Monday, July 29, 2019

Monday 7/29/19 Farmington River Report: evening hatches

DJ Clement, guide/competitor/Antoine's protege, with a NICE brown
Well it was another hot weekend, although we just barely touched 90 degrees, unlike the prior weekend at 97!!! For the record, I hate hot weather, 80 and sunny is hot to me haha. Fortunately the water is still coming out of the dam nice & cool, and 2 miles down at the gauge it's reading just under 58 degrees this morning. Highs will be 89-92 the next two days, then back to the mid 80s starting Wednesday. If you are fishing all day, be smart in your strategy and start downriver in the mornings and work upriver as the day progresses, that way you can stay in good (cooler) water temps all day long. Mornings & evenings remain the prime times, as well as the most pleasant to be out. 

Mark Swenson's next Fly Fishing 101 class will be on August 18th, 9am - 4pm. Call the store at 860-379-1952 to sign up, cost is $150, and space is very limited.

The dry fly fishing on the flat pools can be very technical this time of year: most of the bugs are small, and the fish have been worked over hard for months, so bring your "A" game, a bunch of tiny flies, and a long leader with a long/light tippet. Also try terrestrials like beetles & ants before you tie on the tiny stuff, sometimes you won't have to go small. Fishing riffly water in the eves can give you an edge, as the trout have to make a quick decision, the bugs are bigger in the faster water, and the trout don't get to inspect your fly with a magnifying glass there. It's also the same water both Mayfly spinners & egg-laying Caddis are active in. Win-win. 6x will suffice for most of the evening bugs, and you can go 5x on your Isonychia dries. Think 7x on the smallest dries.

As you can see in the photos, plenty of above average trout are being caught. Even an occasional semi-rare wild Bow, and some Brook Trout are still mixing in with the Browns & Bows. Your highest percentage big trout tactics are big Stonefly nymphs in the early mornings, hunting big heads rising during the evening hatches (especially Isonychia), streamers at first & last light (and after dark), and night time mousing. Months of fishing pressure has wised up the better fish, so consider every big one you hook a true accomplishment. Daytime nymphing in shady spots and near structure can also produce the occasional bruiser- make sure one of your nymphs is small.

Sulfurs (Dorothea) are up in Riverton only now, think above the Still River and match them with #18-20 patterns. Most of the daytime dries are tiny, think #22 and smaller and fish them on long/light
Steve Hogan's client Michael Foley & "friend"
tippets (3-4' of 7x). The exceptions to this are terrestrials, and also blind fishing attractor dries in the faster water. Same is true with nymphs, with #16-20 patterns doing most of the damage- the exceptions are #10-12 Isonychia later in the day, and big Stonefly nymphs #6-10 in the early/mid mornings. Experiment with flies that are drab, flashy, with hotspots, and without hotspots. Wets & Soft-Hackles remain effective, especially during insect activity- riffles are the easiest water to fish them in, and also where much of the hatching activity takes place. Streamer are most effective at first & last light, and mousing is pulling up some big trout after dark.
Needhami #22-26 are hatching in the mornings. Still seeing Isonychia, various Caddis, and assorted cream mayflies in the eves/at dusk, and that's still the peak time of day to fish dries over a bunch of rising trout. 

We get lots of feedback from both successful & unsuccessful customers, so I'll summarize what those doing the best are doing. The theme with dry flies during the mornings through early evenings is either tiny flies on light tippets (think #22-28 on 7x with a long piece of tippet to promote a drag-free float), or various terrestrials (especially ants & beetles, sometimes smaller hoppers). You can also blind fish riffles, pocket water, etc. with attractor dries like Mini Chernoblyls, Stimulators, etc. Other than evenings, mornings & afternoons mostly you will find sipping trout feeding on minutae in the flat water- it could be Needhami, smaller Winter Caddis, Midges, tiny Mayflies, Micro Caddis, ants, etc. If you can find holding water in the shade, that's also a big plus. Evenings see the bulk of the heavy insect hatching, with all sorts of bugs, Sulfurs (Riverton only), assorted cream-colored Mayflies, Isonychia, various Caddis, and more. Dry/Dropper can be a fun way to fish now: use a bigger buoyant dry (like a Mini Chernobyl or big Isonychia) and drop a #16-18 tungsten bead nymph 1-3' below the dry. Most fish will take the nymph, but you will get some bonus fish on the dry also. Tie the nymph off the hook bend. Run it closer (12-18") to the dry during insect activity or in shallow water, run it further apart (2-3') in deep water and during non-hatch periods. It's like the fun of dry fly fishing, combined with the consistent effectiveness of nymphing. Plus it allows you target fish at distance and not spook them. If you wanna target big trout on the surface after dark, try a short/heavy leader with a deer hair mouse pattern- make sure to bring a BIG landing net with you...:)

If you are nymphing (and you proably should be!), successful anglers are finding that first light to mid
morning sees big trout looking for big Stonefly nymphs (#6-10) as they emerge in low light. Pair
A beauty by Damon Matus
them up with a smaller nymph in the #18-20 range or a Caddis Pupa. In the summer, the average nymph/larva is much smaller and often the key to a good day of nymphing is just plain & simple going smaller on your flies. When the Stonefly bite slows up in the mid/late AM trade it out for a #16 Caddis pupa or some sort of attractor nymph, but make sure to keep the other nymph small. Late afternoon to evening you can make your bigger fly a #16 Sulfur/Yellow Sally nymph (the same patterns will imitate both FYI), Pheasant tail, attractor nymph or a #10-12 Isonychia pattern. For the Isos think either a specific imitation, or a #12 Prince or Pheasant Tail. Remember that Isos only live & hatch in faster water, don't waste your time with them in flat pool water. Isos are typically the first mayfly to get active later in the day, lately starting up around 7pm'ish (you can fish the nymphs and hour or two before that though). When what you expect to work isn't producing, dont' forget about Junk Flies like Mops, Squirmy Worms, and Green Weenies, they aren't just for high/dirty water.  As I've said before many times in this report, wet flies & soft-hackles are another great option, and if you scroll down a ways you will see some tips on how to rig/fish them. When fishing subsurface, whether it's nymphs or wets/,soft-hackles, make sure to cover plenty of water, and during the daytime look for the shade.

Zach St. Amand, a local guide and frequent flyer in our big fish pictures, is putting together a trip with Andes Drifters to Patagonia for big wild trout this winter, February 8-15, during the Willow Worm fall. He still has some availability, call him at 646-641-5618 to find out more and/or do the trip.

Hot weather means that generally the best hatches (and fishing) are early and late in the day, when it's
most comfortable to be out. The hotter it is, the more the good action gets pushed to dawn & dusk. You can catch fish at anytime during the day, but by far the best hatching & dry fly fishing is dusk to
Justin Barden with the "fruits" of a 24 hour fish-a-thon
dark and beyond. Don't leave early or you will miss out on the peak dry fly fishing. On hot days the evening fishing may not really kick off until 8pm and peak at darkness, earlier on cloudy/cooler eves.
From late morning to early evening, look for shade and you will find fish.

Isonychia are one of the bugs that will hatch in the earlier part of the evening, remember that they are BIG bugs that live and hatch in fast water, so don't look for them in the slower pool water (think pool heads, riffles, pocket water, faster runs). The Sulfur hatch has moved upriver to Riverton above the Still River, and it's more like  a #18-20 now (Dorothea). Still seeing cream mayflies (Light Cahills/Summer Stenos) at dusk in the #12-16 range, standard Cahills, cream Usuals & White Wulffs work well. Attenuata #18-20 are done in most of the river, but you may still see some up in Riverton. A Rusty Spinner is a good "problem solver" in the summer, and I also like to have spinners to imitate Sulfurs & Cahills. Another good problem solver is a terrestrial imitation such as a beetle or ant, especially when there aren't many bugs hatching but you have some rising trout. Sometimes wet flies/soft-hackles are the answer when the trout are feeding just under the surface (that happens a lot, especially during peak hatch activity in the eves)- present them both on the dead-drift and the swing/twitch. You can also run them as a trailer behind a dry fly during a hatch when trout are refusing your dries.

In mid to late summer, the flows are normally medium-low to low, and many of the bigger nymphs/larva have hatched, leaving the majority of nymphs/larva at #18 and smaller (exception: Isonychia & big Stonefly nymphs). Often I find the difference between a slow day of nymphing and a double-digit outing in July/Auugst/September is using nymphs #18 or even smaller. It can be a game changer. In general the small size is much more important than the exact fly pattern, but I'd still have several options from drab to gaudy, and in different styles/shapes/colors. You can pair them up with a bigger fly. Stoneflies #4-12 emerge in the early to mid mornings, you will see them on the rocks in   
the fast water, I tend to have my best luck with #8-10 patterns in yellow/gold to brown colors. Isos nymphs are #10-12, and they can swim in 6-12" spurts. Having said that, overall I tend to do better dead-drifting them, but I always let them swing at the end of the drift. Experiment and do whatever works best, it can change from day to day.
While the focus for the majority of our customers seems to have shifted to dry flies, the subsurface
Handful of wild Bow, Dave Moranino
angling with nymphs, wet flies & soft-hackles remains consistent and is often better than the dry fly

fishing, especially when the trout aren't rising and/or when they are refusing your dries/emergers/spinners/terrestrials. The key is to focus on the faster/broken water (pool heads, riffles, runs, pocket water, etc.), get your flies down, get a dead-drift, and cover lots of water. Experiment with your flies, as the better producing flies may change as the bug activity changes throughout the day. Don't rule out Junk Flies like Squirmy Worms & Mops, they are still having their moments here & there when it's slower on the imitative patterns. At the end of the day the goal is to get the trout to open their mouth and eat your fly, and sometimes attractor/Junk Flies work better than the imitative ones- but you have to experiment to find out.

Now is a great time to experiment with fishing a
pair (or even better yet a trio) of soft-hackles/wetflies, it is both fun & very effective. It's an efficient and pleasant way to cover a lot of water, and you can hit those thin water lies near the banks that are hard to nymph- big browns often hold in water like that, especially during hatches & low light. It's also deadly during a hatch, as a lot of the bugs get eaten by trout just under the surface, and that is where you are presenting these flies. The people fishing soft-hackles & wet flies are giving me some excellent reports, try soft hackles with Hare's Ear bodies, Sulfur soft hackles, as well as Partridge & Orange (yellow, green/olive also)- these flies will cover your various Caddis, Sulfurs, and Cahills/Summer Stenos. I recommend fishing 2-3 at a time, on tag end droppers, spaced about 20-30" apart. If tangles are a big problem, go to 1 fly only, but be aware 2-3 at a time are more effective and allow you to animate the flies in ways that you cannot do with a single fly (eg. "dancing the top dropper").

FYI we have a KILLER assortment of custom tied soft-hackles in our bins by Dick Sablitz, they are both fun & deadly to fish. We have flies to imitate all the current hatches, the most effective way to
Zach's client Thomas Zimmerli
fish them is 2-3 at a time on droppers.

FYI we are now in our extended hours: 8am-6pm weekdays, and 6am-5pm on weekends.

We have Devin Olsen's hot new book "Tactical Fly Fishing", and it's really good. 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.
Flow as of Monday morning 7/29/19:
Currently the total flow in permanent TMA/Catch & Release per the USGS gauge this morning is very nice at a medium low level of 265cfs (the Still River is 16cfs), and in Riverton the in the 2 miles above the Still River the Farmington is medium/normal at 249cfs. USGS average historical total flow for today is 234cfs. 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 is zero cfs (last I knew). It joins the West Branch about 3/8 mile below UpCountry near condos & sewage plant. The Still River drops every day we don't get significant rain.

Click this Thomas & Thomas blog link for a review I wrote about their awesome Contact 10' 8" #6
Cody Varza with ANOTHER tank of a brown in the dark
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.

From April through October we are open 7 days a week, 8am to 6pm Monday through Friday, and 6am-5pm on weekends.

Water Temps: 
Look for water temps to average in the low/mid 60s (even upper 60s in PM on hottest/sunny days) in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (upper 50s in Riverton above the Still River), but will vary depending upon the weather, time of day, and distance from the dam. Downriver below the permanent Catch & Release will be warmer, probably mid 60s (in mornings) and into the low 70s if you venture far enough downstream on hotter/sunny days in the afternoons/eves. Check water temps with a thermometer if you are down in Canton/Collinsville/Unionville, and venture upriver if the temps are not in the 60s- the best time to fish downriver during the summer is in the morning when water temps are lowest, especially after a cooler night. Hot, sunny days will see the biggest water temp increases. The exception to this will be during periods of high water releases from the dam, as the colder water from deep in the reservoir chills down the river for quite a ways downstream. Highest water temps will occur in late afternoon, and water temps won't significantly drop until after dark. Typically the best bug activity (and fishing) correlates to the most pleasant time of the day for us humans, which in the summer is normally early/mid morns & mid/late eves. Be aware that the colder water near the dam in Riverton often means the evening bugs may start up a few hours earlier in that section.

-Isonychia #10-12 late afternoon thru dark in faster water (7pm to dark lately)
-Light Cahills/Summer Stenos #12-16: eves (various cream colored mayflies)
-Needhami #22-26: mornings
-Sulfurs #18-20: eves- hatch is only upriver, above Still River and up to the dam
-Caddis #14-20 (tan, olive/green): AM hatch, evening/dusk egg-laying
-Ants & Beetles #12-20: anytime, esp. late morning thru early eve during non-hatch periods
-Midges #20-32: anytime
-Blue Wing Olives #22-24 (cloudy days)
-Summer/Winter Caddis: #18-24 pupa & adults (early/mid AM)

-Pheasant Tail/Quasimodo Pheasant Tails /Frenchies #12-20
-Caddis Pupa #14-18 (tan, olive/green)
-Isonychia #10-12
-Large Stoneflies/Pat's Rubber Legs #6-12 (gold/yellow, brown, black)
-Sulfur/Yellow Sally Nymphs #16-18
-Frenchy #16-18
-Caddis Larva (olive to green) #14-16
-Assorted Olive Nymphs #18-20
-Fox Squirrel Nymph #10-14   
-"Junk Flies" #8-14 (Mops, Squirmy Worms, Green Weenies)   
-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.)
-Zebra Midge #18-20 (assorted colors)

Soft-Hackles/Wet Flies:
-Assorted Patterns #10-16: Hare's Ear/March Brown, Partridge & Green/Orange/Yellow, Sulfur, 
     Pheasant Tail, etc. 

"Junk Flies": nymphs for high/dirty water, freshly stocked trout, cold water, or when there is no hatch and/or standard nymphs just aren't working:
-Squirmies/San Juan Worms/G-String Worms #10-14 (pink, red, worm brown)
-Egg Flies #10-18
-Mops #8-14
-Green Weenies #10-14

-Complex Twist Bugger #2- assorted colors
-Sculp Snack #8 (George Daniel pattern)
-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, tan)
-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