Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Tuesday 6/16/20 Farmington River Report: here comes Summer

21" brown by Antoine Bissieux on a Sulfur dry
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     -Grady & Torrey


Farmington River Report  

Although it's still officially Spring until Saturday June 20th, starting this Wednesday Summer weather comes our way, with highs averaging in the mid 80s and nights low/mid 60s. Water coming out of the dam is still icy cold, in the upper 40s, and warming slowly as the river works it's way downstream. Water temp in the permanent TMA/C&R (catch & release) is averaging in the 50s, with the exact temp varying depending upon time of day, daily weather, and distance from the dam. Flow is medium-low and very wadeable. We should continue to see trout-friendly water temps from the dam in Riverton, all the way 20+ miles downstream to Unionville and beyond, even with the warm up in air temps this week. Hatches remain very good, and I'd expect this warmer weather to push bug activity more toward mornings & eves as air temps rise this week- evenings have typically been the peak hatch time.

Cover pic is local guide Antoine Bissieux ("The French Fly Fisher") with 21" of brown trout goodness from Monday, caught on a #16 Sulfur dry- he has some limited availability if you want to learn how to catch trout like this.  2nd pic is is our customer Rebecca with a very nice brown sporting a big paddle tail, bet that one gave her a fight. 3rd pic is Zach Amand's son with a sweet dry fly brown trout he fooled all by himself with a Reach Cast and a downstream presentation (a great dry fly tactic on pressured tailwater rivers like the Farmington River). The 4th & last fish pic is a seldom caught Tiger Trout (Brook Trout x Brown Trout hybrid) by @fishlongisland (Instragram name). I also put up a pic of a Sulfur spinner (notice the clear glassy wings) that was on my car this past weekend after work.

FYI there are truly no "hot spots". The entire stretch of river mentioned above (20+ miles), is all loaded with trout. Big trout are scattered throughout the entire river. This is not a river where you have to be in one of only a handful of spots to do well. The trout are well spread out, a mix of 2020 stockers, holdovers, and plenty of wild fish too. Excellent habitat and many miles of cold water means the trout exist in good numbers all over the river. Yes, the 6.2 mile permanent TMA/C&R (catch & release) likely has the highest density of trout (and the heaviest fishing pressure by far), but.... the rest of the river holds a lot of trout too, and some really good ones. Most years I catch my biggest trout outside of the permanent TMA/C&R. 2020 has been a year for the books, with an epic number of anglers venturing out fishing all over CT and other states. Make 2020 the year you explore new water on the Farmington, drive until you see some juicy looking new water unoccupied by other anglers and explore it, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Isonychia ("Iso's") #10-12 are now as far upstream as New Hartford, with the heaviest activity for that bug still more downstream (Canton/Collinsville/Unionville). As we get into late June and more so in July, look for that hatch to move upstream and get good in the permanent TMA/C&R (but not quite yet). Sulfurs #14-18 are still the glamour hatch and will remain one for a while. Iso's typically hatch between late afternoon and dark, Sulfur hatch time has ranged anywhere from 10am to dark, depending upon river section, and daily weather. The bigger #14-16 Invaria Sulfurs often hatch earlier in the day, whereas the smaller Dorothea Sulfurs often are more of an evening deal. The closer you get to the dam (colder water), the more the hatch times will vary from what the books say- evening hatches can occur in the afternoon, and morning hatches may occur later. The further you get from the dam, the more the stream behaves like a natural freestone river. Overall lately, evenings have been prime-time for hatches & rising trout. This will be even more true as hotter Summer weather moves in.

Make sure to to make accurate, drag-free presentations when targeting rising trout during hatches. Try to make your first cast be the best one, subsequent casts often "wise the trout up" and results in refusals or no looks at all. If you get a handful of good drifts over a fish with no take, either change your fly, or move to another fish. Refusals often mean your fly choice is close but not quite right, or that you are getting subtle drag. Longer tippets in the 3-4' range will help you get a drag-free float with your dries, and in really tough situations you can go even longer with your tippet if it's not windy and your fly isn't too bushy or wind-resistant. Assorted Caddis averaging #14-18 are all over the river (olive/green bodies & tan bodies are the most common, but not the only colors), and some are bigger & smaller than that- they can be on the water at almost any time of day, with mid  morning to early afternoon & evenings typically being peaks (varies from day to day though). Other bugs include March Browns #10-12 (light, sporadic hatch, occurs in faster water in afternoons/eves), #14 Cahills (eves). The big #6-10 Stoneflies are hatching, you will see the shucks on the rocks in fast water- they don't provide much dry fly action, but the early to mid morning nymphing with them in faster water can often be lights out.

Local guide Antoine  Bisseiux ("The French Fly Fisher)" tells me he's have good luck blind fishing all sorts of dries in relatively shallow water, even when the trout aren't rising. Ants, Mini Chernobyls, and beetles are all great flies to blind fish and pull trout to the surface. In riffled/broken/choppy water, also try Elk Hair Caddis (not a good choice in flat water though), and in that same vein Stimulators can be good also.

Tiger Trout!
Fishing subsurface with nymphs & wets/soft hackles is a good choice in June, even when it appears not much is going on. Subsurface the trout are often chowing down on nymphs & pupa, unseen to us. Look for the medium to fast water (pool heads, fast runs, riffles, pocket water), and seek out current breaks & seams. Experiment with flies, as the best ones can and will vary throughout the day. If you are unsure, when nymphing start with a Caddis pupa #14-16 (tan or olive/green) & Pheasant Tail/Frenchy #14-18 combo, it covers a lot of bases. If you get out early, nymph the fast water with big Stonefly nymphs, this is usually good from first light to 10am or so (later if it's cooler/cloudy out). The big stones crawl out onto the rocks overnight and in the early to mid morning, and that's when the big nymphs (#6-12) end up in the drift. For wets/soft hackles, fish at least 2 flies (I prefer 3 for that), and pick flies to imitate Caddis (bodies of Hare's Ear, green, or olive), and others with yellow bodies to imitate the various Sulfurs. The Partridge & Orange is an old standby that is in most serious anglers top 3 soft hackles. Wets & soft hackles are particularly good in the evenings when fish move into shallow water to feed just subsurface right before & during evening hatches.

FYI a classic Euro nymphing mistake I see a ton of people do is picking out the heaviest anchor flies that we have in the bins. One of the biggest Euro myths is that you have to dredge the river bottom to catch fish. Yes, in the high/cold flows of March & April and in the Winter you will primarily be using heavier anchor flies with 3.5-4mm beads on them when you are fishing the Farmington River, and maybe heavier dropper flies too- this puts them in the face of lethargic cold water trout that won't move much at all to eat your flies. Since May though, I've mostly fished anchors no bigger than a #14 with no more than a 3mm bead, occasionally using a 3.5mm (1/8") bead for truly deep, fast water, and bigger nymphs when bigger bugs are active (March Browns, big Stoneflies, Isonychia, etc.). Droppers have ranged from #14-18 with 2mm-3mm beads. You don't have to be on bottom this time of year, 1/2 to 3/4 the way down is normally plenty deep (and can even be too deep during a hatch, that's when wets flies/soft hackles tyically beat out weighted nymphs). Water temps are optimal (50-65), there a lots of bugs hatching & in the drift, and trout are feeding throughout the water column. As long as you are getting your flies down and in touch with them, you will do fine. Be aware that when fishing lighter flies, strikes are primarily visual, so watch your sighter like a hawk. I've hardly lost any flies lately, because I'm hardly ticking bottom at all, but I'm catching plenty of trout. If you are ticking bottom multiple times per drift, snagging bottom frequently, or losing a bunch of flies to bottom snags, your flies are likely too heavy. Lighten up and I guarantee you will catch more trout, have better strike detection, and lose way less flies.

Sunday night 5/31 FYI I (Torrey) lost my big wooden Brodin Pere Marquette net (33" x 20" x 15" with a deep black mesh bag) off the top of my car, somewhere between UpCountry and the Satan's Kingdom tubing parking lot- 5 mins later it was already gone. If you know anybody who might have found a net in that vicinity, I'd be much obliged as that net has strong sentimental value and has netted more big fish than I can count.

If you are fishing wets/soft-hackles (and you should be!), try a 2-3 fly rig, on tag end droppers about 24-30" apart. During hatching activity where you see bugs and occasional rising trout, keep all your flies unweighted and fish near the surface. If it's slow and trout don't seem willing to move to your wets, use a lightly to moderately weighted soft-hackle or nymph on the point position to get your rig down deeper where the trout are. Throw across & slightly upstream and make an upstream mend to sink your flies, let them dead-drift (watch your fly line tip for subtle strikes), and then let them do the traditional wet fly swing- expect strikes especially at the 3/4 downstream point when your flies rise toward the surface. At the end of the drift let them dangle for several seconds, then twitch them up & down a couple of times. Add some slight rod tip twitches during some drifts, and on others just let them drift. Keep your rod tip up around 10 o'clock during the entire drift for tippet protection, better fly animation, and better hook-ups- this creates very slight controlled slack you need so trout can inhale your fly and not short strike it. This technique is great for covering riffle & pool water where the trout are spread out and can be anywhere, the kind of water that can be difficult/challenging to nymph. 

Remember the beloved Grey's Streamflex rods? If you liked them, you will love what I'm about to tell you: Pure Fishing has released an updated version of the Streamflex series under the Fenwick name, using the latest materials that give the rods noticeably improved rod recovery and durability (30% increase). These rods feel fantastic in the hand. We have these in the Euro specific models, The 11' #3 & #4 Streamflex have an MSRP of $349.95- we are selling them for $265. The also do a Streamflex Plus that goes from 10' to 10' 6"- a six inch extension piece hides in the handle and can be put in or out in seconds. We have the 10' #3 Streamflex Plus (goes up to 10.5')- MSRP is $379.95, we are selling it for $285. 


Nymphs imitating or suggesting Caddis Pupa & Caddis Larva (olive/green #14-16), Sulfurs #14-18, Vitreus #12-14, March Brown #10-12, Blue Wing Olives/Baetis #16-20, and larger Stoneflies #6-12 (golden, brown, black) have all had their moments. Also try attractor patterns (gaudy flies with hot spots, flash, UV materials, or unusual colors), sometimes they will outfish the usual drabber flies for reasons only know to the trout. It can be worth trying bigger #6-10 nymphs such as Stoneflies & Mops- larger nymphs sometimes interest larger trout (more calories in a single bite, just like with streamers). Bigger nymphs can also be better in higher and/or off-color flows.  Remember that GISS (general impression of size & shape) is far more important than having an exact imitation, and sometimes exaggerated features like a hot spot or flash gets their attention better than a "perfect" drabber imitation. Trout perceive our imitations differently than us humans do, so what looks good to YOU isn't necessarily what the trout prefer. We'd be lucky to catch any trout at all if our flies truly had to look exactly like the natural insects. If your fly size & shape/profile are close to the natural bugs, and the color is ballpark, all you then need is to put it in front of a willing trout with a good presentation. I've caught more trout than I can count on Pheasant Tails, Frenchies & Hare's Ears. The shape (tails, slimmer abdomen, thicker thorax), color (brown) and size match up to the real Mayflies. I've caught many a rising trout during various Mayfly, Caddis & Midge hatches on a Parachute Adams after they refused a dozen different dun, emerger, cripple & spinner patterns.

For streamer fishing black, olive, brown and white are great starting colors, but make sure to experiment and let the trout tell you what they want. Other often good colors are yellow and tan. Two tone streamers such a brown/yellow, olive/yellow, etc. can sometimes be the ticket. Try the following hybrid rig: a weighted streamer such as a conehead Bugger, Complex Twist Bugger, Zuddler, Slumpbuster, etc. with a #14-16 soft-hackle, wet fly 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 & flashes into a solid hook-up. Streamers will produce fish if fished properly. The low light of early & late in the day are the prime times, but if you target structure & shade you can catch fish on them during midday. Try also streamers with Sculpin Helmets, bounced & twitched 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.

Current Store Hours:
8am-6pm Monday through Friday, and 8am-5pm on weekends.

The Farmington is currently medium-low at a very wadeable 262cfs total flow through the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R) area, and averaging in the low to high 50s for water temps (depending upon the weather, river section, and time of day)- USGS historical normal combined flow for today is 299cfs. Riverton is 262cfs from the dam on the West Branch, and the Still River is adding in an additional 18cfs below it's junction with the West Branch. 8am Riverton water temp was 47.5 degrees this morning, downstream water temps are higher, temps will rise during the day. Sunny days will see the biggest increases (peaking in late afternoon), and the further you get from the dam, the higher the temps.
-Sulfur #14-18- afternoons & evenings, hatch time varies depending upon weather and river location
-Caddis #14-18: (tan & olive green bodies most common, but other colors & sizes too)
-March Brown #10-12: light hatch, faster water in afternoons & eves, spinners fall at dusk
-Isonychia #10-12: downriver (Canton/Collinsville/Unionville) & up as far as New Hartford now
-Vitreus #12-16: eves, upriver eves, getting near the end (Church Pool & above)
-Light Cahill #14: eves
-Blue Wing Olives #20-22 (on cloudy, cooler days) 
-Summer/Winter Caddis #18-24: pupa & winged adults (light hatch, typically early/mid AM) 
-Midges #20-32: anytime

-Caddis Pupa #14-16 in olive/green & tan (such as BMAR Pupa, Wade's Pupa & others)
-Caddis Larva (olive to green) #12-16
-Sulfur Nymph #14-18 - can be a specific imitation or a Pheasant Tail/Frenchy
-March Brown #10-12: use specific imitation, a Fox Squirrel nymph, or Hare's Ear 
-Isonychia #10-12 (can also use Princes, Zug Bugs & big Pheasant Tails) 
-Olive Nymphs #16-20
-Pheasant Tail/Quasimodos/Frenchies #12-18 (various sizes imitate Mayfly nymphs like BWOs,  Vitreus, Sulfurs, Cahills and many others)
-Prince Nymph #12-16
-Perdigons #14-18 (black, brown, olive, yellow)
-"Junk Flies" #8-16 (Eggs, Mops, Squirmy/San Juan Worms, Green Weenies- great for fresh stockies and/or high dirty water)
-Zebra Midge #18-22 (black, red, olive)
-Attractor Nymphs #14-18 (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 (golden/yellow, brown, black)       

Soft-Hackles/Wet Flies:
-Assorted Patterns #10-16: Hare's Ear, Partridge & Orange/Green/Yellow, Partridge & Flash, Starling & Herl, Leadwing Coachman, March Brown, Partridge & Pheasant Tail, etc. 
   -best fished 2-3 at a time, on tag-end droppers 24-30" apart (keep droppers short at 4-6" in length to
    minimize tangles)

-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)

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/