Friday, March 13, 2020

Friday 3/13/20 Farmington River Report: March Madness

Got to fish the past 2 days (that makes 5 out of last 10 days!), and I worked for my fish, but almost all were above average size and rewarding to catch. I had success both in and out of the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R).  The trout landed were almost all browns, either holdover or wild, plus one colored-up holdover 16" Bow- I gave my T&T Contact rod a good workout. I fished with Derrick Kirkpatrick (of CT Fish Guides) and my biggest fish Wednesday was an 18" holdover brown, and my first fish Thursday was another holdover brown that stretched the tape to the 20" mark. I was fishing with Zach Thursday and he also netted a 20" brown. Both Zach & Derrick are highly skilled and made it look easy, with each having double digit catches in half day outings, while I worked harder to catch 5 fish each day. Not complaining because most of my fish were in the 16-18 inch range, with a best of 20 inches. My favorite fish was a beautiful 18" wild brown that smoked my nymph yesterday, went airborne like a rainbow, and then tore all over the run. A mix of flies got the job done for our crew, and they included assorted brown and black nymphs around a #14 (imitates immature Hendrickson nymphs & Early Stones), Caddis Larva, Midges, and smaller streamers. The exact fly pattern is less important than the size/shape/color & how/where you present it. Great flies won't compensate for bad presentations, or putting your flies in the wrong spots. You also have to detect the often subtle strikes.

Top fish pic is a flawless brown that Mina landed yesterday, sure looks wild to me. 2nd fish pic is another perfect brown, caught by Vinny Badaracco- love the sparse spotting on that fish. The double fish pic below that are two of my better fish from the past 2 days- 20" on the left, 18" on the right, both holdover stocked fish. 4th pic is Steve Hogan's client Rich with a sweet brown he caught while working on his tight-line nymphing during a very successful outing. 5th pic down is Zach's client Rob with a colored up holdover Bow.

As usual, the March fishing has been more quality over quantity, with many better fish moving into water with some current to feed now that water temps are rising and the subsurface bug activity is increasing. Dry fly guys are finding some risers in the flat water in Church Pool, with Winter Caddis being a main culprit, but Midges & Stones are also possibilities. Rising water temps also had bigger trout looking for bigger bites, so make sure to try some streamers. Make sure to get them deep using weighted flies, split shot , or sinking leader/lines. Generally want to fish them on the slower side due to water temps in the 40s, but experiment to find the best retrieve for any given day.

The upcoming weekend looks great, with sunshine and highs in the 45-50 range, pretty darn good for the 2nd week of March. Plus the flow is a  medium, very fishable, very wadeable level. Afternoon water temps have typically hit the mid and often upper 40s (low 40s on cooler, cloudy days).

 Don't be afraid to get away from the crowds and explore new water, there are trout throughout the 21 miles of currently open water. You'd be hard pressed to find a section that doesn't hold some nice holdover & wild trout. Doesn't mean they will be easy to catch, but they are there and CAN be caught if you show the trout what they want (typically a dead-drifted nymph, or a dead-drifted/stripped/swung streamer). If you are stubborn and only want to fish one method or fly, you may be in for a loooong, fishless day. Or you  can be flexible, work hard, and catch some trout- the choice is yours.

Move around, cover water, and look for some less fished sections for your best result. Some of the better holdover & wild trout are transitioning into somewhat faster water now, afternoon water temps have ranged from lower to upper 40s in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R) and this is putting trout on the feed and increasing bug activity subsurface. Especially as water temps rise during the day, look for better fish in the pool heads, deeper riffles, heads of runs, and even in the slower/deeper lies in pocket water. The water doesn't have to be very deep either, many of the fish in the pics are getting caught in knee to mid-thigh deep water. The recently stocked trout will tend more to pod up in softer slow to moderate speed water in pools, slower runs, and gentle riffles with some depth (2-4').

Nymphs from Early Black & Early Brown Stones are definitely in the drift, as are plenty of immature Hendrickson nymphs, and the trout are taking notice. Caddis Larva too (both the regular olive/green larva, and also Cased). If you are over recently stocked trout, continue to play with Junk Flies (Eggs, Worms, Mops, Green Weenies) paired up with a 2nd drabber/more imitative pattern (Pheasant Tail, Hare's Ear, etc.). Stockers usually love small to medium sized Woolly Buggers, especially in black or olive.

15 Day Forecast has 11 days over 50 (every day OVER 40!), nights averaging 30s. Water temps in the permanent TMA/C&R are reaching mid/upper 40s most afternoons, Riverton temps are cooler but rising. Warm, sunny days with nights that aren't that cold warm things up fast, and it's getting the trout hungry and the subsurface nymphs & larva more active and in the drift. Starting to see more & more trout shift into feeding water with more current to it- this is especially true of the holdover & wild fish. Many of the recent stockers will still be podded up in the slow to moderate water though.

The entire river above & below the permanent TMA/Catch & Release has now been stocked 2x, along with about 60 large broodstock trout (Whittemore Pool to the dam, and below RT 219 bridge down to the RT 177 bridge in Unionville, about 15 miles of river). Be aware that as of now you cannot fish below the Rt 177 bridge in Unionville until Opening Day. We are seeing the bigger #14-16 Early Black Stones now, some Early Brown Stones too, and subsurface the holdovers & wilds are eating them, along with flies that resemble immature Hendrickson nymphs & Caddis Larva too. "Junk Flies (Eggs, Mops, Worms & Green Weenies) continue to have their moments, along with Attractor-type nymphs (anything gaudy, flashy or with flourorescent hot spots).

Streamer fishing is picking up, and lately black or olive have been top colors, but I'm also a fan of brown this time of year (anytime for that matter!), and white can be good too- experiment! Try also the following hybrid rig: a weight streamer such as a conehead Bugger, Zuddler, Slumpbuster, etc. with a #14-16 soft-hackle or nymph trailed 14-18" of the hook bend- the streamer often functions as the attractor, and then the trout eat the trailing smaller fly. This helps turn some of those chases, rolls & flashed into a solid hook-up. With flows back to normal now (300+ cfs range), you may find some fish looking up and eating Winter Caddis and maybe Stones & Midges. Hope for risers, but expect to fish subsurface.

The Permanent Catch & Release/TMA is almost all holdover & wild trout currently, with a few
stocked trout filtering in now from above and below.  If you are in the 15 miles of river that was recently stocked 2x outside of permanent TMA/C&R, be aware that they often pod up so you have to locate the fish first before you can catch them- and of course there are holdover & wild trout spread throughout the entire river, not just in the permanent TMA/C&R. Some quality trout, especially the holdover & wild ones, and sliding into faster water to feed in the afternoons

Total 8am flow today (Friday) in the permanent Catch & Release is medium at 339cfs (154cfs from the dam, plus 138cfs from the Still River) and rising slightly due to light rain overnight/this morning bumping Still River flows up a tad, normal historical flow for today is 418cfs. Riverton water temps have been starting in the mid to upper 30s and bumping into the low 40s some afternoons. Further Downstream on sunny/mild days you may see an even bigger increase (mid/upper 40s on mild/sunny day), and sometimes all it takes is a 1-2 degree increase to get the trout feeding.

Look down in paragraphs below for advice targetting the freshly stocked trout, they are often a sucker for gaudy flies & Woolly Buggers (I like black or olive). It seems as though the holdover & wild trout have been chowing on Early Black and Brown Stoneflies that are ending up in the drift, as well as immature Hendrickson nymphs & assorted Caddis Larva. Think black or brown nymphs in #12-16 to imitate the the Stones & Henny's- it doesn't necessarily have to be a specific imitation, a Pheasant Tail/Frenchy/Quasimodo often works well for this, as do other flies such as a Prince Nymphs, black or brown Perdigons, and other flies like that. For Caddis think either olive/green larva in #14-16, or Cased Caddis in #12-14.

If you are fishing the recently stocked sections (outside the permanent TMA/Catch & Release area
and fishing nymphs (never a bad choice), try a 2 fly rig with one "Junk Fly" (Egg, Mop, or Squirmy/San Juan Worm) paired with a more natural/drabber fly such as a Pheasant Tail, Zebra Midge, Hare's Ear, Caddis Larva, etc. The holdover & wild fish will still eat Junk Flies, but most days are more susceptible to stuff that looks more like what they eat on a daily basis. Egg flies are the exception to this, they often work well from about mid Fall into early Spring on virtually ALL trout (and anytime of year on recently stocked fish). If you are targetting holdover & wild trout, also think about including #12-16 black or brown nymphs in your rig (you can use a Pheasant Tail/Quaismodo/Frenchy or Prince Nymph to imitate Early Stones, as well as Perdigons in that size range in black or brown also-with or without a hot spot)- Caddis Larva too. In terms of nymph choice, generally size/shape/color (in that order) are more important than the exact fly pattern. And most important of all is fishing it exactly where the trout are, in a true dead-drift, and then you have to also detect the often very light cold water fly eats.

Streamers will also work on the fresh fish (and holdovers/wilds), try a small to medium sized
streamer in black, olive, white or brown (I've often found a #6-12 black Woolly Bugger to be super effective on fresh stockers, and frequently on holdover & wild fish too- black is just a color that can be good under ALL light & water conditions, and rainbow trout often show a particular fondness for flies in black). Also try a combo rig where you fish a weighted Bugger with a nymph/soft hackle/wet fly about 14-18" trailing behind it (tied off the hook bend so everything is in a straight line)- this rig will convert many streamer looks & follows into a sold hook-up on the trailing fly. You can also use this same rigging to fish two different streamers at once, something most people don't do. As I've mentioned before, when the water is cold (below 45 degrees), typically you want to fish your streamers slow & deep, but always experiment with your retrieves and let the trout tell you what they want. 

Currently you have the option of targeting holdover & wild trout in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release section, or going outside of it and targetting freshly stocked trout (and of course there are also holdover & wild trout throughout the river also). The recently stocked fish are starting to get dialed into natural food sources and learn about avoiding artificial flies- on average it takes about 3 weeks for trout to get in tune with feeding naturally.

The Fasna F-415 jig hooks from #10-20 are back in stock (a wide gap/short shank/curled in point hook similar to Hanak 450s, but heavier wire, go smaller, and are less expensive), and I also added in their standard jig hook, the F-420 from #8-20 (standard length/gap, 1x heavy wire, curled in point). The Fasna hooks come 30 to a pack, and are only $7.25- the quality of the hook wire, finish & point is EXCELLENT. Be aware the Fasna sizing is about a size SMALLER compared to most other hooks, so you prob want to purchase one hook size bigger than you might think (eg #14 Fansa = #16 in other jig hooks). The #20 Fasna jigs are probably the smallest you can buy in terms of actual true hook shank length. We also have matching slotted tungsten beads in 5/64"/2mm and 3/32"/2.5mm that will fit these small hooks.

While nymphing is rarely a bad choice, it tends to a the go-to March technique in terms of catching trout consistently, and it can produce some large trout too.  Streamers can be productive too, just expect to get less hits on a typical day, but you are upping your chances of connecting with a top-end fish. Days without much wind can produce a few rising trout also to Winter Caddis & Stoneflies.

They started stocking the Farmington River in early February, due to the nice weather and lack of snow allowing them to easily access the river in their stocking trucks. The DEEP stocked the river two times now from the dam in Riverton down to the Rt 177 Bridge in Unionville, EXCEPT FOR the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (Bridge abutment from tail of Whittemore downstream 6.2 miles to the 219 bridge in New Hartford, that gets stocked once a year in April, and as of the September 2019 electroshocking had an estimated population at just under 2,000 trout per mile in that section!!!). Remember that the entire river from the dam in Riverton down to the Rt 177 bridge in Unionville is 100% catch & release.

Don't neglect exploring and fishing brand new water, there are literally fish spread all over the river. Look for them more in slower/deeper water in pools, deeper runs, and softer/deeper riffles. Mild weather here now mean you may see them slide into the faster heads of pools/runs/riffles in the afternoon when water temps rise and the trout & nymphs/larva get more active, and even into the pocketwater now (just look for current breaks where trout get refuge from fast water). If you are fairly certain you are in a prime spot, fish it THOROUGHLY. Typically they won't move as far for you fly in colder water, so try to spoon feed them by saturation bombing good spots with lots of casts. Play with your weights, casting angle, rigging, fly patterns/sizes, etc. The most successful anglers move around, cover water, and experiment a lot until they find the location & winning flies/rigging.

As always, those who are better nymphers, know how to read water & work hard at it are doing the best and having the most consistent results. It's still Winter (at least officially haha) and the water temps have been ranging from the mid 30s to mid 40s, so keep your expectations reasonable. Also there is no substitute for time spent on the water if you wanna get dialed in to Winter fishing on the Farmington River. If you are fishing a high pressure/popular spot, try to show the trout some flies they have not seen before.

Don't forget about Cortland's new improved Euro rods, see further down in this report for info, they are a STEAL at $299.99, cannot beat them at that price point. Available in 10 1/2' lengths in #2-4 line weights.

Don't forget to get a new 2020 CT fishing license & Trout/Salmon stamp so you are legal!  We sell them here at UpCountry, or you can purchase online by clicking here  

The hot flies vary from day to day, and can even change as the day progresses, so make sure to experiment. While many fish are in the classic cold water lies of slower/deeper water, many are now moving into the faster riffles at the heads of pools & deeper runs, and often it is the bigger fish that move there. When you catch a fish, especially when targetting the deeper/softer lies, fish the area throughly as trout commonly pod up in the good holding water. It's not unusual in the pools & runs to have dozens of trout group up in a very small area. If you catch a good bite window, sometimes you can even rack up some really good numbers when you locate a pod. Other days you will have to dig the trout out one by one by fishing hard and covering the likely water.

While dry flies are not a given in March, there are more windows of rising trout than you might think at the Farmington River, we are an above average dry fly fishery year 'round. Ideally you want days without too much wind, that can wipe out the dry fly action and make all the fishing subsurface. Surprisingly the Winter Caddis #18-24 ignore the Winter rule of the best fishing being more toward the afternoons, instead they commonly hatch in early to mid morings, 7-10am would be typical but not set in stone. It's not umncommon see them in the afternoons, and especially if it's windy and then dies down late in the day the egg laying adults will get active. Usually the early/mid AM action is mostly on the pupa, and often gently twitching them is what it takes to pull the trigger. Midges #22-28 are most active in the afternoons, and especially on milder, not-too-windy days. Look also for both the Early Black & Early Brown Stones #14-16 now,. Typically don't create a lot of dry fly fishing (with some exceptions), but nymphs in the subsurface drift tend to get the trout feeding subsurface. Having said that, even when they are hatching I typically do better on nymphs that DON'T imitate these tiny bugs: Caddis Larva, Stoneflies (but in #8-16), Eggs, Attractor Nymphs, etc.

Streamers fished slow & deep can move some better fish too for patient anglers- make sure to
experiment with colors as sometimes it can make a big difference in getting solid strikes, and color preference can change during the day as light conditions change. Cold water 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 and see what gets you strikes. Some days the streamer fishing is dead, and other days it will produce some big fish. Be willing to switch methods when it makes sense. Olive, black, and white are good streamer colors to start with right now, but try other colors like brown, yellow or tan if those first 3 don't excite the trout. Also flies with a primary color such as brown and a secondary color like yellow can be the ticket.

Trade-in Info:
We do a lot of trade-ins of used equipment, as many of you know. Please call and schedule an appointment before you bring your gear in to trade- you need to make sure Grady or I (Torrey) are here to do the trade, and you also need to make sure it's stuff we will be interested in so you don't drive here for nothing. If your trade-in is relatively small/simple and you want store credit (that's what 90% of people do it for), I (Torrey) can generally do it. However, if it's multiple items or you want us to purchase it, Grady needs to be here. He can do big trades quickly, plus he's the only one with check writing privileges (if we purchase your equipment we pay with a check, not cash). We generally give you roughly full current market value if you opt for store credit, and if you want us to purchase it we knock about 1/3 off what we plan to sell it for.

Remember that when fishing subsurface, slow & deep is the name of the game and strikes are often quite subtle. You need to be on your "A" game when it comes to detecting strikes when nymphing- set the hook on anything. Remember, hook-sets are FREE. "Bite Windows" are common- often there will be a period during the day when suddenly the fish go on the bite for a while, and then they turn off. Typically these windows are 1-3 hours long, sometimes longer. Some days will be a grind all day just to get a few strikes, while others will see steady action much of the day- that's fishing, and especially so in cold water. Persevere, cover water, fish hard and you will be rewarded. Remember that it's still technically Winter- cold water, a slower metabolism & less bugs than the spring/summer means that the trout are more concerned about being safe & conserving energy than eating a lot. They do eat in cold water, but far less than when water temps are in the 50s & 60s.

Cortland's brand spankin' new Nymph Series Rods for Euro Nymphing are in stock now. This series is all in a 10.5' length and three line weights: #2, #3, and #4, and retails 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. You won't need a heavy reel to balance these either. I'm sure the #3 will be the best seller, but the 2 weight is sweet with a soft tip that will protect 6x-7x tippet on big fish, and the #4 has the power to handle heavier tippets with bigger flies on bigger fish and can cross over as an Indy nymphing rod too. This series looks like a real winner to us, and the best under $300 Euro rod on the market hands-down.

Streamers can work anytime of day currently, but especially during low light. Trout, especially browns, are 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 a half inch) would be the in-between size choice for the best of both worlds. 

Winter Store Hours (through March):
8am-5pm 7 days a week

We've received a veritable pile of used rods & reels as trade-ins. 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 debuted their Paradigm series of moderate action, dry fly type rods in late 2019, along with a new Contact 10' #3, and a Zone 10' #4. Zach St. Amand beat 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 cross over and throw fly line with dries, wets, and small/medium streamers.

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.
Hours: 8am-5pm, 7 days a week through March.

-Summer/Winter Caddis #18-24: pupa & adults (early/mid AM, but sometimes afternoons also)
-Early Black Stones #14-16 (afternoons)
-Early Brown Stones #14-16 (afternoons)
-Midges #20-32 (late morn thru afternoon)

-"Junk Flies" #8-16 (Eggs, Mops, Squirmy/San Juan Worms, Green Weenies)
-Pheasant Tail/Quasimodos/Frenchies #12-18 (in #12-16 imitates Early Brown Stones/Hendricksons, smaller ones imitate smaller/immature Mayfly nymphs)
-Prince Nymph #12-16 (imitates Early Black Stones)
-Strolis Infant Stones #14 (black, brown)
-Perdigons #12-16 in black or brown (imitates the Early Stones/Hendricksons)
-Zebra Midge #18-22 (black, red, olive)
-Attractor Nymphs #14-20 (Haast Haze, Rainbow Warrior, Blue Lightning Bug, Miller's Victim, 
   Triple Threat, Princes, etc.) -anything flashy, gaudy, or with a hot spot   
-Stoneflies/Pat's Rubber Legs #8-14 (gold/yellow, brown, black)
-Caddis Larva (olive to green) #14-16 
-Cased Caddis #12-14       

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, Partridge & 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 (black, olive, 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: