The first knot in creating a smooth French/ European Nymphing system is a Nailess Nail knot. We will use this knot to construct the upper portion of our French/Euro leader out of 30lb and 20lb monofilament that you see in the diagram above. This knot allows the lines to be connected with a strong and slender knot that will pass through rod guides easily, which is important because this upper section of line is the shooting part of your French/Euro leader. This part of the leader is 18ft long and needs to pass through the eyes easily to avoid problems while casting and landing fish. As with learning any new knot, at first you may have to take a few deep breathes and try not to curse, but with practice comes perfection. Continue reading
The summer doldrums have officially set in and the numbers of fisherman have dwindled; leaving the banks littered with fewer fisherman and plenty of exposed boulders and log jams. The fish are weary and easily spooked as the low water levels and higher water temperatures force trout to be less active in the heat of the day. We’ve all been there and few have mastered the art of long leader, small diameter tippet, dry fly fishing. Hooking these educated fish in low water can try the patience of even the most experienced of fly fishermen. For the last month I have been trying some alternative summer tactics. Though the tackle may be a great deal heavier and somewhat unconventional the results have been undeniable.
Twilight and nightime hours when the water is at its coolest temperatures of the day and many natural predators have gone to roost provides predatory fish with the perfect set of circumstances to take advantage of large food items ie, mice, frogs, or injured baitfish that are finding their way onto the river at night. Larger fish actually seek these things out; cruising shallow tail outs, pocket water and even riffles with water barely covering their back.
With these thoughts in mind I was off, on a mission. I started experimenting with a few old bass patterns mixed with some newer, quicker, and easier tying materials. Like a true mad scientist I twisted and turned, cut and glued until Whalaaaaa! I called upon a few of my choice specimens to accompany me on my midnight spooks.
Warning! If all the teenage horror movies that you watched as a teenager didn’t provoke absolute fear of the darkness and what’s in it, fishing in complete darkness just may. How about a few bats zinging dangerously close to your head or a beaver/muskrat/racoon approaching you in darkness and erupting a few feet away when startled by you! Wow, I hate that. Explosive strikes from trout at a close proximity can be teeth chattering. These circumstances are just unsuitable, and undesirable to most; however once tamed the anxiety transforms to the quiet focus of your primal senses. The fear of not being able to see slowly diminishes and once relaxed you are amazed at how much you can actually see! The unknown becomes know and those fishermen who master this beast can be in for some exhilarating and rewarding experiences involving trout of monstrous proportions.
The easiest way to tame the beast, so to speak, is to just call a fishing buddy or two and have them join in on the fun. Teaming up is definitely the most productive and safest way to enjoy this method of fishing. Two or more fishermen can cover water swiftly and provide comfort, sanity and safety to your expedition.
Many other precautions should be taken as well. The first and most vital piece of equipment would be a couple of good, reliable lights. I say couple because if one fails you may be left trudging around in complete darkness. Nothing would be more horrifying than trying to hike back to your vehicle through briars, and dense underbrush with a flyrod in your hand. On the other hand breaking a fly off early on in your trip without any light to re tie could bring an early end to your evening. Carrying two good reliable lights with batteries that you maintain regularly is a must.
Scouting is another indispensable tool. If deep cuts and drop offs exist you want to know ahead of time. Big rocks and other tangles such as logs, brush and other debris make scouting the area you want to fish absolutely necessary.
Carrying a cell phone on these trips or any trips for that matter is a must for me (makes my spouse happy too). Being able to dial 911 in case of an emergency can obviously save your life, The built in GPS tracking signal can aide local law enforcement in the event that you somehow become lost or injured. When it comes to safety don’t take any chances, cover all angles, and always double check!
Put a variety of patterns in your box that both sink and float which will provide lots of options on the water. Good floating patterns should include cork poppers to mimic frogs and wounded baitfish. Mice are a must on the list of most effective; floating flies as well. These floating patterns should be tied with durable materials, large trout have no remorse and will quickly eradicate inferior patterns. Even the sturdiest of patterns will require maintenance. Like a patchwork quilt many of my patterns left tailless from ferocious strikes have new tails scabbed to the hook shank. Though most materials are hardly a match for the large knifelike teeth of predatory trout, the destruction can be kept to a minimum by reinforcing your patterns with some good heavy thread and strong cement. For sinking flies you will want go to large streamers that replicate the baitfish that are present in the water you fish. The term baitfish is used loosely here as many of these large night feeding fish are certainly cannibalistic making all smaller fish suitable prey.
Terminal gear for this kind of fishing is greatly changed to facilitate the casting of these rather big flies. With this in mind 5-7 weight rods are ideal and will greatly aid in casting. A good stout 6-7 ft leader is also in order. I like to use a butt section of 50lb test to help me turn these monster flies over on the water. I taper this butt section down using 30lb and then 20lb mono to facilitate the 1x tippet. This may sound brash I know, but believe me the fish are preoccupied with what’s on the end of your leader and don’t seem to mind or care about your leader at all. I find heavier leaders necessary to minimize break offs and allow the angler to quickly subdue large fish. Minimizing stress and exhaustion levels the fish endure before release is crucial when low water and higher water temperatures already have trout stressed. For best results rotate your locations to ensure your on fresh fish and not one’s you’ve spooked or put down.
Nightime flyfishing can be a rewarding experience if the approach is thoughtful and organized. It would be irresponsible for me to suggest this method without outlining safety concerns, proper gear and talking about the health and welfare of the fish caught in the light of the moon. Thanks for appearances by my friends Brian, Mike and Steve I would have been very limited in water without them. Good luck and tight lines to all!
Water Condition: low-water
Access Point: upper TMA
Hatches (in order of importance): winter/summer caddis 20-22 a.m., Needhami duns 22-24 midmorning, Isonychia 10-14 p.m., midges 22-20 a.m.
Comments: The winter summer caddis hatch continues to be a spectacle during the a.m. hours. Many fish line up on soft water seams rising to take these tiny Pupae as they row along in the meniscus to the shoreline to finish their emergence on the rocks and logs near the edge of the river. I had one of my best days on the river this past weekend when this hatch came on at 6a.m. and started winding down at 11a.m., we caught trout on everything from foam pupae patterns to french nymphing small winter/summer caddis larvae patterns.
Needhami Duns are rolling off the water midmorning, their small spinners can drive fisherman nuts. Their small sizes make them very difficult to see on the water. The Duns however can be recognized flying in the air by their long sweeping tails.
Isonychia have been filling the skies in the evening hours. Trout like these tasty morsels and will move greater distances from their feeding lanes to swipe at this super sized evening hatcher. When these insects start coming off the water in good numbers I prefer to fish a CDC Iso emerger pattern then as darkness sets in I switch off to a larger Iso parachute pattern, which doubles as a big spinner pattern and I fish this into the darkness.
If you are fishing mid day I would suggest using terrestrials such as small ants, beetles, crickets, and hoppers. For all those fishing nymphs you can’t be beat fishing green caddis larvae 14-18 and Isonychia nymphs 10-14, with golden stone flies 6-12 rounding out the mix. Fishing on the Farmington River has gotten tougher forcing fishermen to take their tippet down to 7 or 8X when fishing smaller hatches such as winter summer caddis pupae and Needhami Spinners. Good luck on the river. Remember, if you’re fishing into the afternoon hours, bring plenty of water it has been scorching out there on the river after 10a.m.
Water Flow: 250 CFS
Water Temp: 58F
Water Condition: good
Access Point: upper TMA
Hatches (in order of importance): a.m. Needhami Spinners size 22-24, winter/summer caddis size 18-22, p.m.Sulphurs size 16-20, Isonychia size 10-14, Cream Cahills 14-16, Rusty spinners 12-20.
Comments: Like clockwork the trout continue feeding on winter summer caddis in the mornings, with foam pupae patterns performing the best,and many trout coming to the net on small pupae patterns while nymphing. When the Needhami spinners hit the water in mid morning, trout boil to take them. You must look at the water closely to see these tiny spinners. The long tails are a dead giveaway. The key after recognizing these insects is to lighten your tippet size and accurately cast to feeding fish making sure your drifts are drag-free.
The evening Sulphur Hatch remains good with lots of Duns coming off the water and good numbers of fish feeding on them. I am having good luck fishing a Sulphur emerger as a dropper off of my dry fly. There are also Isonychia mixed in, with plenty of fish willing to strike at these big meaty flies. Gently tickling or twitching Isonychia patterns replicates their struggles to emerge. Trout will travel great distances and strike hard and fast at the commotion caused by these insects.
There have been some Cream Cahills sneaking into the mix of insects. I have observed several fish whom at first glance appeared to be taking Sulphurs, upon further investigation they were actually taking Cream Cahill spinners exclusively.
Spinners can reliably be seen overhead in the late evening sky. Their dark fluttering silhouettes drift by in the soon to be darkness in a vast array of sizes. Rusty spinners right before dark and before daybreak are still accounting for our bigger trout.
Water Flow: 372
Water Temp: 58*F
Water Condition: good
Access Point: Upper TMA
Hatches (in order of importance): Sulphurs 14-18 March Brown/Grey Fox 12-14, Isonychia 10-12, Winter/summer Caddis 18-22, Tan and Green Caddis 16-20.
Comments: Early am the winter/summer caddis have been driving trout bonkers causing them to line the banks and softer water snatching pupae that are swimming toward shore, I prefer to fish Dave Goulet’s foam pupae skittering down and across the current. Mid afternoon and evening have been frantic with Sulphurs, Caddis, Isonychia, BWO’s, Potomantis, and a few March Browns. When the hatches get frantic like this it can be a frustrating time if you are waiting for a specific hatch. Stay focused and hone your powers of observation by finding a few fish and watching them closely for clues as to what they are feeding on. When watching trout feeding be mindful of escaping insects, and rise forms to help you put the pieces of the puzzle together. Fish aren’t taking your dry imitation? Tie a dropper off your dry to imitate the emerger. Switch your flies frequently until you can match the hatch. Rusty Spinners in larger sizes such as 12-14 are putting some of our bigger trout on the line in the late evenings. As far as nymphing we have been catching lots of nice trout during the am Caddis hatch on simple yellow Caddis larvae patterns. There is a strong population of Golden Stoneflies in various sizes my favorite are size 12 and 6. These flies always produce fish for us. I have personally been using the French Nymphing tactics to target some specific hatches with great success. If you have started using this technique don’t be afraid to use those hatch specific wet flies on the top of your brace. We have been putting a bunch of fish in the net in the afternoons by positioning Sulphur wets as a dropper on our brace of flies. I am planning to trying this same thing with Isonychias which are a much bigger insect and food source for trout. These larger insects seldom pass without large trout noticing in my opinion. Whether your voice is hoarse from screaming obscenities at the trout or shouting “Fish on!” have a good week and enjoy our wonderful Farmington River.