Plenty of fly-fishers fish for trout right through the winter months, on streams where it’s allowed and which don’t freeze over.
Most fish sub-surface, patiently drifting nymphs through likely lies. A lucky few encounter rising fish and catch them up top. Occasionally, you’ll even meet someone who has caught trout on a dry fly in every month of the year.
And then there’s Andy Butler, who has caught at least one trout on a dry fly every month since March 2003. He did it again Dec. 2, extending his streak to 105 months.
Butler lives in Connecticut, five minutes from the Farmington River, one of the top streams in the northeast for winter fishing.
“There’s nothing better to me than watching these fish rising right along the edge of the ice, and casting your dry fly on the ice and twitching it off,” he said. “It’s really interesting.”
This winter dry-fly activity runs in his family. Butler’s uncle, Don Butler, who can often be found behind the counter at Upcountry Sportfishing in Pine Meadow, Conn., once had an 86-month streak. Andy Butler had a previous 47-month streak once that ended in March, that fickle and unpredictable month.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, Butler said, it doesn’t always pay to wait until the warmest part of the day. Despite the sometimes bitter air temperatures early in the morning, trout rise for their breakfast all the same, he said.
“Often, they start right at daybreak,” he said. “There’ll be times when you can barely see and there will be fish rising everywhere.”
The insect most people associate with wintertime dry-fly fishing is the midge, but the Farmington is blessed with a hatch of a tiny bug known as the winter/summer caddis. As its name suggests, it hatches in both seasons. Locals use a brown, size 20, foam-backed fly that looks more like a beetle than a caddis. In fact, this particular species of caddis fly kind of behaves like a beetle, running across the surface instead of popping through and taking flight right away.
“They actually hatch and kind of swim to shore on the surface, and they’re very active bugs. So when you see a good rise, the fish are chasing these things down. Often the big fish will be just a few inches from the shore, waiting for these things to swim to the ice.”
This mild winter, however, the blue-winged olive hatch on the Farmington has held up well, Butler reports, and that’s the fly that kept his streak alive for another month.
PUNK ROCK FLY-FISHING
When I should have been in college in the early 1980s, I was instead working a day job at the county highway department and playing Ramones, Sex Pistols and Clash songs in punk bands in my hometown of Kingston. So when I heard there’s a new movie about punk rockers who are also avid fly-fishers, my ears perked up.
The film is called “Reverb,” and it’s about three guys who’ve played in various punk bands in Chicago. They do their fly-fishing on the small spring creeks of the Driftless region of Wisconsin. The photography is beautiful, the fishing is great and the movie looks different than the standard fare, which appeals to my inner punk rocker.
The Moldy Chum blog has a trailer for “Reverb” posted at www.moldychum.com.
Morgan Lyle’s commentary appears regularly in The Daily Gazette. Reach him at [email protected]
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette: