Monday, August 20, 2018

Monday 8/20/18- fish the conditions! Spoiler: big trout pix...

More peeps than I expected braved the higher, off-color water this past weekend. Many simply went up to Riverton above the Still River and fished the 2 miles below the dam where the water remained clear, and I heard it was quite crowded up there. But for the most part those catching the biggest trout were the ones who ventured below that and adapted to the conditions, and they had a lot less anglers to compete with. Top pic is Gerald Berrafati with a 20" Two Year Old Brown (clipped adipose, left eye orange elastomar/dye mark) he landed on his brand-new T&T Contact 10' 2" #2 rod he just bought from us (said he had no problem at all landing that big fish with that light rod), next pic with the bald guy is your truly (Torrey) with a picturesque 20" male brown with perfect fins/tail, no clips, and no dye mark (wild? quite possibly, or a multi-year holdover that was stocked small), 3rd pic down is a beautiful 18" brown landed by Jeff Flemming (one of five in that size range that he landed Sunday morning on black Perdigons), and the bottom pic is Dave Machowski holding a super-pretty brown he caught this weekend.

I fished after work Sunday eve, I hit the permanent Catch & Release because I figured 1) the higher flow & off-color water would scare most people away from that section (it did), and 2) I hoped the conditions would have the bigger fish relaxed & on the feed (it did). The water had a dark stain to it, like strong iced tea, with about 30" or so of visibility. The Mop fly seemed to overall be the best producer, although I did see some #10-12 Isonychia (Isos) hatching. The start was a bit frustrating, as I lost a good fish, broke off another, and then started landing some fish, including a very pretty 17" brown without a mark on it. Just before dark, I pricked/rolled a BIG brown that I didn't manage to get a solid hook-set on. But.... I redeemed myself around 8pm with a measured 20" brown that was a
beautiful & perfect male you see pictured in the 2nd pic down (sorry for the so-so pic, the iPhone 7 doesn't shoot good pix in low light).

The Still River drops & clears fast, so we are rapidly coming back into normal shape. But don't let higher flows that are off-color scare you, if you adapt to the conditions you can have some exceptional fishing. Short of true muddy water (it was like that behind the shop Sunday morning, but by late afternoon was already at 2+ feet of visibility and increasing), the river is rarely unfishable for long. It's already about 3 feet plus and increasing down by the shop, and up in Riverton it stayed clear all weekend. Anytime there is a flow bump from rainfall and the river gets some color to it, I always do better on big fish, especially big browns. They feel safer to come out and feed in those conditions, it's
harder for predators like birds to see the trout. It also allows you to approach the fish closer, and fish both bigger tippets & flies. "Junk Flies" such as Mops, Worms (Squirmies/San Juans), Green Weenies, Eggs, etc. are often at their best when flows are up & colored. I like to pair them up with a more "normal" fly in the #14-16 range. Sometimes the Junk Fly acts as an attractor that helps the fish locate the smaller/more imitative pattern. And of course those conditions are what big trout streamer guys live for. Low light, higher flows, and stained water can produce some epic streamer fishing for better fish- I like to start with bulky patterns in colors like black or yellow, and then try other colors if those aren't working. But the window of these conditions is fairly brief on the Farmington, as the Still River (generally the source of the higher, dirty water) drops & clears quickly once the rain stops.

Summer Water Temps Explained:
Ironically enough, we stay the coldest in the summer when we don't get a lot of rain because any water not coming from the dam runs warm. The Still River dumps in warmer water (typically in the low/mid 70s in the summer) 2 miles down from the dam, and below that the temp reflects the mix of the two different rivers. If you start in the early to mid morning, water temps are coolest then, and you can venture downriver further, and it may make sense to work upstream as the day progresses and the temps rise (especially on hot, sunny days). It really helps to carry a thermometer this time of year, that way you can find optimal water temps & good fishing when you are fishing further downstream- upriver it's a non-issue. FYI in the summertime after a good rain, the warmer Still River water raises the downstream water temps, but then as it drops things cool off again- the Still drops fast when rain ends. Look for water temps under 70 degrees, and ideally from 50s to mid 60s for the best fishing. You should be able to find those temps from the dam in Riverton, all the way down through the permanent Catch & Release/New Hartford, and on hotter/sunny days work your way upstream as the day progresses and water temps increase- there won't be much of a water temp rise on cloudy or cooler days though. If we get significant rain and Still River flows bump up a fair amount, you may want to stay more upriver as that would temporarily raise downstream water temps (again more so on sunny/hotter days, less on cloudy/cooler days). I'd generally leave Canton/Collinsville/Unionville and below alone until we get into consistently cooler weather, you'll only be stressing the trout out down there with the higher water temps in that section of the river. However, Canton could be doable in the mornings after a cooler night, but then I'd work my way upstream by the afternoon. Once you get below Town Bridge, there are 2 smaller dams in Collinsville that back up the water so it's slow & wide, and that exposes it to the sun, which in turns raises the water temps on hot, sunny days in the summertime.

We scheduled another of Mark Swenson's "Fly Fishing 101" beginner classes for Sunday, September 9th from 9am-4pm, click the link to the class for more details. Call the store at 860-379-1952 to sign up, cost is $150. If you don't have equipment, we can rent you rod/reel or waders/boots if needed.

There will be a "Fishermen's Fall Flea Market" in the UpCountry side parking lot on September 22nd, 2018 from 9am-2pm (Rain Date is 9/29) at 352 Main St, New Hartford, CT. This event will include Food & Drinks, Ice Fishing Gear, Fly Fishing Gear, Hunting Gear, Boating, Fishing/Hunting Books, Camo, etc. If you want to be a vendor you can get a Small Spot for $10, or an XL Spot for $20- call Tony at 203-910-4633. 

Ten Day Forecast has highs averaging 75-80 through this weekend, with nights averaging high 50s- this will help keep the water cooler further downstream. After the weekend, highs bump up toward the mid 80s, with nights in the mid 60s. The total flow in the Catch & Release area through Barkhamsted is at 453cfs & dropping as I write this Monday morning (279cfs below Goodwin/Hogback Dam in Riverton, plus an additional 174cfs & dropping from the Still River). Very likely you will see the MDC increase the water release from the dam sometime this week, as a lot of water got dumped into Colebrook Reservoir over the weekend due to the heavy rain, and eventually they will have to let some of that extra water out. I will update you if we hear of any major flow changes. FYI flow increases in the summer lower water temps, and allow you to fish further downriver, so it's not a bad thing at all in my book. Be aware though that it typically takes the trout a few hours to adjust to a flow increase/temperature drop when they change the dam release.

Water temps right below the dam are currently in the 50s, the permanent TMA/Catch & Release is running mostly in the low/mid 60s (water temps change during the day, and vary from day to day also). Water temps slowly rise as you move further downstream from the dam. Coolest water is in the early mornings, and temps increase in late afternoon/evening. Hot/sunny days will see the biggest temp increases, cloudy days the least. Summertime rain that's heavy enough to raise the Still River (which runs warm in the summer) will increase water temps downstream of that. Colder water below the dam often means the "evening hatch" will start in late afternoon/early evening in the upper 2 miles of the river above the Still River confluence. Further downriver, hatches happen at the more traditional times, with early & late in the day normally being the peak times.

I get customers coming in the shop at lunchtime/early afternoon asking me "What's hatching right now?", to which I reply "Nothing"- they look at me like I slapped them. Bugs don't hatch all day, every day, everywhere. It's summertime, and just like on most trout streams in the northeast, early & late is typically the best (with a few exceptions). Midday is the slowest hatchwise, with mornings & late afternoons through evenings seeing various insects (depending upon what section of the river you are located). Mornings bring Winter/Summer Caddis #20-24 in the very early hours. 7am-10am has been seeing Needhami Duns #22-26. Tricos are finally starting up but the trout haven't really got on them yet, they run #22-26 and are a morning deal. Late morning through the evening brings various Caddis #16-20. Isonychia #10-14 are still hatching in the late afternoon and evening, but hatches are sparser than they were in July. Sulfurs are still hatching but near the end and are confined to Riverton now- I'd stay from Hitchcock/Van's/Canal/Beaver and up to the dam- typically a late afternoon/early evening hatch up there and averaging a #18. Terrestrials such as ant & beetles have been excellent as well during the day on all section of the river. Other bugs hatching include Light Cahills/Summer Stenos #12-14 (eves), and small Blue Wing Olives #18-26 (afternoon/eves). Hatch times will vary depending upon time of day, air temps, and how far up or down river you are. Dry/dropper is very effective in the summer here, run one or two small weighted nymphs behind a buoyant visible dry (2-3 feet under your dry if you are searching/blind-casting the water, but only about a foot if fish are actively rising during a hatch).

George Daniel's brand new book "Nymph Fishing" is now available. I've read it, and in my opinion it's excellent. He covers new things he learned in the last 6 years since "Dynamic Nymphing" came out, plus things he has changed his opinion on. Lots of new patterns shown in this book too, plus some new leader formulas. Spoiler: I'm in it :). The first few batches sold out fast. We also have the brand new 2nd DVD on Euro Nymphing from Devin Olsen & Lance Egan (filmed by Gilbert Rowley) in, it's called "Modern Nymphing Elevated", and is the follow up to "Modern Nymphing" (which we once again have in stock too). This one covers many new things, and is geared toward intermediate to advanced anglers (the 1st was more for beginers to intermediates). And just like the first one, the cinematography is excellent.

George Daniel Clinics coming this fall at UpCountry and doing 4 clinics for us (3 nymph, 1 streamer)- click on the clinic name to take you to link with clinic descriptions/info. Call shop at 860-379-1952 to sign up, cost is $150, paid in advance, nonrefundable. FYI payment in full is required when you sign up, we cannot "hold" a spot for you without payment. The 9/29 & 10/20 Nymphing Workshops are FULL now, but we have a third Nymphing Workshop scheduled for Sunday October 20st, 9am-2pm that is still open. We can put you on a wait list for any of the full clinics in case there are cancellations:
-9/29/18 Nymphing Workshop (9/29 & 10/20 dates are FULL, but 10/21 clinic still has openings)
-9/30/18 Streamer Fishing Workshop (FULL)

Subsurface, Sulfur-type nymphs (double as a Yellow Sally FYI), Caddis Pupa, big Stonefly nymphs (especially mornings), Yellow Sallies, Pheasant Tails/Frenchies, Isonychia nymphs, and small Blue Wing Olive nymphs are all taking trout at the right moments. A variety of attractor/hot-spot nymphs have been very effective some days also, including Antoine's Perdigon series (especially in black lately, probably due to greater visbility in stained water). When trout aren't rising, the nymphing has generally been pretty good. Catching trout is not always about exactly matching the hatch (sometimes it is though, especially during a hatch when trout are surface feeding), it's about getting a trout's attention and enticing them to eat your fly. The best nymphing has been in medium to fast water with some chop to it- just look for current breaks, seams between fast & slow water, drop-offs and structure. Wet flies & Soft-Hackles have been catching their share of trout too, we have a good selection of them if you need us to pick you out a couple of winners. Wets are both fun to fish & good fish catchers. They also enable you to efficiently cover a lot of water and search for fish. They are most deadly when fished 2 or 3 at a time, with tag end droppers. Streamers have produced at first & last light, and have been moving some big trout for a day or two every time after it rains and water temporarily rises and discolors (perfect condition for big trout on big streamers).

-Needhami #22-26 (morns & sometimes eves)
-Tricos #22-26 (morns, just starting)
-Caddis (olive/green, tan) #16-20
-Baetis/Blue Winged Olives #18-26 (mostly afternoons & eves)
-Light Cahill/Summer Stenos #12-14 (evenings/dusk)
-Tiny Summer Stenos #20-22 (Riverton mostly, eves)
-Sulfurs #18 (Riverton only, hatch is nearing the end, late afternoons/eves)
-Isonychia #10-14 ("Iso") late afternoon/eves (light hatch now, in faster water)
-Yellow Sally Stonefly #14-20 (mostly a nymph deal)
-Summer/Winter Caddis: #18-24 pupa & adults (early/mid AM)
-Ants & Beetles #10-20 (anytime, especially during non-hatch times)
-Mini Chernobyl #12-16 (great for "searching the water" or dry/dropper) 

Sulphur-type nymphs #16-18 (doubles as a Yellow Sally), bigger Stoneflies #6-12, Pat's Rubber Legs #6-10 (esp. coffee/black), Tan & olive/green Caddis Pupa #14-18, Olive Nymphs #16-20, Yellow Sally #14-18, Pheasant Tail/Quasimodo Pheasant Tails #12-20, Isonychia Nymph #10-12, Prince Nymph #10-14 (makes a good Iso),  Midges / Zebra Midges #16-22, Caddis Larva (olive to green) #14-16, Mop Flies (various colors, especially cream/tan) #8-12, Antoine's Perdigons (various colors) #12-20, and Attractor/Hot-Spot nymphs #12-20 (Pineapple Express, Frenchy, Triple Threat, Pink Soft Spot Jigs, Carotene Jigs, Egan's Red Dart, Rainbow Warrior, etc.).

Cortland's "Top Secret" Ultra Premium Fluorocarbon tippet has a Plasma finish is by far the best and strongest stuff out there: it has the most abrasion resistance, stretch, flexibility & clarity. Total game-changer, and an extra-good choice if you like to nymph with lighter tippets - here's a link to purchase it off our site:

Try #2-14 patterns, especially in colors like olive, white, black or brown- other colors are good too, and it pays to experiment. Typically the low-light periods of early & late in the day are the optimum times to fish a streamer. The day or two after a rain, when flows are still elevated & off-color can produce some really good streamer fishing conditions for big trout. During the day, target structure (undercut banks, fallen trees, undercut banks, big boulders, etc.) and shady areas. If you're specifically targeting larger trout, go bigger, but expect to catch less fish. Water temps are mostly in the 50s & 60s now, which means you can speed up your retrieve. Play around with your presentation & retrieve and see what works. If you listen, the trout will tell you what they want. Think Zonkers, Woolly Buggers, Bruce's Yellow Matuka, Dude Friendly, Ice Picks, Mini Picks, Mop Heads, Slump Busters, Sculpin Helmet patterns (for a weighted sculpin imitation), etc.

If you have some equipment gathering dust in your closet, our shop is "hungry" for trade-ins. We give fair market value toward new equipment in the store..... no waiting for your item to sell, just bring your used fly rods, reels, and fly tying equipment  to us and we will turn it into something shiny and new for the upcoming season. Please call ahead for an appointment.

We are in that time of year (summer) where in order to catch the best evening dry fly fishing you should to stay LATE (as in right up to darkness and even beyond).  Leave too early and you may completely miss it (especially on hotter days when the evening fishing kicks off later). And remember that spinner falls occur over riffles. Having said this, it also depends upon the section of river and the weather that day. Riverton with it's colder water often sees "evening" bug activity begin & end earlier in the day, and morning activity begins later upriver due to colder water. In the rest of the river, cloudy/cooler weather will often see the "evening bugs" start up earlier. Super hot days might see the evening hatch begin right at the edge of darkness.

Quite a few trout (including some BIG ones) are holding in only 1-2 feet of choppy water lately (especially during hatches and/or low light conditions) and sometimes even skinnier water than that, so don't focus only on the deep stuff. Typically when trout are in shallower water, they are there specifically to feed. Plus many bugs (Isonychia and many Caddis species for example) hatch in fast, often shallow water. Spinner falls typically occur over/in riffles and pocket water. Also, fast water is more oxygenated. All reasons you should should not ignore it. Personally I've been targeting fast water almost exclusively since early/mid May, and there have been plenty of trout in residence there. In water that's not too deep, dry/dropper with 1-2 weighted nymphs about 2-3 feet under a buoyant, visible dry fly can be very effective, not to mention fun. It also enables you stay back a bit, and gives you the opportunity to catch fish on both nymphs/pupa & dries. Most days they'll take the nymphs, but you will get plenty of bonus trout on the dry.