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Tuesday afternoon 7/13 flow update:
The MDC is increasing the West Branch Farmington dam release from an already very high 800cfs to 1,600cfs!!! This is an unsafe and unfishable release level. DO NOT step in the river at these flows, you could literally drown if you slip. They will do this increase in stages over this afternoon. Combined with the flow from the Still River (861cfs & dropping), this will put the total flow over 2,500+ cfs. I'd wait for the total flow to come down to 1,000cfs or less, or for Riverton to come down to about 500cfs.
Cuppa fish pics for ya. First up is yours truly, Torrey, with a good one from Sunday eve after work before the flows went crazy on Monday after the rain and the big flow bump from the dam. Total flow was about 600-650cfs with a moderate iced tea stain to it, a pink Squirmy Worm did the trick. A good fight in the fast water I hooked her in. Next down is a pretty Bow by Derrick of CT Fish Guides.
Looking to take your fishing to the next level and then some? We have an intensive full weekend Euro Nymphing School scheduled for the last weekend in September, starting Friday 9/24 at 6pm and going until 2pm on Sunday 9/26. There are 12 slots total in this school but it’s filling fast and they will soon be turning people away, so contact them ASAP to sign up- you DON”T want to miss out on this (contact info 2 paragraphs down). It will include 2 nights lodging at Legends (located on Greenwoods Pool), 2 days on the water, and all your meals from Friday evening through lunch on Sunday. You will have Q&A sessions on Friday & Saturday nights, and you will fish all day Saturday with them and Sunday until 2pm.
Your instructors will be Gordon Vanderpool (NC), Josh Miller (PA), and Jess Westbrook (AS). All 3 are professional guides, and all of themcurrently compete in fly fishing or used to compete. Gordon runs Turning Stones Fly Fishing LLC in western NC, Josh runs Trout Yeah Guide Service in western & central PA, and Jess runs Arkansas Fly Fishing Guide Service along with The Mayfly Project (a non-profit fishing organization that mentors foster kids). Gordon & Josh are both coaches to the Team USA Youth Fly Fishing Team, and Josh is a current member of the adult USA team. These guys are on another level. I fished with Gordon this March in North Carolina, and Ican personally vouch that fishing with himis like watching the Fish & Game department sample the stream with an electroshocker, he might be the fishiest dude I have evershared the waterwith. Byall accounts and from videos I’ve seen, Josh is equally fishy. Jess runs the Mayfly Project, and also frequently competes in Team USA qualifier events and does well in them. Jess said since he’s been working with Gordon & Josh he literally catches about 5x more fish than he used to!
This is truly the “Dream Team” of instructors. They will focus on Euro Nymphing, and also teach Dry/Dropper techniques. If you are wondering how good they are at instructing, the Youth Team has won multiple team medals (some Gold) in the World Championships, in addition to individual medals too. To sign up contact Jess at either 501-317-5864, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday morning 7/13:
Well Mother Nature has seen fit to make sure we don’t have a drought this Summer….. Total flow is pretty crazy, it peaked yesterday in mid 2,000cfs range (normal for today is 284cfs), and is currently a little under 1,900cfs and dropping- waaay too high to fish unless you really know the river well, or are an experienced boat man who knows the river. The problem currently is we receivedso much rain the past 2 weeks that the reservoirs are too high Army Corps of Engineers is mandating an 800cfs release from the dam to lower the reservoir levels (Riverton gauge is 900+ cfs)- this means you don’t have the option of going above the Still River to get above the high water, which normally you could do. At some point in the near future they will cut this dam release way back, but I don’t know if that will be later this week or sometime next week. The Still River is over 900cfs but dropping at a good clip, with no significant rain in the forecast through Friday. At the current levels fishing is dangerous, if you fell in fast water you could easily drown. Wait for the total flow to be down closer to 1,000cfs or below- still a high level, but doable in spots for wading anglers.
When the river becomes fishable again, expect to fish streamers and Junk Flies (Squirmies, Mops, Eggs, Green Weenies) and bigger nymphs (such as Stoneflies & Princes). The bigger, wider, slower pools will likely even see some rising trout.Currently the clarity has improved from muddy Monday to just a dark stain today- it looks like somebody dumped a bunch of iced tea mix into the river.
We have some summertime availability for our awesome upstairs apartment rental- go to our Lodging page to check if it’s available. Great place to stay riverside, completely furnished with a kitchen, big flat screen TV, and a deck that gives you a view of the river out back. All that and very reasonably priced.
In my mind Isonychia #10-12 are the “glamour hatch” in the permanent TMA/C&R section in July, make sure you have the matching flies. Big browns have a particular affinity for this bug. Terrestrials (ants & beetles mostly) are solid producers here in the summer. Evenings often see a slight bigger Blue Winged Olive (Cornuta?) hatching, it’s typically about a #18- make sure to have some matching rusty spinners for the evening spinner fall, typically at dusk. Also have some #12-14 cream colored flies such as Usuals & White Wulffs to fish right at dusk when it gets hard to see your fly. Sulfurs #16-18 are upriver now, more toward Riverton. Still seeing some #18-20 Attenuata, even as far downstream as Barkhamsted/New Hartford. Mornings are seeing Summer/Winter Caddis #18-24, and also Needhami #22-26 now (see 3 paragraphs down for more info on the. Peak time for morning hatches is early to mid morning- be prepared to fish long leaders with long light tippets and tiny flies, it’s technical fishing. Various Caddis averaging #16-18 as always are a possibility at any point.
Evenings are prime time for dries, but if you look around you can often find some risers at other times. Not unusual to see some of our “evening bugs” sometimes hatching in the mornings or afternoons, I guess the cold water bottom release from the dam messes with the hatch times. Don’t get hung up on just fishing the flat water in the pools, as lots of nice fish are in the riffles and faster water. Bugs such as Isonychia and most Caddis also live/hatch/egg-lay in faster water, while other bugs like Sulfurs & Blue Winged Olives (BWO’s) are more in slow to medium speed water. FYI on cooler, overcast days keep your eyes out for small BWO’s, typically #20-22.
If you are nymphing, a combination of #14-18 Caddis Pupa, small #16-20 BWO/mayfly nymphs, big #6-10 Stoneflies, and #10-14 Isonychia type flies will get it done for you. The big Stones are more of a first light to mid morning deal, as that is when they crawl out to emerge. BWOs & Caddis can be effective anytime, and Iso’s normally work best from mid/late afternoon until dark. None of these time frames are set in stone, so experiment. A lot of the bigger trout are frequenting 6-24” of medium to fast water when they go into feeding mode- don’t skip or worse yet walk through the shallow water without fishing it! Often times in July the secret to catching trout on nymphs is simply to make sure one of your nymphs is small, as in #18-20. The exact pattern is less important than the size, but experiment with patterns for best results.
Needhami #22-26 have joined the Summer/Winter Caddis recently, make sure to have Needhami duns & spinners if you are dry fly fishing the pools in the AM. Typically the spinners fall first, and then the duns hatch (just a general rules with plenty of exceptions). Caddis in various sizes & colors are all over the entire river now- don’t neglect them for the more “glamorous” Mayflies. Trout will eat Caddis on the surface (especially in the eves), and the pupa fished subsurface can be effective all day long in the faster water. Swung wets & soft hackles can do a great job imitating hatching pupa & egg-laying adults.
Definitely into that time of year when dries imitating terrestrial insects can be VERY effective, especially midday on warm/hot sunny days when insect hatches are often slow. You can blind fish them in likely water, or target sporadic risers when you don’t see many bugs on the water. Ants & Beetles are the main players, anywhere from #12-24. Bigger foam terrestrials such as Mini Chernobyls #12-14 and #10 Monster Beetles are great for blind fishing likely water, and/or Dry/Dropper fishing with a small weighted nymph 1-2 feet below them.
Dries, wets/soft-hackles, nymphs & streamers are all having their moments lately, the trout are definitely on the feed, including some truly big wild browns. If undisturbed, many bigger trout (especially wild browns) are feeding in 6-24” of water during insect emergences and can be caught with a stealthy approach (early & late in the day are peak times for this). The fishing is good from the dam in Riverton, down through the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R), and all the way downstream at least down to Unionville. If you move around, experiment with flies & tactics, and remain flexible in your approach, you should find success. If however you try to ram a particular method down the trout’s throat when it’s not the proper choice, you are heading for poor results and frustration. Let the trout tell you how to catch them. A highly underutilized but very effective method is wet fly/soft-hackle fishing, and it’s an efficient way to cover a lot of water thoroughly. Ideally fish 3 different patterns (minimum of 2) on tag end droppers, 20-30” apart, and experiment with dead-drift, twitching, swinging, retrieving, and even bouncing/dancing the top dropper fly. The trout will tell you how they want it by their response. This is a relaxing way to fish, and a good break from technical flat water dry fly fishing and the intense concentration of nymphing. Read further down in this report for more suggestions on wet fly fishing.
Be aware that hatches vary from day to day and respond to water & air temps changes, variations in flow levels, and also light conditions. Be prepared to fish wet flies, nymph, or dry/dropper if they aren’t rising. First & last light are also prime streamer times, and also rainy/overcast days- if flows rise & discolor, even better for streamer fishing. The same spot on 2 consecutive night can see a great hatch one evening, followed by a poor hatch the next. This time of year, a mild cloudy day will often produce some of the better fishing, but even in bright sun the Farmington stays cool and there are often hatches. Due to the release of cold water, hatch time can be all over the place on this river. Sulfurs often hatch in the afternoons, and Isonychia can start in the mornings. Overall the best hatching most days has been in the evenings. The hotter and sunnier it is, the more the evening bugs will get pushed off closer to darkness- the further you get away from the dam, the more true this is. Closer to the dam the evening hatches often happen earlier, likely due to the colder water I presume.
It pays to know your bugs, their habitat, and their hatching behavior. What you see for bugs and when they hatch will totally depend upon the time of day and how far below the dam you are. If you are on the water during hatching activity, expect to see some risers if you look around. Remember that many bugs ONLY hatch in water with some good current, but others like slower water- it pays to look online or in the books and do your homework. Big Stoneflies, March Browns and Isonychia live in fast water broken with rocks (pocket water), and most Caddis hatch & egg-lay in faster water. Sulfurs like medium-slow to medium-fast water, and Blue Winged Olives like medium to slow with gravel. Mayfly spinners usually do their thing over riffles.
Caddis remain a staple bug, with pupa consistently producing subsurface- the adults come back in the evenings to egg-lay in faster water. Tans & olive/green are common colors, but also gray, brown & black. Keep your eyes out for spinner falls of Mayflies like Sulfurs or BWO’s in the eves as this can bring some large trout to the surface. Caddis are a possibility at any time. They tend to hatch here in the mornings/afternoons in riffles & faster water, and then come back at dusk and egg-lay/dive in the riffles & faster water. A Caddis pupa is a great choice for nymphing any time of day, but especially during emerge, and even during egg-laying, just be sure to let them swing out a the end of each drift. Large Stoneflies averaging #6-10 are emerging/crawling out in the early to mid mornings now- you will see their empty shucks on the rocks in the fast water. That is also the water type you want to focus on when nymphing imitations of them in the mornings-this can produce some BIG fish. Pair them up with a Caddis Pupa or a smaller Pheasant Tail/Frenchy/Mayfly nymph.
Terrestrials such as regular Ants & Beetles are both good options this time of year during non-hatch times as the milder weather has them active. If it ain’t happening on the surface, the nymph fishing underneath has been good. Imitations of all the bugs mentioned above are good choices. And if you are out in early to mid morning, try a big Stonefly nymph #6-10, as they are active and hatching/crawling out on the rocks now.
Water temps remain cold to cool on the first 20+ miles of river below the dam in Riverton. Water being released is still around 50 degrees, averages somewhere in the 50s for most of the river, and will get into the 60s in Collinsville/Unionville- all very trout-friendly water temps. The books say that 50-65 degrees is optimal for trout.
Wet Fly Tips: this is a great time of year to fish wet flies & soft hackles. Fish them 2-3 at a time, on short tag end droppers, spaced 20-30” apart. Use 3x-5x fluoro tippet (depending upon fly size), and keep your rod tip up. The elevated rod tip prevents break-offs, gives you strike detection (watch the bow and look for changes), helps to better animate the flies, and allows a better hook-up percentage (creates just enough slack to allow the trout to suck your fly into their mouth). Riffly water 3 feet and shallower is prime for this, but it can catch trout on a variety of water types.
A great rig during morning/afternoon Caddis hatches is a buoyant/visible dry such as an Elk Hair Caddis with a weighted pupa trailed 10-24” below that. During evening egg-laying, try a Caddis dry with a soft hackle trailed about 1 foot below (imitates diving egg-layers). During the hatch, if they are eating on top, make sure to fish a pupa/emerger pattern that floats low in the film, preferably with a trailing shuck. But often they don’t rise during the emergence, instead choosing to stay deep and let the current deliver the food right to them. In that case, nymphing the faster water with the appropriate pupa patterns can be lethal. Dead-drift your pupa, but always allow them to go downstream & swing below you. Caddis are above average swimmers and often a swinging pupa outfishes a dead-drifted one.
We have the new Hardy Ultralite & Ultralite LL (Euro) rods. While I have not yet personally fished them, they feel amazing in hand, and I’m predicting they will be big sellers in 2021. Customers who have bought & fished them tell me they are fantastic. Euro specific rods in the Ultralite LL series include the10’ 2” #2, 11’ 2” #2, 10’ 8” #0/2, 10’ 8” #3, 9’ 2” & 9’ 9” #3 & #4. In the standard Ultralite the 9’ #4, 9’ #5, 9’ #6, 9’ #7, 10’ #4, and 10’ #5.
The T&T Contact II series (10' #2, 10' #3, 10' 9" #3, 11' 2" #3, 10' 9" #4 & 10' 8" #6) is a home run, the best Euro rods currently on the market according to many experienced Euro nymphers. I’ve fished mine for almost a year now, and it’s amazing. New improved materials, new guide spacing, down-locking reel seats are standard now, plus a new fighting butt design that is more comfortable. Recovery is noticeably better/crisper, 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, even when you do something stupid. These rods are easier to cast, will give you more distance, and they deliver with improved accuracy. Retail is $825. FYI demand is exceeding supply with these rods, so if we don’t have what you want in stock get your name on a waiting list.
The Farmington is extremely high at 1888cfs total flow & dropping at 8am on Tuesday 7/13 in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R). The Still River is currently responsible for 935cfs of that flow – it dumps in a little below the Rt 20 bridge in Riverton. The Still River currently runs warmer (60s and well into the 70s on hot sunny days) than the water from the dam (low 50s) this time of year, and so right now it has a positive affect on water temps (raises them). The East Branch is releasing 400cfs as of Thursday- it comes in about 3/8 of a mile below UpCountry. Riverton water temp was 53.5 degrees at 8am, yesterday afternoon it reached 58 degrees at the Riverton in the late afternoon (water temps are higher downriver, and can reach mid/upper 50s currently on the middle to upper river, and well into the 60s in Collinsville/Unionville during hot sunny afternoons).
*Isonychia #10-12: typically late afternoon through dusk, fast water, in TMA/C&R now
*Sulfur #16-18: afternoons/eves, spinner fall at dusk- upriver in upper TMA/C&R to the dam
*Assorted Caddis #14-20 (especially tans & olive/greens): morning to afternoon hatch, evening
-Needhami #22-26: mornings, duns & spinners, starting up
-Attenuata #18-20: evening hatch, often confused with Sulfurs but smaller & bright greenish yellow- nearing the end, best hatching is upper TMA/C&R to the dam in Riverton
*Terrestrials #12-24: Beetles & Ants: great in afternoons & non-hatch times
-Blue Winged Olives (BWO’s) #18-22- esp. on cloudy/overcast cooler days
-Big Stoneflies #6-12: don’t create a lot of dry fly fishing, but the nymphs crawl out/emerge in the low
light of early/mid mornings in faster water. Golden Yellow, Brown, and Black.
-Summer/Winter Caddis #18-24: early/mid mornings usually, sometimes go later
-Midges #20-28: anytime, all year
-Parachute Adams #12-24: imitates many, many different bugs from Iso’s to Olives
-Caddis Pupa #14-16- tan, olive/green
-Caddis Larva (olive to green) #12-18
-Sulfur Nymphs #14-18
-Stoneflies #6-12: gold/yellow, brown, black- early/mid AM nymphs emerge/crawl out June thru Oct
-Isonychia Nymph #10-14: fast water, can also use big Princes & Pheasant Tails
-Olive Nymphs #16-20: anytime, common bug during Behavioral Drift (first & last light) & rainy days
-Fox Squirrel Nymph #12-14 (can imitate March Browns)
-Frenchies & Pheasant Tails #12-20: various sizes imitate many different Mayfly nymphs
-Cased Caddis #10-14 (especially after flow bumps)
-Junk Flies (Mops, Eggs, Squirmies/SJWorms, Green Weenies) for higher or off-color flows & fresh stockers
-Midges/Zebra Midges#16-22: olive, black
-Antoine's Perdigons #14-20: black, brown, olive, yellow
-Attractor Nymphs #12-20: anything flashy, gaudy, or with a hot spot such as Rainbow Warriors, Haast Haze, Firestarter Perdigon, Princes, Miller's Victim, Triple Threats, etc.
-Assorted Patterns #10-18: Hare's Ear, DW Catchall, Partridge & Orange/Green/Yellow, Partridge & Flash, Starling & Herl, Leadwing Coachman, March Brown, Partridge & Pheasant Tail
-best fished 2-3 at a time, on tag end droppers, spaced 20-30” apart
-dead drift them, swing them, twitch them, bounce them- let the trout tell you how they want them
-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)
Report by Torrey Collins