|"Smoke on the Water"...a steamy Farmington River at -6 degrees this morning|
MDC reduced the dam release by 125cfs at 9am.
Well at least we are not dealing with rain/high water this weekend, just the aftermath of slush & shelf ice due to the insane cold snap the past 2 days. As you can see in the picture, the water is way warmer than the air, and that's why there is steam (-6 air temps this morning, water is probably right around 32 degrees behind the shop). At the moment, only Riverton is fishable- the dam keeps the 2 mile section from just above the Still River up to the dam at above freezing, and as such you get zero slush and shelf ice up there, no matter how cold it get. Below the Still River it's a mess this morning, with lots of floating slush and shelf ice totally covering slower pools and stream edges. Sunday is forecasted to be 41 degrees, making it the better day to fish this weekend. Into the 50s on Monday/Tuesday, which will all help to melt out the shelf ice and create fishable conditions downstream of the Still River. Don't forget about the Fly Fishing Film Tour this upcoming Tuesday 2/5 at Legitmus Brewery, just a 1/2 mile or so downstream from UpCountry on Rt 44- see a little below for details, the tickets are now SOLD OUT.
|Zach & sons from Tuesday 1/29, one of many|
Despite the brutal conditions, fish are getting caught this week. In fact Zach texted me last night to say he had a guide trip scheduled Thursday in the insane cold, the clients didn't want to reschedule, and so they hit the water and he said they actually did well! Here's a pic from Zach earlier this week putting the steel to some trout with his two boys. Below that is Vinnie Badaracco with a handful of Farmington River brown trout, and the bottom pic is a quality brown by guide Steve Hogan this week.
Clarity is fine now, so along with winter standards such as Junk Flies (eggs/worms/Mops) & big Stones, try pairing them up with a #16-18 nymph of your choice- try both drab and attractor flies with hot spots. Streamers remains a good choice to target bigger fish- just
|Vinnie Badaracco with a handful of brown trout from Tuesday|
Upcoming local winter fly fishing events:
1) The Fly Fishing Film Tour is coming to Legitmus Brewery (just down the street from us on Rt 44) on February 5th, doors open at 5pm and the films will play starting at 7pm. This event is now SOLD OUT.
|Quality brown this week by guide Steve Hogan|
Water temps are mid 30s in Riverton above the Still River (due to moderating influence of the dam), and closer to 32 degrees with slush and shelf ice below the Still River. Most of the trout are now mainly in winter-type lies of softer/deeper water in pools, deep runs, and the lower section of gentle riffles. They may still be very close to where you were catching them during the regular season, but they will slide off 5-10 feet toward the softer current edge or a little further down the riffle to find water that has less current. Nymphing is the #1 producer in these type of conditions, but big post spawn browns are hungry and they love streamers. During normal flows Church Pool was offering up morning dry fly fishing in the slower water on many days (some days great, and some slow)- look for mornings that are not windy, preferably following a night down into the teens/20s- currently (2/1) Church Pool is mostly covered in shelf ice, it will take the warm weather coming next week to clear that out. Other than the Winter Caddis, I usually target the late morning to late afternoon period for the most comfortable temps & best fishing (higher water temps = more active bugs & trout). The low light of the last hour often brings bigger browns out of hiding too.
While I often continue to tight-line/Euro nymph through the winter, it can make sense to switch to an Indicator rig. And Indy allows you to more easily fish slower water, you can fish farther away from you, and you can suspend your flies a little above the bottom when necessary. You can also run really long drifts straight down a current seam (which is where trout typically hold). Some days the trout will be on very small flies, and you can just use split shot to sink them under your Indy (FYI there is no reason you cannot add split shot to a Euro rig when necessary, the best way to do this is with a Drop Shot rig that has the weight on the bottom with your flies on droppers right above it) without having to put on a heavy "Sacrifice Fly" to sink you small fly/flies. Indicators are also a godsend on windy days that make Euro nymphing a nightmare.
10am Flow Update Friday 2/1/19:
MDC emailed us to say they cut the flow back at 9am today. Dam release in Riverton was reduced by 125cfs, which will bring the upper river (above the Still River) down to about a medium level of 325cfs, and the total flow in the permanent Catch & Release/TMA down to approximately 530cfs. The East Branch was reduced from 200cfs down to 100cfs.
Flows as of 8am Friday 2/1/19:
Total flow in permanent TMA/Catch & Release is moderately high and clear at 659cfs (the Still River is 207cfs and dropping), Riverton above the Still River is medium-high and very fishable at 452cfs (the upper river from the Still River to the dam never slushedsup or gets shelf ice, due to the dam). Conditions can change as a result of rainfall and varying MDC dam releases. The Still River joins the Farmington River about 1/4 mile below Riverton Rt 20 bridge, roughly 2 miles below the dam. East Branch release was 200cfs last I knew, but they might have reduced that. It joins the West Branch about 3/8 mile below UpCountry, and so the river is a little higher from there down.
Dressing for fishing in cold weather/cold water:
Make sure to dress extra warm, otherwise you will be miserable and won't be able to concentrate & enjoy the experience. I'm rarely cold while fishing, even at 15 degrees, because I've learned how to dress for fishing in cold weather and I've acquired the proper clothes. While some people switch to 5mm neoprene bootfoot waders with Thinsulate in the boots for the winter, I continue to wear my breathable Simms G3 stockingfoot waders, and I'm comfortable. Here's why: I have loose fitting boots that accomodate extra heavy wool socks & thin poly liner socks without fighting tightly and constricting blood flow (tight boots will give you cold feet 100% of the time). I have heavy insulated pants that I wear light or heavy synthetic thermals under. Up top I have a super warm winter jacket that I under layer with various weight thermal tops (get them with zippers to regulate heat), and if it's really cold I add a relatively thin insulated vest to keep my core warm without bulking me up too much. Top it off with anything from a ball cap, to a moderately warm hat, to a super warm hat, depending upon the temps and your activity level. Make sure to get warm 1/2 finger gloves that promote blood flow to your fingers while still allowing dexterity- Simms makes several great options for fishing gloves. If it's going to be windy or wet, top it off with a quality Gore-Tex raincoat to break the wind and keep you dry (mandatory gear for you Great Lakes Steelheaders). I love to have a warm hood attached to at least one clothing item, to pop up over my head if it gets windy or I start cooling off too much. And that's my system.
Click this Thomas & Thomas blog link for a very recent review I wrote about their awesome new Contact 10' 8" #6 rod for Steelhead & Lake Run Trout/Landlocks: https://thomasandthomas.com/blogs/news/torrey-collins-contact-1086
Matt Supinski's hot new "Nexus" book:
Myself (Torrey) & my girlfriend Mandy contributed to Matt Supinkski's brand new book "The Brown Trout-Atlantic Salmon Nexus" (generally abreviated to just "Nexus"). We just got in a bunch of copies of it last week. He used a handful of images from/of me & Mandy, and in the Euro/Tight-Line section he used some stuff I wrote for him. It's a big book full of beautiful images and piles of information about the two species. It looks like a $50 book, but it's only $29.95. Many of my friends are in it, including some big name peeps, as well as some less known but highly skilled anglers. I haven't been able to read it cover-to-cover yet, but I'm very impressed with the final product so far. Of course, I may be a little biased haha.
|The new "Nexus" book Mandy & I are in :)|
|A pic of Mandy from "Nexus"|
Check out this link to my blog post on 10 of my favorite books on a variety of subjects:
http://www.farmingtonriver.com/classes-news-reviews/10-of-torreys-favorite-books-december-2018/ I'll be doing more blog posts on recommended books in the future, there are many great books out there.
Winter fishing conditions are here with water temps in the 30s, so look for fish in
|A favorite image of mine Matt Supinski used in "Nexus"|
A tip for streamer fishermen:
Winter can be a great time to catch a hungry, post-spawn trophy brown on a streamer, but you have to tailor your tackle & presentation to the winter conditions. While you may find exceptions, in general trout want their streamers slow & deep in the winter. This means swinging them, or slowly stripping them in with longer pauses. The #1 mistake I see anglers making when streamer fishing in icy cold water is fishing them too fast. In May with 55 degree water temps, yes you can and often should "rip them in". But generally not when water temps are in the 30s, trout are too lethargic and normally won't aggressively chase at those temps (with occasional exceptions of course). There always are days the trout get really aggressive for reasons best known only to them, so try a fast retrieve at some point too. The #2 mistake I see anglers make is either too much weight and/or fly lines that sink too fast. If you fish a 200-300 grain line, and doubly so if you pair it with a heavily weighted streamer, you will have to rip it in to keep it from hanging up, or you will have to fish it in fast water that doesn't hold trout this time of year. Winter trout will hold in slower water that does not require a lot of weight or fly lines that sink 6-8" per second to reach them. I typically have my best results this time of year targeting the softer water with either a 1) floating line and a weighted streamer and/or split shot to get it down, or 2) using a slower sinking line/sink-tip with an unweighted or lightly weighted fly. Intermediate fly lines can also work well in the winter, they typically sink about 1.5-2" per second. If you can find some medium slow water with fairly even current, one of my favorite presentations is this: throw straight across and give a quick upstream mend to sink your fly. Once you think you are near (not on) the bottom, throw one or two downstream mends to make a big downstream line belly. This will let your fly swim broadside to the current & trout, straight across the current at just the right speed. Atlantic Salmon anglers call this the "Crossfield Draw". I have often used this presentation when the water is below 45 degrees and the current is fairly even so I can get a nice swing, and it's very effective.
"Junk Flies" like Mops, Squirmy Worms, Mops & Green Weenies, etc. have been top producers many days during the higher flows, and will continue to fool trout even in normal flows in the winter. Eggs will remain a fly of choice straight through the winter and into early spring, Mops are great in higher water, and a hot pink Squirmy can be the ticket in off-color water (try other Squirmy colors too, especially when the water clears). Streamers in colors like olive, white, and brown have been above average colors, but make sure to experiment, and with cold water temps fish your streamers s-l-o-w-l-y & deeply. Black or yellow streamers are good if the water is dirty. Overcast weather typically sees a better streamer bite, early & late will also give you the low light conditions you want. There have been trout rising in the mornings to Winter Caddis in Church Pool and sometimes Beaver Pool also. This is typically an early to mid morning deal, but can sometimes run later than that. Make sure to have both pupa & winged adult patterns. Midges are hatching in the afternoon some days, but with elevated flows the fish are feeding mostly underwater on nymphs/pupa, less so on the surface. However if it's not too windy, you may find a few fish eating Midges in Church Pool some afternoons. Other than Church & Beaver Pools, there has been very little dry fly action elsewhere. This will change if flows ever get back to normal.
Steelhead fishing & and fly tying are a great option this time of year. I (Torrey) have been fishing Great Lakes Steelhead for well over 30 years now, so if you need some advice I'm happy to help. We are stocked with many of the better materials for tying the specific flies you need for that fishing (Estaz, Glo-Bug Yarn, McFly Foam, Eggstasy Yarn, Angora Yarn, Diamond Braid, Holographic Tinsel, Ice Dub, specialized hooks from Tiemco/Gamakatsu/Mustad/Daiichi/Umpqua, etc.), as well as the proper rods (check out the new T&T Contact 10' 8" #6, it's sweet!), reels & lines, at a variety of price points for all budgets. The Cortland "Top Secret" Ultra Premium fluorocarbon tippet is amazing for Steelhead, it's insanely strong for it's diameter and very abrasion resistant. We also have plenty of warm Simms clothing to keep you going in cold air & cold water.
|Light colored oval area is a trout Redd- don't step on it!!|
We will be open 8am-5pm, 7 days a week.
New T&T Contact Steelhead/Lake-Run Brown Trout/Landlocked Salmon Rod:
|31" of Steelhead on my T&T Contact 10' 8" #6 & Hatch Finatic 5 Plus|
Look for water temps to average somewhere in the 30s, but can go higher or lower some days depending upon the weather, time of day, and specific location. After a truly cold night, the further you go downstream away from the dam, the colder the water. Highest temps will occur in mid/late afternoon, with sunny days seeing the biggest temperature increases- this often activates both the aquatic insects & trout. After colder nights, it may be wise to wait until late morning, thereby giving water temps a chance to rise a degree or two, which will get the trout (and bugs) more active- streamer fishing can be an exception to this, as it's not hatch-related, as can nymphing with egg patterns or other "Junk Flies" like worm patterns & Mop flies. The one hatch that often occurs in exception to this is the Winter Caddis, which typically come off in early/mid morning. The other strategy is to start your morning in the first 2 miles below the dam in Riverton, where water temps hardly vary at all during the day (due to being released from down deep), and then by late morning you can go back downriver as downstream temps rise.
The river was stocked in October with 800+ 13-18" fat rainbows purchased by the FRAA and supplied by Harding Trout Hatchery in New Hartford/Pine Meadow, in spots between the New Hartford 219 bridge and the Satan's Kingdom/Rt 44 bridge. Some of the bigger ones were pushing 3.5-4 pounds. They are now spread out nicely above & below the stocking points.
The CT DEEP Fisheries did their fall trout stocking for the Farmington River on September 11th, 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 9/14. The FRAA stocked 800+ 13-18" fat rainbows (some to 3.5-4#!) in New Hartford between the Rt 219 bridge and the Satan's Kingdom bridge the 2nd week of October. But even without these stockings, there was already a bunch of trout in the river, including the sections open to harvest from April through August.
-Winter Caddis: #18-24 pupa & adults (early/mid AM, this is main/major winter hatch)
-Midges #20-28 (late morns through afternoons, light hatch)
-Stoneflies/Pat's Rubber Legs #6-12- gold/yellow, brown, black
-Mop Flies #8-12 (various colors, especially cream/tan)
-BWO/Olive Nymphs #16-20
-Egg Flies #10-18 (various colors: yellow, pink, orange, etc.)
-Blue Lightning Bugs/Copper Johns #14-16
-Pheasant Tail/Quasimodo Pheasant Tails #14-20
-Caddis Larva (olive to green) #14-16
-Cased Caddis #8-16
-Antoine's Perdigons (various colors) #12-18
-Attractor/Hot-Spot nymphs #14-18 (Haast Haze, Pineapple Express, Frenchy, Triple Threat, Pink Soft Spot Jigs, Carotene Jigs, Egan's Red Dart, Rainbow Warrior, Prince, etc.).
"Junk Flies": nymphs for high/dirty water, winter fishing, freshly stocked trout, or when there is no hatch and standard nymphs aren't working:
-Squirmies/San Juan Worms/G-String Worms #10-14 (pink, red, worm brown)
-Egg Flies #10-18
-Green Weenies #10-14
Cortland's "Top Secret" Ultra Premium Fluorocarbon tippet has a glass-smooth Plasma finish and 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: http://www.farmingtonriver.com/cortland-top-secret-ultra-premium-fluorocarbon/
-Report by Torrey Collins