everywhere feeding beneath the surface in those fast flows on emerging and rising caddis.
Thanks Gary and Joe for showing me your Farmington.Â
No crowds, no paths, no named pools, no people except a lone spin fisherman who left to be replaced by another.Â
I asked Gary about that. He told me that bait fishermen walk in from the highway and make a few casts and they leave but they canâ€™t get across as the water is too deep and the river doesnâ€™t fish well from that side.
He also told me that the river fishes well all summer and the fish move into the pocket water in the rapids and there is plenty of deep holding water and that they are well fed and unmolested for the most part. I asked him about the rest of the river and he told me that the whole river is full of fish and that most people only fish above the New Hartford area and that is fine with him.Â
It is fine with me too.Â
He then told me a few secrets about fishing the upper reaches and I put them in my memory box to be taken out for use at a later date.
Then I went and gave my little tying and slide presentation at the Farmington Rivers angling association and had a great time.Â
Then I went back and spent a few hours learning about flies and pools from Paul.
The next morning I met Steve, â€œThe Fisherman,â€ from the boards.
He showed me his flies and his rig and a new secret spot which again was down river.
He fishes with a puff ball strike indicator that is quite ingenious and can be moved up and down the leader at will to control the depth that your flies are fishing. He uses two flies the top one was a Golden something or other as an attractor and the bottom one was a bead head PT. Pheasant Tail size 16. He rigged me up and gave me instructions and then I sat and watched him for a while. He hooked a fish in short order in a fast run and gave me a running commentary on what he was doing.Â
He is a bold wader, 6â€™, 2â€ tall and sure footed and less than fifty years old.Â
Watching him jump around made me feel like I was about two hundredÂ
Same drill, short cast upstream, tip pointed at the fly, mends to keep the line straight, slipping line into the drift to fish further downstream and a single BB shot about 18â€ above the fly.Â
He puts the indicator about one and one half time the depth of the water to keep his flies in the zone and adjusts the length as conditions change.Â
â€œMove the indicator first before you change flies, depth control is more important than pattern for the most partâ€.Â
After we had fished a while and I had managed to catch a fish and scare a couple of more we left there and went to the upper river to the lower Ovation pool.Â
Picnic Benches it is called.Â
He started fishing in the same way and I managed to almost hook a fish and then we left as he had to leave at 2 P.M and wanted to show me the upper Ovation pool.Â
Lunker heaven as it is known to some.Â
Too me too, as it turned out.
I was very fortunate to fish with both Steve and with Gary as they are masters of the techniques they showed me. I was lucky enough to catch fish with both these deep nymphing approaches by mimicking their methods as closely as I could while I was with them. That is the fast way to learn by the way.Â
You already know what you already know.Â
So when you get the chance to fish with someone who fishes perhaps a different way than you do put what you know in the trunk of your car or the back seat of your SUV andÂ
get the most you can in the time you have with them.Â
Young guys are always trying to prove themselves and show what they know to be equal to others - insecurity - to be able to feel comfortable.Â
All I can tell young guys is this.Â
Get over it as soon as you can and keep your mouth shut and absorb.
You already know what you know; you canâ€™t lose that by learning more.
You can miss the opportunity to learn by trying to prove yourself.
.It takes humility and self control to learn new things from others.
That is maturity.Â
The Ovation Pool?
That is another story but it is Paulâ€™s favorite pool on the river and I know why.
I am going back and I will be staying at Paulâ€™s.Â
I am bringing Denise.
I have a wading staff now, so does she.