Monday, September 24, 2018

Monday 9/24/18 Farmington River Report- fall weather, finally

The latest "new guy", Brayson, seen in the top two pictures with an upper teens hook-jawed male brown that looks wild to me, what a beauty. Said it gave him a violent fight, and then it was biting the mesh in his net after he landed it, that's one pissed off dude. 3rd pic down on right is customer Dave Moranino, and he's been on a roll with big fish lately. 4th smaller pic down on left is local guide Zach St. Amand with a recent 21" Two Year Old he caught in the early morning.

Well it looks like this year the official start of fall on 9/21 coincided with the cooler fall temps moving in to stay. I got 62 degrees in the lower end of the permanent Catch & Release last night (Sunday 9/23) after work- prior to the weather change it had been more 66-68 degrees late in the day. As we move into October and the river temps finally cool back down, expect to see some midday hatches return, instead of only in early/mid morns and dusk/dark. The cooling water is starting to pick up the fishing too. Andy Lyons reported a hatch of #12 Isonychia a 2pm yesterday, and he was able to switch out his nymphs and pick up some on dries. FYI mornings are still good nymphing with larger #6-10 Stones in the faster water. Everything will be shifting gears over the next few weeks as the water and air temps drop. Trout & trout stream insects both tend to be most active at the most pleasant time of day (with some exceptions), as as you move into fall that time gradually shifts more to the afternoons. Brown trout spawning starts early on the Farmington River, with some fish starting up in mid October, and others as late a January. Concurrent with the spawn rapidly approaching, expect the browns to get more aggressive on streamers. Early & late are the peak streamers times, and overcast days can see an all-day bite. Make sure to play with colors, some yellow or orange in the fly can sometimes really trip the trigger. (the Autumn Splendor with it's brown/yellow/orange color scheme is a classic example of this). And then again, sometimes they will prefer an all white or black streamer, or maybe olive. Tan is another great color on this river (and many others), try a Strolis Ice Pick in that color.

Grady just acquired a collection of hooks & hackle this past weekend, it's all in the sale/markdown bin, so make sure to peek in there when you are here, it goes out the door fast.

With the MDC (the peeps that run the reservoir system here) stocking Riverton recently, many anglers have been heading up there for easier fishing and catching plenty of fresh rainbows averaging 11-12". "Junk Flies" such as Squirmy Worms/San Juans, Mops, Egg Flies, and Green Weenies have been doing much of the damage on them, along with generic nymphs & Woolly Buggers. Try also nymphs with hot spots. As these fish learn about both real bugs & artificial flies over the next few weeks, you will eventually want to fish "normal" flies for them. Others have been heading down to Canton/Collinsville/Unionville and targeting the trout the CT DEEP stocked down there on 9/11. However, the highest quality, bigger holdover and wild trout have mostly been coming from the permanent Catch & Release area, as well as about the 2 mile section above it, and the first 3-4 miles below it too. Be advised that you will work harder for these fish and you won't catch as many as the freshly stocked sections, but your compensation may be a big holdover or wild brown.

9am update:
At 9am the MDC is increasing dam release on West Branch by 16cfs, and the East Branch (joins West Branch about 3/8 mile below UpCountry) will go from 100 to 150cfs. You won't notice this change unless you are downriver below the East Branch (Dog Pound/Satan's Kingdom Bridge/Tubing).

As I write this at 8am on Monday 9/21, flows are medium, excellent, and have good clarity with that typical Farmington River slight iced tea tint to it. Riverton is 230cfs, with an additional 76cfs coming in from the Still River, for a total flow in the permanent Catch & Release in Barkhamstead of 306cfs.  Rain in the forecast for Monday night and into Wednesday will likely raise the Still River & the flows below there. If flows come up & go off-color (quite likely), go up to  Riverton above the Still River for lower/clearer water. Once the rain stops and you give it about one day, downstream of the Still there is often a day or two of really good streamer fishing fishing in high water while the river drops & clears (1.5-3 feet of visibility if what you are looking for). River will likely be back closer to normal by the weekend, the Still River drops & clears fast. Water temps have been running in the 60s for the entire river, all day long. Cooler nights in the 40s-50s now means lower water temps downstream of Riverton, which surprises many people. With water still coming out of the dam in the mid/upper 60s, morning water temps will often be low 60s as you move downstream, due to the cooling effect of the colder nights and cooler tributary water. Sunny days may see these temps bump up a little, and on cloudy days they won't rise much.

Stonefly nymphs of various colors (brown, golden/yellow, black) in sizes #6-12 continue to catch many of the better trout, especially in the mornings, but also later in the day too. For best results, pair the Stoneflies with a smaller nymph in the #14-20 range. The other morning gig would be small dries in the pools, with  Summer/Winter Caddis #20-24 being the main bug, with maybe some small Olives mixed in (for the Olives look for cloudy, cooler days). Midday had been pretty quiet hatchwise, with nymphing the fast water being the go-to tactic. However with fall temps finally here, look to see few Iso's and maybe some #14-20 Caddis in mid/late afternoons (both hatches will ramp up more in October). Evening dry fly fishing happens still happends mostly dusk to dark, and mostly in the riffle water. Its a mix of bugs: Cahills/Summer Stenos (#12-14), assorted Caddis #14-20, Blue Wing Olives averaging #20-22, and a few Iso's #12-14. Don't leave too early or you may miss the best of the evening bugs. Sunday night smaller fish (mostly) were jumping out of the water just before dark, not sure of the hatch, maybe small Caddis?

We received a sizeable fly tying  material order from Hareline last week. It both filled some holes and added some new products/sizes/colors. 

Now that things are cooling down, the CT DEEP Fisheries did their fall trout stocking for the Farmington River recently. Tuesday 9/11 they stocked from below Satan's Kingdom downstream to the Rt 177 bridge in Unionville, and also in the town of Farmington by the Larry Kolp Garden Plot (downstream from seasonal TMA). Also the MDC stocked their 1,000+ trout in the upper river/Riverton (they usually do from below the dam down to Whittemore) on Friday 9/14. The FRAA will stock between the Rt 219 bridge and the Satan's Kingdom bridge in early October. But even without these stockings, there was already a pile of trout in the river, even in the sections open to harvest from April through August. 

Main morning hatch is the Summer/Winter Caddis, Tricos are probably about done, although you may see some stragglers later in the mornings, especially in Riverton. Also expect to see a variety of assorted Caddis from #14-20 hatching in the AM. Olives averaging #20-22 have been showing up some days, especially when it's cloudy. Now that things are cooler, I'm getting reports of light numbers of #12-14 Isonychia in mid afternoons. Evening hatches have generally been sparse until dusk, and mostly happening near the edge of darkness. FYI most of the evening bug activity is taking place in the riffles, not the flat pool water. Nymphing has been a mainstay, with many trout holding in the faster water. When water clarity is normal, #14-20 nymphs that are either imitative, or hotspot/attractor type flies have been doing most of the catching (exception: big Stonefly nymphs, especially in the morns, but even later in the day). During higher/off-color water and on the freshly stocked fish, it's been more Junk Flies (Mops, Squirmies/San Juan Worms, Green Weenies, egg flies, etc.). Streamer fishing has picked up too with the cooler weather and increased flows, especially on the days when the river has gone off-color after some rain. Black or other dark colors are a good starting point on overcast days and/or dirty water. Always experiment though, and I've done very well with yellow, tan and white also in those same conditions some days. If you experiment, are flexible, and listen to the trout, they will tell you what they want. If you try to force-feed them flies & techniques they don't want, you will fare poorly.

Remember that as of 9/1, the entire Farmington River  for 21 miles from the dam in Riverton downstream to the Rt 179 bridge in Unionville is now Catch & Release until Opening Day, April 2019. Below the Rt. 177 bridge you can still keep fish, but not above it.

Water Temps:
Water temp coming out of the dam is mid/upper 60s (this will change as we move into October), and the water temps in Riverton stay close to that all day. As you move further downstream below the Still River the water temps have been cooler than that, averaging in the low 60s the past few days. Temps will rise a little on warmer sunny days, and conversely they will be cooler downstream after cold nights and/or cooler & cloudy days like we've had lately. I always recommend carrying a thermometer to find the best fish catching conditions. It will help you decide what river sections have better water temps. Sunny days will see the biggest water temps increases, cloudy days will see minimal changes. As you move dowstream below the Still River, first light will have the coolest water temps, and conversely they will be a their highest in late afternoon & evening (contrary to popular belief, there is not normally any significant drop in water temps until well after dark). The Still River both cools off and heats up rapidly depending upon the weather, so keep that in mind. Lately the Still has been a cooling influence, due to colder nights and days. With cooler weather here to stay now, the Still will be dumping in water that is currently colder than what is coming out of the dam, and so downstream from that the water temps will actually be lower, especially on cloudy days.

When water temps are in the 60s in the late summer/early fall, trout often hold in the faster water where there is more oxygen, making nymphing a great tactic when the trout aren't rising. Lots of nymphs live in this type of water too, making it a good feeding lie. Even in water that looks too fast, there are trout this time of year. If the surface is choppy, that means the bottom is irregular, which creates little soft spots where  there is very little current within inches of the stream bed, and the trout can comfortably hold there. A great tactic is to nymph a bigger #6-10 Stonefly nymph in the fast water from first light until late morning (run a smaller nymph #14-20 in tandem with it). This strategy can produce some truly big fish, and at the very least some above average ones. Fish pool heads, riffles, pocket water & runs. Make sure that either 1) you are fishing weighted flies heavy enough to get them down, and/or 2) add enough split shot to put them in the strike zone. I fish a lot of brownish colored Stones, but yellow/golden and also black can both be very effective, especially if everybody else is fishing brown ones...   

Some great new products recently arrived:
Many of you asked for a "Euro" Steelhead rod, well now you finally have it: T&T released their latest entry into their extremely successful "Contact" series of tight-line/Euro rods, a 10' 8" #6 T&T Contact rod designed for larger fish such as Great Lakes Steelhead & Lake Run Browns. It will handle heavier tippets in the 1x-3x range no problem, and has the power to subdue 10-15# fish, while still protecting your tippet. Joe Goodspeed designed it to have increased durability, while still having a light, flexible and sensitive tip that will help keep the hook from popping out. Not only can you tight-line with this rod, but it throws a 6 weight line like a champ for indicator nymphing & swinging, roll casts easily, and the extra length lets you mend your line better. They also beefed up the cork handle & fighting butt. Homerun!

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.
*****All workshops are FULL now, but we can put you on a wait list for any of the full clinics in case there are cancellations, and if not we will call you next year after we schedule George's clinics for 2019:
-9/29, 10/20 & 10/21 2019 Nymphing Workshops (all dates are FULL)
-9/30/18 Streamer Fishing Workshop (FULL)

Subsurface, big Stonefly nymphs (especially mornings, they are the best nymph in the AM, fish in faster water), Caddis pupa & larva, Mops, Squirmies/San Juan Worms, Yellow Sallies/Sulfurs (Sulfur nyp, 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 effective. 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).

-Summer/Winter Caddis: #18-24 pupa & adults (early/mid AM)
-Caddis (olive/green, tan) #14-20 (morns & eves mostly)
-Baetis/Blue Winged Olives #18-26 (cloudy days especially)
-Light Cahill/Summer Stenos/White Flies #12-16 (evenings)
-Giant October Caddis #8-12 (eves)
-Isonychia #12-14 ("Iso") afternoon/eves (light hatch, in faster water)
-Yellow Sally Stonefly #14-20 (mostly a nymph deal)
-Ants & Beetles #10-20 (anytime, especially during non-hatch times)
-Mini Chernobyl #12-16 (great for "searching the water" or as a suspender for dry/dropper) 

Bigger Stoneflies #6-12, Pat's Rubber Legs #6-10 (esp. coffee/black), Tan & olive/green Caddis Pupa #14-18, Olive Nymphs #16-22, Sulfur/Yellow Sally #14-18, Blue Lightning Bugs/Copper Johns #14-16, Pheasant Tail/Quasimodo Pheasant Tails #12-20, Isonychia Nymph #12-14, Prince Nymph #12-16 (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, Squirmies/San Juan Worms (pink, red, worm brown), Antoine's Perdigons (various colors) #12-20, and Attractor/Hot-Spot nymphs #14-20 (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:

Now that fall is here, brown are getting more aggressive and the streamer bite is picking up. Try #2-14 patterns  (FYI bigger is sometimes better in the fall), especially in colors like yellow, olive, white, black, brown, or combinations of colors (a little yellow or orange mixed in can be very effective in the fall)- 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, as are cloudy days. 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. Play around with your presentation & retrieve and see what works. If you listen, the trout will tell you what they want. Think Autumn Splendor, 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.

Quite a few trout (including some BIG ones) are holding in only 1-2 feet of choppy water (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, big Stoneflies and many Caddis species for example) hatch/live 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 primarily targeting fast water almost since 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.
     -Report by Torrey Collins