Top pic is a stud brown by Dan Phelan, 2nd down is a beautiful brown by Dima. 3rd fish pic is one of the Rainbows I caught yesterday on egg flies, 4th pic is an Atlantic Salmon Roger recently caught in the nearby Naugatuck River, and the 5th and final fish pic is Steve Hogan with a good brown.
The cooler weekend temps means you want to layer up to stay warm, and focus on the classic Winter water: slow to moderate speed with some depth, nymphing will be your mainstay, but don't rule out streamers or dries. We are just starting to see a few of the bigger Early Black Stones #14-16, and still seeing the Tiny Winter Black Stones #18-24. Subsurface the trout have been eating both immature Hendrickson nymphs & Early Stones- use #14-16 flies in both black and brown to imitate them, and Caddis Larva are working also (both regular olive/green #14-16 and Cased #12-14). Don't rule out Junk Flies (Mops/Eggs/Worms/Green Weenies), especially egg flies- eggs caught most of my fish during a very brief outing late yesterday. Bigger Stoneflies #6-10 will sometimes fool a truly big trout for you. Mornings (and even into the afternoons some days) you will often find rising trout feeding on Winter Caddis in Church Pool & Greenwoods, and sometimes they will rise to the Winter & Early Stones. Black streamers fished slow & deep have been productive lately also.
The Permanent Catch & Release/TMA is almost all holdover & wild trout currently. If you are in the 15 miles of river that was recently stocked outside of permanent TMA/C&R, be aware that they often pod up so you have to locate the fish first before you can catch them- and of course there are holdover & wild trout spread throughout the entire river, not just in the permanent TMA/C&R. Some quality trout, especially the holdover & wild ones, and sliding into faster water to feed in the afternoons- this isn't typical for February, but then again this has been a crazy mild Winter.
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.
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.
Look down 2-3 paragraphs for advice targetting the freshly stocked trout, they are often a sucker for gaudy flies & Woolly Buggers (I like black or olive). 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 & assorted Caddis Larva. Think black or brown nymphs in #12-16 to imitate these bugs the Stones & Henny's, 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, black or brown Perdigon, and other flies like that.
Mark Swenson is considering another Beginner's Tying Class for March 15 & 22, if interested
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.
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.
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 & Stoneflies.
They started stocking the Farmington River in early February, 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 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.
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 in 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. Look also for the smaller Tiny Winter 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.
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 mid 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.
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.
Total 8am flow today (Friday) in the permanent Catch & Release is about medium-high at 546cfs and dropping (181cfs from the dam, plus 365cfs & dropping from the Still River). 8am water temp in Riverton was 35 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).
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
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.