Monday, March 11, 2019

Monday 3/11/19 Farmington River Report: "Stoned" Trout & Flow Cuts

Brayson nailed this sweet holdover on a big Stonefly nymph
Flow Update
MDC made 2 flow cuts at the dam today totalling 115cfs, this should bring the total flow down to about 290cfs! Best flows we've seen in a loooong time.

The holdover & wild trout definitely have learned that Winter/Early Stones are on the menu, so if you are nymphing make sure one of your flies is something dark, slim, and in the #14-18 range. We are seeing Tiny Winter Blacks/Capnia (#18-24), Early Blacks (#14-16), and Early Browns (#14-16). Soon the fresh stockers will get dialed in on them also. Quite a few anglers took advantage of the great weather & conditions Saturday, and reports varied quite a bit, with most anglers working hard for the holdovers/wilds, but the fish were mostly medium to large in size. A few anglers got into pods of recent stockers and did some numbers. March is typically a quality over quantity month, so don't expect to do big numbers (although it can happen occasionally). Flows/water conditions are great right now, best they've been since early fall.

We just got in Devin Olsen's hot new book "Tactical Fly Fishing", and it looks really, really good. Covers Euro style nymphing, plus a whole lot more. Based upon what he's learned from years of the highest level fly fishing competitions against the best trout fly fishermen in the world. 

Black Stones have been active for several weeks now, and the holdover & wild trout are definitely taking notice. The freshly stocked trout that went in recently will be receptive to a variety of flies, especially things like Woolly Buggers and "Junk Flies" (Eggs, Mops, Worms, Green Weenies). Look also at moments for trout rising to Winter Caddis (early/mid morns), Midges (late AM & afternoons), and Black Stones (afternoons). Hope for dries, but expect to fish subsurface with nymphs & streamers. Water is still cold (mid/upper 30s), so fish slow and deep. You might see the water temps crack into the low 40s later this week. Remember that highest water temps occur in mid/late afternoon, and sunny days will see the biggest water temps increases. The exception to this
Awesome Early Brown Stonefly nymph pix by Sean Monaghan
can be when significant snowmelt drops water temps in the afternoon.

Streamers have picked up less but bigger fish lately. If you wanna throw 4-6" streamers for trophies, you are swinging for the fence and may strike out, but some days you will hit a home run. Some anglers are finding fish rising to Winter Caddis and Midges. Look to slower water for dry fly fishing, but be prepared to go subsurface if needed. Sometimes they will eat the Black Stones on the surface, but it's very hit or miss. Junk Flies and various streamers fished slow & deep are also the ticket sometimes. Experiment and the trout will tell you what they want. It can vary from day to day, and even during the same day as water temps, trout metabolism, insect activity, and light levels all change as the day progresses.

While I still recommend focusing on the moderate speed water with some depth in late winter, this is just a starting point. Some of the better trout are moving into the faster water to feed in the afternoons. 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
Big Dave with a chunky Bow from the weekend
trout are less active due to cold water temps, it typically pushes them into pods in the softer water of pools, deeper runs, and gentle/deeper riffles. But they (and especially bigger fish) will often 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.
Big Fred Stengel holding a big holdover brown
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. Early/Winter Stones, 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. 

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 browns are hungry in March and sometimes want a big bite like a streamer. 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 cold night. 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.

Flow as of 9am Monday 3/11/19:
Total flow in permanent TMA/Catch & Release according to USGS gauges is medium and very fishable at 404cfs (the Still River is 105cfs), and in Riverton above the Still River the Farmington is medium at 299cfs. 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 50cfs last I knew- it joins the West Branch about 3/8 mile below UpCountry near condos & sewage plant. 

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.
A favorite image of mine Matt Supinski used in "Nexus"

Fly Advice:
"Junk Flies" like Mops, Squirmy Worms, Mops & Green Weenies, etc. have been top producers many days, doubly so during higher flows, and will continue to fool trout even in normal flows in the winter. Eggs will remain a fly of choice straight through late 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 some 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, as are Black Stones. 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.

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Water Temps: 
Look for water temps to average somewhere in the mid/upper 30s, but will vary depending upon the weather, time of day, and specific location. 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 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