Monday, January 21, 2019

Monday 1/21/19 Farmington River Report: FREE Matt Supinski brown trout presentation

This is what 6 below zero looks like behind UpCountry this morning...
Happy Martin Luther King Day, and it's a cold one: -6 degrees when I arrived at the store this morning, high of 24 degrees Tuesday, and then into the 40s on Wednesday/Thursday! Crazy. We weathered the "storm" this weekend, with maybe 5" of snow followed by freezing rain. Fortunately the road crews did a great job keeping the roads safe. As you can see in the picture, we are slushed up out back and shelf ice is forming in the slower areas. Fortunately this arctic blast will only last for about a day, and the slush should clear out by Wednesday. Flows for the last week or so are finally back to normal, after 3+ months straight of high to very high flows.

Don't miss the FREE presentation by Matt Supinski this Wednesday January 23rd at the FRAA meeting at the Farmington Senior Center in Unionville- see a little below for details, everyone is welcome to attend, you don't have to be a FRAA member (Farmington River Angler's Association). We will have copies of his hot new "Nexus" book available for purchase and for Matt to autograph for you (bring cash if you want a copy, it's a $30 book). FYI we now also have tickets for sale to the Fly Fishing Film Tour at Legitmus Brewery (just down the street from us) on 2/5/19.

During and right after really cold snaps, slush can be created, and shelf ice can form along stream edges and even lock pools up solid from bank to bank in areas with really slow current. Remember that the upper 2 miles in Riverton, immediately below the dam, has the warmest water during cold snaps. Water is densest at 39.2 degrees, and this means the water coming out of a deep bottom release dam will be at least a few degrees above freezing, even when air temps are below zero. As you go further downstream, the water has a chance to cool down to freezing plus tributaries can add in ice cold water & slush. So if  for example Church Pool is unfishable on any given day, simply head upstream until you find slush-free water without shelf ice. I'd imagine by Wednesday/Thursday, whatever shelf ice forms during this will mostly clear out.

Upcoming local winter fly fishing events:
1) FRAA meeting on January 23rd at 7pm featuring author and MI steelhead/salmon/trout
guide extraordinaire Matt Supinski doing a free presentation "Into the Mind of a Brown Trout", based upon info he presents on his brand new "Nexus" book that covers everything Brown Trout & Atlantic Salmon. Matt is quite a character, knowledgeable as hell and a lively speaker. This will be at the Farmington Senior Center (321 New Britain Ave, Unionville, CT), and this event is open to the public- you don't have to  be a FRAA member.
2) The Fly Fishing Film Tour is coming to Legitmus Brewery (just down the street from us on Rt 44) on February 5th, doors open at 5pm and the films will play starting at 7pm. You can purchase tickets for $20 online at this link:, or you can buy a ticket here at UpCountry- we now have tickets here to sell, they recently arrived.
3) 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.

Junk Flies (Mops, Squirmy/San Juan Worms, Eggs, etc.) should all continue to have their moments, but with relatively normal flows here now, look for regular nymphs to become more effective. 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). 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. 

The Skinny:
Water temps are averaging low/mid 30s on the entire river during this brief cold snap (warmest water temps will be the first 2 miles below the dam FYI), and most of the trout are now 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. Nymphing is the #1 producer in these type of conditions, but big post spawn browns are hungry and they love streamers. Church Pool is still offering up morning dry fly fishing in the slower water on many days (some days are great, and some are slow)- look for mornings that are not windy, preferably following a night down into the teens/20s. 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.

Flows as of 8am Monday 1/21/19:
Riverton is medium at 317cfs, downstream of the Still River the total flow is a moderate and relatively normal  441cfs (the Still River is 122cfs). Conditions can change as a result of rainfall and varying MDC dam releases. 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 100cfs, it joins the West Branch about 3/8 mile below UpCountry, making it slightly higher from there down.

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:

Matt Supinski's hot new "Nexus" book:
Myself (Torrey) & my girlfriend Mandy contributed to Matt Supinkski's brand new book "The Brown Trout-Atlantic Salmon Nexus" (generally abreviated to just "Nexus"). We just got in a bunch of copies of it last week. He used a handful of images from/of me & Mandy, and in the Euro/Tight-Line section he used some stuff I wrote for him. It's a big book full of beautiful images and piles of information about the two species. It looks like a $50 book, but it's only $29.95. Many of my friends are in it, including some big name peeps, as well as some less known but highly skilled anglers. I haven't been able to read it cover-to-cover yet, but I'm very impressed with the final product so far. Of course, I may be a little biased haha.

The new "Nexus" book Mandy & I are in :)

A pic of Mandy from "Nexus"

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 averaging mid/upper 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:
January can be a great time to catch a hungry, post-spawn 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 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, but with elevated flows the fish are feeding mostly underwater on nymphs/pupa, less so on the surface. However if it's not too windy, you may find a few fish eating Midges in Church Pool some afternoons. Other than Church & Beaver Pools, there has been very little dry fly action elsewhere. This will change if flows ever get back to normal.

Steelhead fishing & and fly tying are a great option this time of year. I (Torrey) have been fishing Great Lakes Steelhead for well over 30 years now, so if you need some advice I'm happy to help. We are stocked with many of the better materials for tying the specific flies you need for that fishing (Estaz, Glo-Bug Yarn, McFly Foam, Eggstasy Yarn, Angora Yarn, Diamond Braid, Holographic Tinsel, Ice Dub, specialized hooks from Tiemco/Gamakatsu/Mustad/Daiichi/Umpqua, etc.), as well as the proper rods (check out the new T&T Contact 10' 8" #6, it's sweet!), reels & lines, at a variety of price points for all budgets. The Cortland "Top Secret" Ultra Premium fluorocarbon tippet is amazing for Steelhead, it's insanely strong for it's diameter and very abrasion resistant. We also have plenty of warm Simms clothing to keep you going in cold air & cold water.

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 for about another 2 months or so, give or take, so avoid walking on them until after then.

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

New T&T Contact Steelhead/Lake-Run Brown Trout/Landlocked Salmon Rod:
31" of Steelhead on my T&T Contact 10' 8" #6 & Hatch Finatic 5 Plus
You asked for a "Euro" Steelhead rod, and now you finally have it: T&T released their latest entry 10' 8" #6 T&T Contact rod designed for larger fish such as Great Lakes Steelhead, Lake Run Browns, and Landlocked Salmon into their extremely successful "Contact" series of tight-line/Euro rods. I (Torrey) have one, and I love it! FYI it balances perfectly with a mid arbor Hatch 5 Plus. It will handle tippets in the 1x-5x (4# to 12#) range no problem, and has the power to subdue 10-15# plus fish, while still protecting your tippet. Rod designer Joe Goodspeed designed it to have increased durability, while still having a light, flexible and very sensitive tip that will detect light bites and help keep the hook from popping out when you put the wood to them. Not only can you tight-line with this rod, but it throws a #6 line like a champ (I like the Royal Wulff Triangle Taper) for indicator nymphing & swinging, it roll casts easily, it will execute a nice one handed double Spey, and the extra length lets you mend your line better. However my favorite was a mono rig that substituted OPST 25# (.016"/.405mm) green Lazar Line for fly line, and allowed me to tight line at distance with minimal sag and maximum sensitivity. They also beefed up the cork handle & fighting butt.  Nearly unbreakable RECoil titanium guides can be flicked to snap ice off them during colder weather, they flex and then pop right back into position. Homerun!

Water Temps: 
Look for water temps to average in the mid/upper 30s, but can go higher or lower some days 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 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)

-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.)
-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:

Early winter can be an above average streamer bite. The browns spawned back in November, and they are still hungry and looking to put weight back on. With cold winter water temps here now make sure to get your streamers deep, and you may want to slow your presentations down to make it easier for the trout to catch your fly. Try #2-14 patterns  (FYI bigger is often better, especially for bigger fish, gotta appeal to their aggression & hunger), especially in colors like olive, white, black, brown, yellow, or combinations of colors (a little yellow, orange or white mixed in can be very effective)- other colors are good too, and it pays to experiment. Typically the low-light periods of early & late in the day are the optimum times to fish a streamer, as are cloudy days. The day or two after a rain, when flows are still elevated & off-color can produce some really good streamer fishing conditions for big trout. During the day, especially when it's bright &sunny, target structure (undercut banks, fallen trees, big boulders, etc.) and shady areas. If you're specifically targeting larger trout, go bigger on your fly, but expect to catch less fish. And FYI a 4-6" articulated fly is not too big if you are looking for top end fish. 3-4" is a good compromise if you want a shot at better fish, but still want to catch some average ones in between the occasional big dogs. Play around with your fly size/pattern/color, presentation & retrieve and see what works- it can make a BIG difference. If you listen, the trout will tell you what they want. Think Home Invaders, Zonkers, Zuddlers, Woolly Buggers, Bruce's Yellow Matuka, Don's Peach Bugger, Dude Friendly, Ice Picks, Mini Picks, Mop Heads, Slump Busters, Sculpin Helmet patterns (for a weighted sculpin imitation), etc.

     -Report by Torrey Collins