Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Tuesday 1/12/21 Farmington River Report: steady as she goes

Our store hours have changed for the “off season”Monday through Sunday, 8am-5pm, 7 days a week now. 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. 

More nice fish to show ya in this report: 
Lead pic is customer Brett Howell with a photogenic brown he caught a few days ago. 2nd is @steiny98 with a hefty 2021 trout. Next down is Zach St. Amand with a solid 20 incher- he grinded hard for this one, including a few hours with no action before striking gold. Winter trout fishing can often be like that, quality over quantity- be persistent, fish hard, and you may be rewarded. 4th pic is a hefty brown by Kyle Baker, a client of Derrick (CT Fish Guides/Farmington Flies). Last pic is customer Jake Ramage with a nice Farmington brownie. 

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 have very stable Winter conditions for the long term forecast (highs averaging in the 30s, lows in the 20s), minus the snow. This means water temps in the mid/upper 30s, with trout setting up in predictable Winter lies: slower, deeper water. You will see them sometimes slide up a little into the riffles when they get more active at moments (typically that can happen in the afternoons). I'll repeat this again: day in and day out, the best time to be on the water is in the late mornings to late afternoons when water temps are at their highest, as this leads to more active trout & bugs. The exceptions include the Winter Caddis hatch in the early to mid mornings, and also when you have a mild night the water temps don't drop and trout are often on the feed even in the early mornings. I consistently have some of my best Winter trout fishing from mid afternoon to dusk/dark. Other than the morning Winter Caddis hatch, the other bug would be a light hatch of Midges, mostly late in the day from recent reports. Nymphing remains the most consistent, and streamers continue to pick up less but bigger fish. Fishing has been a slow pick of late, with most anglers fishing hard for each bite, but the quality of the fish in 2021 has been above average. Quality over quantity, so set your expectations accordingly. 

In additions to the standard nymphs we fish in the Winter (Caddis Larva, Midge larva/pupa, Eggs, Worms, Mops, flashy/gaudy Attractor nymphs, and smaller nymphs like Pheasants Tails, etc.), think also about bugs that will be hatching in the mid/late Winter and early Spring, as they will end up in the drift (albeit in a smaller immature size). Nymphs imitating Baetis/Blue Winged Olives, Hendricksons, Early Stones, and Parallels/Blue Quills are all possibilities- just remember they will be smaller now than when they hatch. Think 1-3 sizes smaller depending upon how far away from hatch times we are. Behavioral drift most commonly occurs early & late in the day FYI. Late in the day that also lines up with increased water temps, win-win. If your only window to get out is in the mornings and you have to fish to very lethargic trout in ice cold water, try using flies/ tactics that are not dependent upon insect activity. That would include small to medium weighted or jigged streamers fished deep and very slowly, Junk Flies (Mops, Eggs, Worms, Green Weenies), and flashy/gaudy Attractor nymphs (things like Rainbow Warriors, Haast Haze, Prince Nymphs, Fire Starter Jigs, Frenchies, nymphs with hot spots, etc.). Remember we also get the the Winter Caddis hatching in the early to mid mornings, and that can bring trout to the surface, even on cold mornings. Pools like Church, Greenwoods, and Beaver and all good ones to look for that hatch- just make sure you have the proper matching small foam pupa & winged adult patterns.

A major key to Winter fishing is dressing for the cold so you stay comfortable. Layer up with synthetics- mid to heavy weight thermals next to your skin, with a heavier layer of fleece over that, a warm winter jacket to top it off. Make sure to have a windproof jacket or throw a raincoat on top to break the wind. Fingerless gloves for your hands, a warm hat for your head, and a thin poly liner sock with a heavy wool sock for your feet. Make sure your wading boots fit loose enough to squeeze heavy socks in without being to tight on your feet, otherwise cramped boots will make your feet colder. Some people buy a Winter pair of boots 1 size up to allow for this. Throw some chemical hand warmers in your pocket(s) and your good to go, nice & toasty. FYI all the Simms fingerless gloves are unavailable until about March. 

Total flow in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R) section this morning is medium at 388cfs (299cfs below the dam in Riverton, plus 89cfs from the Still River). There is a 75cfs release from the East Branch (it comes in about 3/8 mile below UpCountry). The release into the West Branch in Riverton will be reduced by 75cfs this morning at 8:30am, and the East Branch will be increased by 75cfs for a total of 150cf. 

The browns have spawned and are hungry and looking to put some weight back on. Until the eggs hatch out into fry sometime in February, please try to avoid stepping on redds and just below them, as you will crush the eggs that got deposited there in October/November. Many of the browns that spawned will be thinner from the rigors of the spawning process, nymphs and streamers are appealing to these fish. Dry fly fishing has limited windows but is definitely possible.Increased flows like this in the Winter often push Cased Caddis into the drift, hint hint…

Winter Trout Fishing Tip:
Water temps in the 30s will see most trout migrate into softer, deeper water 
and drop out of the faster stuff. Their metabolism is slowed so they don’t need to eat much & there is less food available, so they are eating less. Staying out of heavy current (so they can conserve energy) and protection from predators (think deeper water) become there 2 primary concerns. They will commonly pod up, sometimes in large numbers, in optimum Wintering water. Look for the pools, deeper/softer runs, and slower/deeper riffles- these are the water types Winter trout favor. They want to lay in softer water where they don’t have to fight the current, and they want enough depth that they feel secure- if fishing current edges, focus on the softer side. When they find these optimum Wintering locations, they will often stack up in groups. Where you catch one trout this time of year, thoroughly search the general area because there quite possibly may be a bunch more nearby. Trout may also move around slightly from day to day as flows & water temps vary, and it’s not uncommon to have them slide up into the riffles to feed in the afternoons when water temps rise and trout metabolisms & bug activity both increase (especially on sunny days, these see the biggest water temp jumps). See a couple of paragraphs down for info on “bite windows”- if you locate a big pod of Winter trout and you line it up with a bite window, it can end up being a day to remember.

Successful Winter 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. 

Be patient in the Winter and set your catching expectations lower. I’ve had phenomenal days in the Winter, but I’ve also fished a half day for one or two bites. Frequently there is a “bite window” where they really go on the chew for 1-3 hours and then shut off, and if you hit this it will make your day, but if you miss it you may struggle. These are often (but not always) in the afternoons when water temps rise, which can stimulate both the trout’s metabolism, as well as a little bug activity (usually subsurface). Mild nights (air temps in the 40s) can sometimes lead to a good early to mid morning bite window FYI. During periods of more activity it’s not unusual to have the trout temporarily move into the current to feed (further up into medium to medium-fast riffles at pool heads for example), and then drop back to slower/deeper water after that. In general in the Winter trout will pod up in slow to medium speed deeper water in the pools, slower/deeper runs, and gentle riffles. They may stay close to where you were catching them in the Spring, but move a little further from the pool/run heads, and/or maybe closer to the banks. 

Current conditions favor subsurface techniques, but every method has it’s moment. Due to the trout trying to put weight back on after the spawn, I’d consider this a very good time to catch bigger trout on nymphs & streamers, I’ve had some really good days in the past catching numbers of above average sized brown trout in the Winter. Water temps have averaged in the mid/upper 30s, and can crack 40 degrees during periods of mild, sunny weather. Moderate nights combined with sunny days will produce the highest water temps and most active trout, water temps typically peak in mid/late afternoon and are lowest in early to mid mornings. The prime time to be out correlates with this, normally late morning to late afternoon (the Winter Caddis hatch is the exception to this, typically occurring in early to mid mornings, going later some days). 

Bugs that are currently hatching remain small: Winter/Summer Caddis #20-24 Midges #20-28. Overall subsurface has been more consistent than dry flies- this will be especially true when flows are up. 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, and streamers typically catching less but bigger fish. 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 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 are often at their best during low light, upward flow bumps, and also dropping/clearing water- especially if you are looking for bigger fish. During those conditions try colors like black, yellow, white. 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 numbers 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, because you are putting the fly right in the trout’s face and making it easy for them to eat it. Colder Winter water temps 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/gaude, 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 black low light conditions during the last hour of daylight. Dry fly fishing is limited to basically 2 hatches currently: Winter Caddis in the mornings, and Midges in the afternoons. In February we will start to see the smaller Capnia/Tiny Winter Black Stoneflies #18-24.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. 

Water temps and best time of day to fish:
Winter weather with cold nights and morning water temps in the 
mid 30s means you don’t need to start at the crack of dawn unless you are trying to hit some dry fly action with the early to mid morning Winter/Summer Caddis hatch. 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 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.

FYI if you are looking for something different to do, the CT DEEP has recently completed all FOUR 2020 Atlantic Salmon stockings in the nearby Naugatuck River. Swung & stripped streamers are typically the way to go for the salmon. FYI they love to lay in the tails of pools, especially near rocks. Try medium to large streamers in yellow, white, and black, as well as other colors. Keep your tippet heavy, as in 0-2x. This is all C&R (through December 15th,can keep 1 fish daily after that) with a single fly/lure with one hook (no double hook streamers), and no added weight on the leader/line. Sink tips, weighted flies, sinking leaders, and sinking lines are all perfectly fine, but you cannot add any split shot to your line or add a 2nd fly.

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 , downlocking 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 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.


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

The Farmington is currently at a medium total flow of 388cfs and decreasing through the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R) area (historical normal total flow for today is 356cfs), and has averaged in the mid/upper 30s for water temps- depending upon the weather, river section, and time of day. Riverton is medium at 299cfs from the dam on the West Branch, and the Still River is adding in an additional 89cfs and dropping below it's junction with the West Branch. The release into the West Branch in Riverton will be reduced by 75cfs this morning at 8:30am, and the East Branch will be increased by 75cfs for a total of 150cfs. AM Riverton water temp was 35 degrees this morning, water temps rise in the afternoons (peaked at 36 degrees yesterday). Downstream water temps have been cooler in the mornings after colder nights.

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

er Nymphs #16-22: size more important than exact pattern, but definitely experiment 
Egg Flies #10-18: assorted colors (yellow, pinks, oranges or mixed colors)
Junk Flies (Mops, Eggs, Squirmies/San Juan Worms, Green Weenies)
Midges/Zebra Midge#16-22: black, olive, red
*Caddis Larva (olive to green) #12-1
Cased Caddis #12-14
Blue Wing Olive #16-22: various patterns with & without hot spots/flash
-Stoneflies #
8-12: golden/yellow, brown, black- sometimes work when smaller stuff doesn’t
Pheasant Tails #14-20: various sizes imitate Mayfly nymphs like Blue Wing Olives, Hendricksons, Sulfurs, and also smaller Stoneflies and many others
-Antoine's Perdigons #14-20: black, brown, olive, yellow
-Attractor Nymphs #1
4-20: 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 colder water get them deeper using weighted point flies, sinking leaders, 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: 
brown & yellow is a DEADLY Fall color combo
-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. 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