Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Tuesday 12/14/21 Farmington River Report: flow reduction & mild weather here now

Our NEW store hours as of 9/7/21:

Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm, Saturday & Sunday 8am-5pmWe are now open only until 5pm every day and will be on that schedule through March. Per CDC guidelines, in Connecticut now you do NOT have to wear a mask/face covering anymore IF you are vaccinated. If you are not vaccinated, you need to continue to wear a mask, and please try to maintain a 6ft distance from other customers if possible. We are happy to deliver curbside if you are uncomfortable shopping inside. Just give us a call. 

Featured up top is Ben Canino with a really nice brown he caught last Friday afternoon. The browns have spawned and they are hungry now. Next down is once again Jim Decesare with a long, lean spawned out brown. Jim has paid his dues and fishes almost every day for an hour or two after work, and he has gotten in tune with the river and figured out how to solve the equation. Third down is regular customer Steve Kukta with a solid fish he got over the weekend, right at the end of the day after he almost knocked off early- persistence pays off. There is often a bite window just before dark, so hang in there if you can. Last but not least customer & outdoor writer Will Ryan grinded all day and then hit a rainbow trout bite window with several in succession at the day’s end- he was going to leave mid afternoon but I convinced him it would be worth driving home in the dark haha.

In store sale:
G3 Men’s Stockingfoot Waders in Shadow Green & Cinder at $439.99 (normally $549.95), and Riparian Camo at $479.99 (normally $599.95)- sale applies to in stock merchandise, when they are gone that’s it. Also, Sage Pulse fly rods (one handed), normally $475, on sale for $380. We also have one Sage Pulse13’ #7 Spey rod- normally $650, now $540.

Try some of Don’s #8 coffee/black Rubber Leg Stones- they can be deadly, especially when flows are up a bit. They imitate the commonplace darker large Stoneflies, and can also pass as a Fishfly larva (they are tons of them in the Farmington) andeven a smaller immatureHelgramite. The rubber legs give them movement that makes them look alive, just like a real bug. They even work in rivers where none of those bugs exist. 

New products continue to arrive almost every day. T & T rods have been trickling in every week lately, filling in most of the holes we had. Fulling Mill came in recently, and we are once again restocked on all their excellent hooks (including the Jig Force Short, Regular & Long, Czech Nymph), the deadly & popular Slush Eggs (peach, pink), Masked Marauder Stoneflies (golden, black), and Frenchies. In streamers we once again have Baby Complex Twist Buggers (the deadly olive/yellow/brown combo), Schmidt’s killer Viking Midge (yellow/olive), and Tommy Lynch’s big brown trout slayer, the Mini D & D. For you Euro guys, we added in several new Fulling Mill Jigged Streamers with 3.8mm to 4.6mm tungsten beads on them- don’t neglect jigged streamers when tight-lining! Many days this Fall/early Winter they’ve been the ticket, especially for bigger fish. We also have Fulling Mill’snew Hopper fly box (it’s blue, not red). Two big boxes of Wapsi fly tying materials arrived and are up on the walls now, filled in a lot of holes on things like UTC thread, wires/tinsels, D-Rib, all sorts of dubbings, Bucktails, Silli Legs, flash materials, Pine Squirrel Zonker strips, Rabbit Zonker strips, and much much more. 

We’re doing a second Beginner Fly Tying course with Mark Swenson on Sunday 1/16/22 from 9:30am-4pm. Call Mark directly at 203-586-8007 to sign up. For details on the class go to our “Classes, News & Reviews” page on our website. 

As of 9/1/21, the entire upper 21 miles of the Farmington River is Catch & Release until Opening Day in April 2022. This covers from the dam in Riverton, downstream to the Rt 177 bridge in the center of Unionville. Below the Rt 177 Unionville Bridge it is five fish, 9”. If you see anyone keeping fish illegally, don’t confront them, just call 1-800-842-HELP and report the violation to the CT DEEP.

River Conditions:
Two shots of good news: the MDC made a flow cut Monday morning, and highs through Friday will be 40s to 50s, no rain predicted. All of this combined should lead to improved fishing/catching. We did get about an inch of rain Sunday day/night, but all it did was bump the Still River up an additional 150cfs, and it’s already dropped 100+cfs and continues to recede. Total flow in the permanent TMA/C&R (Catch & Release) is 509cfs and dropping steadily (Riverton is 317cfs, the Still River adds in 192cfs and is going down). Per USGS, about 400cfs would be normal for today, so we are within the normal range now. Fishing reports have varied, with some anglers doing well, and others struggling to hook a fish or two. Most people are hooking at least a few fish, but if you catch a bite window it can be good during that time period. You may go 3 hours with only a bump or two, only to catch 3-6 fish in an hour when they decide to feed. Frequently when it’s slow in the afternoon, the fish turn on in the last hour of daylight (peak water temps + lower light level)- this is especially true for the bigger browns. Moral of the story: stay ‘till the bitter end! I’d rather start late & stay late in the December through March time period. 

While the dry fly fishing is better at sub 300cfs flows, anglers are getting fish on the surface lately on #18-24 Winter Caddis in the early/mid mornings (sometimes later), and tiny #22-28 Blue Winged Olives/BWOs/Olives in the afternoons. Midges are in the mix too (afternoons). However, the most consistent/productive techniques are still nymphing & fishing streamers. Fish are starting to transition into Winter holding water as the water temps drop and they finish spawning (prob 95%+ have spawned by now): mostly slow to moderate speed water in pools, deep runs, and slower/deeper riffles. You may see trout slide into riffles in the afternoons to feed as the water temps rise and nymphs get active and in the drift, especially with the milder temps this week. 

As I’ve mentioned before, during the colder water temps of late Fall through early Spring, with one or two exceptions there is no need to get out there at the crack of dawn. Focus on late morning through late afternoon (say 10am’ish) when water temps rise a little (only takes one degree or less) and the trout & the bugs are at their most active. The early to mid morning Winter Caddis hatch is an exception to this (first light to about 10am is normally peak, but they can go later than that, and sometimes egg-lay right at dusk on some days). If you do head out early because that’s what your schedule allows, fish flies that are independent of insect hatches/activity: Junk Flies (Eggs, Squirmies, Mops), various streamers (especially jigged ones), big Stoneflies, and attractor nymphs (ones with hot spots/flourescent materilas, UV, unnatural colors, or flash). As the day progresses the water temps should rise a little, and this will rev the trout’s metabolism up and get them more interested in feeding, and the aquatic insects will also get more active- this is win-win for us fishermen. Plus it’s more comfortable to be out in the afternoons when the day is at it’s warmest. You may want to try some more imitative patterns in the afternoons: various Caddis Larva (regular olive/green & cased), small Mayfly Nymphs, and Stonefly Nymphs.

The East Branch was reduced Monday from 25 down to 0cfs. AM water temp today in Riverton is 42.5 degrees, it peaked at 42.75 degrees yesterday afternoon- downstream water temps will typically be slightly lower, as the dam buffers the water temps. The warming trend here now and this week will raise water temps, which should get both the trout & bugs more active. Unionville USGS is reading 697cfs and dropping (normal for today is 634cfs). This is medium-high & fishable for sure, but be aware it's a bigger river down there. Angling pressure downstream in December is light. Ten Day Forecast sees highs 30s to 50s, lows averaging in the 20s. Fishing on average has picked up compared to early/mid Fall, and December historically can be some pretty good fishing as trout look to put some weight back on after spawning and before true Winter sets in. The fishing for the semi-recently stocked ‘Bows in New Hartford between the Rt 219 bridge and the Rt 44 Satan’s Kingdom bridge has been good most days (no surprise there!), with anglers landing some big fat fish- mostly rainbows, with some stocked, holdover & wild browns in the mix. 

Flies & Hatches:
Fishing advice is unchanged and will be similar for most of the Winter: mostly subsurface, slow & deep with streamers, Junk Flies (Eggs, Squirmy/San Juan Worms, Mops,Weenies), and bigger Stoneflies. The biggest difference is with flows dropping and getting normal, we are fishing some smaller natural/imitative nymphs now. Higher flows typically means bigger flies, and lower water usually fishes better with smaller flies. We received several cool new jigged streamer patterns from Fulling Mill. Eggs continue to be a top producer, and when Olives are hatching in the afternoons try #16-20 BWO/Olive type nymphs. Getting more reports of trout rising to small to tiny #22-28 Blue Winged Olives (BWOs) in the afternoons- as the water continues to drop, expect to see more surface action. You may also see risers in the early to mid morning (sometimes later) when the Winter Caddis hatch. Hope for dries, but expect to fish subsurface from the late Fall through early Spring. 

Caddis Larva info:
Other nymphs I traditionally do well on this time of year are Caddis Larva: #14-16 olive to olive/green Larva and also #10-14 Cased Caddis (especially during higher water and/or flow bumps). For those of you into bugs & Latin names, the most common Net Spinning Larva are the Hydropsyche- they have an olive to olive-green back with a black thorax and average #14-16, and if you flip them over the belly is more of a light green. Cheumatopsyche are another common Net Spinner on the Farmington that look sorta similar but are smaller (#16-20) and often greener. Cased Caddis live in slower water, and higher water/flow bumps often dislodge them and knock them into the drift. They are also one of the rare aquatic bugs that Behavioral Drift during the day (most do it during first/light light, and after dark). Some Cased Caddis are huge, with imitations tied to imitate them on a #6 2-3xl hooks, and sometimes even bigger! I also see smaller #16-18 Brachycentrus/Grannom/Mother’s Day Cased Caddis Larva in the Fall- by the Spring they will be #12-14 just before hatching. The Farmington has TONS of Caddis throughout the river- net spinners (such as Hydropsyche & Cheumatopsyche), cased (too many different varieties & sizes to list), and free living (Rhyacophila, they are BIG and bright green). 

We are shifting from Fall to Winter mode, slowly but surely as the water temps continue to slowly drop. The dam in Riverton will buffer/slow the temp drop as compared to a Freestone (rain fed) river, but the water temps will continue to get lower. Trout are starting to slide into Winter holding water: slower/deeper water such as pools, deeper runs, and slower/deeper riffles. As mentioned above, this also means that with minor exceptions (AM Winter Caddis hatch), for the most part you don’t need to start before 10-11am. Give the water temps a chance to bump up, it will make both the trout and the aquatic insects more active and lead to better fishing/catching. Water temps peak in the late afternoon (3-4pm), and don’t drop significantly until after it gets dark. I often have my best bite window this time of year in the last hour of daylight: peak water temps + low light brings the big browns out to feed. Late morning through late afternoon is also a more comfortable time of day to be out. Sunny days will see the biggest water temp increases of all. 

Various single-hook & articulated streamers are having their moments, experiment with colors and retrieves. Post spawn browns are looking for big bites to eat, December can be a fantastic streamer month. Some of the better colors have been white, brown, brown & yellow, olive, and all yellow- make sure to have a good assortment of colors, it can make a big difference. Streamer retrieve speed can be important- in general cold water equals slower retrieves & deeper presentations, but try some faster retrieves too, cuz ya never know. The trout will always tell you water they prefer, but only if you experiment and listen to what the trout tell you they like.

A quick note on water temps and how they affect trout, fishing, and best time of the day to be out. Water temps moving TOWARD 60 degrees tends to turn trout on, and as temps move AWAY from 60 degrees it tends to shut feeding down. Even though 50-65 degrees water temps are “optimal” for trout, the direction of temp changes has more to do with creating a good bite than the actual absolute temp. Having said that, there can be a first light bite, even when air & water temps are cold. 

Despite the spawn being mostly done, you need to continue to watch out for redds (light colored patches on the gravel) where brown trout deposited their eggs (typically the tails of pools & side channels/braids). Don’t step ON or RIGHT BELOW the redds or you’ll crush the eggs. 

When flows are up, look for areas where trout can get out of the current: the inside of river bends, spots where the river gets wider (creates soft edges where it widens), and behind bankside obstructions. Skip the faster pocket water and focus on pools, deep runs, and slower/deeper riffles. Extra water usually pushes the trout closer to the banks, out of the heavier flow. Even though the peak of the spawn is behind us, if you are nymphing with a pair of nymphs in the near future, make sure one of them is an egg! Don’t walk out knee or crotch deep and start fishing, because if you do that you likely just spooked all the catchable trout hanging near the bank to get out of the heavier currents. 

Dick Sablitz whipped up some “Heavy Hare’s Ear Soft Hackles” with tungsten beads for us. Great point fly to use in a multi wet fly rig to get your other wets/soft hackles down deep, or use in a tandem Euro Nymphing rig.

PSA on trout spawning, Redds & ethics:
We are almost done with the brown trout spawn, they started late in 2021. Currently it appears the peak of the spawn is past (prob 95%+ already spawned), but small numbers of browns can continue to spawn right into early Winter. Trout will dig redds (light colored circular depressions) in shallower gravelly areas with suitable current such as side channels, pool tailouts & riffles, and then the males & females will pair up and lay eggs there. Please don’t fish to actively spawning trout on redds, just let them do their thing and make more wild trout. Plus it’s not really sporting or ethical, and the spawning trout are already stressed due to the whole spawning process (migrating, fighting, digging, etc.). But most important of all, don’t step on the redds, or the first 10 or so feet downstream from them- many of the eggs drift downstream of the redds. If you step on the eggs, you crush them and kill future wild trout. Fishing to actively spawning trout sitting on redds isn’t cool, but stepping on the eggs is 100x worse because it is fatal to future wild trout. The eggs won’t hatch out until roughly February (give or take), so watch where you step! In deeper water well downstream of the redds, there will be non-spawning trout feeding on the loose eggs drifting downstream. Ethics is a personal thing that’s nearly impossible to regulate, so at the end of the day it’s up to you. If you are unsure if what you’re doing is unsporting, err on the side of letting the spawning trout do their thing and stay away from them. Certain areas with ideal spawning gravel & flows can have concentrations of spawning trout in them, I would encourage you to give these areas a wide berth until they are done doing their thing. By now most of the browns have spawned and you can go back to fishing these areas- just make sure you aren’t wading through redds and crushing eggs.

The FRAA stocking in October has improved the fishing in the 2 miles New Hartford Rt 219 Bridge downstream to Rt 44 Satan’s Kingdom bridge section- they stocked a good number of 12-16” Bows, and each spot got 5-10 bigger ones in the 18”+ range. In late September CT Fisheries stocked the lower river, and the MDC stocked in Riverton in October. FYI the permanent Catch & Release (C&R) only gets stocked once a year in April, and always has a high density of trout (even when you aren’t catching them haha). Recently stocked trout love egg flies & Junk Flies (Mops, Eggs, Worms) in general. The bigger trout of late are mostly coming on Junk Flies, big Stones, and streamers fished slow & deep. In terms of catching the recently stocked trout, think small to medium size streamers like Woolly Bugger & Zuddlers, and also Junk Flies, Hare’s Ears, and Frenchies (and other nymphs with florescent hot spots).

Effective streamers include standard single hook patterns such as Woolly Buggers, Zuddlers, Zonkers, etc., just play around with colors & retrieves until you crack the code for that day. Use bigger articulated patterns to catch less but potentially bigger trout, it’s definitely that time of year. Spawning gets the big trout very aggressive toward larger streamers, and post-spawn trout will still whack them due to hunger and the need to put weight back on lost during the spawning process. Some yellow in your Fall streamers can be very effective, whether they are all yellow or two-tone (brown/yellow, olive/yellow, etc.). Also make sure to try some flashy streamers, some days they are the ticket (think about how effective flashy spoons & spinners are for spin fishermen).

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 streamers, wet flies or nymphs (Euro or Indy) if they aren’t rising. First & last light are prime streamer times, and also rainy/overcast days- if flows rise & discolor, even better for streamer fishing. The same spot on 2 consecutive days can see a great hatch one day, followed by a poor hatch the next. 

We have the new Hardy Ultralite & Ultralite LL (Euro) rods. While I have not yet personally fished them, they feel amazing in handThose who have fished them have given great reviews to us, these rods are giving the T&T Contact II’s some competition. 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 in our opinion and according to many experienced Euro nymphers. I’ve fished mine for a while 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 $855. 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.


Flow& Temps:
Total flow in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release is very fishable and medium-high at 509cfs and dropping this morning (317cfs below the dam in Riverton, and 192cfs from the Still River)- historical normal total flow for today per USGS is 392cfs. The East Branch was reduced from 25cfs down to 0cfs- it comes in about 3/8 of a mile below UpCountry. Unionville USGS gauge is reading 697cfs today (historical normal for today is 634cfs)- it’s a much bigger river down there if you don’t know it well, but that’s fishable for sure if you do know it. Riverton water temp at the Rt 20 bridge was 42.5 degrees this morning, it peaked at about 42.75 yesterday afternoon. Milder weather here through Friday will increase water temps a bit. The Still River can become a cooling influence in the Fall and water temps are typically as much as 2-5 degrees cooler downriver of the Still, especially in the mornings after a colder night. Water temps will rise a little during the day, and be lowest in the early mornings.

*Blue Winged Olives (BWO’s) #22-28: especially on cloudy/overcast days
*Summer/Winter Caddis #18-24: early/mid mornings usually, sometimes go later
-Midges #20-28: afternoons, all year
-Parachute Adams #12-24: imitates many, many different bugs: Olives, Midges, Caddis, etc.

*Junk Flies (Eggs, Mops, Squirmies/SJ Worms, Green Weenies): good in the colder water of Winter, and also for higher or off-color flows & fresh stockers, or just as a change-up to natural/imitative flies after you fish through
*Stoneflies #6-12: gold/yellow, brown, black
-Antoine's Perdigons #12-20: various colors & sizes
-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.
*Olive Nymphs #16-20: afternoon hatch (BWOs), also common in Behavioral Drift (first & last light)
*Caddis Larva (olive to green) #14-16
-Frenchies & Pheasant Tails #12-20: various sizes imitate many different Mayfly nymphs from BWOs to Hendricksons, and also smaller Stoneflies
-Fox Squirrel Nymph #12-14: great general purpose impressionistic fly
*Cased Caddis #10-14 (especially high water & after flow bumps)
-Midges/Zebra Midges#16-22: olive, black, red: Midges are a staple food item, esp. late Fall/Winter

Soft-Hackles/Wet Flies:
-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
-in cold water (late Fall through early Spring), use a weighted fly (e.g. Soft Hackle Hare’s Ear/Pheasant Tail) on the end/point to get your flies deeper, and/or fish your rig on an intermediate/sinking line or sink-tip/sinking leader.

*Rich Strolis articulated streamers: Headbanger, Masked Avenger, Alter Ego & Dumpster Diver
*Rio's Precious Metal #4 (Kreelex copper, olive)
*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)
-JJ Special/Autumn Splendor/Tequeely #4-8
-Matuka #4-8 (yellow, olive, brown)

Report by Torrey Collins