Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Tuesday 9/1/20 Farmington River Report: flow reduction, cooler weather

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

As of today, September 1st, virtually the entire river goes Catch & Release (C&R) (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 into the system 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 mostly UpCountry.

Our cover boy up top is Zach St. Amand's older son- he spotted, cast to, hooked, played and netted it all by himself, it was his first 20"+ trout, and caught on a small dry fly on 6x no less! Like father, like son I guess... Next down is customer Preston with a solid holdover brown fooled with a Dry/Dropper rig. 3rd pic is an impressive holdover Rainbow Mike Andrews netted recently, and the last fish pic is a handful of what is a more typical average size Farmington Brown Trout. This is what you will mostly catch, along with Rainbows & some Brookies, but there will be the occasional big 'uns if you pay your dues.

FYI our 2 George Daniel Nymph Clinics on October are both full.

MDC made yet another flow cut, on Monday they reduced the dam release from 125cfs down to a very low 75cfs, giving us a total flow in the TMA/permanent Catch & Release (C&R) of 87cfs. This is due to an extreme lack of precipitation in the northern half of CT for the past 3 months (Stage 2 Drought), we are down by 6-9" in terms of rainfall over the past 90 days. Okay that's the bad news. The good news is the water for the Farmington River is stored in 2 reservoirs, and despite the drought it is still coming out of the dam at a relatively cool 58-60 degrees, reading 60 degrees this morning at the USGS gauge 2 miles below the dam (hit 64.5 degrees yesterday afternoon). Temps will creep up during the daytime, especially the further you get from the dam. Another positive is the10 Day Forecast has highs mostly mid/upper 70s, with nights down into upper 50s/low 60s (51 degrees air temp Monday morn!)- this will help keep water temps down. Peak temps are mid/late afternoons, with mornings seeing the longest window of cooler water temps further downriver.

We are still quite fishable as long as you use some common sense regarding water temps (fish early and/or move upstream as the day progresses), and are stealthy and adapt to the conditions. Longest fishing window is in the mornings, middays are the slowest (especially when it's cloudless and sunny), and things pick up again in the evenings. Keep an eye on water temps, especially downriver and in the 2nd half of the day, mid 60 degrees or less is optimal, but anything under 70 degrees is okay. Fishing will be a lot better if you are out during a hatch (mornings & evenings)  Use mostly smaller flies (with a few exceptions), fish early & late, longer/lighter leaders, lighter nymph rigs, look for deeper water & shade, fish broken water/riffles/pockets, target structure, etc. As I've mentioned before, even though we would prefer more water for a variety of reasons, low flows create more dry fly fishing, easier water, and full access to the river. It also makes it easier to read the water, as the holding areas are greatly reduced now.

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 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.

Most (but not all) bugs are much smaller in late Summer/early Fall, so it typically pays off to also downsize your flies. The current main exceptions would be Stonefly Nymphs (#6-12) & Iso dries/nymphs (#10-14). Stonefly nymphs are active in early/mid mornings, and again in the evenings. Isonychia are normally active/hatching sometime between late afternoon and darkness. Don't use super heavy Stoneflies right down, you will be dragging bottom & hanging up constantly. Either lead weight only with no bead, or beadhead ones that aren't too heavy.
Peak fishing times remain mornings & evenings, midday is slower/tougher with very few bugs. The morning match-the-hatch dry fly game is mostly of the technical flat water variety, with small dry flies, long leaders & light tippets. Midday is slow on hatches, so try blind fishing terrestrials (Ants, Beetles), attractor dries, Dry/Dropper, or do some Euro or Indicator nymphing in the faster broken/riffly water- look for shade if possible, and fish tight to structure (rocks, fallen trees, undercut banks, etc.). Look for deeper water, indicated by darker water, but don't ignore the knee deep & shallower stuff, many big trout come out of surprisingly shallow, fast ripply water this time of year. Evenings sees some bigger size bugs hatching in riffly water, and you can find success with #10-18 flies and slightly heavier tippets. 6x is about "average" right now, but the tiny dries all but require 7x tippet, and some of the bigger evening bugs like Isonychia can be fished on 5x. It's all about getting an accurate, drag-free float, which is easier to do with lighter tippet. Most leaders come with 18-24" of tippet built in, but I find 3-4' (or even more) gives me much better drag-free presentations, so I inevitably lengthen out my tippet when I fish dries. This will often also you to fish heavier tippet. However, big bushy dries will require shorter/heavier tippets to properly turn your leader over.

Water is pretty darn low, but relatively cool enough to trout fish (60s for the first 5-10 miles of the river, but can hit the 70s further downriver and/or in the afternoons/eves on hot, sunny day), and the fishing remains good for many of our customers. The low flows are making for easier wading, access to more of the river, and more rising trout when there is a hatch, but you do need to be stealthier in your approach. Mornings & evenings remain the peak fishing times, pretty typical for this time of year. The general rule is the best fishing is normally during the most comfortable time of day when it comes to trout.

It's late Summer, and that generally means smaller flies. Most of the nymphs & dries the trout predominately feed upon are #18 or smaller right now, often much smaller. There are a few exceptions, notably Isonychia #10-14, big Stoneflies #6-12, and some of the Cahills/Summer Stenos & Caddis are a bit bigger too (can be #12-16, but may be smaller). I've turned around many a day of late Summer nymphing by downsizing #14-16 nymphs to #18s or even 20s. The morning dry fly hatch on pools & slower riffles is currently Summer/Winter Caddis #20-24, Needhami #22-26, and the morning "Glamour Hatch" of Tricos #22-26. All these tiny dries are best fished on longer leaders with 7x tippets, and for smaller nymphs it's a good idea to downsize your tippet to 6x to give them a more natural presentation & drift. Thinner tippets will also sink lighter weighed nymphs to the bottom quickly. In the faster water you will find some bigger assorted Caddis hatching in the AM, as well as big Stonefly nymphs crawling out. The midday exception (from late morning until early evening) would mainly be fishing terrestrials, in particular Ants & Beetles, #12-18 are very effective sizes that can be blind fished, or targeted to trout you see rising. Isonychia, being a big #10-14 mayfly, are another good bug to blind fish/prospect water with, just remember they are a fast water bug, so fish them there.

Water released from the dam is still cool (58-60 degrees) but warms slightly each week now. It was 60 degrees early this morning at the Rt 20 bridge in Riverton, and rose to 64.5 degrees in mid/late afternoon yesterday. As you go downriver, temps slowly rise above that, and during the day the temps increase and peak in mid/late afternoon- especially on hotter, sunny days. The cooler weather moving is this week will help keep the water a bit cooler. Cloudy days see much lower water temps increases. In early to mid mornings, you can currently safely fish probably as far downstream as New Hartford (where we are) and even Canton, but by late morning I'd be moving upstream at least up to the mid permanent TMA/Catch & Release (Greenwoods, Church, Mathie's Grove, etc.) and upstream to stay in trout-friendly water temps. It can hit 70+ degrees mid/late afternoon by the shop  in New Hartford during hot/sunny days, yet if you are in the upper part of the C&R/TMA (say Campground) or Riverton, water temps shouldn't go above the mid 60s. Optimum trout water temps are low 50s to mid 60s. So start further downriver in the AM, move upstream as the day warms, and ideally carry a thermometer if you aren't sure about the water temps.

Ironically, while we would overall prefer more water coming out of the dam, this lower water often makes for more dry fly fishing. When there is a hatch, this makes for more rising trout. Less current + less depth = more energy efficient for trout to feed on/near the surface during a hatch. It's always energetically efficient for trout to feed on nymph down deep, all they have to do is suck them in. But when flows are down and the bugs are concentrated on the surface or in the surface film, it makes it much easier to eat bugs on the surface as compared to when they have to rise from deeper/faster water. Trout, especially bigger ones, have to make sure they get more energy from what they eat than they expend catching their meal, and big trout burn the most energy of all (think of a Hummer vs. a Moped when it comes to gas mileage haha).

FYI we have plenty of the hard to find "magic" UTC Sculpin Olive wire in the ever popular Brassie size (for Lance Egan's "Thread Frenchy" nymph), as well as size Small.

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. 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.

The low water and late summer conditions makes early & late in the day the best times to be out, midday during bright sun and low water can be a tough combo (secret to good fishing is to look for shade, faster riffly or choppy water, and/or structure such as big rocks, downed trees, undercut banks). Prospecting with terrestrials such as beetles & ants, attractor dries, and Dry/Dropper rigs are all good strategies when there is no hatch. Dry/Dropper combines dry fly fishing & nymphing, a hybrid technique you could say. Low water also makes for spookier trout and more technical fishing. For general dry fly fishing I'd recommend longer leaders (12' or even longer) with long and relatively light tippets when you are matching the hatch, but... go shorter and heavier for Dry/Dropper rigs or they will spin/twist up, tangle, and not turn over properly. FYI you can take a 9' leader that is slightly heavier than what you want for a final tippet (say 4x or 5x), and then add 3-4' of tippet to make it a better dry fly leader. Longer leaders with longer tippets give you a more stealthy separation between your fly line and your fly, and they also make it easier to get a drag-free float. A #2-4 fly rod is preferable to a #5 or 6 rod as the fly line lands more gently, thinner fly lines are more flexible which helps make a drag-free presentation, and the more flexible lighter rods give you more tippet protection.

Tricos have are one of three different small bug morning hatches (Needhami #22-26 & Summer/Winter Caddis #18-24 are the other two). They run #22-26, and the spinner fall is the main event. They form balls of spinners in the air, and allegedly hit the water when the air is about 68 degrees, plus or minus a little. Typically they are an early to mid morning event, but that all depends upon air temps. They fall earlier on warmer mornings, and later during cool ones.

Dry/Dropper is very effective, especially now in low water. This technique will let you fish slower and shallower water that can be tough to fish with Euro Nymphing or Indicators, and it lets you stay further away so you don't spook the trout. Try a small weighted nymph 18-30" below a larger buoyant dry fly. Nymphing the fast water, either Euro or with an Indy, is almost always effective. Just make sure to fish a pair of nymphs, and make sure one of them is small (as in a #18-20, give or take), and use much lighter flies than you would in the Spring. Dominant hatches include Summer/Winter Caddis #18-24 (early/mid morns), Needhami #20-26 (/late morns, have duns & spinners), and also Tricos in the moringing (#22-26, spinners are the main event, they hit the water at about 68 degrees air temp), and then assorted Blue Winged Olives #18-26 at various times during the day, and #10-14 Isonychia (later in the day, faster water only). There are also assorted Caddis #14-22 (tan, brown, black, olive/green), various Cahills/Summer Stenos (eves), assorted spinners (especially Rusty), and the big Varia/Potamanthus #8-12 (eves, slow water). Beetles & Ants are great late morning to early evening choices when hatches are sparse- you can blind fish them over likely water, or fish them to sporadic risers.

Their first nymphing clinic filled up in 2-3 days, so Antoine Bissieux & DJ Clement are put on a second Advanced Modern Euro Nymphing clinic on Saturday August 29nd from 9am-5pm- both clinics are now FULL, but we are taking down names for a waiting list & future clinics. The above link is clickable and will take you to the page with all the details about this class. Learn what the top competitive anglers from France, Spain, Czech Repbulic & Poland are doing to outfish everybody else. This is an intermediate level class (no Euro Nymphing beginners!!!), make sure you have a good grasp of euro nymphing techniques and suitable tackle (as in Euro rod) & flies before signing up. FYI Antoine is always available for 1-on-1 guided trips.
A lot of anglers are reporting big creamish yellow #8-12 Mayflies in the evenings in the slow water (prob mainly Varia, aka the "Yellow Drake", maybe some Potamanthus mixed in too, and I've even seen a few pics of what I suspect may be a Hexagenia or "Hex", the biggest of all Mayflies at #4-8) all over the river. You may not see Isonychia hatching in big numbers, but despite that trout are always on the lookout for that big #10-14 bug, both the dry and the nymph. The bugs you will see hatching will depend upon which section of the river you are in, and the water type (fast, medium, or slow).

All methods are producing at moments: Dry Flies, Dry/Dropper, Nymphing (both Euro & Indicator), Streamers, and Wet Flies/Soft Hackles. If you haven't yet tried it, Dry/Dropper with a buoyant dry like a terrestrial (Beetles, big Ants), Isonychia, Stimulator, or other attractor dry, and a small weighted nymph (#16-18) dropped underneath it, is both very fun and quite effective. 18-24" is a good starting distance between flies, but go longer if you aren't catching fish or you are in deeper water. FYI the bug activity has many quality trout holding in shallower, broken water. Don't limit yourself to only waiting for bugs and rising trout, as some days you won't be in the right spot, or maybe you don't want to brave the often crowded conditions in the popular, known "dry fly" pools. Dry/Dropper lets you have the pleasure of fishing a dry, and some fish WILL eat the dry. You can also blind fish the same type dries with no trailing nymph.

If you are dry fly fishing to rising trout during a hatch, match the bugs as closely as you can, paying close attention to fly profile & stage (Mayfly, Caddis, emerger, dun/adult, spinner, etc.), the size, and the approximate color. Doesn't matter if you cannot ID the bug or know the Latin name, just match what it looks like, paying close attention to the size and making an accurate, drag-free drift. At this point in the season, all the trout have seen a ton of fake flies and real bugs, so you need to be on your "A" game to fool them. Get as close to the as you can, and use a long tippet (3-4' or even longer if it's not windy) to help get a drag-free float. If you get a few accurate natural presentations with no takers or you get a visible refusal, either change flies or move to another fish. A refusal means you are close, but something isn't quite right (size is slightly off, color isn't right, they want an emerger, etc.). As a last resort, sometimes a gentle twitch when the fly is a couple of feet above the trout will seal the deal. But sometimes it will spook them, so do that judiciously. Caddis dries fished in riffly water often fish better when you twitch & skate them, they are a very active insect.

Streamer fishing is an option if you want a change from dries & nymphs, especially on overcast days. Generally in low water like this you want to downsize to smaller patterns. Low light conditions and increased and/or off-color flows (like during or after a rain) make for a better streamer bite- the biggest trout will often be near structure like big rocks, undercut banks, downed trees, etc. Olive is a good starting color for streamers, but it's important to change colors (black, brown, tan, yellow, two-tone, etc.), fly size, fly type, retrieve, depth fished, etc.
Be aware that bug activity varies from day to day and section to section, but also depending upon water type. Don't look for Isonychia 200 yards down a pool in the flat water, as they are a fast water insect and that's where you will normally find them, at the pool heads and in pocket water/faster water. I hear customers tell me there were "no bugs", but then I find out they were fishing early afternoon in flat/slow water on a bright sunny day and expecting to see Iso's. Do your homework and learn at least a little about major hatches (e.g. Iso's) that are common and last a while. Mayfly Spinner falls occur over riffles & pocket water. Caddis most commonly hatch & egg-lay in riffles and faster water. Big trout will often drop into the tails of pools in the evenings to feed. Bottom line is that if you aren't seeing bugs, move around to different water types, and move up & down the river.

There are truly no secret "hot spots". The entire stretch of river from the dam in Riverton down to Unionville (20+ miles), has trout spread throughout it in very good numbers (be careful about going too far downstream in August, temps can sometimes get too hot to trout fish if you get too far below the dam). Big trout are scattered throughout the entire river. This is not a river where you have to be in one of only a handful of spots to do well. The trout are truly everywhere, a mix of 2020 stockers, multi-year holdovers, and plenty of wild fish too. Excellent habitat and many miles of cold water means the trout exist in good numbers all over the river. Yes, the 6.2 mile permanent TMA/C&R (catch & release) likely has the highest density of trout, but.... the rest of the river holds a lot of trout too, and some really good ones. Most years I catch my biggest trout outside of the permanent TMA/C&R. Go out of your way to explore new water on the Farmington, drive until you see some juicy looking new water unoccupied by other anglers and explore it, I think you will be pleasantly surprised

If you are fishing wets/soft-hackles (and you should be sometimes), try a 2-3 fly rig, on tag end droppers about 24-30" apart. During hatching activity where you see bugs and occasional rising trout, keep all your flies unweighted and fish near the surface. If it's slow and trout don't seem willing to move to your wets, use a lightly to moderately weighted soft-hackle or nymph on the point position to get your rig down deeper where the trout are. Throw across & slightly upstream and make an upstream mend to sink your flies, let them dead-drift (watch your fly line tip for subtle strikes), and then let them do the traditional wet fly swing- expect strikes especially at the 3/4 downstream point when your flies rise toward the surface. At the end of the drift let them dangle for several seconds, then twitch them up & down a couple of times. Add some slight rod tip twitches during some drifts, and on others just let them drift. Keep your rod tip up around 10 o'clock during the entire drift for tippet protection, better fly animation, and better hook-ups- this creates very slight controlled slack you need so trout can inhale your fly and not short strike it. This technique is great for covering riffle & pool water where the trout are spread out and can be anywhere, the kind of water that can be difficult/challenging to nymph. 


Current Store Hours:
8am-6pm Monday through Friday, and 8am-5pm on weekends.

The Farmington is currently very low at a total flow of 87cfs total flow through the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R) area, and averaging low to upper 60s for water temps on most of the river, depending upon the weather, river section, and time of day. Riverton is 78cfs from the dam on the West Branch, and the Still River is adding in an additional 9cfs below it's junction with the West Branch. Early morning Riverton water temp was 60 degrees this morning (it hit 64.5 degrees yesterday in mid/late afternoon), downstream water temps are higher, temps will rise during the day. Most mornings (assuming a relatively cool night) water temps are trout-friendly as far down to Canton/New Hartford, but I would not go further downriver (Collinsville/Unionville) than that, and by late morning I'd be more upstream in order to stay in trout-friendly water temps (mid permanent TMA/C&R and upstream). The further upstream you go right now, the closer to the dam, the colder the water.

-Morning Hatches:
-Needhami #22-26: mid to late mornings, both spinners & duns 
-Summer/Winter Caddis #18-24: pupa & winged adults (typically early/mid AM)
-Tricos #22-26: AM hatch: the spinner fall is the main event, they fall to the water at approximately 68 degrees AIR temp (give or take a few degrees)
-Mid/Late Morning to Evening Hatches (mostly eves):
-Blue Winged Olives/BWOs/Olives #18-26: anytime from mornings thru eves, esp. on cloudy days
-Isonychia #10-14 ("Iso's"): fast water hatch, late afternoon thru dark
-Caddis #16-20: (tan & olive green bodies most common, but other colors and sizes too) anytime, but especially morns (hatching) & eves (egg-laying)
-Light Cahill/Summer Stenos #12-20: eves, FYI Cream Usuals works great
-Ants & Beetles #12-20- anytime, especially midday when hatches are minimal
-Varia/Potamanthus #10-12: eves, slow water
-Midges #20-32: anytime, try Griffith's Gnats
-Parachute Adams #10-24 (diff sizes can imitate Isonychia, BWOs, Midges and much more)
-Rusty Spinners #12-26 (imitates the spinner stage of most Mayflies), afternoons & especially in the evenings
-Attractor Dries: Mini Chernobyl, Parachute X, Mega Beetle, Stimulator, Hippy Stomper, etc.

-Olive Nymphs/BWOs #16-22
-Caddis Pupa #14-18 in olive/green & tan (such as BMAR Pupa, Wade's Pupa & others)
-Caddis Larva (olive to green) #12-16
-Yellow Sally/Sulfur Nymph #16-18 - can be a specific imitation or a Pheasant Tail/Frenchy
-Isonychia Nymph #10-14 (can also use bigger Princes, Zug Bugs & larger Pheasant Tails) 
-Stoneflies #6-12 (golden/yellow, brown, black)- best in early/mid morns & eves
-Frenchies/Pheasant Tails #12-20 (various sizes imitate Mayfly nymphs like BWOs, Sulfurs, Cahills, Iso's and many others)
-Prince Nymph #10-16 (bigger ones make a good Isonychia)
-Perdigons #16-20 (black, brown, olive, yellow)
-Zebra Midge #18-22 (black, 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   
Soft-Hackles/Wet Flies:
-Assorted Patterns #10-16: Hare's Ear, Partridge & Orange/Green/Yellow, Partridge & Flash, Starling & Herl, Leadwing Coachman, March Brown, Partridge & Pheasant Tail, etc. 
   -best fished 2-3 at a time, on tag-end droppers 24-30" apart (keep droppers short at 4-6" in length to
    minimize tangles, don't go to light on your tippet as strikes can sometimes be very hard)

-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)

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