Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Tuesday 10/15/19 Farmington River Report- Peak Foliage & Big Trout

Half way through October now, and I'd say we are right about at peak foliage (check out the foliage pic from this morning), this is probably going to be the peak week or so. Cold nights (39 degrees air temp at 8am this morning!) are ramping up the color. Most trees are at or near peak, but a smaller number still have green leaves so we should get a few more weeks of great scenery before it all gets grey/brown and drab in mid November. 10 Day Forecast has high averaging low 60s, and nights mostly in the low/mid 40s. Supposed to get a slug of rain Wednesday night after dark (1-2" or more, we could sure use it), so get out today or Wednesday if you can, fishing has been good. It looks like between this slug of rain, and a bunch of days in the 15 Day Forecast with showers (11/15 days!), that this may be the end of the drought the Northeast has been in. Good riddens! More water in the Still River will help augment the lower water release from the dam, giving you better water conditions from there downstream. 

Some NICE trout were landed over the holiday weekend, check out this colorful 19" brown in the top pic by our regular customer Chester- that's a quality trout just about anywhere. Next down is Steve Setian with a sweet brown on a BWO dry (Blue Wing Olive). He said his best producer for bigger fish lately has been a small Zebra Midge. Next fish pic is Steve Hogan holding a nice brown over his landing net. Fish are being caught via all methods, and streamer fishing seems to keep getting better & better as the fall trout aggression ramps up and they put on the feed bag. While bigger is often better when it comes to fall streamers, with the low water conditions we currently have, try some small to medium flies (#6-10) if the bigger stuff isn't panning out.

The permanent Catch & Release area/TMA is low, super wadeable, and fishable for sure at 80cfs total flow this morning (63cfs from the dam in Riverton, 17cfs from the Still River), 8am water temp was 56 degrees in Riverton. The entire river from Riverton to Unionville is fishing well with optimal water temps, so don't limit yourself to just one section or pool. Isonychia have been hatching daily starting as early as 3pm, depending upon the day. The October brood of Isonychia are smaller, averaging #12-14. Caddis #14-18 (mostly tan) will be active all month, and we are still seeing some Hebes/Fall Sulfurs & various cream mayflies (Cahills/Stenonema) later in the day. Plenty of dry fly opportunities it that's your thing, with mid afternoon through dusk being the peak period. You can also blind fish/prospect with bigger attractor dries when trout aren't rising, and wet flies/soft-hackles are still catching plenty of fish and are a great way to efficiently cover a lot of water quickly.

Make sure to be stealthy in your approach in lower flows and it will pay off with more & bigger fish hooked. Stay back a little, use longer leaders, and consider downsizing some of your flies. Other than the Isonychia, bigger Cahills/Summer Stenos & Giant October Caddis, most of the bugs are smaller this time of year, and that's doubly true when it comes to nymphs.

FYI we now carry Fasna Jig hooks, we have the F-415 in stock in sizes #14-20 (we will expand out all the way up to #10 in the future). They are high quality, stronger than average, come 30 to a pack, and similar in shape/design to the ever popular Hanak 450. Be aware they run about a size smaller than marked (i.e. the #16 is more like a #18, and so on). Check 'em out if you are looking for a smaller jig hook with a wide gap, shorter shank with a curled 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.

Dropping temps & shorter days are not only triggering some pretty fall foliage, but those same 2 factors also make the trout go on the feed & get more aggressive- don't forget about those streamers, Fall is prime time for them. Trout are getting caught on a mix of dries, streamers, nymphs, and wets/soft-hackles. Be flexible in your approach, cover water, experiment and you should be successful. Or conversely be a stick-in-the-mud one-trick pony, and you may get skunked if you try to force feed unwilling trout the flies & techniques they have zero interest in- the choice is yours. Being adaptable/flexible is a major key to success.

Check out local guide/writer/blogger Steve Culton's article on the Farmington River in the latest issue of Eastern Fly Fishing- there's even a big picture of yours truly in the article, but check it out anyways...:)

Mark Swenson's next Fly Fishing 101 Class will on Sunday October 20th, call the store at 860-379-1952, cost is $150.

Still seeing #12-14 Isonychia, assorted Caddis (mostly tan), various Cream mayflies, Hebes/Fall Sulfurs, Blue Wing Olives (cloudy days), Summer/Winter Caddis, etc. Other than the Summer/Winter Caddis in the early/mid mornings and the other bugs are all more in the mid afternoon to evening slot. Cooler days will see the evening bugs start & end earlier, warmer days will see the bugs start later and go right up to darkness and beyond.

The MDC stocked the upper river in Riverton on 9/17, and on 9/9 CT fisheries stocked from Satan's Kingdom down to the Rt 177 bridge in Unionville, as well as below that too. There are also plenty of holdovers and some wild trout throughout the river, so don't limit yourself to only the recently stocked areas. But, if you are looking for some easier & more abundant targets, head to the recent stocking locations and "educate" them- it's your "civic duty" haha. Woolly Buggers, various "Junk Flies" (eggs, Mops, worms, Green Weenies), and wet flies/soft-hackles should work well on them, but you may want to pair them up with a drabber/natural looking nymph now that they've been fished over and are learning what real bugs look like. Plus, the holdover & wild fish will be more keyed into natural bugs. Isonychia nymphs, Caddis Pupa, Stonefly nymphs, and various small nymphs are all working well subsurface. Fall streamer action is picking up to, so make sure to try them at some point- read below for some Fall streamer advice & tips.

If you want a really sweet streamer specific rod, check out the T&T Exocett SS series, they are grain rated at 160, 200 & 250, and are all great Farmington River streamer rods and come with Recoil guides (click this to go to the T&T Exocett SS page).

Dropping water temps & shorter days is ramping up the Fall streamer bite more every week. Trout get more aggressive in the this time of year due to spawning, plus it seems like Mother Nature programs them to eat more in preparation for leaner times in the Winter. Some keys to successful streamer fishing: change pattern styles & fly color until you figure what turns the trout on. Historically good fall colors include yellow, brown, white, and olive. An all yellow streamer, or yellow as a secondary color paired with a predominately different color fly (such as brown) can be lethal in the Fall. Try different casting angles, it's not always down & across- frequently across & up is a better angle. Experiment with your retrieves, although more often than not a faster retrieve is better in the Fall until the water temps get really cold, then you typically slow it down. Cover lots of water, you are looking for the aggressive fish- at any given moment, only a percentage of the fish are willing to eat a streamer, and you need to present your fly to those fish. The more trout you show your flies, the more you will catch. DON'T be a stick-in-the-mud or your catch will be severely limited.

The low light periods of dawn & dusk are typically the best streamer bites, but overcast days are good and as we get further into Fall the bite can often be good all day as trout aggression ramps up. Try different size flies. Yes, on average, bigger flies will catch bigger fish, but some days the trout (even the bigger ones) don't want big flies. Or try a two-fly rig, with either a smaller, unweighted streamer or a nymph behind a weight streamer- this will get you some of those trout that move for your bigger streamer but won't eat it. In lower flows like we've been having a floating line with a weighted streamer will get you deep enough, but if flows are medium to high you may want to use some sort of sinking line or leader to get your fly deeper. Use heavy enough tippets so that you don't break off fish on the strike- I typically go 0x on my bigger streamers (you can go even heavier with really big flies), and even on average sized ones I wouldn't go below about 2-3x as trout hit streamers HARD. You can fish average sized streamers on your #4-5 rods for sure, but.... a #6-7 rod with a medium-fast to fast action will do a better job casting, setting the hook, playing bigger fish, and throwing bigger flies.

If you are into Euro Nymphing, check out the new Rio Tactical Euro Nymph Leader. Pictured on the left is their original/standard Euro Leader (we sell an obscene amount of these), and on the right is the brand new Tactical one. Two main differences: the Tactical version is both significantly thinner, as well as longer. (14 feet versus 11-12 feet). The Tactical has a very thin butt diameter of .012" tapered down to 2x (.009"), tied to a 4x (.007") Sighter (indicator) colored line section. Their standard Euro leader has a thicker butt (I'd guess around .018"?) down to 0x (.011"), tied to a 2x (.009") Sighter. What does this all translate too? Thinner leaders promote a better drift by giving you less sag/bow, more sensitivity, letting you fish further away, and are better with lighter nymphs. Longer leaders are also stealthier and let you fish further away. The downside? Thinner butt sections are harder to cast/turn over, a bit less accurate, and thinner Sighters are a bit harder to see (but better if you need to dunk them in deep water because they create less drag). If you are not very experienced with the Euro techniques and/or have difficulty casting, stick with the original standard Euro leader, but if you are fairly accomplished and looking to up your game try the thinner/longer Tactical version. FYI both leaders end with a tippet ring at the end of the Sighter, and then you build them out with the proper length of approporiate sized tippet to match the conditions & flies (4x-6x for standard leader, and 5x-7x for the Tactical).

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.

Dry/Dropper can be a fun way to fish as long as water temps are in the 50s-60s and there are decent hatches: use a bigger buoyant dry (like a Mini Chernobyl, Chubby 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/hatches 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 6-7.5' leader (0x) with a deer hair mouse pattern- make sure to bring a BIG landing net with you...:)

Try fishing a pair (or better yet a trio) of soft-hackles/wet flies, 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. Try soft hackles with Hare's Ear bodies, Partridge & Orange/Yellow/Green/Olive, Isonychia Soft Hackles, Leadwing Coachman, etc. 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 and especially 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"). We have a great assortment of custom tied soft-hackles in our bins by Dick Sablitz, they are both fun & deadly to fish. Don't just swing them, also dead-drift & twitch them, animate them and give your flies the illusion of life.
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.
From April through October we are open 7 days a week, 8am to 6pm Monday through Friday, and 6am-5pm on weekends (this will be pared back to 8am-5pm 7 days a week in November).

-Caddis #14-20 (tan mostly): AM hatch, mid afternoon to evening egg-laying 
-Isonychia #12-14 mid afternoon thru dusk in faster water
-Hebes/Fall Sulfurs #16-18: late afternoon/evening hatch (standard Sulfur patterns work for this)
-Light Cahills/Summer Stenos #12-20: late afternoons/eves (various cream colored mayflies)
-Summer/Winter Caddis: #18-24 pupa & adults (early/mid AM)
-Ants & Beetles #14-20: anytime, esp. afternoons on milder/sunny days
-Attractor Dries #10-16: Mini & Chubby Chernobyls, Hippy Stompers, etc.
-Midges #20-32: anytime
-Blue Wing Olives #20-24 (afternoons/eves, especially cloudy days)

-Pheasant Tail/Quasimodo Pheasant Tails #12-20
-Hare's Ear #16-18
-Tan Caddis Pupa #14-18
-Sulfur Nymph/Yellow Sally #14-18 (Sulfur nymph will imitate both bugs) 
-Isonychia #12-14 (can also use Pheasant Tail/Prince/Zug Bug nymph to imitate)
-Large Stoneflies/Pat's Rubber Legs #8-12 (gold/yellow, brown, black)
-Frenchy/Pheasant Tails #12-18
-Caddis Larva (olive to green) #14-16
-Blue Wing Olive Nymphs (various patterns) #18-20
-Fox Squirrel Nymph #12-14 (can imitate Giant October Caddis pupa & other bugs too)   
-"Junk Flies" #8-14 (Mops, Squirmy/San Juan Worms, Eggs, Green Weenies)   
-Antoine's Perdigons (various colors) #16-20
-Zebra Midge #18-22 (assorted colors)

Soft-Hackles/Wet Flies:
-Assorted Patterns #10-16: Hare's Ear/March Brown, Partridge & Orange/Yellow, Sulfur, Partridge & Flash, Isonychia, Pheasant Tail, Starling & Herl, Leadwing Coachman, etc. 
   -most effective fished 2-3 at a time on tag-end droppers

-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)

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: http://www.farmingtonriver.com/cortland-top-secret-ultra-premium-fluorocarbon/

     -Report by Torrey Collins, and sometimes edited by Grady Allen