Interview: Farmington Guide Zach St. Amand

Zach St. Amand is an incredible fishing guide and a great guy, too (prior posts here). He fishes over 300 days a year and lives on the banks of the Farmington River. Fishing with him completely changed how I tightline.

He is absolutely slammed with clients, and so, I am so grateful that he made time for this interview. I think you’ll enjoy it.

And, if you’d like to book time with Zach, his website is here. You also can follow his Instagram feed.


Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where were you born and raised? Your family?

Born and raised in Westfield, MA. Grew up in Southwick, MA, as a teenager. I’ve been fishing since I was three years-old. Fishing is a family affair, and it always has been. It is great to have my boys fish, too. Married to Kate, love of my life. We are raising our sons on the banks of the Farmington and are loving it. I can guide in my backyard, quite literally.

How did you get into fly fishing?

My grandfather always knew how to cast a fly rod. He is more of a bait fisherman, but he can cast very well. His father taught him.

One day, he put me out in the backyard. I was eight years-old, and I was learning to cast tight loops. Even at that age, fly fishing was something I dreamt about all the time. It was an infatuation.

Your favorite fly-fishing moment?

No one moment, but every time I fish, I am searching for that moment. A perfect day for me? Good weather, good company, and good activity. Doesn’t have to be pigs everywhere, but we are fishing, bugs are there, and everyone is sharing the river nicely.

Was able to guide my oldest son into some fish today before the wind picked up. Thanks to @chrisbonelli and a couple others for making room for my boy to fish. We can't wait for tomorrow! #wordsescapeme #proudpapa #nymphing #fishing #browntrout #guiding #teachyourchildrenwell #flugfiske #fathersontime #farmingtonriver #teaching #boysdayout

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What is the best way to improve as a fly fisherman?

Honestly? Go out with a guide. Really. It doesn’t have to be me, but as soon as I went out with a good guide, I got 20 years of experience in a half-day. I learned how to dead-drift well. Everything came together then.

You can read about it, but, once  you see it applied, it really helps. Then, fish as much as possible. Reading? That’s for winter time. Just fish.

Why is the Farmington your home water, and what is so special about it?

Insanely dynamic. I can almost always have an option to get fish regardless of the weather. Great population of wild-and-breeding browns. Very accessible, which is a bonus and a curse. Great hatches.

From one end to the other, given the temp. differences, you can fish different hatches, all in one day. You can keep heading up river and fish a Hendrickson hatch all day, for example. So, it’s really what you’re in mood for that day.

What is your favorite style of fly fishing?

Dry flies, if I’m fishing to good-sized fish. Other than that, I love the mono.-only tightlining rig. I can fish dries with that, indicator-nymph or tightline. I can tightline part of the drift and and fish the end of the same drift indicator-style.

What is your go-to rig? Rod/reel, fly line, leader, tippet, etc.?

For the mono.-only tightlining rig, my go-to rod is the new Thomas and Thomas 11’3″ 3-wt. It is unreal. I use Lampson Liquid reels. I love the drag system for the price, and I beat the crap out of my gear. I fish 300 days a year.

I use 20 lb. Stren to a butt section that then goes to a 2′ sighter. Then, about 5′ of usually 5x tippet to the first fly. I usually fish three flies (allowed in CT). I always use fluoro tippet, even on dries, unless I’m fishing 4x or thicker.

I use the Davy Knot. For dries, moreover, that knot leaves a smaller imprint on the fly’s silhouette when compared to a clinch knot. I’m convinced I catch more on dries because of the Davy Knot.

How did you learn tightline nymphing?

I read about it. Then, I was not willing to commit to a Euro. rod. It’s a lot of money. So, I jerry-rigged a 9′ 5-wt. I got a 20″ wild brown the first time out. It shattered my mind wide open.

Then, I stalked Andy Lyons a bit. I watched him a few times. I learned to drift by watching him. He’s been an inspiration to me.

Then, I took it and ran with it and developed my own personal system. My style is that I definitely want to be below the fish as much as possible. Be in their blind spot. Cast from a distance to avoid spooking them. Use lighter flies and have longer drifts.

Your must-have flies?

Frenchies and Stoneflies.  Honestly, if you fish them right, you’re going to catch fish every day. I do have a bunch of other flies. But, for the fish I target, those flies work. If I had to pick one fly for the Farmington? It would be a Stonefly.

Your favorite presentation and/or technique when water flows are up because they bumped up the flow big time?

Move downstream as quick as possible to get below the water flow increase. Throw a bigger and brighter fly. I still nymph and don’t switch to streamers.

Zach, thank you for this interview. See you on the water!


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2 thoughts on “Interview: Farmington Guide Zach St. Amand

  1. I had the pleasure of spending a day on the Farmington with Zach three weeks ago. He is an amazing guide and a terrific teacher. Can’t recommend him highly enough!

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