Monday, May 13, 2019

Monday 5/13/19 Farmington River Report: flows & fishing

Dan Phelan with a dry fly Brown on a Caddis Sat 5/11
Do you want the good news or the bad news first? Let's start with the bad: we probably got well over another inch of rain over the weekend (Friday night and on Sunday), and the Still River went from about 200cfs up to 650cfs and is now dropping, and we have another 1/2" forecasted for this afternoon & tonight (Monday 5/13)- this puts the total flow downstream of the Still River at over 1,000cfs (that's pretty high, but not unfishable). Also, the MDC just emailed us to say did a modest flow increase of an additional 60cfs at 9am on the West Branch (Hogback/Goodwin Dam in Riverton), and they East Branch release was increased from 100 to 300cfs (East Branch comes in about 3/8 mile below UpCountry, right by the Condos/Sewage Treatment Plant). I'd say by midweek the conditions should be improved significantly with dropping flows & mild temps,
Perfect recent brown by Dave Moranino
and the upcoming weekend should be very good. 

FYI we received & put away almost $15,000 (our cost) worth of fly tying materials from Wapsi & Hareline last week. We have tippet rings in stock again, Squirmy Worms, and lots of fly boxes. I should have Tacky boxes back in stock today or tomorrow, including their new breathable fly box! No more rusty flies...

Lots of anglers were out Saturday, and I had many good reports, and of course,some slow ones too. I find it interesting that on the same day some anglers catch dozens of trouts and some big ones, and other anglers fishing the same river on the same day get skunked or only get one or two small fish. Adaptable anglers who move around, cover the water, and are willing to fish dries, streamers, nymphs or wets/soft-hackles will always have the best success. If you fish the same 10 yards of water with one technique for 4 hours straight, don't be surprised if you have lackluster results. If you aren't doing well, try different  techniques, presentations, and flies. Also move around and cover the water if you aren't catching fish where you are.

Here's the good news now, and there is plenty: 1) the Still River drops fast when it's not raining, 2) the rest of the week looks dry, 3) with leaves on the trees now, they will soak up water and make the flow come down faster, temps warm up again starting Wednesday 5/15, 4) even in the higher flows, lots of trout, including some big ones, are getting caught on a virtually daily basis (mostly a nymph/streamer thing in high water), 5) Hendricksons are still hatching in the upper end of the river,and with the mild weather moving back in Wednesday that will help the hatch, 6) the state stocked the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R) last week on Thursday/Friday with a pile of
trout, and they also stocked the upper 4 miles of the river above that on Wednesday 5/8, 7) trout feed heavily in high water and can be caught on nymphs, streamers, and wet flies/soft-hackles, 8) even thought the Hendrickson hatch has slowed down in the permanent TMA/C&R, the spinner fall usually lasts a good week or so beyond the hatch- look in following paragraphs for additional info on fishing the spinner fall, 9) the spinner fall brings some of the biggest trout to the surface. Hendrickson hatch is currently heaviest above the Still River, from approximately Hitchcock to the dam. Next hatches coming up are the Vitreus (Pink Lady) and Caddis (usually the green/olive ones first, then the tan). I'm already seeing a few bigger Caddis hatching near the store, and I'm sure if you went down to Collinsville/Unionville you'd also find some Vitreus hatching (warmer water temps downriver, hatches work their way upstream. Currently we are also getting Baeties/Blue Wing Olive (BWO) hatches, especially on cloudy afternoons- try a #18 nymph in an olive color. FYI at the current flow that section of the river is HIGH, so wait for the total flow to drop closer to 500cfs before venturing that far downriver. 
Steve Hogan & finny friend

After the cold & rain today/tomorrow, look for conditions to improve markedly starting Wednesday- it will get much milder (highs 60s, lows 40s/50s), and the river should drop quite a bit by then and get lower every day. There are literally TONS of trout in the river: fresh stockers, holdovers, and wilds. Look for Hendrickson spinner falls starting Wednesday- even though the hatch is nearing the end in the permanent TMA/C&R and moving into the upper river now, the spinners will be around for about another week after the hatch winds down. They occur when it's not too cold, wet or windy. It those conditions are met, the males & females mate in the air, over the riffles, and then fall spent to the water, where big trout gently sip them in. The books say that the spinners drop in the evenings, and they often do, but we also see them mid/late mornings some days, and it's not uncommon to see spinners on the water right before and even overlapping the afternoon hatch. FYI the Hendrickson hatch has been happening as early as 1-2pm on milder, sunny days, and as late at 3-4pm on cooler, cloudy days. Hendrickson spinners are #12-14 and rusty brown (both males & females), and they fall to the water with they wings spent to the sides. As such they cannot escape, and large trout intuitively know that and gently sip them in. The Hendrickson hatch, and especially the spinner fall, brings some of the bigger trout to the surface. The evening spinner fall has the advantage of low light, no nymphs hatching to compete with the spinners, plus the spinners are helpless and cannot fly off the water like a dun can during the afternoon hatch. Add in the relatively large size of the bug, and you have an ideal hatch to get big trout fired up. FYI I typically have some of my best nymphing for big trout at Hendrickson time, with the best nymphal activity from late morning through late afternoon. Also seeing Baetis/Blue Wing Olives (BWOs/Olives), especially on cloudy days. 

#12-14 nymphs in medium to dark brown are still top producers, especially on the bigger holdover & wild trout, they imitate the Hendrickson nymphs and will catch big trout when they aren't rising.
Think about pairing them up with something smaller & olive in the #16-18 range to imitate the Baetis/Olives. The 'ol PT (Pheasant Tail) is a very effective imitation of them, and we also have a specific imitation in the fly bins at UpCountry that is a Bruce Marino/Grady Allen collaboration, the BMAR Hendrickson Nymph tied by Bruce himself. If you are nymphing in the early AM or late in the day, try using imitations of flies that will be hatching in June, as they will end up in the Behavioral Drift- think Sulfur nymphs & Caddis larva. If you are targetting the fresh stockers, I'd try pairing a natural looking nymph with a Junk Fly like a Mop or Squirmy Worm- deadly combo! FYI higher flows knock quite a few Cased Caddis into the drift, it's definitely an underfished fly pattern. Streamers continue to be productive, and give you a shot at some of the bigger trout. Play around with size, color & style of streamers, and experiment with your retrieve until you find the winning combo for that day. Be aware that color preferences for streamers can change throughout the day as light conditions change.

During higher flows, stick mainly to the major wider pools/runs, and look also for inside turns that break the current. High flows push trout closer to the banks, out of the heavy current. Find a current break that's close to where they normally hold, and you will find trout. Don't make the classic mistake of wading out in high water, I see anglers walk right through the fish all the time in high water, it's a rookie mistake that many veteran anglers make. Look for the current edges and fish the transition between the fast & slow water. Again, don't walk through the prime holding water! Rule #1 is find the fish and fish where they are, and Rule #2 is don't spook them! Rule #3 is fish something they want to eat, and Rule #4 is present it in such a way they they will eat it. Medium to large streamers in various colors (olive, black, white, brown, etc.) are good in higher flows, as are nymphs such as big Stoneflies #6-10, Cased Caddis, #12-14 brownish nymphs (imitate Hendricksons), Frenchies, and Junk Flies (Mops, eggs, worms, Weenies). I generally wouldn't go smaller than #14-16 nymphs during higher flows. Having said this, in clear/high flows if there is heavy bug activity on smaller bugs like Blue Wing Olives, a #18-20 matching nymph may be in order. Fluorescent hot spots and/or flashy UV dubbing can help the trout to spot your fly.

Long range highs average in the 60s with nights in the 40s & 50s. Water temps have been averaging low/mid 50s most days in the permanent Catch & Release (C&R)/TMA, and in Riverton the temps
have been in the low 40s. Hatches are Hendricksons (mostly upper 2 miles below the dam in Riverton now, very light/ending in permanent TMA/C&R), Blue Wing Olives (BWOs)/Baetis) on overcast days, and Paraleps/Blue Quills (a few, getting lighter).

Nymphs & streamers continue to catch most of the trout, especially the bigger ones., but now that flows have dropped way down look for more rising trout when the bugs are hatching. If you are targeting freshly stocked trout, make sure if you are nymphing that one of your flies is a "Junk Fly"- Mop, Squirmy Worm, Egg Fly or Green Weenie. Pair it up with a more regular, natural looking fly (Hare's Ear, Pheasant Tail, etc.). Small to medium streamers such as Woolly Buggers can be lethal on fresh stockers too, make sure to play with colors (Rainbows usually LOVE black FYI, and olive is another top color).

FYI we went to our extended hours: 8am-6pm weekdays, and 6am-5pm on weekends.

We have Devin Olsen's hot new book "Tactical Fly Fishing", and it looks really, really good- second batch arrived recently. It cover 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. It covers things in an extremely detailed way, and has some great "Case Studies" where he shows you different water type pictures with photo sequences of how they were able to successfully catch fish in them, and what adjustments they had to make in their rigging, approach, presentation & flies to find success. It's a good new option that does NOT duplicate George Daniel's two books on nymphing, but rather it compliments and adds to them. 

The recently stocked trout (above, below, and now IN the permanent TMA/Catch & Release) will be receptive to a variety of flies, especially things like Woolly Buggers and "Junk Flies" (Eggs, Mops, Worms, Green Weenies), but the ones stocked a month or more ago are getting dialed into more natural, imitative flies now. Look also at moments for trout rising to Hendricksons #12-14 (afternoons), Winter Caddis (early/mid morns), small Blue Wing Olives #18-20 (afternoons, especially on cloudy days), and Paraleps/Blue Quills #16-18 (afternoons). Hope for dries, but be ready to fish subsurface with nymphs & streamer. Remember that highest water temps occur in mid/late afternoon, and sunny days will see the biggest water temp increases.
Bigger streamers continue to pick up less but bigger fish. 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 and catch a giant. Smaller streamers will often catch more trout, but you are less likely to get a giant on them. Be patient and cover lots of water, change colors/retrieves/patterns/fly size. Look to softer/slower water for dry fly fishing, but be prepared to go subsurface if needed. Sometime 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 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. 
Many better fish are moving into the faster water to feed, especially in the late morning & afternoons. As water temps rise during the day, trout  & bugs often get more active and it spurs the fish to feed, and they may move more into the current if there are bugs in the drift. When trout are less active due to cooler water temps and no hatching activity, it typically pushes them into the softer/deeper water of pools, deeper runs, and gentle/deeper riffles. Trout (and especially bigger ones) 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 (late morning through late afternoon) when water temps are highest. At the end of the day light levels diminish, and some of the bigger browns wait until then to feed. It's a combination of rising water temps, bug activity, and light levels that gets the trout feeding.
Junk Flies (Mops, Squirmy/San Juan Worms, Eggs, etc.) should all continue to have their moments (especially on freshly stocked trout and during high or dirty water), but also try pairing then up with some regular nymphs to give the trout a choice. Hendrickson Nymphs, Baetis/Olive/BWO Nymphs, Caddis Larva, Pheasant Tails, Hare's Ears, etc. all could be good flies to pair up with a Junk Fly- the Junk Fly often acts as an attractor, and then the trout eat the more natural looking, smaller nymph. Bigger Stonefly nymphs are always on the menu and make an excellent anchor fly when you need something heavy, and just might net you a bigger fish too. If you are fishing pools that get hit hard (like Church Pool or Hitchcock), make sure to fish some drab/natural flies (no bead/black 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 metallic or colored beads 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).

Flow as of 10am Monday 5/13/19:
Currently the total flow in permanent TMA/Catch & Release per the USGS gauge is high are marginally fishable at 1,090cfs (the Still River is 650cfs & dropping), and in Riverton the in the 2 miles above the Still River the Farmington is a very fishable cfs. 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 decreased to 100cfs, it joins the West Branch about 3/8 mile below UpCountry near condos & sewage plant. The Still River will continue to drop fast every day we don't get significant rain.

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"

We are open 8am to 6pm Monday through Friday, and 6am-5pm on weekends.

Water Temps: 
Look for water temps to average in the low 50s in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (low/mid 40s in Riverton above the Still River), but will vary depending upon the weather, time of day, and specific location.  Long range highs average in the 50s-60s, with lows in the 40s/low 50s. Mild, sunny days will see the biggest water temp increases. The exception to this will be during high water releases from the dam, as the colder water from deep in the reservoir chills down the river. Highest temps will occur in mid/late afternoon, with sunny days seeing the biggest temperature increases- this often activates both the aquatic insects & trout. Typically the best bug activity (and fishing) correlates to the most pleasant time of the day for us humans.

-Hendrickson #12-14- (midafternoons, best hatching is above the Still River in upper 2 miles below dam, hatch is very light and near the end in the permanent TMA/C&R)
-Rusty Spinner #12-14 (for Hendricksons, typically eves but can happens at other times too) 
-Blue Wing Olives #18-20 (afternoons, esp. cloudy days)
-Paraleps/Blue Quill/Mahogany Dun #16-18 (afternoons, a few)
-Winter Caddis: #18-24 pupa & adults (early/mid AM)
-Midges #20-28 (late morns through afternoons)

-BMAR Hendrickson Nymph #12-14
-Pheasant Tail/Quasimodo Pheasant Tails #12-20 (FYI #12-14 make a deadly Hendrickson nymph)
-Derrick's Heavy Hitter #16 (can imitate the Paraleps/Blue Quills)
-Large Stoneflies/Pat's Rubber Legs #6-12- gold/yellow, brown, black
-Assorted Olive Nymphs #16-20
-Mop Flies #8-12 (various colors, especially cream/tan)  
-Egg Flies #10-18 (various colors: yellow, pink, orange, etc.)
-Caddis Larva (olive to green) #12-16
-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, freshly stocked trout, cold water, 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

-Home Invader #2-6- tan, black, white, yellow 
-Foxeee Red Clouser Minnow #6 
-Tequeely #4-6
-Dude Friendly #8 (white, yellow, natural)
-Woolly Buggers #2-14 (olive, black, white, brown)
-Rio's Precious Metal #4 (Kreelex copper, olive)
-JJ Special/Autumn Splendor #4-8
-Matuka #4-8 (olive, brown, yellow)

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