Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Tuesday 9/29/20 Farmington River Report: finally gonna get Rain!!!

We are open for business: Monday through Friday 8am-6pm, and Saturday & Sunday 8am-5pm, hours will change in November to 5pm every day. When entering the store please try to maintain a 6ft distance from other customers if possible, and per the governor's decree you must wear a mask/face covering of some sort inside the store (both your mouth AND nose must be covered, no lowered masks please). We are happy to deliver curbside if you are uncomfortable shopping inside. Just give us a call.

We are looking for a part time weekend shop guy with a flexible schedule (and maybe a weekday or two)- you need to be experienced/knowledgeable in fly fishing, know the Farmington well, and have some previous retail experience. Please don't stop in or call us about this, but rather email us with your resume/experience, and we will take it from there. 

Top pic is a stunningly colored brown by customer Nathan Mumford, he's been consistently getting trout like this. Next is a smiling client of Antoine with a nice September brown. Last but not least is a slab of quality brown trout by customer Henry Lavieri, caught on a Rubber Leg Stone.

Well here is some good 2020 news:
Although we are currently in a Stage 2 Drought, it looks like we are finally going to get substantial rain overnight and into Wednesday morning, with 100% chance of significant forecast to total at least 1.5-2”, with locally heavier rain possible. This won’t change the release from the dam, but it means the Still River and other tributaries will be pumping in more water, at least for a little while, and should put a little water back in the reservoirs. Still need lots more future rain though. FYI you may have seen the news about an oil spill in the Still River- it’s the Still River in Danbury, not the one that feeds into the West Branch of the Farmington in Riverton. Foliage has really started to pop since a week ago, getting quite colorful. The drive along Rt 8 is getting visually spectacular, and we aren’t even peaked yet. Looks like peak will hit early this year, I’m guessing 2nd week of October. One more warmer/milder day in the 70s today, and then highs go back to averaging mid 60s, with night back down into the 40s. I love this time of year, Fall in New England is truly stunning.

Fishing in the low water has remained “technical”, with those adapting to it finding success, and those who have not working hard for an occasional strike. This rain should really help things out for a bit and raise the water levels to some degree. I find after prolonged low water & no rain the fishing gets tougher, and the first good rain always seem to pick up the fishing for a while. Should help to move the trout around and “refresh” them, and increased flows only makes the subsurface angling with streamers, nymphs & wets better. Makes the trout easier to approach also, including with dry flies. If the water dirties up Wednesday (it likely will), try tossing some medium to large streamers in search of big browns. Black and also yellow are great dirty water colors for streamers.

If you want to avoid the crowds, remember that there are 21 miles of seasonal catch & release (C&R) water below the dam from September 1st until Opening Day, and it’s all loaded with plenty of trout, including even the water below that. Everybody seems to key in on the same spots- either the popular pools in the 6.2 mile permanent C&R/TMA section, or wherever the state recently stocked, but the trout are truly everywhere in this river. Now that water temps are not an issue, you can go as far downriver as you wish. Explore and find some new water that isn’t getting beat up on a daily basis, and watch your catch rate jump way up. Or go where everyone else goes, and do what everybody does, and have similar results (usually not great!). It’s your choice. If you aren’t good at reading new water, purchase a copy of Gary Borger’s fantastic book on the subject called “Reading Waters”, it’s the best one out there on that topic- he takes a dry subject and makes it interesting with plenty of personal anecdotes.

Farmington browns typically start spawning around mid October, and as such they are pre-spawn and getting more aggressive, so don’t forget about streamers, even in this low water I’m already getting good streamer reports. Early & late in the day during low light are peak times to nail a big trout on a streamer, but don’t rule out other times of the day. You may want to downsize your streamers in low water, but remember that also that bigger trout tend to like bigger bites. Smaller streamers will likely catch you more but smaller fish, with bigger streamers giving you your best shot at a true trophy but you will probably catch less fish. Decisions, decisions… See a couple of paragraphs down for a few streamer fishing tips & pattern advice. A lot of peeps have forgotten about wet flies & soft hackles, but low water in early Fall is a great time to fish them. Easy to cover a lot of water from fast to slow, and not get hung up on the bottom. As always, I recommend a 2-3 fly tag-end dropper fly rig. Floating line is fine for the low water, with the flies spaced about 30” apart. Put your biggest fly on the point (end). Experiment with fly patterns/sizes, casting angles, retrieves, and rod tip manipulations- there is far more than just the “down-and-across” presentation. If you experiment and pay attention, the trout will tell you what they prefer.

Although we have to be getting near the end and it’s mostly in the upper river (Campground & upstream), we are still seeing some Trico hatches. Many afternoons of late we’ve also gotten Flying Ant falls on the entire river- this is typically in the afternoons & early evenings. The great part about Flying Ants is that when they hit the water, the trout HAVE to rise to eat them, as there is no subsurface nymphal/pupal emergence. They are most active on warm, sunny days, and also the day after some rain. You will also see Summer/Winter Caddis in the early to mid mornings. Later look for small Blue Winged Olives (BWOs), Isonychia, Rusty Spinners & smaller assorted Caddis in the afternoons & eves.

If you are out in the evening fishing dries, stay until the end as there is normally a 15-30 minute window right near dark when the fishing becomes easier and the trout seem to become less selective and will eat a variety of patterns, often bigger flies too. BWO hatches are picking up on the cooler days. Isonychia are getting a bit smaller, averaging a #12-14 now. If you are nymphing, small flies are norm, as in #18-22. With both dries & nymphs, keep your leaders longer (12’ or longer) and go lighter on your tippets: mostly 6-7x with dries, and mainly 6x with the nymphs. You can always take a 9’ 4-5x leader and add 3-4 feet of lighter tippet to it. Longer tippets = less drag and better presentations. Don’t spook your quarry: be stealthy in your approach in low water, stay a little further away, and wear drab colors to blend into the backround.

Streamer fishing is a nice break from the technical small fly/light leader fishing, and allows you to cover water quickly and target some of the biggest trout. Some yellow incorporated into your Fall streamers can be very effective, brown trout react aggressively to their own heightened spawning colors. Can be all yellow, or two-tone such as brown/yellow or olive/yellow. Orange is a good secondary color too. Olive is always a color worth trying too. Cover lots of water, play with retrieves, and experiment with colors & patterns. Make sure to use heavier tippet, nothing lighter than 2x-3x with average size streamers, and if you are chucking the big stuff, go right up to 0x. The old school Muddler Minnow is a neglected classic that works quite well in the often low water conditions of early Fall: it can be floated, dead-drifted, swung, or stripped, very versatile fly. Zuddlers & Woolly Bugger are perennial favorites and still quite effective if presented correctly.

The river was electrofished by the DEEP recently, originally scheduled for 2 days but they got so many fish the first day they did not need to do a second one. They bring 150 16" plus wild/holdover trout back to the hatchery, artificially spawn them, and then return them to the river when done. Two of our customers watched them shock, and they said several of the trout were so big they looked like salmon! 

The river remains low and will likely be low this Fall- we need rain, and lots of it! Fishing continues to get more technical, anglers are working hard to fool trout sipping flies in the flat water pools. Targeting the faster ripply/broken water with Isonychia, attractor dries, terrestrials, dry/dropper, small nymphs, and wet flies is easier and often more productive. No matter whether you experience good or bad fishing, every day gets a bit more colorful as we see more peeks of autumn foliage.

Guide Mark Swenson is offering a Beginnner fly tying course (clickable link) Sunday October 18th, it is geared to tying a variety of flies that are effective on the Farmington River, while simultaneously teaching you necessary fly tying techniques. This class is for pure beginners, there will be follow up future courses geared more toward novices/intermediates following this. Click on the link above for more specific class info & Mark's contact info- contact Mark directly to sign up for this class.

Our most popular jig hook, the Hanak 450 Jig Superb, is now finally available in #18, and we have a pile of them in stock. Just in time for tying the nymphs of late Summer/early Fall. The hook design is excellent: ultra wide gap for better hooking, curled in barbless point, and a slightly short shank to tie smaller bugs. Ends up being more like a #20, but with the gap of at least a #16. If you want a hook with slightly heavier wire that is available in smaller sizes, try the Fasna F-415; it goes all the way down to a #20 and runs about one size smaller than the Hanak. A #16 Fasna is about the size of a Hanak #18.

As of September 1st, virtually the entire river went Catch & Release: (21 miles from the dam in Riverton down to the Unionville Rt 177 bridge) until 6am on Opening Day in April 2021. If you see anybody keeping trout, don't confront them, instead call the CT DEEP TIPS hotline at 800-842-TIPS(4357) and report them. Even if they are unable to come & ticket or arrest them, it gets logged and can help us get more future DEEP enforcement on the river when they analyze their call logs data. I recommend programming that phone # into your cell phone. Please don't ask us to call them for you, it carries more weight when lots of different individuals are calling in violations, rather than coming mostly from UpCountry.

Although the lower water makes for some technical fishing, we continue to get pictures of big trout landed. Many customers are working hard for only an occasional hook up. Don't feel bad if you are working your butt off for each fish you catch, you need to be on your "A" game in these tough early Fall conditions. You have to adapt to the low flow, time of year, and the current bugs. If you do what you were doing to be successful in June, and fish only the same spots, you will struggle. Be flexible where you fish, try new spots, experiment with your flies & tactics. If you move around & look, fish can be found of the surface most of the day, with mornings & late afternoon through evenings the peak hatch times.

The toughest fishing of all right now is the flat water, tiny dry fly game in the mornings & afternoons, you have to do everything right and even then it can still be hard. Or, you can cover water/blind fish and focus where there is more current & choppy water, fishing attractor dries, terrestrials, Dry/Dropper (with a very small #18-22 nymph dropper), or nymph fish with small #18-22 flies (either a very light Euro rig, or a small Indicator rig with one small split shot, I recommend 6x tippet with small nymphs). Fish holding in faster, choppy/riffly water have to make a quick decision and don't get as good a look at your fly. The "easier" dry fly fishing is in the evenings, when there are hatches of somewhat bigger bugs in the #10-18 range- don't overlook spinner, especially if you see gentle rises later in the evening. Rusty spinners in various sizes probably cover 60%+ of all Mayflies, regardless of what color they are when they hatch. Cream spinners are good too. Stay until full dark if you can, there is often a window of easier fishing in the last 15-30 minutes of light when the trout will eat a variety of dries.

Dry/Dropper tips:
While many of the tiny hatch-matching dries require 12' or longer 6x-7x leaders, trying to throw a Dry/Dropper rig on that is a recipe for disaster. Think more like 9', and no lighter than 5x, and big air resistant dries may require heavier (3x-4x) and sometimes even shorter (7.5') leaders. You have to be able to accurately turn over that rig, if you cannot, go shorter & heavier. Attach your nymph to 18-24" of 6x fluoro tippet for starters. Shallow runs and/or surface feeding trout may mean running it 12" below, and deeper/faster runs may require up to 30-36". Most people tie the nymph off the hook bend of the dry, but if you want the best rig of all, create a tag end dropper for your dry fly (just like you would in a Euro nymphing rig) above your nymph. Flows are currently low and most of the bugs are small, so think #16-22 nymphs. This is a shallow nymphing rig, so don't worry about dredging near the bottom, there are different rigs for that (Euro or Indicator nymphing). For those of you doing a Dry/Dropper rig on a Euro rod with a Mono rig, it's totally doable if you have a thicker mono set up. 15-20# Mono is optimal, but you can go a little thinner if the dries aren't too big and bushy. If you go too thin, there's not enough mass in the mono to turn the flies over. The weight of the dropper nymph actually helps you make the cast with a Mono rig, just make sure it's not too heavy for your dry fly to support. It becomes more critical to balance out your flies with a Mono rig though- bigger dries need heaver flies to be able to cast them, and smaller dries balance with lighter nymphs. That is not necessary with a traditional fly line and tapered leader. But the advantage to a Mono rig is that for short to moderate range work you can high-stick it and keep all the line off the water, up to maybe 25' or so.

Most (but not all) bugs are much smaller in late Summer/early Fall, so it typically pays off to also downsize your flies. The current main exceptions would be Stonefly Nymphs (#6-12) & Iso dries/nymphs (#12-14). Stonefly nymphs are active in early/mid mornings, and again in the evenings. Isonychia are normally active/hatching sometime between mid/late afternoon and darkness. Don't use heavily weighted Stoneflies right down, you will be dragging bottom & hanging up constantly. Either lead weight only with no bead, or lighter beadhead ones.

Hot New Rods:
The brand new T&T Contact II series (10' #2, 10' #3, 10' 9" #3, 10' 9" #4 & 10' 8" #6) are now available, and now the 11' 2" #3 has joined the lineup- Zach & I (Torrey) were closely involved with the prototype development of this last rod, and on version 7 of the prototype they absolutely nailed it. New improved materials, new guide spacing , downlock reel seats are standard now (to better balance), and a new fighting butt design that is more comfortable. Recovery is noticeably better/crisper, and the actions "tweaked" for more big fish playing power, plus the newer materials they use to make the rods inherently store more energy and give the rod more power for casting and playing big trout. The blanks are incredibly strong and much much harder to break. These rods are easy to cast, will give you more distance, and they deliver with improved accuracy. Retail is $825.


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

The Farmington is currently remains very low at a total flow of 81cfs total flow through the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R) area, and averaging low to upper 60s for water temps the past few days, depending upon the weather, river section, and time of day. Riverton is 76cfs from the dam on the West Branch, and the Still River is adding in an additional 5cfs below it's junction with the West Branch. Early morning Riverton water temp was 65 degrees this morning, peaked out at 68 in late afternoon Monday. Downstream water temps can be lower or higher this time of year, depending upon night time lows, daytime highs, and sunshine (or lack thereof).

-Tricos #22-26: morning hatch: the spinner fall is the main event, they fall to the water at approximately 68 degrees air temp; hatch is best upriver, but getting near the end
-Summer/Winter Caddis #18-24: pupa & winged adults, typically early/mid AM
-Flying Ants #18-24: typically afternoons/eves, especially
milder/sunny days
-Blue Winged Olives #
20-26: typically afternoons, especially cloudy & cooler days
(“Iso”) #12-14: mid/late afternoon thru dark
Giant October Caddis: #8-12 late afternoons/eves, light hatch
-Caddis #16-20: (tan,
brown, olive green, black- anytime, but especially morns (hatching) & evenings (egg-laying)
-Light Cahill/Summer Stenos #12-20: eve
nings, a few
-Ants & Beetles #12-20: anytime, especially midday when hatches are minimal
-Midges #20-32: anytime,
365 days a year
-Parachute Adams #1
2-24: different sizes imitate Isonychia, BWOs, Midges and much more
-Rusty Spinners #12-26: imitates the spinner stage of most Mayflies,
look for them mainly in afternoons & especially in the evenings

-Small Nymphs #18-22: size is more important than exact pattern
Blue Wing Olive #18-22
-Caddis Pupa #14-18 in tan
& olive/green
-Caddis Larva (olive to green) #12-18
-Yellow Sally #16-18:
Sulfur nymphs imitate them well
-Isonychia Nymph #1
2-14: can also use large Princes, Zug Bugs & Pheasant Tails
-Stoneflies #6-12: golden/yellow, brown, black, best in morns & eves
& Pheasant Tails #12-20: various sizes imitate Mayfly nymphs like Blue Wing Olives, Sulfurs, Cahills, Isonychia and many others
-Antoine's Perdigons #16-20: black, brown, olive, yellow
-Zebra Midge #18-22: black, olive,
-Attractor Nymphs #14-20: anything flashy, gaudy, or with a hot spot. Haast Haze, Rainbow Warrior, Blue Lightning Bug, Miller's
Victim, Triple Threat, Princes, etc.-

Soft-Hackles/Wet Flies:
Assorted Patterns #10-18: Hare's Ear, Partridge & Orange/Green/Yellow, Partridge & Flash, Starling & Herl, Leadwing Coachman, March Brown, Partridge & Pheasant Tail

BMAR Yellow Matuka #6
-Muddler Minnow #6-10: unweighted is very versatile in Fall low water- float, swing, dead-drift, strip/twitch, dangle- you can do all 5 presentations in one drift
-Zuddler #4-8:
olive, yellow, white, brown, black
-Complex Twist Bugger & Mini version #2-6: 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:
brown & yellow is a DEADLY Fall color combo
-Matuka #4-8 (yellow, olive, brown)

Cortland's "Top Secret" Ultra Premium Fluorocarbon tippet has a glass-smooth Plasma finish and is by far the best and strongest stuff out there: it has the most abrasion resistance, stretch, flexibility & clarity. Total game-changer, and an extra-good choice if you like to nymph with lighter tippets - here's a link to purchase it off our site: http://www.farmingtonriver.com/cortland-top-secret-ultra-premium-fluorocarbon/

Report by Torrey Collins