Friday, February 22, 2019

Friday 2/22/19 Farmington River Report: feels like Spring

Big beautiful brown by Steve Hogan Wednesday 2/20
Some pretty browns by Steve Hogan this week. There are plenty of trout in the river, but it's up to you to get out there and fool 'em. Flows are back down to medium/normal, and if you are there during a "bite window" it can be pretty good. Bite Windows can turn a slow day into 1-2 hours of fast fishing sometimes. Not always 100% predictable though, but often occuring in mid to late afternoon, so don't leave early if you don't have to. Many fish of late are above average- Steve Hogan caught 4 this morning from 16-21", I'll post those pix on the Monday report. Highs will be in the 40s this weekend, could be some good fishing. Just remember: you can't win if you don't play! Haha. But true. Nymphing is the most consistent, but streamers are pulling some nice fish, and Winter Caddis in the early AM and Midges in late morning to afternoon may bring some trout to the surface. Starting to see some small Black Stoneflies in #16-22 in the afternoons on milder days.
Close up of same big brown above

The tickets for the FRAA 75 Ticket Raffles are going fast and almost sold out, so if you want one, get it ASAP! FYI you don't have to be present at the banquet to win the two rods. Tickets are $20 each. FRAA Banquet Tickets (on 3/2) are $45 each and selling fast.

While I still recommend focusing on the moderate speed water with some depth in the winter, this is
just a starting point. Zach St. Amand told me his better fish lately have come on nymphs in mid to late afternoon in some relatively fast water, but near some sort of current break like rocks, potholes, drop-offs, etc. As water temps rise in the afternoon most days, trout often get more active and feed, and may move more into the current if there are bugs in the drift. When trout are less active, water temps in the 30s (like now) typically pushes them into pods in the softer water of pools, deeper runs, and gentle/deeper riffles. But they will sometimes slide up into the heads of pools/riffles/runs into the somewhat faster water to actively feed. This is most common later in the day when water temps are highest and light levels diminish. It's a combination of rising water temps, bug activity, and light levels that gets the trout feeding.

Another beauty Steve caught this week
Junk Flies (Mops, Squirmy/San Juan Worms, Eggs, etc.) should all continue to have their moments, but also try pairing then up with some regular nymphs. Midge patterns, Caddis larva, Pheasant Tails, Hare's Ears, etc. all could be good flies to pair up with a Junk Fly. Bigger Stonefly nymphs are still on the menu. If you are fishing pools that get hit hard (like Church Pool or Hitchcock), make sure to fish some drab/natural flies (no bead, no flash, no hotspot) and/or patterns that are unusual and the fish haven't seen before. Heavy pressure can make specific patterns less effective, and sometimes shiny metallic beadheads and make trout shy away, so try some nymphs with no beads or black beads. And sometimes regular beadheads work way better than unbeaded patterns, you have to experiment if you know you are over fish but aren't doing well. Of course it goes without saying that a good dead-drift is critical (but let it swing out at the drift's end, strikes often occur at that moment, especially during insect activity). Slowly/deeply fished streamers are still connecting up with big trout, and some mornings have seen trout rising to Winter Caddis in early/mid mornings, and Midges after that. 

Upcoming local winter fly fishing events:
FRAA 2019 Banquet & 75 Ticket Raffle: banquet is Saturday March 2nd at Chatterly's Banquet Facility (formerly "The Cornicopia") at 371 Pinewoods Rd. in Torrington, CT. Banquet tickets are $45 and can be purchased at UpCountry, or online at (clickable link). The food is fantastic, and they have the best fly fishing bucket raffle in CT. The 75 Ticket Raffle tickets are $20 and can be purchased at UpCountry, and these tickets will give you a shot at 2 rods per ticket: Scott G Series 9' #4, and Scott F Series (fiberglass) 6' 6" #3. You don't have to attend the banquet to take part in this very limited raffle.

The Skinny:
Water temps are averaging mid/upper 30s in Riverton above the Still River and also downstream in the permanent Catch & Release/TMA. Most of the trout are still 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. At moments they will slide into somewhat faster water to feed, especially as the day progresses and water temps rise.Nymphing is the #1 producer in these type of conditions, but big post spawn browns are hungry and they love streamers. Many days Church Pool has been offering up morning dry fly fishing in the slower water (some days great, and some slow)- look for mornings that are not windy, preferably following a night down into the teens/20s. You may also see Midges sometime between late morning and the afternoon. 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.

Nymphing Tip:
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.

Flow as of 9am Friday 2/22/19:
Total flow in permanent TMA/Catch & Release is medium or so, clear and very fishable at 454cfs (the Still River is 158cfs), Riverton above the Still River is medium and fishable at 454cfs. 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 is 100cfs. It joins the West Branch about 3/8 mile below UpCountry. 

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:

Check out this link to my blog post on 10 of my favorite books on a variety of subjects: 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"
winter water: that equates to slower/deeper water like pools, deeper runs, and slower/deeper riffles. You may see some trout slide up into riffles to feed in the afternoons. Other than the Winter Caddis hatch, which typically comes off in early to mid morning after cold nights, there is no reason to start before 10 or 11am, and I often have my best winter fishing from mid to late afternoon. I think this is because water temps are highest then, plus you start to get reduced light levels that trout (especially bigger browns) prefer. FYI in the cold water of winter, trout often pod up. Find one, and you may find a bunch.

A tip for streamer fishermen:
Winter can be a great time to catch a 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.

Fly Advice:
"Junk Flies" like Mops, Squirmy Worms, Mops & Green Weenies, etc. have been top producers many days, doubly so 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. If it's not too windy, you may find a few fish eating Midges in Church Pool some afternoons, and if not subsurface Midge patterns (larva/pupa) will often get the job done. Other than Church & Beaver Pools, there has been very little dry fly action elsewhere. This will change if flows ever get back to normal.

Light colored oval area is a trout Redd- don't step on it!!
The browns spawned back in November, but please still watch out for redds- they will appear as a light colored oval in gravelly riffles areas such as pool tailouts and side channels. Don't walk on or just below the redds or you will crush the eggs the trout buried under the gravel. The eggs won't hatch out until late February or March, give or take, so avoid walking on them until after then.

Winter Hours:
We will be open 8am-5pm, 7 days a week.

Water Temps: 
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) 
-Tiny/Early Black Stoneflies #16-22 (mostly underneath, but sometimes gets fish on the surface)

-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.)
-Black Stone/Black Nymphs #14-18
-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
-Mops #8-12
-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:

     -Report by Torrey Collins