Big Farmington Browns on Dry Flies and Emergers

What a day. Good fish. Many bugs. Farmington. Dry flies.


It did not start off well. After hitting the river at dawn and suiting up, I reached into the car to get my Euro rod…and pulled my back.

After gritting my teeth, I moved on. After all, it was 6 am, and the Farmington was beckoning.

I decided to fish because, well, we dropped off another child off for college, and I was feeling a bit low. I saw that the flows have been cut this week, and so, I decided to target some deep runs.

I hit Spot A and was the second guy there. This was in the Permanent TMA section, where C&R and barbless hooks are required. Yes, those fish have PTSD and see many flies.

Euro rig at the ready, my intent was to tightline all day with my trusty T&T Contact 11’3″ #3. Yeah, that back really hurt, though, during the walk and as I readied my nymphs. Ouch.

Thankfully, I was onto a fish right away. It took a black midge larva with blue ribbing (photo here) when it rose at the end of the drift.

Farmington Dry Flies and Emergers

Even better, it looked like a wild fish. It fought more strenuously than most fish its size. And, given that I was skunked at this particular run last time, it was a small victory.

Then, nothing. I mean zip. I tried my new crazy-ass flies and got zero hits. The guy above me left, and I moved up closer to the riffles. A new guy showed up and fished below me. I was determined to land fish at this skunk zone and just rotated flies and tried to execute perfect drifts. Caddis and midges were hatching. How hard could it be?

It didn’t work. Ha!

A bit later, around 8:30 am, fish started rising and porpoising over and over. It became more intense as the minutes passed. Perhaps, a Trico hatch up river was happening.

Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my dry-fly rod, the H2 #4. Yeah, what was I thinking? I thought that with mid-September in the works, the Trico hatch would be waning.

So, I snipped off my nymphs, added a #22 “Big Eye” Parachute Adams and dropped off it a #24 Ed Engle Sunken Trico Spinner. Now, casting dry flies on a Euro rod and rig isn’t ideal. But, thankfully, the Contact does a decent job at it.

Soon, the Adams disappeared, I waited a second and then set the hook. It felt like a good fish. Then, this guy flopped into the net.

It taped at 16″ and had taken the small Sunken Trico. No elastomers that I could see. Was it wild? I hope so! The guy down river of me shouted an accolade.

“They’re onto spinners,” I mentioned. “Need any? I have plenty.”

“Am all set.”

Fish kept rising over and over. Then, another take. Then, a really strong pull and a series of surges. With the Euro rig, I had on 5x fluorocarbon. So, I confidently put the wood to the fish to land it quickly. Much side pressure with the fly rod.

Then, this guy flopped into the net.

It taped at 18.5″ and had taken the tiny Parachute Adams. No elastomer. Wild?

The guy below me shouted more accolades and came over.

“What did it take? I’ve had zero strikes.”

“A small Adams,” I said. “Do you have any Sunken Trico Spinners?”

He didn’t. I channeled my inner Andy Lyons and gave him my last one and offered twice to give him my spot. “I’ve taken two good fish–why don’t you fish here?”

He took the fly but gentlemanly declined to take my area. Instead, he cast out and hooked a fish.

“First cast!” he yelled. A good rainbow flopped into his net.

Honestly, that felt was almost as good as the 18.5″ fish. I think there is plenty of room at our rivers. And, why not give out flies and yield spots if you’re having a good day? Fly fishing can be very difficult, and many people drive hours and have few days off. Why not share?

We kept casting.

The hatch and spinner fall died, and for a while, nothing happened. I then decided to tightline again and targeted some deep and dark water. A take. I mean, a very strong one. Soon, this guy flopped into the net.

A sucker, and it was good-sized. Understand that suckers completely freak me out. I won’t touch them. They give me the creeps. Thankfully, the barbless hook popped off on its own. I think it was about 15″, and I gladly flipped the net to release the fish.

Soon, the other angler waved a friendly goodbye and I had the run to myself. A bit later, there were more rises. And, I saw this.

Yes, the famed Farmington Caddis. They were mating and bouncing around the water. So, I switched back to my Euro dry-fly stuff. And, landed more fish. No biggies, but all were decent-sized and fought well.

As more fish came, I decided to experiment and throw some of my other crazy-ass flies. Zero. No takes. No rises. How about big dry flies? Nope. On this day, the best Farmington dry flies were small and subtle. Plain Janes.

After a bit, fish again began to sporadically rise. I guessed that small BWOs were starting to get active and decided to fish the BWO Flashback Emergers I had tied a few months ago. They’re thin and feature some segmentation. I also threw the WD-40.

Both accounted for quite a few fish. In particular, a young brown with youthful dots was a treat to see.

A bit after lunch, I realized that I was having a double-digit outing. It felt good. No, it felt great, particularly as I had very low expectations, and I didn’t expect to land so many on dries with a Euro set-up. Next time, I will bring my dry-fly rod!

So, in the early afternoon, I headed home. At the Farmington, I usually hit three or four spots. Today, it was a single 20-yard stretch. I fished through many hatches: caddis, tricos, midges and BWOs. The best river in New England, IMO, for great hatches and savvy browns. Catching stocked rainbows is very fun. But, to target challenging wild and Survivor Strain browns on dries is a real treat.

What a day. For me, the most gratifying fishing day in 2017 thus far.


15 thoughts on “Big Farmington Browns on Dry Flies and Emergers

  1. Betcha forgot about the back pain! Nice job. Wonder how the rod would fish with a 3WF line when you wished to fish drys?

    1. Haha. Remembering the back pain now! But, am drinking some wine, and so, all is good.

      Great question about the T&T Euro rod with a 3WF. Would not hazard a guess, as I’m not sure at all. Thankfully, the fish were forgiving today.

      Also, nearly all of my dry fly takes were when I fished downstream. I noticed this, too, at the Swift. I think pressured fish are pretty paranoid?

    1. Mike, thank you! There’s so much divisiveness in our national climate, and so, let’s all try and spread some good cheer.

      Hope you are well and will fish this autumn….

  2. Sounds like a great day! Way to pay it forward. I had a day like that on the Lamprey last fall when an older gentlemen was out catching me 10 fish to my 1. He gave me his hot fly and sure enough, I caught a big bow on the very first cast in an area where I had made several drifts. Even the smallest act of kindness can make someone’s day

  3. I have fished my T&T Contact 11’3″ 3 WT with a 3 WF line and it casts it pretty well. Makes it easier to switch between tight-lining and other techniques.

      1. No – went with a conventional rig of WF line with a standard 9 foot tapered leader. Allowed me to cast dry flies and indicator nymph with the contact. It cast the line pretty well. Just easier in my book to bring an extra spool and change up if a hatch starts, rather than carry two rods.

  4. There is a really good article in the August 2015 issue of Flyfisherman magazine about Trico fishing. I was on the FR yesterday as well and at one point was standing in the middle of a bubbling cauldron of trout feeding on them. I didn’t realise what the were taking at first but the light finally went on and I switched to a trico spinner and caught a couple.

    1. Thanks for the tip. Will search for it.

      Same here. I didn’t see any Tricos and was throwing other dries futilely. Thankfully, the light went on and I switched over. I am almost amazed when a fish with a brain the size of pea can be so selective about size and profile

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