The George Daniel Fish-Fighting Technique

It wasn’t in the cards originally, but I’ll take it.

We had family plans to be away this weekend but had to cancel at the last minute. One of our children has a bad cold that isn’t going away. So, I went to the Farmington today. With flows cut, I was hoping for some dry-fly fishing. Visions of rising fish danced in my head.

Honestly, I had some trepidation. I find that trout in late-summer are finicky. Water is low, the sun is high and bright, and the fish have seen everything.

Spot A proved difficult. I rolled some fish with a dry-dropper on my Euro rig, but had no takes. This is a technique Jamie taught me. Throw a big dry and see if any fish show themselves, so that you know where they are. Then, keep throwing dries or switch to nymphs.

In my case, the Lance Egan Corn-Fed Caddis continues to get the most looks/takes/fish among all of my dry flies. It has been a great searching pattern for me.

I then floated a NZ strike indicator. Also, nothing. I started with those two approaches because I wanted to stay on the bank and be far away from any leery fish. I rotated flies over and over.

In the end, I tightlined with the smallest and lightest nymphs I could. I stayed on the bank. It worked. A few fish came to the net, all browns. Takes were extremely soft, barely registering on the sighter.

I switched back to dries and had better luck getting fish to inspect my flies. This time, I crouched down at the bank to keep low my profile. The fish were very cautious. Trout rose up, eyeballed my offering, drifted back with the fly a few yards, sometimes nosed it, but never took it. At least, I was seeing activity.

At that point, a friendly angler showed up, positioned himself 15 yards above me and started nymphing and swinging his flies at the end. All that immediately put down the fish in front of me.

The angler was friendly. He fishes the river a lot, and I’ve seen him a few times, including at UpCountry. But, I was bummed. Eventually, he moved below me, and I decided to move up to where he was.

I cast indifferently towards some very shallow water. I did it with no expectations and just thought it would be good hygiene to “grid up” that stretch in my mind and just work it methodically and thoroughly.

On the second cast, I felt a very strong take. A big brown rose, flashed and started to pull. I could see it start to panic and begin to make a break downstream.

Suddenly, I remembered a technique mentioned in George Daniel’s newest book. I pointed my rod tip upriver as I usually do. But, this time, the tip was in the water.

This let me put the fish into deeper and slower water along the bottom. That quickly calmed down the fish and stopped it from bolting downstream. With side pressure, I then was able to lead it above me.

Once I had leverage, I then put a lot of pressure with the fly rod’s butt. I pulled up the fish so that it again was in fast current near the surface. It’s like putting a trout on a treadmill.

Amazingly, per George’s advice, this very quickly tired the fish. It was in the net in about a minute. That George Daniel is a sage!

The brown had a very large tail fin.


I was stunned. The fish was gorgeous and had leopard spots. Its colors were a melange of butter yellow, brown, red and tan, and it taped a touch over 17″. The brown had an unusually small adipose fin, and I didn’t see any elastomers. Wild, maybe?

Later, I went over to where the fish had been holding. From the bank, the skinny water appeared to be only inches deep. Once there, I stepped into a one-foot deep and very short slot at which the fish was dining. The river is like an English muffin, full of nooks and crannies.  I definitely will fish again that spot!

I jumped into the car and drove to other spots the rest of the morning. It was fun trying to coax more fish on small nymphs and dries. I caught more. But, my heart wasn’t in it. I knew I already had peaked for the day. Plus, the river was absolutely jammed with anglers who kept front-ending each other and walking near each other’s casting paths.

I debated hitting some of the more secluded areas I know. In the end, I felt the day was good enough. It was time to reel up.

What a fish!


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19 thoughts on “The George Daniel Fish-Fighting Technique

  1. Jo that’s a great looking fish. Definitely a multi year holdover- the deformed dorsal belies it’s hatchery origins, and the small adipose is likely the result of an adipose clip that didn’t quite get it all. The color and the condition of that fish make me guess it’s been in the river at least a couple of seasons, and it looks like it’s been feeling well. It’s amazing how many above average fish will slide into pretty shallow water to feed, that is if nobody disturbs them. Nice job.

  2. I went to the Farmington yesterday and was totally disgusted by some of the other angler’s lack of courtesy. One guy kept creeping toward me and when he finally cast across my line I lost it. I wish the FRAA would publish a pamplet on streamside etiquette. At least it would provide some guidelines for these boneheads and give you something to fall back on when you’re trying to explain something to someone and they give you a smart answer like “Is that written somewhere?” I know some old timers who have virtually given up the game because people are so disrespectful. I just had to vent. Dan

    1. I agree. I think many anglers are new. A few, like the one I met yesterday, know better but pretend not to.

  3. Beautiful browns, Jo. Well done.

    The highlight of my season so far is an absolute beast that spit the elk hair caddis the Tuesday after Memorial Day weekend when I took a vacation day to fish the Farmington.

    Resting on the bank mid afternoon I saw it rising around 10 feet off the bank 25 feet upstream. After six or so drifts casting straight upstream it finally took and it was off to the races. I was getting the upper hand when 30 feet from the net the fly let go. Still fun to have it on. I don’t want to speculate on the size, but I have caught some nice trout before and never felt such fish power on my fly rod.

    I love the Farmington as much as anyone, but don’t have the patience to deal with other fishermen who tread on my turf, thus it is week day or nothing for me on the Farmington.

    Best, Sam

      1. Awesome comment Sam! I always enjoy hearing your play by play analyses. I agree with you about the Farmy and the crowds.
        I’ve heard it said that its wilier fish will ignore naturals floating on the surface since they’ve seenso many flies! However, it’s an amazing fishery for sure and Connecticut manages the hell out if it. I will make a point to fish it once, maybe twice a year.

  4. Nice post Jo. One thing I love about fishing is that one fish can make a trip, make your day, and sonetimes even make your week! Like Sam points out, sometimes it’s a fish you don’t even catch ! (Although it sounds like you take that much more gracefully than I do Sam!).

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