Monday, March 30, 2020

Monday 3/30/20 Farmington River Report: get out & fish, big trout await you

Due to the governor's restrictions and closure of non essential CT businesses we will be taking the following steps to continue operating under these new guidelines, and to help keep everybody safe:
-We cannot have customers in the store (with one exception detailed below), so we will be operating with the doors locked, and we will offer phone & website orders, as well as "curbside pick-up". This last service will entail you calling us on the phone at 860-379-1952 (either before arrival, or from the parking lot), telling us what you want, we will bag up your order, take a credit card payment over the phone, and then put your bag outside before you arrive at the door. There will be a $20 minimum purchase amount on phone & pick-up orders. All payments have to be over the phone via credit/debit cards.
-Website and Phone Orders get free shipping at $50. There is no tax for orders shipping out of state.
-We are also offering limited daily appointments from 3pm to 5pm daily, 7 days a week, where one customer at a time is allowed in the store for 1/2 hour at a time. In order to do this under the new regulations, we are limited to one employee in the store. These appointments are for those intending to make $200+ purchases, and this will also be the procedure for trade-ins. Walk-ins are not allowed, call in advance at 860-379-1952.
-We will not be issuing fishing licenses during the closure to comply with the new rules, so make sure to purchase one in advance online by clicking on this link. If you don't have a printer, it's perfectly acceptable to keep your license on your mobile/smart phone.
-We will be adding more items to our website to make it easier for customers to order from us online. Please don't hesitate to phone in orders to ask for the many, many products you want but don't see listed up. We have tons of flies & fly tying materials in stock, but none of that is currently listed on our website.
-We will continue offering twice weekly fishing reports on our website, Instagram & FaceBook to keep you current on conditions, what's hatching, what's working, with fresh new fish pics in each report so that those of you not fishing can live vicariously through them.
-This is uncharted territory for all of us, so please be patient as we figure this out and evolve. We are bound by a whole new set of rules & restrictions that is making it much tougher to do business. We will do our absolute best to accommodate all our loyal customers, we appreciate every one of you. Your continued support keeps our store open so we can have jobs and keep supplying you with the best fly fishing stuff, fly tying materials & flies.
     -Grady, Torrey & Jake

Make sure to purchase your CT fishing license online prior to coming here as we won't be able to sell you a license during this shutdown, click here to purchase it. We appreciate your continued patronage, without you guys we wouldn't be here! I will continue to update the weekly report here and on Instagram & FaceBook. Please hang tight & stay safe.

As some of you are aware, the CT trout season opened early this year, per an Executive Order by the governor on Tuesday of last week (March 24th), normally it would be on the 2nd Saturday in April. To clarify, in the seasonal TMA/Catch & Release (C&R)) section (most of the river), you still CANNOT keep trout until the traditional Opening Day date of 6am April 11th. And you can never keep trout in the Permanent TMA/C&R  that goes from the bridge abutment at tail of Whitemore (just above the Campground on East River Rd) down to the Rt 219 bridge (about 1 mile upstream of UpCountry, by the Dunkin' Donuts. The stocking trucks continue to roll on a daily basis all over the state, and all the local smaller trout streams are open to fishing now if you are looking for other options. We've been stocked at least 2x at the Farmington so far, with plenty of more trout coming this Spring. And there were already a pile of holdover & wild trout in the river before all of this. As temps rise, the trout and the insects will both get even more active, and fishing will only get better.

Recent rain bumped Still River flows up, making the Farmington medium-high from there down, but still very fishable. At these flows expect to fish subsurface with nymphs & streamers, and wet flies/soft-hackles can work if you fish them deeply (sink tip, sinking leader, split shot, weighted point fly, etc.)- these are great water levels for fishing subsurface, big trout often make mistakes when the flows are up. Due to the insanely mild Winter, we are expecting the Spring hatch schedule to be 1-2 weeks early. We are already seeing the #16-18 Spring batch of Blue Wing Olives/Baetis in the afternoons, so think about fishing a small nymph that looks like them (#16-18, slim, olive to olive-brown). #12-16 nymphs in brown and in black continue to imitate Early Stones/immature Hendrickson nypmphs and put big trout in the net. Don't forget about Caddis Larva, both the #14-16 olive/green non-casemaking ones (netspinners) and #12-14 Cased ones too- flow bumps knock Cased Caddis into the drift. Increased flows also knock Fishfly Larva into the drift, they are dark brown and look like a #8-10 Helgramite- try a dark Rubberlegs or brown/black Stonefly to imitate them.

We got in a pile of flies from Fulling Mill & Umpqua, including some cool streamers we haven't carried before, including Tommy Lynch's deadly D&D that swims like a Flatfish lure- fish it on a sink-tip/sinking leader/sinking line to get this unweighted pattern to the proper depth. Weighted streamers like Woolly Buggers, Zuddlers, Slumpbusters, and Complex Twist Buggers all continue to produce fish if fished down deep. You can turn some of those follows & short strikes into hooked trout by trailing a #14-16 nymph/soft-hackle/wet fly about 14-18" off the hook bend of a weighted streamer (or an unweighted streamer fished on a sink-tip/sinking line). They are attracted to the streamer, but then they often choose the smaller trailing fly that is more typical of what they are used to eating on a daily basis. Try also streamers with Sculpin Helmets, bounced along the bottom on a floating line- deadly on bigger trout. Play with colors, fly size, pattern style, retrieve, depth, and cover lots of water and you should be able to find success. Or stick in one spot and try only one or two presentations, and go home empty-handed, the choice is yours.... FYI black or olive continue to be top streamer colors, but you need to play around because it can change (even during the same day, especially as light conditions change), white and brown are also top choices, and don't forget about streamers with multiple colors in them (i.e. brown/yellow, olive/white, olive/yellow, tan/yellow, etc).

I'll try to post pictures on our Instagram & Facebook of some of the cool new flies, tying materials, and other new stuff we are getting in every single week, that way you can look at the pictures and order them from us. In addition to flies, we've recently received BIG orders of assorted hooks from Umqua/Tiemco, Fulling Mill jig hooks, big Wapsi tying material order, lots more books including the hot new streamer book from Kelly Galloup "Modern Streamers for Trophy Trout II", a definitive new book on Brook Trout by Bob Mallard "Squaretail" (autographed copies), and lots of spin tackle. We are happy to mail order over the phone for you, or prepare a goody bag for curbside pick-up. Thank you all for the support you've shown our business since the CT shutdown of non-essential businesses, we appreciate every single sale/order you give us! Let's all stick together & stay safe as best we can.

I continue to receive more trout pictures from friends and customers than I can post here. People are generally working for every hook-up, but the average holdover & wild fish is in the mid to upper teens. Flows are low 600cfs range in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R) as of Monday morning, medium high and still very fishable. Afternoon water temps are normally cracking into the low/mid 40s (low 40s in Riverton). Nymphs & streamers are catching the lion's share of the fish, but dry fly guys are having their moments. We are starting to see Blue Wing Olives (Olives/BWOs/Baetis) in the afternoons, this early season Olive is bigger and in the #16-18 range. Start thinking about adding a small olive nymph to your nymph rig in the afternoons. We continue to see Early Stoneflies (black, brown), Winter Caddis, and Midges. Fishing continues to be more so quality over quantity, with most anglers working hard for their fish, but the ones they are catching are bigger than normal, with fish in the mid to upper teens being comoon and some both bigger & smaller.

Check out some nice fish from this past week & weekend:
Top pic is Brett Howell with a flawless trophy brown, looks wild to me- he's been working hard with local guides Derrick & Zach, and he got this one all by his lonesome so it looks like his hard work is paying off- he also landed some other beauties. 2nd pic is my girlfriend Mandy with a 20" holdover in the top of the pic, and a beautiful 17" wild in the lower part of the pic, both caught on Friday, 2 of 10 fish she landed- top fish on a streamer, bottom fish on a nymph. 3rd pic down is Darren Yoos with some super nice browns from this past week- top of the pic is a 20 incher, with a wild stunner in the lower part of the pic- he's been doing well on big trout lately. 4th fish pic is Drew Sommo with a looong brown laid next to his fly rod. 5th fish pic is Derrick, once again holding a 20" class brown he landed on a #18 nymph. Final fish pic is Zach's regular client once again landing a very nice fish, this guy is consistent!

The vast majority of fish catching has been done by those fishing subsurface, and almost all the big trout pics you see in recent report have been on nymphs & streamers. Best nymphs are typically in the #12-16 range and include brown and also black patterns that can imitate the Early Stones (both black & brown) & immature Hendrickson nymphs, Caddis (both the olive/green net spinners &  Cased Caddis too), and now think about adding in some smaller #16-20 patterns that could imitate Baetis/Blue Wing Olives,  Midges, and immature Paraleps/Blue Quills. Black or olive continue to be top streamer colors, experiment to see what works best any given day, and other colors such as brown or white can be very good also. With water temps that are mostly in the 40s, you still want to mostly fish your streamers slow & deep (weighted streamers and/or split shot or sinking leaders/lines)- however experiment with retrieves as there will still be moments they want the fly moved faster. Listen to the trout and they will tell you what they want.

Current Store Hours:
8am-5pm Monday through Friday, and 8am-5pm on weekends, "curbside pick up" only- we will be going to 8am-6pm on weekdays soon and will announce that on here. Call 860-379-1952 to place orders or have us put together your order for pick-up. No walk-ins allowed, per new CT regulations, credit card sales only.

Guide Mark Swenson's "Fly Fishing 101" classes resume, the first one will be held on Sunday April 5th, running from 9am-4pm, cost is $150- call the store at 860-379-1952 to sign up. Click this link to be taken to that page for more details:

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 long, slow 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, in the late morning and afternoon 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').

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 weighted 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.

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.  Smaller #16-20 nymphs imitating Baetis/Blue Wing Olives & immature Paraleps are also available subsurface. 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 also love small to medium sized Woolly Buggers the first few weeks, especially in black or olive.

The entire river above & below the permanent TMA/Catch & Release has now been stocked 2x, along with about 60-80 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).

Total 8am flow today (Monday 3/30 ) in the permanent Catch & Release is medium-high and dropping now at 634cfs (195cfs from the dam, plus 439cfs and dropping from the Still River), normal historical flow for today is 512cfs. Riverton water temps have typically been starting around 38-40 and bumping into the low 40s most afternoons. Further downstream on sunny/mild days you may see an even bigger increase (mid to even upper 40s on mild/sunny day), sometimes all it takes is a small bump-up to get the trout feeding.

Look down in paragraphs below for advice targetting the recently 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.

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.

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 until April 11th at 6am (except for the 6.2 mile Permanent TMA/Catch & Release that is C&R and barbless 12 months a year).

Don't forget to get a new 2020 CT fishing license & Trout/Salmon stamp so you are legal! You can purchase online by clicking here, at the moment we are NOT selling fishing licenses so make sure to purchase one online before you come to the Farmington River.

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. Pools like Church, Greenwoods, Beaver, Roberts & Campground are above average spots to check out for rising trout- look for big, wide flat pools FYI. 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.  We are just starting to see a few Blue Wing Olives (BWOs/Baetis) in the afternoons, #16-18. 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.

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.

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 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. Opening day for 2020 is Saturday April 11th at 6am. The 6.2 mile Catch & Release (C&R)/TMA section remains C&R and barbless, the rest of the river reverts to a 2 fish limit with a 12" minimum size. Below Rt 177 in Unionville the limit is 5 fish at 9" minimum size.

-Summer/Winter Caddis #18-24: pupa & adults (early/mid AM, but sometimes afternoons also)
-Early Stones #14-16 (both Black and Brown, in the afternoons)
-Blue Wing Olives #16-18 (aka Olives, Baetis, BWOs, etc.)- just starting, afternoons 
-Midges #20-32 (late morn thru afternoon)

-Pheasant Tail/Quasimodos/Frenchies #12-18 (in #12-16 imitates Early Brown Stones/Hendricksons, smaller ones imitate smaller/immature Mayfly nymphs like BWOs & Paraleps)
-Olive Nymphs #16-18
-Prince Nymph #12-16 (imitates Early Black Stones)
-Strolis Infant Stones #14 (black, brown)
-Caddis Larva (olive to green) #14-16 
-Cased Caddis #12-14

-Perdigons #12-16 in black or brown (imitates the Early Stones/Hendricksons)
-"Junk Flies" #8-16 (Eggs, Mops, Squirmy/San Juan Worms, Green Weenies)
-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   
-Bigger Stoneflies/Pat's Rubber Legs #6-12 (gold/yellow, brown, black)       

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: