Friday, December 22, 2017

Friday 12/22 Report- almost Christmas

Nice Farmington late fall/early winter brown that made the mistake of eating my small nymph during what I often find is the prime winter bite window in the last hour of daylight. While a variety of flies can fool cold water trout, in the winter their menu skews strongly toward smaller food items (Midges, Blue Wing Olives, Winter Caddis, immature larva/nymphs, etc.) in the #18-24 range. If you are a fly tyer, there are great barbless modern hooks with shorter shanks & wider gaps that allow you to tie a smaller fly with a bigger hook gap, and that should give you better hook-up & landing percentages.

Unless you have risers to Winter Caddis (AM), Blue Wing Olives/BWOs (afternoons), or Midges (afternoons), slow & deep with nymphs or streamers is the order of the day. I'd expect the bigger fish to get fooled by subsurface tactics. Colder water temps means trout don't need to eat as much, and as such they won't move as far to eat your fly. A dead-drifted nymph down deep is easy pickings, and a slowly & deeply fished streamer represents a lot of calories to a trout. Identify the softer/deeper winter holding water and fish it thoroughly- trout tend to pod up in the winter, finding them is a big part of the battle. Expect strikes, especially on nymphs, to be subtle. When in doubt, strike. Remember that hook-sets are FREE. I guarantee on slow winter days that we all fail to detect numerous strikes.

Total flow at 8am this morning is medium-low at 218cfs in the permanent Catch & Release (C&R)/TMA (145cfs in Riverton plus about 73cfs from the Still River). Depending upon the day, time of day, and distance from dam, water temps have ranged from low 30s to upper 30s/low 40s. Highs will be in the 30s through Tuesday 12/26, then it gets a lot colder after that, so get out in the next few days if you can. The warmest water will be coming out of the dam in Riverton, and mornings will see the lowest water temps. Sunny days will see the biggest water temp spikes, with highest temps occuring in mid/late afternoon. Most days this time of year the better fishing is late morning until dusk (higher water temps). The majority of the water is coming out of the dam now, which helps to moderate the water temps and keep them a little warmer and more trout-friendly than on other streams.

FYI when fishing in the winter, be aware that the trout have slid into the pools & deeper/softer runs, they drop out of the faster water when water temps get cold. You may see them slide up into medium-fast riffles to feed in the afternoons, but by and large they will be in slow to medium speed water with some depth. They also tend to pod up in the winter, so finding them is job #1. When you do catch a fish, fish the area thoroughly because there are often a bunch more in close proximity. I often get my biggest winter trout in the last hour or two of daylight, despite the fact that the "experts" say 11am-3pm is the best bite window in the winter (some days it is). The last hour or two of daylight has the advantage of higher water temps AND low light, which brown trout, and especially big brown trout, prefer. On really cold days though, the "11-3 rule" typically rings true.

Need a last minute gift idea? Get an UpCountry Gift Certificate for your favorite flyfisher. Or, reserve them a spot in Don Butler's 2nd Beginner 2-Day Fly Tying course on January 6th & 13th, 2018. Click on "Classes, News & Reviews" in top website toolbar to see detailed info on it. Call store at 860-379-1952 to sign up, space is limited and it's filling up. Fly tying is a fantastic winter activity, and this class makes a great Christmas gift
Blue Winged Olive (BWOs/Olives) are still popping some days, with trout eating them on the surface in the 1-4pm time slot. Some have been as big as #20, but expect to match them with patterns ranging from #20-28, with #24-26 being more typical. FYI fishing subsurface with BWO nymphs in #18-22 just before & during the hatch will typically net you bigger fish than the dries will (big trout would rather suck in the small nymphs drifting at eye level than swim to the surface for a tiny snack). The morning Winter Caddis hatch continues to be good most days- it is typically an early to mid morning deal with #18-24 flies- make sure to have both the pupa and the winged adult. Sometimes they start later and hatch into the afternoons too.  The "perfect storm" for this hatch is a cold night followed by a sunny day without too much wind. If you venture out in the AM and don't find risers, be prepared to go subsurface with streamers & nymphs. The December post-spawn brown trout streamer bite remains good, just make sure to fish them deep and slow down your presentation (olive has been a hot streamer color). Nymphs should be dead-drifted near the stream bottom, and expect strikes to be subtle so pay close  attention. Using the smallest indicator you can get away with will help you detect light bites, and if you are tight-line nymphing pay close attention to your sighter and do a small hook-set on any light tap or line hesitation/stoppage. 

Torrey's "Tying Junk Flies & Winter Nymphs" class is on Saturday January 20th, 2018, 9am-1pm- class is now full, but you can put your name on a wait list in case we get a cancellation. Learn the flies you need to tie & carry to turn those sluggish cold water trout into fly-biters. This class is for intermediate level tyers & up. Click on "Classes, News & Reviews" in top website toolbar to see detailed class info. Call the store at 860-379-1952 to sign up, space is limited.

Other than the morning Winter Caddis hatch, generally the best time to be out is late morning to dusk when water & air temps are the highest. Not only is it more comfortable for you, but both the trout & bugs are more active then. We've got a good selection of cold weather clothing in stock- if you dress properly, you can fish in comfort even on truly cold days. Trout continue to feed all winter- if you fish for them properly during bite windows, you can catch them 12 months a year here.

December is typically a good post-spawn streamer bite. and we continue to get good streamer reports. Water temps are mostly in the 30s now, so make sure to slow down your streamer presentations and use some form of weighted flies/split-shot/sink-tips/sinking leader/sinking lines to get your streamers down deep. Water temps in permanent Catch & Release (C&R)/TMA & upriver have averaged mid 30s the past couple of days, with slightly higher water temps in Riverton (from the dam to just above the Still River). Swinging & slow stripping are typically the way to go with streamers in cold water, but make sure to try a faster strip too, as sometimes even in the winter they will respond better to that some days (but day in, day out, slower is normally better when it's cold). Also, play around with colors, it can make a big difference. Olive has been good, but also try black, brown, white, yellow and combinations thereof. Many good fishing reports from the nymphers too, just make sure you have enough weight (either in your flies, split-shot, or both) to get down in the slower water near the stream bottom. Seeing some good dry fly fishing the past few weeks too. 

New Stuff:
Simms new 2018 version of the G3 wader is here now- 190% more breatheable (!), 30% more puncture resistant, fleece-lined handwarmer pockets with side zips, a velcro docking station for a fly patch, and a G4-style reinforced seat/butt area. And the best part: NO price increase! They are now better than the G4 Pro Wader, but at a much lower price than. We also have their new redesigned versions of their Freestone, Guide & G3 vests. And last but not least, their new super-warm heavyweight Guide Thermal OTC Sock. FYI the old style Simms vests in stock are on sale at 40% off.  

In addition to trout tying materials, we have a very good selection of materials geared toward Steelhead. We have 12 colors of the deadly & popular Eggstasy Egg Yarn on the wall now (it works great on trout too). Just tie it in and take 2-3 wraps and then tie it off, easy peasy. Put a tungsten bead on it too if you are a Euro Nympher. Plenty of good strong hooks for from Tiemco, Mustad, Gamakatsu & Daiichi. We now carry Adams Built landing nets, including a collapsible handle model sized well for Steelhead. 

We  have the new Hardy Zephrus Ultralite 9' 9" series of rods, from a #2 up to #5. Think of them as a Crossover tight-line/Euro nymph rod that will also do a very nice job with dry flies, killing two birds with one stone (rod). Antoine Bissieux ("The French Flyfisher") loves the 9' 9" #2 version of that for light tippet French style nymphing.

5x flurocarbon tippet should be about right, depending upon fly size, with 6x for the smallest nymphs. If you haven't yet tried it, the Cortland Ultra Premium Fluorocarbon tippet is amazing, by far the strongest out there with the most abrasion resistance, stretch, flexibility & clarity. Total game-changer, and an extra-good choice if you like to nymph with lighter tippets. Use patterns like BWO Nymphs #16-22, Midges/Zebra Midges #16-24, Egg Flies #10-18 (yellow/pink/orange),  Squirmy/San Juan Worms (pink, red, worm tan), Caddis Larva #14-16 (olive to green), Cased Caddis #8-16, Mop Flies #8-12 (various colors, especially cream/tan), big Stoneflies #6-12 /Pat's Rubber Legs #6-10, Antoine's Perdigons #16 (various colors), Attractor/Hot-Spot nymphs #14-20 (Pineapple Express, Frenchies, Triple Threat, Egan's Red Dart, Rainbow Warrior, etc.), Quasimodo Pheasant Tails #16-22, and Fox Squirrel Nymphs #12-14.

Cold Weather Strategies:
A big key to fishing this time of year is dressing properly so that you are warm. Synthetic thermals for a next-to-skin base layer, layered with heavy fleece and a shell to break the wind are all key. Complete this with fingerless gloves, a warm hat, and a pair of heavy Merino wool socks. Make sure your wading boots don't fit tightly- if you sized them to fit perfectly in the summertime with thin socks, make sure to get a winter pair that are a size bigger. Tight boots = cold feet. 

The colder late fall/early winter air & water temps are here now, so an adjustment in tactics is required. The warmest water by far will be coming out of the dam, and it will get colder as you move downriver during colder weather. The Still River will be coming in significantly colder than the dam water. As such, if you start early after a cold night, begin in Riverton to hit the best water temps (unless you are looking for the morning Winter Caddis hatch, in which case I'd recommend the high percentage dry fly pools in the permanent C&R such as Church Pool & Greenwoods), and wait until late morning/early afternoon for the water temps to rise before heading downriver. In general during cold weather, the strategy is to focus on late morning until dusk when air & water temps are highest- it's the most comfortable, and the trout & bugs are most active. The one exception to this is the Winter Caddis hatch. When they are hatching, you need to be on the water in early/mid morning to catch it. Other than that, no need to start early. Subsurface with nymphs has been some of the more consistent fishing lately, and we are getting some good streamer reports, and there have been windows of good dry fly fishing too.