Friday, March 20, 2020

Friday 3/20/20 Farmington RIver Report: Quality over Quantity

Yes we remain open with normal store hours, 8am-5pm. With more of you off work/school, fishing is a perfect activity to occupy your time, as is fly tying- and we have lots of stuff for either activity, with more "stuff" arriving daily. March fishing has mostly been quality over quantity, with most anglers working for their fish, but the ones they are catching are bigger than normal, with fish in the mid to upper teens being typical, and some both bigger & smaller. Flows bumped up a bit from the rain Tuesday night, we are already down in the low 500cfs range & dropping steadily in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release C&R), and Riverton above the Still River is under 200cfs. Water has a light "iced tea" stain to it today, but there is more than enough clarity to catch fish. Looks for flows to continue to drop/clear, we have less than 1/10th" of rain in the forecast today. Temps are all over the place: 70 today (Friday), low/mid 40s over the weekend and mostly sunny, then 35 with 3-5" of snow Monday, then 51 with sun & clouds Tuesday, crazy! Long range 15 day highs are mostly in the 50s. Afternoon water temps are typically reaching low 40s in Riverton, and hitting mid to even upper 40s further downriver on warmer/sunny days. I'd expect the dropping flows with rising water temps today (high of 70!) to get the trout on the bite.

Check out some nice fish from this week:
First pic is a holdover Bow & Brown by my girlfriend Mandy after work Wednesday evening. 2nd fish pic is Zach's client Brett with a beautiful holdover brown (clipped adipose fin) he caught at 10am this morning as I'm writing this report haha. 3rd down is once again "Mr Consistent" John Holt with 3 18-20"beauties he got a few days ago, wow. 4th & 5th pics are a really cool Rainbow with leopard spotting that I caught yesterday. All the trout pictured were caught on nymphs or streamers.

The vast majority of fish catching has been done by those fishing subsurface, and almost all the big trout pics you see in recent report have been on nymphs & streamers. Best nymphs are typically in the #12-16 range and include brown and also black patterns that can imitate the Early Stones (both black & brown) & immature Hendrickson nymphs, as well as Caddis (both the olive/green net spinners &  Cased Caddis too), as well as smaller #16-20 patterns that could imitate Midges, immature Baetis/Olives, and immature Paraleps/Blue Quills. Black or olive continue to be top streamer colors, experiment to see what works best any given day, and other colors such as brown or white can be very good also. With water temps mostly in the 40s, make sure to fish your streamers slow & deep (weighted streamers and/or split shot or sinking leaders/lines).  Dries remain a mix of Winter Caddis #18-24, Early Stones #14-16 & Midges #20-28. The adult Stonelfy & Caddis dries can be quite active, so try twitching them, it often works much better than a dead-drift. Dry fly action is limited and typically occurs in big, flat, wide pools such as Church, Greenwoods & Beaver. Winter Caddis hatch in the mornings, with the other bugs in the afternoons (this is not set in stone).

Current Store Hours:
8am-5pm 7 days a week from 8am to 5pm.

Guide Mark Swenson's "Fly Fishing 101" classes resume next month, the first one will be held on Sunday April 5th, running from 9am-4pm, cost is $150- call the store at 860-379-1952 to sign up. Click this link to be taken to that page for more details:

Don't be afraid to get away from the crowds and explore new water, there are trout throughout the 21 miles of currently open water. You'd be hard pressed to find a section that doesn't hold some nice holdover & wild trout. Doesn't mean they will be easy to catch, but they are there and CAN be caught if you show the trout what they want (typically a dead-drifted nymph, or a dead-drifted/stripped/swung streamer). If you are stubborn and only want to fish one method or fly, you may be in for a loooong, fishless day. Or you  can be flexible, work hard, and catch some trout- the choice is yours.

Move around, cover water, and look for some less fished sections for your best result. Some of the better holdover & wild trout are transitioning into somewhat faster water now, afternoon water temps have ranged from lower to upper 40s in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R) and this is putting trout on the feed and increasing bug activity subsurface. Especially as water temps rise during the day, look for better fish in the pool heads, deeper riffles, heads of runs, and even in the slower/deeper lies in pocket water. The water doesn't have to be very deep either, many of the fish in the pics are getting caught in knee to mid-thigh deep water. The recently stocked trout will tend more to pod up in softer slow to moderate speed water in pools, slower runs, and gentle riffles with some depth (2-4').

Nymphs from Early Black & Early Brown Stones are definitely in the drift, as are plenty of immature Hendrickson nymphs, and the trout are taking notice.  Smaller #16-20 nymphs imitating immature Baetis/Blue Wing Olives & immature Paraleps are also available subsurface. Caddis Larva too (both the regular olive/green larva, and also Cased). If you are over recently stocked trout, continue to play with Junk Flies (Eggs, Worms, Mops, Green Weenies) paired up with a 2nd drabber/more imitative pattern (Pheasant Tail, Hare's Ear, etc.). Stockers usually love small to medium sized Woolly Buggers, especially in black or olive.

Streamer fishing is picking up, and lately black or olive have been top colors, but I'm also a fan of brown this time of year (anytime for that matter!), and white can be good too- experiment! Try also the following hybrid rig: a weight streamer such as a conehead Bugger, Zuddler, Slumpbuster, etc. with a #14-16 soft-hackle or nymph trailed 14-18" of the hook bend- the streamer often functions as the attractor, and then the trout eat the trailing smaller fly. This helps turn some of those chases, rolls & flashed into a solid hook-up.

The entire river above & below the permanent TMA/Catch & Release has now been stocked 2x, along with about 60-80 large broodstock trout (Whittemore Pool to the dam, and below RT 219 bridge down to the RT 177 bridge in Unionville, about 15 miles of river). Be aware that as of now you cannot fish below the Rt 177 bridge in Unionville until Opening Day. We are seeing the bigger #14-16 Early Black Stones now, some Early Brown Stones too, and subsurface the holdovers & wilds are eating them, along with flies that resemble immature Hendrickson nymphs & Caddis Larva too. "Junk Flies (Eggs, Mops, Worms & Green Weenies) continue to have their moments, along with Attractor-type nymphs (anything gaudy, flashy or with flourorescent hot spots).

Total 8am flow today (Friday) in the permanent Catch & Release is medium-high and dropping at 324cfs (198cfs from the dam, plus 126cfs from the Still River), normal historical flow for today is 418cfs. Riverton water temps have been starting in the upper 30s and bumping into the low 40s most afternoons. Further downstream on sunny/mild days you may see an even bigger increase (mid to even upper 40s on mild/sunny day), and sometimes all it takes is a 1-2 degree increase to get the trout feeding.

Look down in paragraphs below for advice targetting the recently 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, as well as immature Hendrickson nymphs & assorted Caddis Larva. Think black or brown nymphs in #12-16 to imitate the the Stones & Henny's- it doesn't necessarily have to be a specific imitation, a Pheasant Tail/Frenchy/Quasimodo often works well for this, as do other flies such as a Prince Nymphs, black or brown Perdigons, and other flies like that. For Caddis think either olive/green larva in #14-16, or Cased Caddis in #12-14.

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 #6-12 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), typically you want to fish your streamers slow & deep, but always experiment with your retrieves and let the trout tell you what they want. 

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 are starting to get dialed into natural food sources and learn about avoiding artificial flies- on average it takes about 3 weeks for trout to get in tune with feeding naturally.

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 two times now 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 at just under 2,000 trout per mile in that section!!!). 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 March, 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. It's not umncommon 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, not-too-windy days. Look also for both the Early Black & Early Brown Stones #14-16 now,. 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 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, black, and white are good streamer colors to start with right now, 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.

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.

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.

-Summer/Winter Caddis #18-24: pupa & adults (early/mid AM, but sometimes afternoons also)
-Early Stones #14-16 (both Black and Brown, in the afternoons)
-Midges #20-32 (late morn thru afternoon)

-Pheasant Tail/Quasimodos/Frenchies #12-18 (in #12-16 imitates Early Brown Stones/Hendricksons, smaller ones imitate smaller/immature Mayfly nymphs like BWOs & Paraleps)
-Prince Nymph #12-16 (imitates Early Black Stones)
-Strolis Infant Stones #14 (black, brown)
-Caddis Larva (olive to green) #14-16 
-Cased Caddis #12-14

-Perdigons #12-16 in black or brown (imitates the Early Stones/Hendricksons)
-Olive Nymphs #16-18
-"Junk Flies" #8-16 (Eggs, Mops, Squirmy/San Juan Worms, Green Weenies)
-Zebra Midge #18-22 (black, red, olive)
-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   
-Bigger Stoneflies/Pat's Rubber Legs #6-12 (gold/yellow, brown, black)       

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 (black, olive, 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: