Friday, April 7, 2017
Pictured above is local guide Zach St Amand's hand holding a beautiful Farmington River brown trout he caught last week on his T&T Contact 11' 3" #3 nymph rod. If you want to learn the often deadly tight-line Euro nymphing, he is one of several guides who can teach you.
The river has been stocked everywhere outside of the permanent C&R/TMA areas, and it's pretty much loaded with brown, rainbow & brook trout, even a few tiger & golden rainbow trout. Water temps were still cold earlier in the week, but with warmer temps and warmer water dumping in from the Still River, water temps should be going up quite a bit this week- highs will be 60s-70s today through Wednesday. FYI Riverton is running colder than the rest of the river right now due to the colder water released from the bottom of the reservoir above, and the Still River actually improves the early season water temps from there downstream.
Expect most of the river to be crowded for Opening Day weekend, and this is one of those rare times the permanent C&R will have less anglers (but that will all change when it gets stocked sometime in the next week or two...). The catch & keep sections will have also been stocked with large breeder trout, which can range anywhere from a 2# brook trout to a 10-12# brown or rainbow! So don't be surprised to be catching a bunch of 10-15" recently stocked fish, and then suddenly your rod bends double and line starts peeling off your reel. 2016 Opening Day I landed a 26" rainbow after work on a small nymph, I released it but the length/girth measurements put it at over 8 1/2 pounds! And there are a few caught every year that are even bigger.
The highest quality fish (holdover & wild) have mostly come out of the permanent Catch & Release lately, but the best numbers by far have been upriver. Recently it's been a quality over quantity deal in the permanent C&R, with patient fisherman picking up some very nice trout.
Lately the best fishing has typically been late morning through late afternoon, which correlates with Midge activity. Remember that water temps are still on the cool side, so most trout are still in moderate speed water with some depth, and not so much in the fast water. (with some exceptions). Maybe on the EDGE of it or in softer/deeper pockets, but typically not IN the fast stuff. During sunny and mild afternoons when you get a rising water temp and bug activity, trout have been moving into moderate speed riffles to feed on pupa, larva & nymphs. But as temps increase, some fish will move into the faster flows when bugs are active in the afternoons. Warming temps should also get the Early Stones active, they slowed down when it snowed & got colder.
Colebrook Reservoir (the big one right above Hogback/Goodwin Dam and the more important one to look at) is now almost full, and at the rate water is coming into this week, I'm guessing it will hit 100% capacity by Opening Day weekend. As of Friday morning, 1,000cfs was coming in and they are only releasing 130cfs, so we are gaining water fast. After the drought we've seen the past year or two, that's VERY good news.
The most consistent flies upriver have been Midge larva & pupa #18-20 or so (black, olive, red, brown). Below that, in the higher flows, go bigger/gaudier on your nymphs (#8-16) and fish streamers too. Bigger water = bigger flies. And sometimes bigger trout! Now is the time to fish "Junk Flies": Mops, San Juan Worms/Squirmies, Green Weenies, Egg Flies, etc. Bigger #6-10 Stonefly nymphs too. The permanent Catch & Release area (TMA/C&R) has been spotty some days, with most anglers working for each fish- this will improve with the milder weather and corresponding rising water temps as the river comes back down- expect bug activity & fishing to both improve.
We are now back to our usual in-season hours: 8am-6pm weekdays, 6am-5pm weekends (see up above for Opening Day weekend hours).
Midges have been the most active bug of late, so it's not surprising they have been the best producer most days. Peak Midge hatching has normally been early to mid afternoons. Milder temps should see the Stonefly hatching ramp up, with the somewhat bigger #14-16 Early Black & Early Brown Stones joining the black micro stones (sz 20-24) we've been seeing. FYI, subsurface, Hendrickson nymphs start getting active a good month plus before the hatch, so a #14 medium to dark brown nymph can be the ticket sometimes, especially for the holdover & wild browns.
With more water lately, some medium sized nymphs (#14-16) are working, along with the smaller #18-20 Midge Pupa/Larva & Pheasant Tails that have been so effective the past month. Even some good reports on big #8 Mop flies lately too, especially on the recent stockers. Bigger Stones #8-12 are pulling less but bigger fish. If you are looking for rising trout, target the soft water in the big wide pools (generally Caddis in AM, and Midges & Stones in afternoons, but that is a very general rule and varies from day to day). Other good nymph choices for this season include Prince Nymphs and Quasimodo Pheasant Tails, Hot Spot Nymphs such as the Triple Threat, Frenchie, Rainbow Warrior. Squirmy Worms and Egg patterns are also great choices.
Streamers have been very productive lately. Experiment with colors & retrieves to find what's best at any given moment (it changes). I would also try to make your presentations mostly slow & deep due to the cooler water temps, both swinging and slow retrieves are good choices. Experiment though, sometimes even in cold water the trout will respond to a fast retrieve, but overall in cold water temps they like it slower. Early spring is a great time for slowly swinging streamers, it's a fun & relaxing way to fish and cover water both thoroughly and efficiently.
"Keystone Fly Fishing" (covering PA in detail by local guides/experts) is out now, and it's an incredible book if you want to explore that state (and trust me, you do!). Almost 600 pages of detailed info by 9 different PA authors, tons of beautiful color photos and fly suggestions, numerous stream maps & a great PA hatch chart, this book is the new Pennsylvania fly fishing bible. They don't sugar coat things either- streams that were once famous & great but aren't anymore are described accurately, and if a stream is marginal, they will tell you that it isn't worth fishing after a certain date in the spring. If you ever wanted to explore PA, this is the book to get.
Devin Olsen's & Lance Egan's new "Modern Nymphing" DVD's are available now and selling quite well and getting great feedback from customers that bought it. They did a great job, with clear instruction and excellent cinematography (filmed by Gilbert Rowley of flytying123.com- excellent website, check it out). Devin & Lance are 2 of the top members of Flyfishing Team USA- both scored an individual bronze medal in the World Flyfishing Championships in 2015/2016 respectively, and both years Team USA also garnered team medals (bronze & silver), so you could say these two are legit, truly world class anglers who have held their own against the best in the world (historically France, Spain, Czech Republic, and Poland). Devin's website is tacticalflyfisher.com if you want to check it out and watch a DVD preview, he also has many insightful fly tying & fly fishing articles on there.
The new book "Nymphing The New Way: French leader fishing for trout" is in stock again- it focuses on Euro-style nymphing using very long leaders, which is deadly indeed. The first 2 batches sold out fast. Keep your eye out for "Nymph Masters" by Jason Randall coming out in early April (they keep changing the release date though).