Friday, March 5, 2021

Friday 3/5/21 Farmington River Report: Opening Day came early (Thurs 2/4)!

Our store hours through MarchMonday through Sunday, 8am-5pm, 7 days a week. When entering the store please try to maintain a 6ft distance from other customers if possible, and as 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. 

Opening Day update:
As of yesterday, Thursday March 4th, Governor Lamont announced the early opening of trout fishing season due to COVID- they also opened it early in 2020 if you remember. What does this mean for us on the Farmington River? You still have to Catch & Release (C&R) on the Farmington River until April 10th, with one exception detailed below.  It’s business as usual here, as we were already open to Catch & Release (C&R) from the dam in Riverton 21 miles downstream to the Rt 177 bridge in Unionville, and that section remains C&R until the traditional Opening Day date of April 10th at 6am (the 2ndSaturday in April). That section is a TMA (Trout Management Area) with special regs: C&R from September 1st until the 2nd Saturday in April, then it goes to 2 fish 12” from the 2nd Saturday in April through the end of August (except the 6.2 miles of permanent C&R from the Rt 219 bridge in New Hartford upstream to the bridge abutment at the tailout of Whittemore, just above the Campground). Below the Rt 177 bridge in Unionville you can now keep 5 fish 9” or bigger because it’s not a TMA. All CT trout streams/sections with TMAs remain Catch & Release until the traditional Opening Day of April 10th this year, and on all trout streams/sections that are not TMAs and fall under general regulation you are now allowed to keep a daily limit of trout.

We just received a big batch of the new Hardy Ultralite & Ultralite LL (Euro) rods. While I have not yet personally fished them (as they literally just arrived), I got to wiggle them this morning and they feel amazingand I’m predicting they will be big sellers in 2021. Euro specific rods received: in the Euro oriented Ultralite LL series10’ 2” #2, 11’ 2” #2, 10’ 8” #0/2. 9’ 9” #3, and 10’ 8” #3. In the standard Ultralitethe 9’ #4, 9’ #6, 9’ #7, 10’ #4, and 10’ #5- we already have the 9’ #5s in the rack. We also purchased a large fly tying materials collection- we have a number of quality dry fly necks in the materials sale bin. 

Lots of new stuff arrived recently: tons of books(a mix of restocks, books we haven’t had in a while, andsome new titles). Flies, beads, new boxes, hooks & Squirmy material from Fulling Mill- includes their Jig Force jig hooks in both the newer Short(short shanks/wide gap) & Longversions. Fulling Mill has some cool new foam fly boxes in red that I think you will like, very well designed & executed. More product is arriving on a near daily basis. 

Make sure you remember to get a new 2021 CT fishing license (with a Trout Stamp). We sell licenses, or you can purchase it off the CT DEEP website and keep a copy of it on your phone- you no longer have to print it out if you don’t want to.

We now have in the full line of Ross Reels. The Sage ESN Euro reels are back in stock, absolutely the best Euro reel on the market- mono rigs cannot slip through the frame, and it comes with counterweights to balance out longer Euro rods. We have Simms CamoG3 waders in stock now.

We received Nature’s Spirit, Wapsi, and Hareline fly tying material orderrecently. It’s been near impossible to stay stocked in tying materials since COVID hit, between increased demand and in some cases reduced availability due to interruptions in the supply chain. I’ll be doing orders with Umqua/Tiemco and Whiting in the near future too. FYI Whiting products have been in very short supply, hence that is why you don’t see much of them on the wall. CDL (Coq de Leon) has been veryhard to get recently too, and real Wood Duck is currently impossible to find.

More nice fish pics: lead photo is Zach’s client Jason with a 19.5” brown he caught while perfecting his long line nymphing on a Mono Rig. Next down is a colored up brown on Teddy DeClue’s camo Fishpond landing net. 3rdis Justin Barden with a solid recent holdover, and last but not leasta beautiful net filler by Steve Hogan. 

The river got stocked lastweek, both upstream & downstream of the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R)- the upper stocking section is the 4 miles from Whittemore up to the dam in Riverton, and the lower section is from just below the Rt 219 bridge in New Hartford downstream through Canton to the Collinsville dam(s).Flow is medium this morning(Friday), and there is quite a bit of slush behind the shop as I write this report. Cold nights with highs in the low/mid 30s this weekend will likely create more AM slush, but it often clears out by late morning on sunny days. You can always venture up closer to the dam to find slush-free water, the dam releases water that is above freezing.For the recent stockers, try Woolly Buggers (especially black) & “Junk Flies” (Mops, Worms, Eggs, Green Weenies) for the fresh stockers, along with other standard nymphs and streamers. FYI they only stock the permanent TMA/C&R section once a year in April, but it’s loaded with holdovers & wild trout, albeit they are harder to catch as they get constantly fished over and some have been in there for quite a while. Total flow in the permanent TMA/C&R is medium ata guesstimate 300cfs (189cfs in Riverton, plus an additional 100-120cfs from the Still River). 

If you are targeting holdover and/or wild fish, trydarker nymphs mostly in the #14-16 range in browns & blacks. The bigger Early Black Stones in #12-16 have been crawling on the snowbanks in the afternoon lately, plus things like immature Hendrickson nymphs & Baetis nymphs are in the behavioral drift, along with Caddis (both net spinning/caseless & cased), Midges and other bugs. Successful recent flies alsoincludeCaddis Larva (both olive/green #14-16and smaller yellow #18),small to medium jigged streamers (1.5-3”), Mops, Squirmy Worms,various #14-18 nymphs, and Eggs. Some fish have been getting caught on the surface on Winter Caddis #22-24 Early Stones,andalso Midges. Streamers need to be fished slow & deep.Bring your “A Game” for the dry fly fishing, as it is of the long leader, light/long tippet, flat water variety. Winter Caddis hatch is still good.

Sunny days are frequently the best in the Winter, because sunshine, much more than the air temps, drives water temp increases during the day(peaking in mid to late afternoons). It’s even more true now that the morning through the late afternoon is the peak time to be out (morning Winter Caddis hatch excepted). Higher water temps = more active trout, plus it is by far the more comfortable time of day to be outside fishing. FYI in colder water trout often pod up in the pools & deeper/slower runs during the Winter, so if you get one and it’s prime deeper area, fish it throughly as there likely are quite a few more in close proximity. Search the water until you find the groups of trout. Fish more thoroughly & slowly in the Winter, as trout won’t normally move far for your nymphs, and strikes will tend to be very subtle. You need to put your flies right on their nose, and sometimes that takes quite a few drifts to make it happen. Be patient and wait for bite windows when the trout suddenly get more active and decide to feed. The methodical, persistent angler will have the best results this time of year.

FYI ideally look for days with less wind, wind is a killer in the late Winter/early Spring, both in terms of comfort/wind chill and also line management. If you are out on a windy day and are planning to nymph, consider using an indicator instead of a Euro rig. The indicator will anchor your rig to the water so the wind cannot mess with your drift. Wind blowing on a Euro leader will either put you out of touch with your flies (upstream wind), or pull them up higher in the water column and create drag (downstream wind). If you want to be stubborn and Euro nymph on windy days, try to get closer, use heavier anchor flies, keep your rod tip closer to the water, and consider using thinner butt sections that are less affected by the wind.

Successful March trout fishing requires attention to detail. Both bugs & trout are less active, and this makes the when and how very important. During periods of colder water and less insect activity, fish subsurface but make sure you are fishing deep & slow, and think about using small to medium size streamers, and nymphs that imitate things that are not dependent upon insect hatches- “Junk Flies (Mops, worms, eggs, Weenies) & attractor nymphs (with flash and/or hot spots). As things warm up, the trout and bugs both get a bit more active and you may do better on more imitative bugs like Caddis Larva, small Mayfly nymphs (Pheasant Tails, Hare’s Ears, Blue Winged Olive nymphs, etc.), Midge pupa/larva, medium to large Stoneflies, etc. Whether you are doing nymphs or streamers, make sure to fish them slowly and near the bottom. For nymphs do a double fly rig with different flies (big w/ small, flashy w/ drab, Mayfly w/ Caddis, hot spot w/ plain, etc.), this gives the trout a choice. If they are keying hard on one particular style of fly, clip the other off and use 2 of whatever style is hot at that moment. 

Most bugs that are currently hatching remain small, but not all: Early Black Stones #12-16, Winter/Summer Caddis #20-24, Midges #20-28, and Tiny Winter Black Stoneflies (Capnia) #18-24. Overall subsurface has been more consistent than dry flies- this will be especially true when flows are up due to rainfall or snowmelt. Dry fly fishing is better when flows are lower, but you can usually find a few risers in Church Pool almost no matter what. Streamer action has varied considerably from day to day, with nymphs tending to be the most consistent. Depending upon water conditions, fly patterns have varied quite a bit. Typically when the water rises and/or discolors Junk Flies (eggs, worms, Mops), bigger Stoneflies & Streamers are the go-to patterns. Sometimes I’ll double up on Junk Flies under those conditions (e.g. Mop & Squirmy Worm), but typically I’ll do one Junk Fly and pair it with a drabber/more imitative nymph. Flow bumps often dislodge Cased Caddis Larva too hint hint. As flows drop/clear, you may find more imitative and/or smaller nymphs more effective. Most late Fall & Winter natural nymphs/larva are small to very small (#18-24), with a few exceptions (larger Stoneflies, Caddis Larva)- typically a #18-20 is small enough (especially if tied on shorter shank hooks like Scud hooks), even though the naturals can be much smaller.

Streamers fished traditionally (stripped/swung) are often at their best during low light, upward flow bumps, and also dropping/clearing water- especially if you are looking for bigger fish. Try colors like olive, white, brown, yellow, tan.Trout are now post-spawn, hungry, and looking for a mouthful of protein. Bigger streamers (4-6”) will give you a shot at the biggest fish, but expect to make a lot of casts for each strike on an average day. If you want more action but still a good shot at a trophy, drop the size down to 3-4”. Even smaller (1.5-2”) jigged streamers tight-lined on a Euro rig will often catch the most trout of all (and some big ones too), because you are putting the fly right in the trout’s face and making it easy for them to eat it. Colder Water temps in the 30s also make trout more lethargic so slow & deep is usually the way to go with streamers- as always experiment with colors, size, and retrieve. 

Fishing Advice:
Many days the best bite window is late morning through late afternoon and often into dusk (peak water temps combined with low light brings often gets the bigger browns out of hiding and on the feed). Try a double nymph rig, with 2 totally different pattern types (bug & small, drab & flashy/gaudy, dark & light, etc.). Don’t neglect Caddis Larva (both cased & regular). A bigger streamer at the day’s end can also put a big trout in the net, I especially like a bulky black streamer in low light conditions during the last hour of daylight. While the red hot egg bite is past, eggs are still effective and will work well straight through the Winter and into even the early Spring. Some days eggs will work quite well, and other days be a dud, so experiment. Trout are genetically programmed to eat eggs: real ones have lots of calories/protein, and they cannot escape. This hold true on all trout species whether they are stocked, holdover or wild. Make sure to pair them up with a more natural looking nymph, this gives the trout an option, and sometimes the egg functions as an attractor to pull the trout to your nymph. 

Water temps and best time of day to fish:
Cold nights and morning water temps in the 30s means you generally don’t need to start at the crack of dawn unless you are trying to hit the early to mid morning Winter/Summer Caddis hatch. Having said that, there often is a first light bite in the first 30-60 minutes of daylight, even on a cold morning (maybe due to behavioral drift, or maybe due to not being harassed by fishermen all night?).Other than that, the late morning to late afternoon time slot will typically be more productive, as it puts you into rising water temps and more active trout (the exception would be after milder night, sometimes it can fish well very early/mid mornings then). It’s not so much the absolute water temp as it is the relative temperature change. As long as temps are moving toward optimal, it tends to get the trout feeding. Temps moving away from optimal tend to shut them down. For the sake of argument lets say optimal is about 60 degrees (give or take, and it varies according to trout species & river), and water temps of late have averaged mid/upper 30s, so any upward movement of water temps will tend to get the trout going. After a cold night (lets say in the teens or 20s), in the morning the water further downriver will be colder than the water coming out of the dam, because the dam water comes out the same temp all day long regardless of the air temps. As water flows downstream, it will warm or cool depending on ambient air temps and sunlight (or lack thereof). As the day progresses, if it’s mild & sunny the downstream sections can sometimes see warmer water temps than the section up near the dam. You can obviously use these temperature differentials to your advantage, so it’s a particularly good idea to carry a thermometer this time of year.

Hot New Rods:
The new T&T Contact II series (10' #2, 10' #3, 10' 9" #3, 11' 2" #3, 10' 9" #4 & 10' 8" #6) are now on the market. New improved materials, new guide spacing , downlocking reel seats are standard now (to better balance the rod length), 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 for casting and playing big trout. 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 Farmington is currently at a medium total flow of a guesstimated 300cfs (plus or minus) through the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R) area (historical normal total flow for today is 393cfs), and has averaged in the mid 30s for water temps- depending upon the weather, river section, and time of day. Riverton is medium at 189cfs from the dam on the West Branch, and the Still River gauge is doing some weird stuff and showing a big drop, I think the flow there is higher than the 82cfs the USGS graph is reading. AM Riverton water temp was 35 degrees this morning, water temps usually rise a little in the afternoons- it hit 38 yesterday afternoon. Downstream water temps can be higher or lower than this depending upon lows, highs, sunshine, and time of day. East Branch is currently releasing no water into the river. 

Early Black Stoneflies #12-16: afternoons
Summer/Winter Caddis #18-24: pupa & winged adults, typically early/mid AM
*Midges #20-32: anytime (365 days a year)
-Tiny Winter Black Stoneflies (Capnia) #18-24: afternoons
-Parachute Adams #1
2-24: different sizes imitate many different bugs including Midges & BWOs

Darker Nymphs in brown or black #12-16
*Egg Flies #10-18: assorted colors (yellow, pinks, oranges or mixed colors)
Junk Flies (Mops, Eggs, Squirmies/San Juan Worms, Green Weenies)
Early Stones #14 (black, brown)- matching fly patterns arriving this weekend
*Midges/Zebra Midges #16-22: black, olive, red
*Caddis Larva (olive to green) #12-18
*Cased Caddis #10-14
-Blue Wing Olive #16-2
0: various patterns with & without hot spots/flash
BigStoneflies #8-12: golden/yellow, brown, black- oftenworks when smaller stuff doesn’t
*Frenchies & Pheasant Tails #14-20: various sizes imitate Mayfly nymphs like Blue Wing Olives, Hendricksons, Cahills, Isonychia, also smaller Stoneflies and many others
-Antoine's Perdigons #14-20: black, brown, olive
-Attractor Nymphs #14-20: anything flashy, gaudy, or with a hot spot. Try the Haast Haze, Rainbow Warrior, Blue Lightning Bug, Miller's Victim, Triple Threat, Princes, etc.

Soft-Hackles/Wet Flies:
Assorted Patterns #10-18: Hare's Ear, Partridge & Orange/Green/Yellow, Partridge & Flash, Starling & Herl, Leadwing Coachman, March Brown, Partridge & Pheasant Tail
-in cold water fish them deep & slow using weighted point flies, sinking leaders, and/or
sink tips/sinking line

-BMAR Yellow Matuka #6
-Zuddler #4-8: olive, yellow, white, brown, black
-Complex Twist Bugger & Mini version #2-6: assorted colors 
-Sculp Snack #8 (George Daniel pattern) 
-Home Invader #2-6- tan, black, white, yellow 
-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 (yellow, olive, brown)

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. We carry both the standard 30 yard spools and the 100 yard guide spools (guide spools are stored behind the counter so just ask for them). 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:

Report by Torrey Collins

Current Store Hours:
8am-5pm Monday through Friday, and 8am-5pm on weekends. 
We will go to 6pm on weekdays when we get into April.