Monday, January 15, 2018

Monday 1/15/18 Report- shelf ice is gone & river is dropping nicely

Here's another nice fish from the trip Mandy & I made last week, a healthy looking colored-up rainbow on a Triple Threat nymph. On that day, the river was fishable down to just above Church Pool, and it was mostly iced up and unfishable below that. The rain & snowmelt last week pushed flows up as high as about 2,500cfs, which is good because it blew out almost all the thick shelf ice that had the river previously locked up (except for uppper 2 miles). Total flow is now 518cfs & dropping (110cfs from the dam, plus 408cfs & dropping from the Still River), but the upper Farmington in Riverton above the Still River and up to the dam is still where you want to fish for the next few days (flow is only 110cfs there and it's ice/slush free, where downstream there are currently piles of slush floating downriver from where the Still dumps in & down).While nymphing is still the winter mainstay, you have a decent shot at finding some risers in pools like Beaver & Canal. As temps get milder later this week and water temps increase, the slush will melt out and the river below the Still River and down through the permanent Catch & Release (C&R)/TMA will once again be very fishable. This upcoming weekend looks quite promising, with highs in the 40s!

The new Thomas & Thomas Contact 10' 2" #2 rods arrived last week. I only got to wiggle them in the store for a few minutes, but I was very impressed with what I saw and felt. They retained the fighting butt (which I personally favor), and they built some real power into the lower half of the rod so you still have plenty of big fish fighting capability, even though it's only a 2 weight rod. The softer tip will nicely protect 6x-7x tippet for those of you who like to fish lighter line (it sinks your nymphs faster and with less weight). Despite the more flexible/softer tip section, the rod recovers quickly and dampens nicely. Joe Goodspeed, the rod designer, told me he is using some special material in this #2 rod that makes it incredibly durable in real world fishing & fish fighting conditions. Click this link to check out or purchase this awesome new rod:

Local guide Pat Torrey is doing a class on "Tying Wet Flies & Soft-Hackles" on Saturday 2/10/18 from 9am-3pm, cost is $80. These style flies are some of the oldest flies in existence, and there is a reason they are still around hundreds of years later: they catch fish! There has been a resurgence of interest in them in recent modern times, and people are learning there are ways to catch trout other than dries & nymphs. At moments, a properly presented soft-hackle/wet will vastly outfish any nymph, dry or streamers. And also, they are just plain a lot of fun to fish. Call shop at 860-379-1952 to sign up. Pat is also planning on doing a follow-up clinic this spring where he will teach you how to fish these flies. Here's a link to his class description:

Depending upon the day, time of day, and distance from dam, water temps are currently in the 30s. After colder nights, 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 peak temps occuring in mid/late afternoon. Most days this time of year the better fishing is late morning until dusk (higher water temps).

Curious about Euro Nymphing but have no idea where to start? I (Torrey) will be doing a FREE 1 hour "Crash Intro to Euro/Tight-Line Nymphing" at 10am on February 3rd. All are welcome and there is no sign-up, just show up at the store with a pen/notepad and some questions to ask me. I'll cover as much as I can about the basics in one hour, and I welcome your questions. Here's a link with a more detailed event description:

Midges are one of two main hatches currently, mostly dark colored (black/gray) and in the #18-32 range- if you are nymphing them subsurface with patterns tied on short-shank scud hooks you can try flies in the #16-22 range. They normally pop during the mildest part of the day, typically in the afternoons. The morning Winter Caddis is typically an early to mid morning deal with #16-24 pupa & adult imitations (so make sure to have foam pupa patterns as well as winged adults). 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. 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 early winter post-spawn brown trout streamer was 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.  

Here are 12 tips for fishing when it's extra-cold outside:
1) Don't start early. Late morning through mid afternoon is not only the warmest (least cold? haha) part of the day, but probably also the best chance to catch some trout on a brutally cold day. Rising water temps increase both trout metabolism & insect activity.
2) Try to pick sunny days. Sunshine will raise water temps more than anything else, and that in turn get the trout & bugs more active. even on truly cold days. If it is sunny outside and there is morning slush, the sunshine will often melt it by the afternoon (but not always).
3)Try to fish a fixed length of line to minimize ice-up of your guides. Short-line nymphing & swinging streamers will both allow you to not have to constantly be retrieving line in & out of the guides. Give your streamers additional action when desired by jiggling/twitching your rod tip rather than stripping line. For nymphing, a 10-11' rod will greatly assist in managing your line. Loon Stanley's Ice Off Paste will also delay your guides icing up.
4) Make sure your wading shoes don't fit tightly. Many people size there boots for a perfect fit with thin socks during mild weather, and then when they put a nice thick, warm Merino wool sock on for the cold weather, they have to cram their foot in the boot. Now  you cut your circulation off, and the result is ice cube feet. An oversize pair of boots for winter fishing is a great idea.
5) Wear a good pair of fingerless gloves. If your hands get really cold, that can pretty much be a day-ender, or at the very least make fishing an unpleasant experience. Half-finger gloves with exposed fingertips will give you dexterity, while still promoting blood flow to your fingers/hands. 
6) Expect to fish subsurface. While I have seen trout rising well to Winter Caddis & Midges on some super-cold days, that is the exception during extra-cold snaps. It usually greatly slows down the bugs, making nymphs & streamers the way to go. But by all means, if you have risers, match the hatch. Also, the bigger trout tend to stay deep when they feed, with small to average trout dominating the surface feeders (but not true 100% of the time, I do sometimes see large trout eating Midges & Winter Caddis).
7) Expect hits to be extra subtle. Cold water = slow trout metabolism. As such they don't need to eat much at all, and they won't move much to eat. Even when swinging streamers, you often feel nothing more than your fly stopping, you think you snagged up, but when you pull back there is something wiggling on your line. With nymphs you almost have to hit them on the nose, and those type of strikes can be very subtle and hard to detect. If you are using a strike indicator, it might only hesitate, slow, faintly twitch, or just rotate. Look for any slight change and set the hook. If you are tight-line nymphing, your drift might just slowly stop or even just slow down slightly- set the hook! Some hits are undetectable no matter what you do.
8) Be patient. I often have long periods of no action in the winter, and then all of a sudden I'll have an hour or two of good fishing. It's not 100% predictable when a "bite window" will happen, but even on really cold days there is often a period when trout put on the feedbag (typically in that late morning to mid afternoon window, but not always).
9) Locate the fish. Trout drop out of faster water when water temps are in the 30s, and they tend to pod up in softer water with some depth. Where you find one, there are often many more nearby. 
10) Go smaller with your nymphs. Most of what trout actually feed on in the winter is small, so your nymph size should reflect that. Think #16-22 on average, with some exceptions (like #8-10 Stoneflies). Midges are a primary winter food source, and patterns imitating them in #16-24 are often the ticket. Play with colors, flash/no flash, hotspots, etc., until you figure out what triggers a response on any given day.
11) The warmest water on cold winter days is up in Riverton, in the 2 miles or so above the Still River and up to the dam itself. Truly cold weather can cause shelf ice & floating slush below the Still River, but if you go above that it NEVER freezes or slushes up. Water is densest at 39.2 degrees, to the water coming out of the dam runs slightly warmer on the coldest days. That does not necessarily mean the water coming out of the dam is 39 degrees, but it is always at least a few degrees above freezing. This can save your ass when you drive to the Church Pool, only to discover it is iced up bank-to-bank or has so much slush coming down that you cannot fish it. 
12) Read the water carefully, pick what you think is the highest percentage water, and fish it thoroughly. Much of the water is vacant of trout in the water, and they will pod up in the better spots, but they won't move much at all to eat your fly. As such, fishing only the best water and fishing it methodically with multiple drifts covering every inch will put the odds in your favor. Fish the pools, deeper/softer runs, and gentle riffles that have some depth. Skip the fast water & pocket water.  In the winter, I'll often re-fish the best spots several times using different flies and/or different tactics. It'a a totally different ballgame than in the spring through fall when the trout are spread out all over the river, their metabolism is in high hear, and lots of bugs are hatching.

Unless you have risers to Winter Caddis (AM) or Midges (afternoons), slow & deep with nymphs or streamers is the order of the day. I'd expect the bigger fish to get fooled more often by subsurface tactics. A dead-drifted nymph fished near the river bottom is easy pickings, and a slowly & deeply fished streamer represents a lot of calories to a trout. 

The winter streamer bite can be good, but with water temps in the 30s, 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. 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. Don't rule out winter dry fly fishing, it can be surprisingly good at moments. 

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 Hanak, 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. Here's a link to their listing on our website:

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- here's a link to purchase it off our site: Use patterns like 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. 

Winter is in full effect, and along with colder air & water temps 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 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.