Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Tuesday 10/20/20 Farmington River Report: peak foliage week & good browns

We are open for business: Monday through Friday 8am-6pm, and Saturday & Sunday 8am-5pm, and in November the hours will change to 8am-5pm every day. When entering the store please try to maintain a 6ft distance from other customers if possible, and as 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.

Top fish pic is one of many high quality browns landed by clients of Derrick Kirkpatrick (CT Fish Guides) this past weekend, as is the 2nd pic down. Joe Marchese caught the pretty brown in the net in the 3rd pic, and the the beautiful female brown in the camo Fishpond net in the 4th pic was caught by local guide Steve Hogan. Quite a few quality fish were landed over the weekend, these are only a few of them.

I think this will end up being the peak foliage week, it’s quite beautiful in our neck of the woods. I’ve had a stunning drive in to work every day lately. Still some trees with green leaves though so we will have several weeks more of nice color. We received about 2” of rain last Friday night, and it definitely helped- a lot of good reports on Saturday, mostly on streamers & nymphs. Flow has dropped a lot since then, total flow peaked in the mid 300cfs range, currently this morning the total flow in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R) is a moderatlely low158cfs and slowly decreasing, with 65cfs in Riverton combined with 93cfs & dropping from the Still River. Normal for mid October would be around 200cfs, so we aren’t far off that. I see another inch of rain predicted for next Sunday through Monday.

Fishing advice has not changed much: still a mix of streamers, smallish nymphs, and some windows of dry fly fishing. Main hatches are still Caddis, Olives & Isonychia. Flows went pretty quickly from upper end medium to moderately low in 3 days. Weather through Saturday looks very mild & pleasant, with high upper 60s to low 70s, nights in the 50s. Apparently the MDC stocked up in Riverton (Rt 20/Hitchcock/Riverton Self Storage bridge up to the dam) in early October, they typically put 800-1,000 trout in. The flow up there is above the Still River, so it’s quite low as they are only doing the bare minimum release of 50cfs. This is both good & bad for that section. There is less holding water and the trout are spookier, but…. it makes is very easy to wade, read the water, and it stacks the trout up in the deeper water (deep is a relative term at 50cfs haha). Below the Still River flows are about 100cfs more, making for nicer water conditions.

Let me be crystal clear, as I’ve said this before and it apparently need restating due to questions we get in the shop and emails we receive: there are no magic fishing spots on this river. The entire 20+ miles below the dam holds good to excellent numbers of trout all year, including some big ones. Water temps are great on the entire river currently, running from about the mid 50s to low 60s. This means you can fish all the water from Riverton down to Unionville and even below that. We constantly get people looking for those “magic” spots on the river where the trout are plentiful, access is easy, there are no crowds, you catch lots of trout, rising fish are everywhere, and there are tons of big trout. Good luck with that haha. If it’s easy access and an above average dry fly spot, the angling pressure will be super heavy (like Church Pool & Greenwoods), which makes for trout that are waaaay harder to fool on average. In the end it all boils down to how well you can read water, your fishing ability, and how much effort you are willing to put in. The fish are almost everywhere on the Farmington River, but it’s up to you to figure them out and make a good presentation. If you cannot cast well and present your fly properly, then work on that or you will struggle no matter what spot you are in or what fly you use. The fly doesn’t catch the trout, the angler does. It’s not the arrow, it’s the archer- and so on. If you think it’s all about the “magic fly” or luck, you are wrong. Fly suggestions are thoroughly covered in this report and updated as they change. Cover water and change your presentations and rigs. There are tons of books, articles and videos out there that can help you gain knowledge, or book a trip with a local guide. At the end of the day, success or failure falls 100% on the angler, so own it, and if you aren’t happy with your results, do something to up your game. Einstein’s definition of insanity was doing the same thing over & over, but expecting different results. I concur!

The new Hardy Zane saltwater #7-10 rods recently arrived, the Zane & the Zane Pro, just in time for the Fall season, check ‘em out.

Streamer fishing is extra good in the Fall, and those covering water and playing with fly colors/patterns, retrieves & casting angles are giving us good reports, including some impressive browns. Those making 200 casts in the exact same spot with the same streamer, the same retrieve, and presented at the exact same angle, not doing so well. Move around and experiment, don’t be a stick-in-the-mud. There are windows of dry fly fishing, primarily Caddis (morns & eves), Olives (afternoons) & Isonychia (afternoons/eves). Nymphing with mostly small nymphs has been the most consistent and predictable producer, but #16 Caddis Pupa and bigger Stoneflies are having their moments too. We are getting into that Egg Fly time of year- try smaller egg patterns in yellow, oranges, pinks and mixes of those colors.

Increased flows will only make the fishing better overall. Throwing bigger streamers for bigger trout can be great when flows rise and discolor, it really brings the big browns out of hiding as they look to eat and ambush baitfish, crayfish & smaller trout. Best/most predictable rising activity has been in Church Pool & Greenwoods, with other pools/sections seeing rising trout too, but spottier and less predictable. But… a lot less fishing pressure when you get out of those two super popular dry fly pools. Remember you can blind fish bigger dries such as Isonychia, Terrestrials and Attractor Dries over likely looking water and bring fish to the surface, you don’t always have to throw only to rising fish. And if you really want to up your odds, add a small weighted dropper nymph under your dry.

Most bugs right now are small, as in #18-24 and even smaller, so fish are used to eating predominately small to tiny nymphs in the early Fall. Typically egg flies start working quite well in mid October on the Farmington, any day now they should become a top producer. Pair them up with some sort of smallish nymph. Try nymphs with & without hot spots, and fish both drab and flashy patterns. Some slightly bigger nymphs that are the exception would be Caddis Pupa in #16 (even bigger for the Giant October Caddis), #12-14 Isonychia, and #8-10 Stoneflies. But overall smaller nymphs #18-22 are what is getting it done. I’d probably fish these mostly on 6x fluoro tippet FYI, 5x is okay on bigger nymphs.

The streamer bite is only getting better as the trout’s aggression ramps up due to spawning & water levels continue to increase. I’m sure that in the Fall there is also a biological imperative for animals to bulk up before the leaner times of Winter, so they are on the lookout for big bites at a time of year when most of the bugs are small to very small. Don’t forget about wet flies & soft hackles! The foliage continues to get more colorful every single day. Fishing in low water has been “technical” at moments, with those adapting to it finding success, and those who remain stubborn (i.e. fishing the exact same way that worked in June, only using bigger flies, only fishing the same old spots, or only willing to fish dries to rising trout) working hard for an occasional strike. Be flexible boys & girls, or you will get zero sympathy from us when you come in complaining about “slow fishing”. Fish are still eating most of the day all over the river (mostly subsurface, but sometimes on top), and it’s up to you to figure out where, how & what. Crack the code and it will put a smile on your face.

Mark Swenson’s next fly tying class will be November 15th, and is geared toward novice & intermediate tyers who used to tie a little bit, but got away from it and forget most of what they learned. Sort of a “tune up” class for less experienced tyers. Call Mark directly at 203-586-8007 to sign up, class is already almost full.

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 well 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 up. Or go where everyone else goes, and do what everybody does, and have similar results... 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 getting aggressive, making this a great time to fish streamers. We have been getting good streamer reports for several weeks now. 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, especially in the Fall. You may want to downsize your streamers in low water, but remember 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 likely 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/mid 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.

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 #14 now, with the bigger ones pushing a #12. 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 (5x for bigger nymphs or when the water levels come up). 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 in anything but truly dirty water. 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 (#6-10), 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, stripped, twitched, or bounced on the surface- it’s a very versatile fly. Zuddlers & Woolly Bugger are perennial favorites and still quite effective if presented correctly.

The river was electrofished by the DEEP in September, 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 has been low since about August and will likely remain low for a while- 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 usually more productive.

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 similar 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.

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 small #16-22 nymph dropper), or nymph fish with small #16-22 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 #12-18 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.

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 moderately low at a total flow of 129cfs total flow through the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R) area (historical normal total flow is 207cfs), and averaging mid 50s to mid 60s for water temps, depending upon the weather, river section, and time of day. Long range forecast calls for normal mid October weather (highs upper 50s to mid 60s, lows averaging in the 40s). Riverton is a very low 55cfs from the dam on the West Branch, and the Still River is adding in an additional 74cfs below it's junction with the West Branch. AM Riverton water temp was 61 degrees this morning, peaked out at 65 in late afternoon Thursday. Downstream water temps can be lower or higher this time of year, depending upon night time lows, daytime highs, and sunshine (or lack thereof).

Summer/Winter Caddis #18-24: pupa & winged adults, typically early/mid AM
*Blue Winged Olives #
20-26: typically afternoons, especially cloudy/cooler days
(“Iso”) #12-14: mid/late afternoon thru dark
*Caddis #16-20: (tan,
brown, black- anytime, but especially morns (hatching) & evenings (egg-laying)
Giant October Caddis #8-12: late afternoons/eves, very light hatch (orange body, light brown wings)
-Light Cahill/Summer Stenos #12-
14: evenings, a few
-Ants & Beetles #12-20: anytime, especially
on milder days
-Midges #20-32: anytime,
365 days a year
-Parachute Adams #1
2-24: different sizes imitate Isonychia, BWOs, Midges, Caddis 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: various patterns with & without hot spots and flash
Egg Flies #10-18: assorted colors (yellow, pinks, oranges or mixed colors)
*Tan Caddis Pupa #14-18
-Caddis Larva (olive to green) #12-18
-Isonychia Nymph #1
2-14: can also use Princes, Zug Bugs & Pheasant Tails
-Stoneflies #
8-12: golden/yellow, brown, black, best in morns & eves
& Pheasant Tails #12-20: various sizes imitate Mayfly nymphs like Blue Wing Olives, Cahills, Isonychia and many others
-Antoine's Perdigons #16-20: black, brown, olive, yellow
-Zebra Midge #18-22: black, olive,
-Attractor Nymphs #1
6-20: anything flashy, gaudy, or with a hot spot. Try the 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