|Farmington River brook trout were abundant this summer.|
They were all too willing to nail a Variant.
After the spring runs are over, I switch to trout fishing mode. I usually hit a handful of local rivers, but I focused solely on the Farmington River this season. The Farmington was the favored haunt of a much-loved local angler who many of us were proud to call our friend. Pete, aka "TROUT I," was a Farmington River fishing machine. I learned a lot from Pete over the dozen or so years I knew him. Pete was very animated and he gave a realtime "play-by-play" of everything happening while he fished. We shared a lot of laughs, especially when the trout were "rising with blatant impunity."
Unfortunately, Pete passed away on July 1, 2018. He had been sick for a while. Even though Pete could not fish anymore, he liked hearing reports. I sent him a report a couple days before he passed. He replied to my email and that was the last correspondence we shared.
Pete was known as the master of the Beadhead Pheasant Tail Soft Hackle. It seemed like he could catch fish on command with that wet fly. About ten years ago, Pete gave me a Dun Variant to try. I had seen Variant-style dry flies in books, but had never fished one myself. That particular spring, Pete did well with a Dun Variant on our local river. I fished it a few times. I don't recall if I caught anything with it, but I remember seeing him catch several trout with his.
In the years since then, I have caught a fair number of trout on a Dun Variant, usually during Isonychia hatches. Last summer, I had some luck with a Cream Variant during hatches of Yellow Drakes. On most days this summer, a Variant was my go-to dry fly. When a trout decides he wants one, often times the take is a violent one. There is nothing like twitching and skating a huge variant over fishy looking water, only to have a rainbow, brown, or brook trout dart top from the bottom of the river and smash a dry fly with the ferocity of a fish who thinks his last meal is about to escape.
In early June, I caught a bunch of trout on a Grey Fox Variant. From mid June to early July, I caught a bunch of trout on a Cream Variant. From July through most of August, I caught a bunch of trout on a Dun Variant. Many of these catches weren't during hatches. Prospecting with a Variant was just as productive as fishing one during a hatch. I had one rainbow grab my Grey Fox Variant so hard, he pulled all the slack line from my hand and set the hook without me so much as raising the rod tip! Without a doubt, Variants were my most productive trout fly this season, an honor typically reserved for the Usual (which also did well, as usual).
I told Pete about the aforementioned rainbow in our final email exchange. Though it has been at least two years since I last shared a pool with Pete, I felt like I was fishing with him in spirit this summer. Pete was exactly the guy you want next to you when a trout smashed a Variant, twitching and skating on the surface of the water.