Our current store hours:
Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm, Saturday & Sunday 8am-5pm. We 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.
Not many fish pics to share in this report, the super cold nights prior to this have kept most anglers away. Ironic because water level is finally perfect lately. The few venturing out are getting a few very nice fish. James Veit landed this handsome brown trout the other day, one of several nice browns.
Got in a big book order recently both restocking us on best sellers, as well as adding in some new titles. I have a pile of Landon Mayer’s excellent new book “Guide Flies”, as well as Tim Cammisa’s “Fly Tying for Everyone”. Both of those new books arevery good.
(in New Harford, right down the street from UpCountry) has been postponed from this Wednesday, January 12th to Thursday, February 24th due to current COVID concerns. Everything else about it remains the same (time, location).
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. All methods are legal: flies, lures, and bait. If you are in the permanent TMA/C&R section you have to be barbless. Below the Rt 177 Unionville Bridge angler can still keep trout: five fish, 9”. If you see anyone keeping fish illegally, don’t confront them, just call 1-800-842-HELP (4357) and report the violation to the CT DEEP. Aggressive confrontation with violators will only escalate the situation.
Try Bruce Marino’s Mud Puppy sculpin streamer- limited quantities in stock, $5.99 each, get ‘em while they’re hot!
We’re doing a second Beginner Fly Tying course with Mark Swenson on Sunday 2/13/22 from 9:30am-4pm and only 1 spot is currently open- call Mark ASAP directly at 203-586-8007 to sign up. For details on the class go to our “Classes, News & Reviews” page on our website.
Rich Strolis articulated streamers are once again back in stock. We currently have 2 color variations of each of the following 4 patterns: Headbanger, Masked Avenger, Alter Ego & Dumpster Diver. Get them before they sell out again. Deadly flies to entice a hungry trophy post-spawn brown trout. The Dumpster Diver is an underrated but lethal pattern that is nice and light, easy to cast, but catches big trout.
A word about fish pics & proper fish handling:
If you would like to get posted on here (and even if you don’t), when taking fish pics please handle the trout properly: gently, and keep ‘em wet mostly in the water if at all possible. We won’t post pics with fish laid out on dry land or ice/snow. Please be careful WHERE you place your hands, and don’t squeeze the fish or you can damage their internal organs. Ideally keep them IN the water, that’s the easiest on the fish of all- remember that fish aren’t designed to have their body support their weight OUT of the water, it’s unnatural and can potentially injure them if you aren’t careful. This can be extra important in the Winter with the colder air temps, when the trout’s eyes & gills can freeze if you keep them out of the water on super cold days. Don’t keep them out of the water for more than 10 seconds at a time (ideally not at all when it’s well below freezing), and when they are in the water in your net make sure that their mouth/gills are submerged and that they can freely move their gills and breathe- if they are all twisted up in your net they cannot push water over their gills. Get creative, Grip & Grins get boring. Do your best to “Keep ‘Em Wet”. Nuff said.
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, and even when they aren’t. RL’s imitate the common darker large Stoneflies, and can also pass as a Fishfly larva (they are tons of them in the Farmington) and even a smaller immature Helgramite. 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. In addition to dead-drifting them, try also twitching and even stripping them, you might be surprised.
New products continue to arrive almost every day. T & T rods have been trickling in, filling in most of the holes we had- we have lots of Contact II’s now in ALL sizes/weights- FYI the new 10’ 9” #2 is scheduled to debut in March (we’ve seen/fished it, and it’s sweet!), we have a bunch of those coming in then.
River Conditions & 2022 CT Fishing Licenses:
Don’t forget that now it’s 2022 will you need a NEW CT 2022 Fishing License- ALL CT fishing licenses purchased in 2021 are now expired. CT calendar year runs from January and expires after December (unlike NY where it’s 1 year from the date of purchase). It’s perfectly acceptable now to keep a picture of your license on your phone, they no longer require a printed copy to be legal. If you purchase online, you can have a copy of your license emailed to you.
River level is just about perfect lately- finally. The USGS gauge below the dam in Riverton is reading 243cfs this morning. The Still River gauge continues to be iced up and not giving us a CFS reading, I’d estimate it’s adding in about another 70-80cfs, for a total flow of about 310-320cfs in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R). Temps have been all over the place lately, if possible try to pick a day with a warming trend for the best conditions & more active trout and bugs. Super cold nights can create slush downstream from the Still River- most days this melts by lunchtime, but not always. Overall afternoons are the peak time to be out in January/February. The Winter Caddis is the exception, it normally occurs during early to mid mornings (virtually all other bugs hatch in the afternoons in Winter). However overall the best fishing tends to be late morning through late afternoon, due to water temps normally rising and peaking in the mid/late afternoon. Fishing pressure has overall been light, but some quality trout are being landed by some of those putting in the effort and willing to grind it out.
You may have to go above the Still River (as in the Rt 20 bridge by Hitchcock/Riverton Self Storage & up) after a really cold night to get doable water conditions (extremely cold nights can create slush & shelf ice). That section literally never slushes up or gets shelf ice because the water coming out of the dam is always a little above freezing for the entire Winter, and then it slowly chills as you go downriver. Typically though, unless it is super cold the slush will clear out by late morning/early afternoon downriver.
Be patient in the Winter and cover the likely water slowly & thoroughly, as trout won’t move as far to eat in ice cold water. Gotta spoon feed them and put your flies right in their face. Try to pick the best water, and then make a lot of casts. Where trout might move 12-18” to either side in May/June, in the cold water of Winter they might only move 1-3” some days. More casts in likely areas ups your odds of putting a drift right in their face and getting a bite. This also means bites tend to be more subtile on average, so pay close attention and strike on anything. Play with colors, as sometimes gaudy flies will trip their trigger in the Winter- pink is often good. Some days they will prefer natural, drabber more imitative patterns. Subsurface, slow & deep is typically the name of the game right now, other than the morning Caddis and Midges in the afternoon.In February we will start seeing the Tiny Winter Black Stoneflies (Capnia)- they average #18-20 but can go down to #24-26 on the Farmington.
Expect to work for your trout in the Winter and keep your expectations of numbers caught to be low most days. They are lethargic in cold water, and there is far less insect activity. You can have big numbers in the Winter on occasion, but that’s the exception, not the rule, and several factors have to line up at the same time for an epic day. Trout often congregate in cold water, and if you find a concentration and the fish turn on, you can rack them up if you have the right flies and present them properly. They often feed during bite windows when they suddenly turn on, and then a little while later it’s like somebody flipped a switch and they turn off. These windows are particularly pronounced in the Winter so be persistent because you may totally redeem a very slow day in your last hour of fishing. It’s happened to me more times than I can count this time of year. The late afternoon, with peak water temps and low light combined, often means the big browns come out to feed. The books say to fish in the Winter from about 11am-3pm, and that’s not bad advice in general (most comfortable time to be out combined with rising water temps = more active trout & increased bug activity). But, if you want to fish dries during the Winter Caddis hatch you need to be out in that early to mid morning window BEFORE 11am. And the biggest trout often wait to feed until that 3pm to dark window in my experience. So take the “rules” with a grain of salt. Warming trends typically get the trout more active, but even during colder spells if the weather stays consistent and the trout acclimate to it, you can have productive fishing. The worst time to be out is the first day after a big temperature drop, it can shut the trout right down.
Downstream AM water temps are typically lower than upstream (above the Still River) in the Winter, but not always- during periods of milder/sunny weather the water can be warmer downriver in the afternoons after the sun has a few hours to raise the water temps. FYI the water coming out of the dam remains the same temp regardless of nighttime & daytime temps, but then as it moves downstream it heats or cools depending on air temps, time of day, and sunshine or lack thereof. Sunshine is a primary driver of increased water temps- a mild night combined with a milder sunnyday will give you the maximum water temp boost. But even on a 25 degree day, if it is nice and sunny the water temps will bump up at least a degree or two, and sometimes that’s all it takes to get the trout feeding.
Fish have moved into Winter holding lies with water temps down in the 30s: mostly slow to moderate speed deeper water in pools, deeper runs, and slower/deeper riffles. But, you will often see trout slide into moderate riffles to feed in the afternoons as the water temps rise and nymphs get active and in the drift. Skip the rapids, fast/shallow pocket water, and heavy/fast riffles. Frequently Winter trout will just slide off a bit to the side to get out of the main current, and/or position themselves further down the pools where the current slows and deepens.
As I’ve mentioned many times before, during the colder water temps of late Fall through early Spring, with one or two exceptions (like the Winter Caddis hatch) there is no need to get out there at the crack of dawn. However if you do have to 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 weighted jigged ones), big Stoneflies, and attractor nymphs (ones with hot spots/flourescent materials, UV, unnatural colors, or flash). Often there is a brief “First Light Bite” during the first 1/2-1 hour of daylight, despite the lower water temps. When light levels rise this brief window shuts for a while. As the day progresses the water temps should increase 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 when there is more bug activity: various Caddis Larva (rolive/green, yellow & cased), small Mayfly Nymphs, Midge Larva/Pupa, and various size/color Stonefly Nymphs. February, March & early April can see substantial afternoon black and brown Stones hatching ranging from #12-20 (sometimes even smaller).
Unionville USGS is down to 440cfs (normal for today is 539cfs)- I’d call this medium-low, and a very nice level. Expect cold snaps to create slush & shelf ice downriver, which may make it unfishable at moments. The lower river (Collinsville & downstream) acts more like a freestone stream than the upper river, which means it’s more prone to slush & shelf ice in the Winter. Your best shot is during warming trends in the afternoon on sunny days, which often melts the slush (except during really cold snaps). Be aware that it's a bigger river down there which makes the wading trickier and may require longer casts. Angling pressure downstream in the Winter is usually quite light, but it can be unfishable due to slush and extensive shelf ice during protracted periods of extra cold weather.
Flies & Hatches:
Fishing advice is unchanged and will be similar for most of the Winter: mostly subsurface, slow & deep with streamers (regular & jigged), Junk Flies (Eggs, Squirmy/San Juan Worms, Mops, Weenies), Stonefly nymphs (#6-18), Caddis larva (regular green/olive & Cased), Attractor nymphs (hot-spots, flash, gaudy/unnatural colors), Midge larva/pupa, and small Mayfly nymphs (Pheasant Tails/Frenchies, BWOs, Perdigons, etc.). Higher flows typically means bigger flies, and lower water usually fishes better with smaller flies. Look Winter Caddis in the early/mid mornings, and small Midges in the afternoons. Hope for dries, but expect to fish subsurface from the late Fall through early Spring.
Caddis Larva info:
The Farmington is loaded with all sorts of Caddis. Traditionally I do well on this time of year on 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. The case making Caddis that constructs a case that looks like a miniature chimney and houses a bright green larva is Brachycentrus, also known as Grannom or Mother’s Day Caddis. Cased Caddis are also one of the rare aquatic bugs that Behavioral Drift during the day (most do it during first/last light, and around midnight). Some Cased Caddis that make their cases out of sticks/twigs are huge, with imitations tied to imitate them on a #6 2-3xl hooks, and sometimes even bigger! I see smaller #16-18 Brachycentrus Cased Caddis Larva in the Fall/early Winter- but 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 #6-12 and bright green, and live only in fast water).
Various single-hook & articulated streamers are having their moments, experiment with colors and retrieves. Post spawn browns are looking for big bites to eat, early Winter can be a fantastic streamer time. 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 done, you still 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. Typically the fry hatch out from the eggs some time in February, give or take.
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. This is an all purpose fly that can pass as many different food items, and makes a great Caddis pupa too. The soft hackle gives it movement, just like a real bug. Dead-drift it and then let it swing at the end of the drift.
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. Post-spawn trout will whack them due to hunger and the need to put weight back on lost during the spawning process. Some yellow in your 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. Winter bug activity is a fraction of what we get in the Spring & early Summer. Be prepared to fish streamers, wet flies or nymphs (Euro or Indy) if they aren’t rising. The same spot on 2 consecutive days can see a good hatch one day, followed by a poor hatch the next.
We have some of the newerHardy Ultralite & Ultralite LL (Euro) rods. While we have not yet personally fished them, they feel amazing in hand. Those who have purchased and 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.
Total flow in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release is an estimated 310-320cfs this morning (243cfs below the dam in Riverton, and an estimated 70-80cfs & dropping from the Still River)- historical normal total flow for today per USGS is 345cfs. Still River USGS flow gauge is frozen and not giving us a reading, that happens a lot during colder weather in the Winter. The East Branch is 0cfs- it comes in about 3/8 of a mile below UpCountry. Unionville flow is a a medium-low 440cfs today (historical normal for today is 539cfs)- look for milder weather, as cold snaps can make that section unfishable due to slush/shelf ice. It’s a much bigger river down there, and if you don’t know it well it can be intimidating. Riverton water temp at the Rt 20 bridge is 35 degrees this morning, it reached almost 36 yesterday afternoon (was down to 33.5 Thursday morning after a 0 degree night). The Still River can be a cooling influence in the Winter and water temps are often lower downriver of the Still, especially in the mornings after a colder night- but on milder, sunny days the afternoon temps are often higher downstream of the Still River (unless there is a lot of snow & snowmelt). Water temps will typically rise a little during the day, and be lowest in the early mornings.
*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
-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 are all once again back in stock- lethal flies!
*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
-Woolly Buggers #2-14 (black, olive, white, brown, tan)
-JJ Special/Autumn Splendor/Tequeely #4-8 (brown & yellow streamers)
-Matuka #4-8 (yellow, olive, brown)
Report by Torrey Collins