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Zach with another beautiful trout from the other day. 2nd down is Justin Barden with a solid fish from a tough day. 3rd is frequent flyer Mike Andrews with a 3rd cast brown from Monday afternoon. Fishing is not easy lately, but the average size is impressive.
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.
Please be careful when handling trout in the Winter- the best option is to keep them in your landing net, in the water. When it’s really cold out, their gills & eyes can actually freeze and be damaged if you hold them up in the air for any length of time.Also, if you have wool or fleece gloves on, TAKE THEM OFF before handling a trout, as they will remove the slime and then they can get a fungus. Nitrile & Latex glove are fine. If it’s above freezing, their gills & eyes will be safe, but if it’s trulycold they can get damaged. Please treat the trout with respect, it’s not worth killing them just to be an Instagram hero. Nuff said.
Snowing again as I write this, if definitely feels like Winter of late! True Winter weather is keeping the majority of anglers away, creating some elbow room for you true diehards who know how to dress for the weather. Catch rates are lower lately but average size is big, a quality over quantity deal. They made a very small 15cfs flow cut at the dam Monday morning. Still River USGS flow gauge is still frozen and notgiving a reading, I’d guess it’s adding in somewhere around 50cfs to the 175cfs below the dam, giving us a total flow of about 225cfs- a nice medium-low level. Fishing advice, flies, techniques all remain the same. Nice trout are still getting caught on a near daily basis. As always, don’t start early in the Winter unless you are tying to catch the Winter Caddis hatch. Let air & water temps rise and then go fishing.
Even after a super cold night that createsmorning slush, if you keep driving upstream eventually the water temps closer to the dam will be above freezing and there will be zero slush and no shelf ice. The section from Hitchcock/Riverton Self Storage (Rt 20 bridge) and upstream to the dam is always fishable and ice/slush-free. The bottom release at the dam stays above freezing, even on the coldest Winter days.
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 Winter, both in terms of comfort/wind chilland also line management. If you are out on a windy day andare planning tonymph, 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.
Bugs, tactics, flies and rigs remain the same: nymphs & streamers fished slow & deep is the go-to tactic. Dry fly action is possible in early to mid mornings during the Winter Caddis hatch, and they are sometimes on the water in the afternoons (but plan on the AM if you want to hit that hatch). Midges have been in the afternoons, but hatches of them have been spotty & light. Winter trout won’t move far for your fly, so when nymphing make sure to thoroughly fish high percetnage areas with more casts than usual. You’re trying to make sure you get that one drift that damn near put the fly right in their lazy Winter mouth. Also expect that because of this, the takes will be subtle and harder to detect than in the Spring, Summer & Fall- set the hook on anything different or suspicious. Remember, hook sets are free, and “you miss every shot you don’t take”. The best nymphers set the hook way more often than average anglers. Not a hard set, just a quick and small rod tip movement. That way you can continue your drift if nothing is there after you set.
Until the eggs from the October/November trout spawn hatch out into fry sometime later 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.
A major key to Winter fishingis dressing for the cold so you stay comfortable- once you get cold it turns into a miserable experience.But if you dress correctly, you will stay warm and have a good time. Layer up with synthetics (no cotton!!!- it’s holds moisture, “cotton kills”)- mid to heavy weight thermals next to your skin, with a layer of fleece over that (depending upon how cold it is), anda warm winter jacket to top it off. Make sure to either 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 (very important, you can lose up to 50-75% of your body heat through your head), and a thin poly liner sock with a heavy wool sock for your feet and your outfit is complete. Make sure your wading boots fit loosely enough to squeeze heavy socks in without constricting your feet, otherwise cramped boots will make your feet colder due to reduced circulation. Some people buy a Winter pair of boots 1 size up to allow for this, others buy bootfoot waders (they have more air space and are frequently insulated with Thinsulate in the boots.In either case, don’t tighten your boots up as much as normal, a little wiggle room will keep your feet less constricted & warmer.It’s also not a bad idea to throw some chemical hand warmers in your pocket(s) for extra warmth when your fingers get cold.FYI the Simms fingerless gloves are unavailable until about March. FYI many people swear by a Nitrile glove under their fingerless gloves: it keeps your hands dry and warmer, and you still have the dexterity to tie on your flies & fish with them on.
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 matching foam pupa & winged adult patterns.
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. Whenyou catch one trout this time of year, thoroughly search the general area because quite possibly theremay 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 in shallower waterto 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 by far). 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. However, in general expect to work hard for each trout this time of year.
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 hadphenomenal 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 b ite 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 above average sized brown trout in the Winter. Water temps have averaged in the low/mid 30s. 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, and now also 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. 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 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 averageday. If you want more actionbut 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.
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. 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. 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:
Winter weather with 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 sometimessee 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 available. 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.
Current Store Hours:
8am-5pm Monday through Friday, and 8am-5pm on weekends.
The Farmington is currently at a medium-low total flow of a guesstimated 225cfs (Still River USGS gauge is iced up) through the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R) area (historical normal total flow for today is 345cfs), and has averaged in the mid 30s for water temps- depending upon the weather, river section, and time of day. Riverton is medium at 192cfs from the dam on the West Branch, and the Still River is a guesstimated 50cfs below it's junction with the West Branch (gauge is iced up). AM Riverton water temp was 34.5 degrees this morning, water temps usually rise a little in the afternoons (hit 36 at the gaude Thursday). Downstream water temps have been cooler in the mornings after colder nights. East Branch is currently releasing no water into the river.
*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 #16-24: differentsizes imitate many different bugs including Midges & BWOs
*Smaller 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 Midges#16-22: black, olive, red
*Caddis Larva (olive to green) #12-18
*Cased Caddis #10-14
-Blue Wing Olive #16-22: various patterns with & without hot spots/flash
-Stoneflies #8-12: golden/yellow, brown, black- sometimes workswhen smaller stuff doesn’t
*Frenchies & Pheasant Tails #14-20: various sizes imitate Mayfly nymphs like Blue Wing Olives, Hendricksons,Cahills, Isonychia, also smaller Stonefliesand many others
-Antoine's Perdigons #14-20: black, brown, olive, yellow
-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.
-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 get fishthem deep & slowusing 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:http://www.farmingtonriver.com/cortland-top-secret-ultra-premium-fluorocarbon/
Report by Torrey Collins