Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Why I Like Freestones

"Tailwaters are what Thomas McGuane called "the great theme parks of American fly fishing," with their more or less stable water temperatures and artificially inflated populations of insects and fish. They are irresistible for all kinds of reasons, but all of those trout breed the peculiarly postmodern sense that anything short of a 20 fish day is a bust, so when things are slow there's the temptation to lie about numbers or to vaguely allow that you are "getting your share" - John Gierach

Let's face it, We fish tailwaters because, unless they are flooded out as in the last few months, they will provide a stable, cool environment throughout the day for the trout, insects and YOU. You don't really have to wait for the Evening Rise to get some action especially during the height of Summer. Sounds perfect, right? For many people it is BUT for some not so much. Here's why.

1. If you want crowds then fish tailwaters. You can still fish in solitude but solitude is becoming harder to find on these rivers.

2. The "Magic Time" on a freestone is in the evening when a river comes to life. I've had 20+ trout evenings on rivers like the Millers and the EB AND had the place to myself. Occasionally I'll meet another angler as the sun is setting but that's ok because he is a kindred spirit. Ditto for early mornings! In early September of 2017 I worked a stretch of the EB which was flowing at a low 65 cfs and with the exception of friends Gary and Harvey NOBODY was fishing it. I took 18 that morning with a size 18 BWO . The concentration of trout rivaled that of a tailwater but by 11am they had disappeared for the day but were back in the evening. I would not have traded in that day for any day on any tailwater.

3. There is still a sense of satisfaction in having a good day on a freestone. After all, it's a natural environment. It will not have the crazy amount of trout that a tailwater has which means that if I'm catching fish I must be doing something right.

4. I know some anglers who now fish only tailwaters and that's too bad. If they suddenly had to move to a place where there were no tailwaters but just freestones would they continue to fish??

We fish to catch fish but but as John Gierach says "Fly-fishing is a solitary, contemplative, misanthropic, scientific in some hands, poetic in others, and laced with conflicting aesthetic considerations. It's not even clear if catching fish is actually the point".

I love Freestones!

Yesterday  was like fishing in an arctic hurricane.  If there was no wind and about 10 degrees warmer things would have been fine.



Anonymous said...

Hi Ken,

Some of my best flyfishing memories are of the Millers in the evening. All rivers will be crowded at stocking time but by June the freestones have just light pressure. The Swift or the Farmington...that's another story.


adam said...


It was cold but fun to be on the water and in your company. Best regards and see you in the spring


Hibernation said...

Ken, People only fish tailwaters? I get it that some folks maybe cant mechanically make the path to a freestone. Age or other health challenge can do that. And as a result, I'm grateful some tailwaters (like the swift) are super easy to access and wade.

Beyond such a reason, why someone would only fish tailwaters seems hard to grasp? Where's the adventure. Where's the solitude.

Freestones, blue lines (even better)... Awesome stuff!


Millers River Flyfisher said...


Yes, some only fish tailwaters and it's not because of age or some other infirmity. They certainly get a pass. Most are of sound body and can negotiate access points on the Millers, the Ware and other rivers. It's because they don't want to walk and like to be in a place where trout swim between your boots. "Adventure and Solitude"?? Not anymore!!! Check out the Farmington Trout Management Areas on a weekend.


Yes, it was cold and still windy but a good time regardless!!


Anonymous said...

"Check out the Farmington Trout Management Areas on a weekend." No thanks I'm retired and leave it to the working stiffs!

Parachute Adams said...

Ken, I sure appreciate all of your posts, but I most especially do this time of year. You keep me thinking ahead to warmer days and insects on the water.

My fishing resolution this year is to get out more on freestones and explore a brook that I caught trout in as a youth when drifting worms. Present day I drive past it once in a while and it still looks darned good, though a lot more brush around it now which probably makes it that much better.

Think Spring and Best Regards, Sam

Millers River Flyfisher said...

Thank you Sam. I always enjoy your comments. Spring is just a month away!!


Anonymous said...

Very Good