Friday, February 21, 2020

Friday 2/21/20 Farmington River Report: another mild weekend & FRAA Banquet

We have FRAA Banquet tickets on sale in the store at $45, the date/time is Saturday March 7th- doors open at 5pm, dinner is served at 6:30pm. They have the biggest & best fly fishing raffle in the state, the food is excellent, and you are supporting a great group that takes care of the Farmington River. We are also selling tickets for the "75 Ticket Raffle"at $20 each- this year the prize is a Scott Sector 9' #8 rod with a matching Lamson Litespeed G5 reel & an Airflo line.

February is flying by, it's almost March. It's true that the older you get, the faster time seems to go by.  14 degrees on my car thermometer on my drive in this morning confirmed that yes indeed it's still Winter, but temps go back into the mid/upper 40s this weekend, with a predicted high of 49 Sunday, wow. Flows are down UNDER 300cfs now, a very nice level, and it also increases the chances of finding rising trout for this weekend. Take advantage of this beautiful February weather, it should bump water temps up, getting both the trout & the bugs more active- plus they stocked part of the river again this week, see a couple paragraphs down for more details on that. Not to mention a helluva lot more comfortable to fish in- just remember to dress warmly as water temps are still cold and will suck the heat out of your lower body if you don't layer up properly. In that regard we are well stocked with some heavier Simms thermal bottoms, their Midweight Core Bottom- nice & warm and don't break the bank. Wear heavy Merino wool socks, and make sure to leave your wading boots a little loose so you don't constrict your blood circulation. Fingerless gloves help a lot with comfort too and allow you plenty of dexterity. Winter fishing is fun when you are comfortable, but miserable when you are cold.

Top pic is a true dinger by Michael Andrews, 22+ inches of wild Farmington River brown trout from earlier this week, wow. A big Stonefly nymph was the ticket for him- 3rd fish pic down is a head shot of that hook-jawed brute. 2nd pic is a perfect wild Farmington brown by Aaron Jasper- I'll take 'em like that all day long. 4th fish pic is a recently stocked rainbow by customer Philip, there are lots more like this swimming around all over, the state has stocked the river a bunch in the past 2 weeks- plenty of holdover & wilds were already present before the recent additions. 

The CT DEEP stocked again this week, this time the section between the Rt 219 bridge in New Hartford all the way down to the Rt 177 bridge in Unionville- this is the 2nd time in the past 2 weeks. So if you don't catch trout, you cannot says it's because there aren't any fish! Look down 2-3 paragraphs for advice targetting the freshly stocked trout, they are often a sucker for gaudy flies & Woolly Buggers. It seems as though the holdover & wild trout have been chowing on Early Black and Brown Stoneflies that are ending up in the drift, (they don't normally hatch until March, currently we are seeing the smaller Tiny Winter Black Stones #18-24 hatching) as well as immature Hendrickson nymphs. Think black or brown nymphs in #12-16 to imitate these bugs, it doesn't necessarily have to be a specific imitation, a Pheasant Tail often works well for this, as do other flies such as a Prince Nymph, Frenchy, and other flies like that. While Sunday was slow for many anglers, one customer crushed fish on a #12 Beadhead Pheasant Tail. 

Mark Swenson is considering another Beginner's Tying Class for March 15 & 22, if interested contact Mark directly at 203-586-8007 or email him at We usually don't schedule Winter tying classes past February, but if there is enough interest we will schedule another class with him.

If you are fishing the recently stocked sections (outside the permanent TMA/Catch & Release area and fishing nymphs (never a bad choice), try a 2 fly rig with one "Junk Fly" (Egg, Mop, or Squirmy/San Juan Worm) paired with a more natural/drabber fly such as a Pheasant Tail, Zebra Midge, Hare's Ear, Caddis Larva, etc. The holdover & wild fish will still eat Junk Flies, but most days are more susceptible to stuff that looks more like what they eat on a daily basis. Egg flies are the exception to this, they often work well from about mid Fall into early Spring on virtually ALL trout (and anytime of year on recently stocked fish). If you are targetting holdover & wild trout, also think about including a smaller #12-16 black or brown Stonefly in your nymphing rig (you can use a Pheasant Tail/Quaismodo/Frenchy or Prince Nymph to imitate Early Stones, as well as Perdigons in that size range in black or brown also-with or without a hot spot). In terms of nymph choice, generally size/shape/color (in that order) are more important than the exact fly pattern. And most important of all is fishing it exactly where the trout are, in a true dead-drift, and then you have to also detect the often very light Winter strikes.

Streamers will also work on the fresh fish (and holdovers/wilds), try a small to medium sized streamer in black, olive, white or brown (I've often found a small to medium sized black Woolly Bugger to be super effective on fresh stockers, and frequently on holdover & wild fish too- black is just a color that can be good under ALL light & water conditions, and rainbow trout often show a particular fondness for flies in black). Also try a combo rig where you fish a weighted Bugger with a nymph/soft hackle/wet fly about 14-18" trailing behind it (tied off the hook bend so everything is in a straight line)- this rig will convert many streamer looks & follows into a sold hook-up on the trailing fly. You can also use this same rigging to fish two different streamers at once, something most people don't do. As I've mentioned before, when the water is cold (below 45 degrees), fish your streamers slow & deep- doubly true when water temps are in the 30s like now. 

Currently you have the option of targeting holdover & wild trout in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release section, or going outside of it and targetting freshly stocked trout (and of course there are also holdover & wild trout throughout the river also). The recently stocked fish will be fairly easy to catch if you locate them, but soon enough they will get dialed into natural food sources and learn about avoiding artificial flies after they make a few "bad choices" haha- on average it takes about 3 weeks for trout to get in tune with feeding naturally.

The Fasna F-415 jig hooks from #10-20 are back in stock (a wide gap/short shank/curled in point hook similar to Hanak 450s, but heavier wire, go smaller, and are less expensive), and I also added in their standard jig hook, the F-420 from #8-20 (standard length/gap, 1x heavy wire, curled in point). The Fasna hooks come 30 to a pack, and are only $7.25- the quality of the hook wire, finish & point is EXCELLENT. Be aware the Fasna sizing is about a size SMALLER compared to most other hooks, so you prob want to purchase one hook size bigger than you might think (eg #14 Fansa = #16 in other jig hooks). The #20 Fasna jigs are probably the smallest you can buy in terms of actual true hook shank length. We also have matching slotted tungsten beads in 5/64"/2mm and 3/32"/2.5mm that will fit these small hooks.

11 out of 15 days in the long range forecast will see highs in the 40s. With the exceptions of some short periods of truly cold temps & snow, it's been a super mild Winter thus far (I think they are saying the warmest in modern records). Generally in the Winter stable weather or warming trends produce the best fishing, and temp drops slow it down. And frequently there are 1-3 hour "bite windows" where the trout suddenly turn on & off. These are especially distinct in the Wintertime, so move around, experiment/change your rigging & flies, and BE PATIENT!!!

While nymphing is rarely a bad choice, it tends to be the go-to wintertime technique in terms of catching trout consistently, and it can produce some large trout too.  Don't rule out streamers, just expect to get less hits on a typical day, but you are upping your chances of connecting with a top-end fish. Days without much wind can produce a few rising trout also to Winter Caddis & Midges.

They started stocking the Farmington River already, due to the nice weather and lack of snow allowing them to easily access the river in their stocking trucks. The DEEP stocked the river from the dam in Riverton down to the Rt 177 Bridge in Unionville, EXCEPT FOR the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (Bridge abutment from tail of Whittemore downstream 6.2 miles to the 219 bridge in New Hartford, that gets stocked once a year in April, and as of the September 2019 electroshocking had an estimated population of almost 2,000 trout per mile!!!). Remember that the entire river from the dam in Riverton down to the Rt 177 bridge in Unionville is 100% catch & release.

Don't neglect exploring and fishing brand new water, there are literally fish spread all over the river. Look for them more in Winter water- meaning slower/deeper water on average in pools, deeper runs, and softer/deeper riffles. However you may see them slide into the faster heads of pools/runs/riffles in the afternoon when water temps rise and the trout & nymphs/larva get more active. If you are fairly certain you are in a prime spot, fish it THOROUGHLY, as trout frequently pod up in the Winter and you have to locate the trout. Typically they won't move as far for you fly in colder water, so try to spoon feed them by saturation bombing good spots with lots of casts. Play with your weights, casting angle, rigging, fly patterns/sizes, etc. The most successful anglers move around, cover water, and experiment a lot until they find the location & winning flies/rigging.

As always, those who are better nymphers, know how to read water & work hard at it are doing the best and having the most consistent results. It's still Winter (at least officially haha) and the water temps have been averaging in the 30s, so keep your expectations reasonable. Also there is no substitute for time spent on the water if you wanna get dialed in to Winter fishing on the Farmington River. If you are fishing a high pressure/popular spot, try to show the trout some flies they have not seen before.

The hot flies can vary from day to day- see a few paragraphs down for some nymph suggestions, Eggs, Midges & assorted 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. We are also seeing the Tiny Winter Black Stoneflies (Capnia) #18-24.

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.

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. However if you get a mild night, it can be good earlier in the morning. If morning slush is present after a very cold night, 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), and start looking for the first of the Winter Stones. 

"Junk Flies" (especially eggs, but also Mops & Worms), Early Stones #12-16, Midges/small nymphs #18-20, #8-16 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, we are an above average dry fly fishery year 'round. 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. Now that it's February, look for the smaller TinyWinter Black Stones (Capnia)- they run #18-24. Typically don't create a lot of dry fly fishing (with some exceptions), but nymphs in the subsurface drift tend to get the trout feeding subsurface. Having said that, even when they are hatching I typically do better on nymphs that DON'T imitate these tiny bugs: Caddis Larva, Stoneflies (but in #8-16), Eggs, Attractor Nymphs, etc.

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 to low 40s 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. Also flies with a primary color such as brown and a secondary color like yellow can be the ticket.

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 is about medium at 273cfs (162cfs from the dam, plus 111cfs from the Still River). 8am water temp in Riverton was 34 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 (none in long range forecast) 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, and especially so in the Winter. 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 are in stock now. 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.

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 cross over and 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.
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)
-Tiny Winter Black Stoneflies (Capnia) #18-24 

-"Junk Flies" #8-16 (Eggs, Mops, Squirmy/San Juan Worms, Green Weenies)
-Pheasant Tail/Quasimodos/Frenchies #12-22 (in #14-16 imitates Early Brown Stones/Hendricksons, smaller ones imitate smaller/immature Mayfly nymphs)
-Prince Nymph #12-16 (imitates Early Black Stones)
-Strolis Infant Stones #14 (black, brown)
-Perdigons #12-16 in black or brown (imitates the Early Stones/Hendricksons)
-Zebra Midge #18-22 (black, olive, red)
-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   
-Stoneflies/Pat's Rubber Legs #8-14 (gold/yellow, brown, black)
-Caddis Larva (olive to green) #14-16 
-Cased Caddis #12-14       

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: