Monday, February 19, 2018
Despite the 5" of snow partly melting, the river continued to drop yesterday, and we got quite a few good fishing reports. Flow today is clear, medium & dropping, and it does not appear snowmelt will be much of an issue. Nymphs were by far the most consistent Sunday, but slowly & deeply fished streamers are also catching (especially olive, black, white). If you look around you should be able to find a few afternoon risers in certain bigger/wider/slower pools when Midges hatch (such as Greenwoods, Church, Mathie's Grove, Beaver, etc.). Midges remain the main afternoon bug, but we are starting to see some of the Tiny Winter Black Stoneflies (Capnia- #18 & smaller), so you might think about trying a #18 Skinny Nelson or other small/skinny black nymph that could imitate them, even a black Zebra Midge. And with all the mild weather forecasted, I would not be surprised to see the bigger Early Black & Early Brown Stoneflies soon too (typically #14-16). Currently I'd recommend fishing anywhere from about the Satan's Kingdom Bridge (about 1 mile below the shop) all the way up to the dam.
"Fishing Wet Flies & Soft-Hackles with Pat Torrey" clinic is scheduled for April 28th, 2018, 10am-4pmp- call the store at 860-379-1952 to sign up. Click on it to go to a detailed description of the event.
Total flow in permanent Catch & Release (C&R)/TMA is very fishable at a medium & dropping 489cfs (242fs from the dam, plus 247cfs from the Still River). I love this water level, but if you want lower water, head upriver to Riverton and above the Still River (from about the Rt 20 bridge and up to the dam).Water temps lately have mostly been in the mid/upper 30s, but depending upon weather & time of day can range from mid 30s and up to the low/mid 40 degrees (first light after a cold night will be the lowest, and late afternoon on a mild, sunny day will be the highest). Long range weather is unusually mild (65-70 on Wed/Thurs, and in the 40s on all the other days!), so look for water temps to get well into the 40s on milder days- this could lead to some excellent fishing & good bug activity (especially Winter/Early Stones). Other than the Winter Caddis hatch (often starts up around 7am), there isn't a big reason to start too early (unless you have mild overnight air temps, as in above freezing), I normally focus on the late morning to late afternoon time slot. My biggest winter trout often come in the last 2 hours of daylight. Rising fish are a distinct possibility at moments, and nymphing will continue to be a mainstay. On days with highs above freezing, it means you can strip in streamers without your guides icing up every 3 casts. With both the streamers & nymphs, remember slow & deep is key. Expect strikes to be s-u-b-t-l-e. If you are fishing streamers and your guides are icing up, try swinging them slowly with some rod twitches- by not retrieving line, you eliminate guide icing. Use a moderate length of line that you can control and cast without have to take line in & out of your guides.
15 Day Forecast is very mild overall, but all over the place. I see highs averaging in the 40s (going from upper 30s to mid 60s!), and lows from the 20s up to the mid 50s. Typically mild weather is good for winter fishing, as it bumps the water temps up, triggering more trout & bug activity. There are often "bite windows" during the day when the fish turn on, and before/after those moments it can be slow. Moral of the story: be patient & fish hard in the winter, if you are persistent you should be able to get your rod bent. Nymphs continue to be the most consistent producers lately, with patterns ranging from small (#22) to relatively large (#8)- things like Midges (red, black), Caddis Larva (olive/green), Stoneflies (golden, black, brown), Winter/Early Black Stones, Pheasant Tails/Frenchies, Eggs (yellow/pink/orange), Squirmy Worms/San Juans (pink, red, worm brown/tan), Mops (espeically cream), etc. have all had their moments. It pays to experiment, I typically do a 2 fly rig, and if you really want to figure it out even faster try 3 flies. But... 3 flies tangles more, and sometimes when you snag up it's a 3 fly loss.
Big orders from Hareline Dubbin', Nature's Spirit, and Wapsi have all arrived recently- check out the picture of the special Hends tinsel for tying flashy Perdigon nymph bodies, it looks amazing. We have more fly tying materials on the walls than we have ever had! These orders all include some new stuff we haven't carried before, as well as filling inventory holes and adding new colors & sizes of products we normally carry. The order from Nature's Spirit included a bunch of Hanak hooks (including the brand new 490 "Jig Trophy" hook- it's heavy wire that won't bend out, even on really big fish), Hends 144 jig hook in sizes down to #18, Hends Spectra dubbing, Solarez UV resin, Hends Perdigon Tinsel, Hends Body Quills, and more.
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.
The new Thomas & Thomas Contact 10' 2" #2 rods arrived recently, and we have a loaner/demo version of it you can borrow and try out on the water. My initial impression is: these rods are fantastic! 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: http://www.farmingtonriver.com/thomas-and-thomas-contact/
Midges are one of the 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 #16-24 range. They normally pop during the mildest part of the day, typically in the afternoons. We are now starting to see the Tiny Winter Black Stoneflies (Capnia), they run small on our river, from about #18 down to #24-26. Sometimes they create some dry fly fishing, and sometimes smaller skinny black nymphs that could imitate them take trout this time of year (try a #18 Skinny Nelson). 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. If you venture out in the AM and don't find risers, be prepared to go subsurface with streamers & nymphs. The winter streamer bite had generally been good thus far, just make sure to fish them deep and slow down your presentation (olive has been a hot streamer color, and both white and black are very good too, among others).
5x flurocarbon tippet should be about right, depending upon fly size, with 6x for the smallest nymphs. During higher flows and/or fishing bigger flies, you can bump it up as high as 4x (Mops & big Stoneflies for example). 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: http://www.farmingtonriver.com/cortland-top-secret-ultra-premium-fluorocarbon/ Use patterns like Midges/Zebra Midges #16-24, #18 Skinny Nelson, 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), 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.
Here are 12 tips for winter fishing on days when it's below freezing:
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. The big exception to this is our Winter Caddis hatch, which typically pop early to mid mornings.
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 when air temps are below freezing. 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 & "Junk Flies" like Mops & Squirmy Worms). 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. Cold snaps 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 winter, 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 gear, and lots of bugs are hatching.
Simms new 2018 version of the G3 wader is 190% more breatheable (!), 30% more puncture resistant, has 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. 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.