Friday, December 20, 2019

Friday 12/20/19 Farmington River Report: New series of Cortland Nymph Rods

See several paragraphs down for the scoop on the brand new series of $299.99 Cortland nymphing rods that will be arriving at UpCountry Saturday afternoon. 

The cold snap the past couple of days has changed things around pretty fast, and the flow is now back to almost normal: medium-high in the upper 400cfs range & dropping daily in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (mid 200cfs range in Riverton right below the dam). As I look out back this morning, chunks of slush are floating down the river, and some of the slower pools are starting to form shelf ice along the edges. Yesterday Jake said the slush by the shop cleared out in the afternoon. 8am water temp in Riverton is a chilly 32.5 degrees, which explains the slush downriver. With the very low water level in the reservoir combined with this brief cold snap, the water coming out of the dam is colder than normal for December . You still want to stay up near the dam, above the Still River to find fishable conditions right now, until things warm back up in a couple of days. 

Top pic is a flawless brown trout by local guide Steve Hogan this week, check out those red dots! That's Steve Culton's hand holding a very photogenic brown he landed on Friday the 13th (oooh) during a good streamer bite: he said all his strikes came on the swing or when dangling below him ("on the hang") in 34 degree water. The rainbow in the 4th pic down was caught by Steve Hogan the

Zach went 14/14 on Wednesday, it started out dead for the first 3 hours in late morning/early afternoon, and then a snow squall moved in and within minutes the switch flipped and he caught 10 fish in the next hour, and a few more after that before the bite shut off. Sunday looks like the best day to fish this weekend, with sunshine and a high of 45 degrees- I'd still wait until late morning/noonish to fish, give the river a chance to warm up a degree or two and clear out any morning slush if present. Sunday through Wednesday will see air temps from 40-50 degrees, and nights averaging in the 20s- not bad at all, we should be slush-free and hopefully this will turn the fish on. 

Cortland's brand spankin' new Nymph Series Rods for Euro Nymphing will be available at UpCountry by Saturday afternoon 12/21- Cortland employee & formerly local guy Rich Nicoletti is dropping a batch of them off here sometime on Saturday- I expect this first batch to sell out quickly. This series will all be in a 10.5' length in three line weights: #2, #3, and #4, and will retail at $299.99. These replace the extremely popular Competition Nymph Series. We have fished the new version in the 10.5' #3 model, and they are a noticeable improvement with a crisper action, faster recovery, more sensitivity, a downlocking reel seat for better rod/reel balance, and improved guide spacing to minimize line sag between the reel and the stripping (first) guide. The new construction also significantly improves the durability, and they maintained the stealthy matte finish to minimize rod flash on sunny days. Looks like a real winner to us, and the best under $300 Euro rod on the market hands-down.

You will find that in the winter, there are often very distinct bite windows where it's not unusual to go several hours with little to no action, only to have an hour or two where the trout really turn on and the bite gets really good. It doesn't always happen like that, and some days you just have to grind it out to get one or two strikes, and other days you get that Winter Bite Window that I mentioned above. Sunshine is a plus in the winter, because it really helps to bump the water temps up slightly and turn the fish on. Having said that, I often get my best fish of the day on a sunny day after the direct sun goes off the water and the bigger browns come out of hiding. Late afternoon typically has the best of both worlds: peak water temps combined with lower light levels. Cloudy days will see much less of a water temp increase. On days when it snows, I've also seen an unusually good fishing many times. Not sure why, but it probably has something to do with the low light intensity.

Guide & fly tyer Mark Swenson is doing a beginner fly tying class in January 2020, a two day class on 1/5 & 1/12, click the link below to go to that page, only ONE spot left open, and after that you can get on the wait list,- we may do a 2nd class if there is enough demand for it:

Current hatches are Winter/Summer Caddis in the early/mid mornings, and Midges in the afternoons. Given the current conditions, our best bet for risers is Beaver Pool. Once things thaw out by Sunday Church Pool and other downriver spots should be possibilities too. Subsurface with various nymphs has been the most consistent, and streamers are pulling less but sometimes bigger fish. Higher flows minimize rising trout, and lower flows give you the best shot at some dry fly action.
Subsurface is the mainstay, just make sure to fish slow & deep, target the softer/moderate water, and expect strikes to be subtle/gentle. For dries it's mostly either Winter Caddis in early/mid mornings (the big exception to fishiing late morning to late afternoon this time of year), or Midges in the afternoons. Blue Wing Olives are done. Nymphwise, Midges, egg flies, small Mayfly nymphs, big Stoneflies, Caddis Larva & Attractor Nymphs have all had their moments. Junk Flies like eggs/Mops/worms have been good in the mornings, and more imitative bugs like Midges, Stones, and Mayflies have generally been better in the afternoons- makes sense because as the water temps rise the bugs get more active. Streamers are another good choice in the mornings before the bugs get moving, and also great again at the day's end when light levels drop and the bigger brown trout come out to play.

Generally afternoons have provided the better fishing lately (higher water temps = more active trout & bugs). The most consistent action for bigger fish has been subsurface with nymphs & streamers. Makes sense, as that's when most of the real insects are active. With streamers, experiment with colors & retrieves, and make sure to get them deep. Cold water in the 30s normally means slower retrieves/swinging presentations will generally outfish a faster strip when it comes to streamers- but there will still be occasional moments the trout want a faster strip, so make sure to experiment.

Look down several paragraphs for a brief write-up about the new T&T rods that just debuted: the new Contact 10' #3, the Zone mid-priced 10' #4, and the Paradigm dry fly series. All are in stock except the new Zone.

Less hatches this time of year and dropping water temps means the trout won't normally be in the faster water, so start targeting deeper runs, pools, and softer/deeper riffles. Trout may move into the heads of runs/pools/riffles as water temps rise in the afternoon, so keep that in mind. In the mid afternoons look for rising trout in the softer pool water where the riffles slow down and below that- same in early/mid AM when the Winter/Summer Caddis are popping.

FYI we are well stocked with almost everything you need to tie flies and the proper gear to fish for Great Lakes Steelhead, just ask and we are happy to help.

Don't show up here at first light and quit at noon (unless you are fishing the Winter Caddis hatch), but rather focus on the late morning to late afternoon time slot when water temps are rising, trout metabolism peaks, and you have your best shot at finding feeding trout. It's also a hell of a lot more pleasant to fish during the milder part of the day. Sunshine can be a good thing this time of year, as sunny days see noticeably higher water temp spikes. Fish smarter and maximize your results.
Junk Flies (Eggs, Mops, Squirmies) are still top producers almost anytime of day, and are a top choice in the mornings or any time of day when nothing is going on (they are independent of hatching insects). Midges #22-28 have been the main afternoon hatch. Before & during the afternoon hatches, the nymphs/pupa that imitate them can be very effective- usually something in #18-22 will get the job done, even though the adults can be quite a bit smaller than that. The entire river from Riverton to Unionville continues to fish well, so don't limit yourself to just one section or pool, it's literally all good.

Streamers can work anytime of day right now, but especially during low light. Trout, especially browns, get extra aggressive toward streamers this time of year- most are post spawn & hungry, looking to pack in some calories and put weight back on. Go with bigger streamers for less but bigger trout, or small to medium for better numbers but smaller trout- 3" long (give or take) would be the in-between size choice for the best of both worlds. 

Fall/Winter Store Hours:
8am-5pm 7 days a week

We've received a veritable pile of used rods & reels as trade-ins recently. Some are listed on our website, but many of the least expensive used rods & reels are for in store purchase only and are not listed up and can only be found by looking on our racks. Stop in the store and check it out for yourself, there are some really good deals!

Thomas & Thomas has debuted their Paradigm series of moderate action, dry fly type rods, along with a new Contact 10' #3, and a Zone 10' #4. We have most of those rods in stock now, except for the Zone 10' #4. Zach St. Amand has been beating up the new 10' #3 Contact and loves it. Grady & I were impressed with the Paradigms, they are on the moderate action/somewhat softer side, but they cast beautifully from up close to far out and will protect lighter tippet. FYI the Paradigm series won "Best New Dry Fly Rod" in the 2020 Fly Fisherman magazine Gear Guide!  The Contact 10' #3 feels awesome in the hand, and it's a more portable length than it's longer brothers. Due to it being shorter than the 10' 8" & 11' 3" models, it has a crisper action that would make it a very good choice for someone who likes to tight-line/Euro nymph, but also likes to throw fly line with dries, wets, and small/medium streamers.

Total 8am flow today (Friday) in the permanent Catch & Release is medium to medium-high & dropping at 487cfs (262cfs from the dam, and 225cfs & dropping steadily from the Still River). The past couple of days have seen morning slush as you go away from the dam, so you should stay up in Riverton above the Still River and near the dam until the slush clears out (typically in the afternoons if it's sunny)- by Sunday highs move into the 40s and this shouldn't be a problem. 8am water temp in Riverton was 32.5 degrees.

Lowest water temps are normally at first light, highest in the mid/late afternoon. Currently trout are most active when water temps are at their highest and/or moving upward, the early to mid morning period has typically been slow, fishing picks up as the day progresses and water temps rise. Afternoon water temps usually increase anywhere from one to several degrees, and sometimes all it takes is a 1 degree increase to get the trout feeding.

While most trout are now post spawn, a few trout are still spawning (FYI it can go as late as early/mid January for our brown trout), so watch out for redds (light colored patches of gravel in riffly areas where the female browns dig a depression in the gravel to lay their eggs). Several points: 1) please leave the spawning trout alone so they can make more wild trout, 2) spawning is very stressful, so don't add to their stress by catching them, and 3) don't walk on the redds or you will crush the eggs and kill them- some eggs end up in the light colored redd, but many end up slightly below them, maybe 3-10 feet or so. You need to avoid stepping on the redds straight through March or you can crush the eggs that have not yet hatched. Fish in the darker/deeper water downstream of the redds and there will likely be hungry, egg-eating non-spawning trout there . An egg fly can be absolutely lethal as they are a calorie-dense high-value food item for trout, they cannot escape/swim away, and bigger trout love them. Please do not target fish on redds, or fish that are actively spawning. Let them do their thing and hopefully make more wild trout, it's not sporting to pull them off a redd. Spawning is stressful, so don't add to their stress. There are lots of non-spawning fish behind them that are happy to eat your flies.

We now have Fasna F-415 Jig hooks in stock in sizes #14-20. They are high quality, stronger than average, come 30 to a pack,  priced at $7.25, and similar in shape/design to the ever popular Hanak 450 (which is wide gap/short shank/curled in point). They run about a size smaller than marked compared to the Hanak 450 (i.e. the #16 is more like a #18, and so on)- compared to a standard jig hook they are a full two sizes smaller. Check 'em out if you are looking for a smaller jig hook with a wide gap, shorter shank with a turned in barbless point. These hooks won't bend out when you are playing a bigger trout- many comp style hooks are medium wire, and when you combine that with a wide hook gap (especially on the smaller hook sizes) and a big trout, the result can be a lost fish when the hook bends. I will be carrying this hook all the way up to a #10 in the future.

As of September 1st, the entire Farmington River from the dam in Riverton for 21 miles downstream to the Rt 179 bridge in Unionville is now Catch & Release until Opening Day in April 2020. If you see anybody keeping fish in this section, please call the CT DEEP at 1-800-824-HELP and report the violation. Even if they are not able to respond to it on time, the info goes into their database and helps to create better/more policing of the area in the future.
Zach St. Amand, one of the top local guides and frequent flyer in our big fish pictures, is leading a trip with Andes Drifters to Patagonia for big wild trout, February 8-15th 2019. He still has some availability, call him at 646-641-5618 to find out more or to get onboard.
8am-5pm, 7 days a week through March.

-Midges #20-32:(late morn thru afternoon)  
-Summer/Winter Caddis #18-24: pupa & adults (early/mid AM)

-"Junk Flies" #8-16 (Eggs, Mops, Squirmy/San Juan Worms, Green Weenies)
-Pheasant Tail/Quasimodos/Frenchies #14-22
-Zebra Midge #18-22 (black, olive, red)
-Olive Nymphs #16-20 (various patterns)  
-Large Stoneflies/Pat's Rubber Legs #8-12 (gold/yellow, brown, black)
-Caddis Larva (olive to green) #14-16 
-Cased Caddis #12-14       
-Antoine's Perdigons (various colors) #14-20
-Attractor Nymphs #14-20 (Haast Haze, Rainbow Warrior, Blue Lightning Bug, Miller's Victim, 
   Triple Threat, etc.) -anything flashy, gaudy, or with a hot spot

Soft-Hackles/Wet Flies:
-Make sure to fish them deep (near the bottom) this time of year (water is cold, trout won't move far to eat your fly: use a sinking leader, sink-tip, sinking line, or a heavier tungsten bead pattern as your point (end) fly. You can also fish them in a nymph rig paired up with split shot or a tungsten bead weighted nymph to get them down to the trout's level.
-Assorted Patterns #10-16: Hare's Ear, Partridge & Orange, Partridge & Flash, Pheasant Tail, Starling & Herl, Leadwing Coachman, etc. 
   -most effective fished 2-3 at a time on tag-end droppers

-BMAR Yellow Matuka #6
-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
-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/Tequeely #4-8
-Matuka #4-8 (olive, brown, yellow)

Click this Thomas & Thomas blog link for a review I wrote about their awesome Contact 10' 8" #6 rod for Steelhead & Lake Run Trout/Landlocks:

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: