Friday, July 24, 2020

Friday 7/24/20 Farmington River Report: big browns

As of May 20th, CT guidelines for "non essential businesses" like us changed to once again allow customers in the store. Per new CT rules, you must wear a mask/face covering of some sort inside the store- no exceptions.

We are now open Monday through Friday 8am-6pm, and Saturday/Sunday 8am-5pm.

You can purchase your CT fishing license in advance online by clicking on this link. FYI if you don't have a printer, it's perfectly acceptable to keep your license on your mobile/smart phone nowadays.

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Your continued support has kept our store open so we can keep supplying you with the best fly fishing stuff, fly tying materials & flies. A big "Thank You" to each and every one of our customers.


     -Grady & Torrey


Farmington River Report

Hot New Rods:
The brand new T&T Contact II series in 10' #2, 10' #3, 10' 9" #3, and 10' 9" #4, with more models coming later this Summer (11' 2" #3,  and maybe one more...). New improved materials, new guide spacing (stripping guide is closer to handle to reduce line sag), downlock reel seats are standard now (to better balance the rod), and a new fighting butt design that is more comfortable. Recovery is noticeably better, actions were "tweaked" for more big fish playing power, and the blanks are incredibly strong and much much harder to break. These rods cast beautifully- easy to cast, extra distance, and accurate. Retail is $825.

Found somewhere in the People's State Forest area: the butt section of a 2 piece custom Sage rod, stop by UpCountry if you think it might be yours.

Top pic is a stunning dry fly brown this week by Jonathan Bye, it's flawless and just shy of 22". 2nd down is once again a client of Zach St. Amand, Thomas, with a 20 3/4" brown tricked with a Dry/Dropper rig (very effective this time of year). 3rd pic is Mark Swenson's smiling friend & client Judith Fifield proudly holding up a big beautiful brown. 4th pic is local guide Derrick of CT Fish Guides with one several high quality browns he caught this week- check out the cool blue cheek dot. Last fish pic is Zach's client again, this time veteran John with a really nice brown.

Their first nymphing clinic filled up in 2-3 days, so Antoine Bissieux & DJ Clement are putting on a SECOND full day Advanced Modern Euro Nymphing clinic next month on the following weekend of Saturday August 29nd from 9am-5pm, cost will be $125, class is limited to 8P. The above link in red is clickable and will take you to the page with all the details about this class. Learn what the top competitive anglers from France, Spain, Czech Repbulic & Poland are doing to outfish everybody else. Euro Nymphing has totally evolved over the past 15+ years. This is not an intro to Euro Nymphing, you need to have a basic grasp of the technique and suitable tackle.

We apologize if we've been out of some products, but due to the Coronavirus there have been interruptions in the supply chain. That combined with incredibly high consumer demand and slow shipping from some suppliers is leading to empty spots on our walls/shelves. We're doing our best to fill in the holes. FYI we recently received a big book/DVD shipment, including the new "Adaptive Fly Fishing" DVD by Lance Egan & Devin Olsen, the new John Gierach book "Dumb Luck and the Kindness Of Strangers", and Charlie Craven's latest book "Tying Streamers". We are receiving new product daily, and there are lots of cool new flies in the bins.

Flow is medium in the low 300cfs range and dropping slowly- very wadeable, and great for rising fish. Water temps are averaging mid 50s to low/mid 60s, but if you go way downriver you may see higher water temps in the afternoons/eves on hotter, sunny days. Water is still coming out of the dam at about 50-51 degrees or so. A lot of good to very good dry fly reports filtering into the shop, with a plethora of different bugs hatching. Assorted Blue Wing Olives (BWOs/Olives) hatching at various times, anywhere from #16-18 down to #24s- don't forget about BWO spinners, they are imitated with Rusty Spinners. Big fish love to gently sip in spinners, as they are spent and cannot fly away. Needhami are finally hatching, they are very small chocolate brown Mayflies that run #22-26, and typically are on the water in mid to late mornings. Make sure to have BOTH spinners & duns for them. That hatch is at least as far upstream as Church Pool now. Don't forget about the Summer/Winter Caddis in the early to mid mornings, they run #18-24. FYI you may need to gently twitch them to get the best results. Isonychia are still a major player in the latter part of the day- fast water only. They catch BIG trout. Lots of other bugs too: assorted Caddis, Cahills, Attenuata, big Varia/Potamanthus, and don't forget about Beetles & Ants (deadly this time of year!).

If you are subsurface, smaller nymphs #16-20 predominate, but... big Stoneflies pull big trout in the early/mid morns, and later in the day big Isonychia nymphs can catch big fish too. Just make sure one of your two nymphs (assuming a double rig) is a smaller one, some days it makes all the difference. Trout are eating plenty of Caddis Pupa in the first half of the day FYI. A small Mayfly type nymph is a good choice with all the Blue Winged Olives hatching lately, but small gaudy/flashy attractor style nymphs can be very good too.

The water is still coming out of the dam in Riverton nice and cold at about 50-51 degrees, and then rising slowly as you move downriver away from the dam. If you plan on fishing the lower river during hot weather, please do so in the mornings when water temps are at their coolest, and then migrate upriver to colder water. In the early to mid AM, streamers, nymphs and dries are all possibilities. Match the hatch if you have risers, chuck streamers for big fish, blind fish big Stoneflies in the fast water, or try a Dry/Dropper rig with a buoyant dry trailed 18-30" below with a small weighted nymph.

Zach St. Amand, Rich Strolis & myself  all met independently Joe Goodspeed recently to test out version seven of the T&T Contact II 11' 2" #3 prototype, and we all loved it. Look for that model to appear in the production Contact II lineup around mid/late August, it casts even better than the original Contact 11' 3" #3, has more fish playing power, and is incredibly durable.

Getting reports of a brownish #16 Caddis in the eves around New Hartford, and a lot of anglers are reporting big creamish yellow #8-12 Mayflies in the evenings in the slow water (prob mainly Varia, aka the "Yellow Drake", maybe some Potamanthus mixed in too) all over the river. You may not see Isonychia hatching in numbers, but despite that trout are always on the lookout for that big #10-12 bug, both the dry and the nymph. The bugs you will see hatching will depend upon which section of the river you are in, and the water type (fast, medium, or slow)

FYI many of you are telling me you are seeing small Sulfurs hatching all over the river in the evenings. The actual Sulfurs (Dorothea, Invaria) are only up in Riverton now, closer to the dam and coldest water. Just like every other hatch, they start downriver and work their way upriver. Many of these reports are actually Attenuata, which would more accurately be lumped in with Blue Wing Olives. If you grab one in hand, they are a bright greenish yellow, verging on chartreuse, and their wings & legs are cream colored. They run #18-20, and most commonly hatching in the evenings, although you may see them in mid/late afternoon when you are upriver closer to Riverton. FYI the winged Dun emerges from the nymph on the stream bottom, and then rises/swims to the surface, and then the Dun rides the surface like a typical Mayfly. Quill Gordons & Vitreus have this same hatching behavior.

I try to give you guys a lot of info on here, but it's hard to pin down the exact time of day various bugs hatch on this river. It varies depending on how far below the dam you are, and also according to daily weather. The unusually cold water coming out of a deep reservoir makes info in the hatch books often inaccurate on our river and often means we see hatch activity at time of the day you won't see them on freestone rivers. We are seeing assorted Blue Winged Olives (aka BWOs/Olives) all over the river, ranging anywhere from early mornings to evenings, and everything in between. They are currently the most numerous bug far, ranging from #16-18 (Cornuta?) all the way down to #24-26, maybe even smaller. They hatch best on overcast days, but are also showing up on sunny days. Don't forget to imitate their spinners in the eves with a Rusty Spinner, so many people don't realize when fish are sipping and porpoising on spinners. Big trout luvvv spinners! Nuff said. In the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R), overall the heaviest hatching is in the eves, going to darkness and beyond. Look down below for a list of hatches & dry flies. July is a big Isonychia (Iso) month, look for them in fast water, anytime from late afternoon right up until dark. Plenty of other bugs are hatching/egg-laying in the eves- Sulfurs (Riverton), Cahills, assorted Caddis, Potomanthus/Varia (BIG yellowish Mayflies), Attenuata, and more. Midges are always a possibility, anytime.

The majority of anglers are fishing dries, and many are giving us good reports, especially in the evenings. All other methods are producing at moments: Dry/Dropper, Nymphing (both Euro & Indicator), Streamers, and Wet Flies/Soft Hackles. If you haven't yet tried it, Dry/Dropper with a buoyant dry like a terrestrial (Beetles, big Ants), Isonychia, Stimulator, or other attractor dry, and a small weighted nymph (#16-18) dropped underneath it, is both very fun and quite effective. 18-24" is a good starting distance between flies, but go longer if you aren't catching fish or you are in deeper water. FYI the bug activity has many quality trout holding in shallower, broken water. Don't limit yourself to only waiting for bugs and rising trout, as some days you won't be in the right spot, or maybe you don't want to brave the often crowded conditions in the popular, known "dry fly" pools. Dry/Dropper lets you have the pleasure of fishing a dry, and some fish WILL eat the dry. You can also blind fish the same type dries with no trailing nymph.

If you are dry fly fishing to rising trout during a hatch, match the bugs as closely as you can, paying close attention to fly profile & stage (Mayfly, Caddis, emerger, dun/adult, spinner, etc.), the size, and the approximate color. Doesn't matter if you cannot ID the bug or know the Latin name, just match what it looks like, paying close attention to the size and making an accurate, drag-free drift. At this point in the season, all the trout have seen a ton of fake flies and real bugs, so you need to be on your "A" game to fool them. Get as close to the as you can, and use a long tippet (3-4' or even longer if it's not windy) to help get a drag-free float. If you get a few accurate natural presentations with no takers or you get a visible refusal, either change flies or move to another fish. A refusal means you are close, but something isn't quite right (size is slightly off, color isn't right, they want an emerger, etc.). As a last resort, sometimes a gentle twitch when the fly is a couple of feet above the trout will seal the deal. But sometimes it will spook them, so do that judiciously. FYI Caddis dries fished in riffly water often fish better when you twitch & skate them, they are a very active insect.

Streamer fishing is an option if you want a change from dries & nymphs, especially on overcast days. Low light conditions and increased flows make for a better streamer bite- the biggest trout will often be near structure like big rocks, undercut banks, downed trees, etc. Olive is a good starting color for streamers, but it's important to change colors (black, brown, tan, yellow, two-tone, etc.), fly size, fly type, retrieve, depth fished, etc. Nymphing, as always, is another good option- target the faster water with imitations of the current bugs & attractor nymphs. Big Stonefly nymphs are often "hot" in the mornings. Iso nymphs, Caddis Pupa, small Mayfly nymphs are all having their moments. Remember that Iso nymphs are great swimmmers, so always let them swing out at the end of each drift. In addition to a specific imiatation, bigger Princes & Pheasant Tails can also successfully imitate Iso's, and various size Pheasant Tails/Frechies imitate many medium to small Mayfly nymphs.
Remember this: the further downriver you go, the more the river behaves like a natural freestone river, meaning early & late are the prime times to be out, and you need to pay attention to water temps. Closer to the dam the icy water (about 50 degrees give or take) means that "morning hatches" may happen later, and often the "evening hatch" can start & end before it does downstream. Warm to hot air temps make terrestrial imitations such as beetles & ants great choices, especially in the afternoons when hatches are generally scarce now. You can blind fish them, or target sporadic risers with them. Dry/Dropper with a buoyant visible dry fly (Mini Chernobyl, Elk Hair Caddis, Stimulator, etc.) trailing a smaller weighted nymph 18-30" off the hook bend is another effective and fun option when the hatches aren't coming off. And of course Euro nymphing the faster water is always a good option when they aren't rising. First light with streamers can produce a big trout- cover lots of water. Hot sunny weather means that targeting shade, structure (big rocks, undercut banks, downed trees, etc.), and faster choppy water are good ideas. Remember that trout don't have eyelids, and they also seek concealment from predators. The most technical midday game is fishing dries to trout sipping in slow, flat water. Sometimes it requires a 15+ foot 7x leader and tiny dries, and sometimes 5-6x and a beetle or ant will fool them. Be stealthy, wear drab colored clothing, use longer leaders, lay your casts down gently, and make sure to make pinpoint accurate & drag-free presentations. Lighter rods in the #2-4 range will help you make a gentle presentation.

Be aware that bug activity varies from day to day and section to section, but also depending upon water type. Don't look for Isonychia 200 yards down a pool in the flat water, as they are a fast water insect and that's where you will find them, at the pool heads and in pocket water/faster water. I hear customers tell me there were "no bugs", but then I find out they were fishing early afternoon in flat/slow water on a bright sunny day and expecting to see Iso's. Do your homework and learn at least a little about major hatches (e.g. Iso's, Sulfurs) that are common and last a while. Sulfurs typically are seen in medium-slow to medium-fast water. Mayfly Spinner falls occur over riffles & pocket water. Caddis most commonly hatch & egg-lay in riffles and faster water. Big trout will often drop into the tails of pools in the evenings to feed. Bottom line is that if you aren't seeing bugs, move around to different water types, and move up & down the river. Fish have been hit up hard this season and are no longer pushovers, so be on your "A" game, especially if you hope to land some big wild browns.

FYI there are truly no secret "hot spots". The entire stretch of river from the dam in Riverton down to Unionville (20+ miles), numerous trout spread throughout it in very good numbers. 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 truly everywhere, a mix of 2020 stockers, multi-year 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 trout 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

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.

Fishing subsurface with nymphs & wets/soft hackles is a good choice 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. Pair the big Stones up with a smaller #16-18 nymph. 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.

If you are fishing wets/soft-hackles (and you should be sometimes), 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 #14-18), Sulfurs #16-18, Cahills #14, 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 at a nice total flow of 328cfs total flow through the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R) area, and averaging in the mid 50s to mid 60s for water temps on most of the river (depending upon the weather, river section, and time of day)- USGS historical normal combined flow for today is 230cfs. Riverton is 262cfs from the dam on the West Branch, and the Still River is adding in an additional 66cfs & dropping below it's junction with the West Branch. 8am Riverton water temp was 51 degrees this morning, downstream water temps are higher (50s-60s), 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.

-Blue Winged Olives/BWOs/Olives #18-26: anytime from mornings thru eves
-Needhami #22-26: mid to late mornings, at least as far upstream as Church Pool 
-Caddis #14-20: (tan & olive green bodies most common, but other colors & sizes too)
-Isonychia #10-12 ("Iso's"): fast water hatch, late afternoon thru dark
-Attenuata #18-20- eves, often confused with/called a "Sulfur", but it's more of a bright greenish yellow body ("apple green") with creamish wings/legs, evening hatch, moving upriver
-Light Cahill #14: eves, cream Usual works great
-Ants & Beetles #12-20- anytime, especially midday 
-Potamanthus & Varia #10-12: eves, slow water
  -Sulfur #16-18 (only in Riverton now)- hatch time varies depending upon weather and river section, late morns to eves, hatch has moved way upriver
-Summer/Winter Caddis #18-24: pupa & winged adults (light hatch, typically early/mid AM) 
-Midges #20-32: anytime 
-Parachute Adams #10-24 (diff sizes can imitate Isonychia, BWOs, Midges and much more)
-Rusty Spinners #12-24 (imitates the spinner stage of 60-70% of Mayflies, espeically BWOs)

-Caddis Pupa #14-16 in olive/green & tan (such as BMAR Pupa, Wade's Pupa & others)
-Caddis Larva (olive to green) #12-16
-Sulfur/Yellow Sally Nymph #16-18 - can be a specific imitation or a Pheasant Tail/Frenchy
-Isonychia Nymph #10-12 (can also use bigger Princes, Zug Bugs & larger Pheasant Tails) 
-Stoneflies #6-12 (golden/yellow, brown, black)- best in early/mid morns
-Olive Nymphs/BWOs #16-20
-Pheasant Tail/Quasimodos/Frenchies #12-20 (various sizes imitate Mayfly nymphs like BWOs, Sulfurs, Cahills, Iso's and many others 
-Prince Nymph #10-16 (bigger ones make a good Iso)
-Perdigons #16-20 (black, brown, olive, yellow)
-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   
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, don't go to light on your tippet as strikes can sometimes be very hard)

-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: