Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Tuesday 2/23/21 Farmington River Report: mild temps are back

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. 

We just got in a batch of T & T rods, and in Contact II’s we currently have the 10’ #3, 10’ 9” #3, 10’9” #4, and the 10’ 8” #6- they have been out of stock for a bit. Demand is exceeding supply, these are some fantastic rods. We have the other lengths & line weights on order and they should be here soon (11’ 2” #3, 10’ #2).

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.

The new 2021 Hardy Ultralite rods are starting to trickle into inventory, so far we have the 9' #5, 9' 9" #4 (crossover Euro/dry fly rod that is surprisingly versatile), 10’ #7, with lots more to come including their new dedicated longer/lighter (10’ 2” up to 11’ 2” in #0/2, #2, and #3) Euro rods designed by world champion Howard Croston, a long time rod designer for Hardy. While Simms remains out of fingerless gloves until March, we just received a batch of nice fleece gloves from Pac Fly that retail at only $19.99. We also 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 Came G3 waders in stock now.

We received bigWapsi & Hareline fly tying material orderrecentlyand will be getting one from Nature’s Spirit in the near future too. 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 Fulling MillUmqua/Tiemco, and Whiting soonFYI 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 very hard to get recently too, and real Wood Duck is currently impossible to find.

Check out more nice fish coming to hand over the past several days. Lead pic is Zach’s client David with an impressive holdover brown just shy of 21”. Next down is Derrick’s client with a thick shouldered male, and the 3rd pic is a handful of big light colored brown trout Zach landed Monday- he said he worked for them and the cookie cutter size was 15-17”, except for his big one pictured.

Just another day in paradise. Cold Winter weather has loosened it’s grip, and long range highs will average in the 40s. This means no slush, no shelf ice, no frozen guides. However, with plenty of snow on the ground, afternoon snowmelt on warmer sunny days can also drop water temps, so be aware of this. Total flow in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R) is currently perfect and medium at 284cfs (184cfs in Riverton plus 100cfs from the Still River). Winter tactics & advice still apply, with the caveat that on warmer, sunny days you may have your best bite window in the mid to late morning before snowmelt actually lowers the water temps. This won’t happen every day, just on the warmer/sunnier ones. If the bite seems to shut down in the afternoon on those snowmelt days, you can always venture up closer to the dam where this effect is minimized- once you get above the Still River you are above all the major tributaries (only 2 small brooks above that). The ideal scenario when there is substantial snow on the ground is a night in the 20s to stop snowmelt, followed by a day in the mid 30s to low 40s with some sun- just enough to raise water temps without melting much snow. 

That state stocked yesterday (Monday 2/22) from the dam in Riverton down to Whittemore, about 4 miles of river.

Rich Strolis will be dropping off the first batch of his deadly #14 Tungsten Infant Stones in both brown & black (tied personally by him) later this week, just in time for the weekend- they imitate the Early Stones. The micro rubber legs/antennae/tails on them creates movement that mimics that of the naturals, plus they have nice skinny abdomens like the real ones, and some subtle flash too. A winning combo. These bugs are definitely in the driftcurrently and should catch you some trout. As we get closer to March, subsurface nymph/larva activity noticeably increasesand trout feed more as water temps rise, the days get longer, and bugs become more available.

Successful recent flies includCaddis Larva (both olive/green #14-16and smaller yellow #18), small to medium jigged streamers (1.5-3”), Mops, various #16-18 nymphs, and Eggs. Some fish have been getting caught on the surface on Winter Caddis #22-24 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. 

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 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.

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 percentage 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 in late February/early March, please try to avoid stepping in spawning areas/redds and just below them, as you will crush the eggs that got deposited there in October/November.

Cold WeatherAttire:
A major key to Winter fishing is dressing for the cold so you stay comfortable- once you get cold it turns into a miserable experience. But if you dress correctly, you can 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 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 averaging 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. When you catch one trout this time of year, thoroughly search the general area because quite possibly there 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 in shallower water 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 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 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. 

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 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. Dry fly fishing is limited to basically 2 hatches currently: Winter Caddis in the mornings, and Midges in the afternoons. In February we start to see the smaller Capnia/Tiny Winter Black Stoneflies #18-24, with the larger #14-16 Early Black & Early Brown Stoneflies coming in March. 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 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 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.

The Farmington is currently at a medium total flow of 284cfs through the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R) area (historical normal total flow for today is 309cfs), and has averaged in the mid 30s for water temps- depending upon the weather, river section, and time of day. Riverton is medium/medium-low at 184cfs from the dam on the West Branch, and the Still River is 100cfs below it's junction with the West Branch. AM Riverton water temp was 35 degrees this morning, water temps usually rise a little in the afternoons- hit 36 yesterday and 37 over the past weekend. 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. 

*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: different sizes 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)
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 #16-22: various patterns with & without hot spots/flash
-Stoneflies #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.