Friday, January 31, 2020

Friday 1/31/20 Farmington RIver Report: mild temps & trout

Looks like a very nice upcoming mild Winter weekend, with highs touching 40 degrees both days, nights just below freezing, and zero precipitation- not too windy either. Flows in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R) are in the low 400cfs range, I'd call that medium or thereabouts. Sunday will see some sunshine, Saturday won't- typically when the sun is out it helps bump the water temps up a little, which is a good thing when water temps are averaging in the 30s. A water temp bump tends to get the trout on the bite. 8am water temp in Riverton was 34.5 degrees at 8am.

Anglers who ventured out this week and worked at it found some success. Nymphing remains the most predictable producer, albeit the hot flies can vary from day to day- see a few paragraphs down for some nymph suggestions, Eggs, Midges & Stones have been top producers. Don't rule out dry flies, especially on days when it's not too windy- Winter Caddis (AM) & Midges are the 2 main bugs. As we move into February you will start to see the Tiny Winter Black Stoneflies (Capnia) at some point. If you fish streamers remember to fish them slowly and get them deep- sluggish trout don't like to chase or move far to eat your long flies. Experiment with colors- in particular I like white, olive, black, and brown this time of year, but other colors and color combos (such as brown & yellow) can be good too.

Don't forget about Cortland's new improved Euro rods, see further down in this report for info, they are a STEAL at $299.99, cannot beat them at that price point. Available in 10 1/2' lengths in #2-4 line weights.

As always, some photographic proof that nice fish are being caught recently- top pic is once again from Zach St. Amand, his client Dick with a hefty brown from this week, and 3rdd fish pic down is another one of Zach's clients with a recent nice fish. 2nd fish pic is guide Dave Machowski's handful of Farmington long & lean brown trout- noticed clipped adipose fin. 4th fish pic is a possible small wild Bow that Zach caught this past week- we don't see very many of these at all, and this one is still sporting some parr marks. I've only caught a few, but they do exist and have been documented during electroshocking by the CT DEEP. For whatever reasons, the browns do a much better job here at natural reproduction.

Always a good idea to keep your expectations reasonable in the Winter- cold weather leads to cold
water and lethargic trout that don't need to eat a lot, and there is way less bug activity than in the Spring through Fall time period. The more experienced you are at fishing in very cold water, the more likely you are to find success. Hits on nymphs tend to be SUBTLE in cold water, so set the hook on anything remotely suspicious. You almost have to spoon feed the fish when water temps are in the 30s, as a general move they won't move far at all for your flies. I think anglers DON'T detect the majority of their strikes in the Winter when they are nymphing. Try to fish the highest percentage spots where trout congregate, and fish them thoroughly, then move. Remember that hook sets are FREE, so try to find a reason to set the hook on every drift- that will help keep you in the proper focus and mind-set for this time of year when nymphing.

Don't forget to get a new 2020 CT fishing license & Trout/Salmon stamp so you are legal!  We sell them here at UpCountry, or you can purchase online by clicking here

Especially during colder days, the best time to be out is generally late morning through late afternoon (exception: morning hatch of Winter Caddis, typically early to mid morning), it's also the most comfortable. If morning slush is present, it typically clears out by lunchtime or so if it's sunny out. If slush remains an issue after a really cold night, typically you can go up towards Riverton and as you get closer to the dam at some point the water will be slush/ice free. Downstream in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release you may see shelf ice form along slow pool edges during cold snaps. Basic advice remains the same: focus on the slow to medium speed water that has some depth to it, and fish slow & deep with nymphs and streamers. Nymphing remains the most consistent producer, but trout are getting caught on streamers and dries also. The main hatches remain Winter Caddis (mornings) & Midges (afternoons). 

"Junk Flies" (especially eggs, but also Mops & Worms), Midges/small nymphs #18-20, big #8-14 Stoneflies, Attractor/flashy/hotspot nymphs (Haast Haze, Frenchies, Rainbow Warriors, etc.), and Caddis Larva (both regular & cased) continue to be the most productive flies on average so far this Winter. The hot flies vary from day to day, and can even change as the day progresses, so make sure to experiment. While many fish are in the classic Winter lies of slower/deeper water, in the afternoons if the fish decide to feed sometimes the faster riffles at the heads of pools & deeper runs is where they move too, and often it is the bigger fish that move there. When you catch a fish, especially when targetting the deeper/softer lies, fish the area throughly as Winter trout commonly pod up in the good holding water. It's not unusual in the pools & runs to have dozens of trout group up in a very small area. If you catch a good bite window, sometimes you can even rack up some really good numbers when you locate a pod. Other days you will have to dig the trout out one by one by fishing hard and covering the likely water.

While dry flies are not a given in the winter, there are more windows of rising trout than you might think at the Farmington River. Ideally you want days without too much wind, that can wipe out the dry fly action and make all the fishing subsurface. 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. Sometimes you will see them into 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. Midges #22-28 are most active in the afternoons, and especially on milder days. If you don't find them rising to Midges in the afternoons, trying adding a Midge nymph pattern #18-20 into the nymph rig, typically black or red flies will get it done in the Winter, but experiment with colors.

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 in the 30s 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, white, and black are good streamer colors to start with in the Winter, but try other colors like brown, yellow or tan if those first 3 don't excite the trout.

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.

Guide & fly tyer Mark Swenson is doing a 2nd beginner fly tying class February 9th & 16th, 2020, a two day class, click the link below to go to that page:

Total 8am flow today (Friday) in the permanent Catch & Release has recede and is about medium at 428cfs and dropping (299cfs from the dam, plus 129cfs & dropping from the Still River). 8am water temp in Riverton was 34.5 degrees, typically you will see water temps bump up at least a degree or more most afternoons in Riverton. Downstream further on sunny/mild days you may see an even bigger increase, as long as there isn't significant snow on the ground (lotta snow + warm weather + sunshine = snowmelt, which drops afternoon water temps). Super cold nights can create morning floating slush, which typically clears out by noonish on sunny or mild days- cold snaps also create shelf ice along the edges and can lock up slower pools bank to bank. Currently trout are most active when water temps are at their highest and/or moving upward, the early to mid morning period has typically been slow (exception: Winter Caddis hatch), fishing picks up as the day progresses and water temps rise- sometimes all it takes is a 1 degree increase to get the trout feeding. On days preceded by milder nights, sometimes the early to mid morning subsurface can be good (because you don't get a significant overnight water temp drop in that situation).

Remember that when fishing subsurface, slow & deep is the name of the game and strikes are often quite subtle. You need to be on your "A" game when it comes to detecting strikes when nymphing- set the hook on anything. Remember, hook-sets are FREE. "Bite Windows" are common in the winter- often there will be a period during the day when suddenly the fish go on the bite for a while, and then they turn off. Typically these windows are 1-2 hours long, sometimes longer. Some days will be a grind all day just to get a few strikes, while others will see steady action much of the day- that's fishing. Persevere, cover water, fish hard and you will be rewarded. Remember that it's winter, and focus on the softer deeper water that trout will lay in so they feel safe and don't have to fight the current. Cold water, a slower metabolism & way less bugs than the spring/summer means that the trout are more concerned about being safe & conserving energy than eating a lot. They do eat in the winter, but far less than when water temps are in the 50s-60s.

Cortland's brand spankin' new Nymph Series Rods for Euro Nymphing have arrived at UpCountry 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.

You will find that in the winter, there are often very distinct bite windows where it's not unusual to go
several hours with little to no action, only to have an hour or two where the trout really turn on and the bite gets really good. It doesn't always happen like that, and some days you just have to grind it out to get one or two strikes, and other days you get that Winter Bite Window. Sunshine is a plus in the winter, because it really helps to bump the water temps up slightly and turn the fish on. Having said that, I often get my best fish of the day on a sunny day after the direct sun goes off the water and the bigger browns come out of hiding. Late afternoon typically has the best of both worlds: peak water temps combined with lower light levels. Cloudy days will see much less of a water temp increase. On days when it snows, I've also seen an unusually good fishing many times. Not sure why, but it probably has something to do with the low light intensity.

Check out the new T&T rods that debuted in late 2019: the new Contact 10' #3, the Zone mid-priced 10' #4, and the Paradigm dry fly series. All are in stock except the Zone 10' #4. Read several paragraphs down to find out more about them.

Less hatches this time of year and dropping water temps means the trout won't normally be in the faster water, however they may move into the heads of runs/pools/riffles as water temps rise in the afternoon, so keep that in mind. In the mid afternoons look for rising trout in the softer pool water where the riffles slow down and below that- same in early/mid AM when the Winter/Summer Caddis are popping.

Streamers can work anytime of day currently, but especially during low light. Trout, especially browns, are post spawn and looking to pack in some calories and put weight back on. Go with bigger streamers for less but bigger trout, or small to medium for better numbers but smaller trout- 3" long (give or take a half inch) would be the in-between size choice for the best of both worlds. 

Winter Store Hours (through March):
8am-5pm 7 days a week

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 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 now 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.
Don't show up here at first light and quit at noon (unless you are fishing the Winter Caddis hatch), but rather focus on the late morning to late afternoon time slot when water temps are rising, trout metabolism peaks, and you have your best shot at finding feeding trout. It's also a hell of a lot more pleasant to fish during the milder part of the day. Sunshine can be a good thing this time of year, as sunny days see noticeably higher water temp spikes. Fish smarter and maximize your results. Also, in the colder water of winter (usually in the 30s) trout drop out of the faster water, so target deeper runs, pools, and softer/deeper riffles. 

Hours: 8am-5pm, 7 days a week through March.

-Midges #20-32:(late morn thru afternoon)  
-Summer/Winter Caddis #18-24: pupa & adults (early/mid AM)

-"Junk Flies" #8-16 (Eggs, Mops, Squirmy/San Juan Worms, Green Weenies)
-Pheasant Tail/Quasimodos/Frenchies #14-22
-Zebra Midge #18-22 (black, olive, red)
-Attractor Nymphs #14-20 (Haast Haze, Rainbow Warrior, Blue Lightning Bug, Miller's Victim, 
   Triple Threat, etc.) -anything flashy, gaudy, or with a hot spot
-Olive Nymphs #16-20 (various patterns)  
-Stoneflies/Pat's Rubber Legs #8-14 (gold/yellow, brown, black)
-Caddis Larva (olive to green) #14-16 
-Cased Caddis #12-14       
-Antoine's Perdigons (various colors) #14-20

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 (olive, black, 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: