Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Tuesday 4/12/22 Farmington River Report: Flow bump & big Bows

Our current store hours:
Monday through Friday, 8am-6pm, Saturday & Sunday 8am-5pm

Fish Pics:
Between the state dropping in some trophy broodstock trout recently, plus big trout stocked for the Riverton Derby (was last Saturday 4/9), some rather large trout have been caught. The people staying in our apartment over the weekend won the derby with an 8#, 8 oz Rainbow. Pictured up top is a massive 28” long x 18” girth Rainbow that customer and blogger (blogflyfish.com) Jo Tango landed Sunday on an egg pattern with 6x tippet and a T&T Contact II 3 weight rod- fish was landed fairly quickly and successfully released. My favorite formula put the weight at 12.1#. Next down is a 24” Bow that Zach’s client landed over the weekend. Third pic is a long brown trout by Aidan Bridwell, and fourth down is Richie Mendez with a netfull of quality brown trout. 

We’re excited to announce the April 5th launch of Sage’s new flagship line of fast action rods: the Sage R8 Core, using their new Revolution 8 tech and  axial fiber formulation. This is the first time in 20+ years that Sage has debuted an entirely new graphite composition. Available to see in person and purchase on 4/5/22, we have the entire line-up from the lightest to the heaviest (3wt up to 9wt). We were able to cast the line-up with our Sage rep recently, and we were all surprised & impressed. While modern fast action rods have become very stiff and tippy over the years, this new series has loads of feel and casts easily.. The flex is closer to the older popular Z-Axis & XP’s, and refreshingly closer in the trout sizes to a true line weight rating. The R8 Core flexes further down into the blank, but still has a crisp recovery and plenty of line speed. Sage says they are “Made to fish, not just to cast”, with “Effortless energy transfer and more connected feel”. These are real fishing rods, not rods just meant to win parking lot casting competitions, but break tippets and don’t fish comfortably up close. Kudos to Sage.

River Cleanup on Saturday April 23, 9am-3pm (Earth Day), sign up for free at fraa.club. This will be a fun team competition, garbage bags and gloves will be provided. There will be prizes for all teams including categories such as Most Trash, Strangest, Biggest Pile, Most Tires, Shopping Carts, and Most Fishing Line. Additional prizes will be awarded at the after party, conducted just down the street from UpCountry at Brewery Legitimus- beers & food. 

Looks like the Suckers are active and spawning- don’t forget your egg flies!! 

The long awaited Thomas & Thomas Contact II 10’ 9” #2 rods is here, and they are sweet! We still have some, but they are selling fast- see a few paragraphs down for more info.

Try Bruce Marino’s Mud Puppy sculpin streamer- limited quantities in stock, $5.99 each, get ‘em while they’re still in stock! 

Try some of Don’s #8 coffee/black Rubber Leg Stones- they can be deadly in the early Spring, 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 they frequently end up in the drift in early Spring- especially during flow bumps) 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 at the results. 


River Conditions:
The brand new T&T Contact II 10’ 9” #2 rods arrived in early March. The extra 9” is perfect for bigger water like the Farmington (allows you to fish & cast further away, and make longer drifts), and the soft tip will protect 6x-7x tippet against big trout. Plenty of power in the butt section to handle bigger trout, and the extra flex in the tip is better for casting micro leaders (thinner butt sections) and lighter flies. I think this is going to be a very popular rod, and a good compliment to your arsenal if you already have a #3 Euro rod, which is the “all around” weight for Euro Nymphing. 

New product is rolling in virtually every day, we just received a huge Hareline tying materials order, and a big batch of MT Fly Co barred Sexi Legs(for Rubber Leg Stones), as well as some Kreinik flash (it’s used to tie the Kreelex streamer).New fly patterns have been trickling in every week or two so make sure to check the fly bins, they are constantly changing.

4/12 Tuesday morning report:
The brand new flagship Sage rod line, the R8 Core, are available for sale and out in our rod rack now- see up top for a brief description of them, Sage hit a home run with this new technology & rod series. All of us that work here were both surprised and impressed with these rods. These are true fishing rods, not just casting rods.

MDC bumped the dam release from 300cfs to 800cfs on Monday to lower the reservoirs (too much water in them). The total flow in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R) ispretty high at 1,109cfs- it’s 838cfs in Riverton, plus an additional 271cfs from the Still River. Historical normal/median total flow for today is 546cfs. The East Branch is releasing 500cfs(it comes in about ½ mile below UpCountry). Likely they will run this high flow until Thursday or Friday, they need to drop Colebrook Reservoir below flood stage- a flow cut Friday morning is very probably.FYI flow bumps in the Spring also temporarily drop the water temps- water coming out of the dam is still in the upper 30s, while water being dumped into the Farmington from the Still River is well into the 40s and can crack 50’s during warmer/sunny spells. Mild weather is here to stay now, with Ten Day highs averaging 50s-60s (80 on Thursday!), and lows averaging in the 40s. Today through Saturday will see daily highs exceeding 60 degrees every single day.

Normally during high water due to rainfall you can go up to Riverton above the Still River to get lower flows, but with almost 80% of the flow currently coming from the dam, this strategy doesn’t work. Riverton is also narrower and high gradient/faster flowing, which makes it even tougher to fish during high water. You are better off fishing downriver in wider pools that can spread the flow out and create some softer holding water near the bank in some spots. Standard high water tactics apply: fish out of the heavier current closer to the banks, on inside corners, and below big obstructions that break the current. Fish nymphs & streamers, and you can go bigger on both your flies & tippet. DON’T just wade out up to your crotch and start fishing- if you do that, you just walked through the fish you could have caught. Target the soft edge of current seams with medium to large streamers, Junk Flies (Mops, Eggs, Squirmy/San Juan Worms, Weenies), medium to large Stones, and nymphs with hot spots. 

It’s still early in the season so expect to mostly fish subsurface- the exception can be the early/mid morning Winter Caddis hatch, and trout will rise to the Early Black Stoneflies & Baetis (BWOs/Olives) in the afternoons. Woolly Buggers, Junk Flies, nymphs with hot spots and Walt’s Worms are good choices in the recently stocked sections (virtually the entire river outside of the permanent TMA/C&R, which gets stocked once annually in mid/late April and always has a high density of holdover & wild browns). If targeting holdover/wild trout, consider adding a more imitative nymph into your rig (Caddis larva, Pheasant Tail, Olive nymph, etc.), combined with a bigger Stonefly nymph or Junk Fly (don’t forget eggs, it’s Sucker Spawning time!). Jigged streamers fished slow & deep on a tight-line/Euro rig can be very effective sometimes in cold water when trout might not be willing to chase a traditionally fished streamer. 

The dam is currently releasing colder water (upper 30s) than the Still is dumping in (40s), so this increased cold water release will decrease downstream water temps- likely this will make both the bugs & trout less active. But due to the Still River’s warming influence (especially on milder/sunny days), look for higher water temps downstream of the Still River, and the further you travel downriver the higher they will be on sunny afternoons. Remember though that it’s still early Spring, and you have to expect to work hard for each bite most days- be patient! The payoff is potentially big trout. 

Keep your expectations reasonable as it’s early in the season, water temps are still below optimal temps (optimal is 50-65 degrees, we are anywhere from the upper 30s to mid and even upper 40s currently, depending upon the day & the weather), and insect activity is improving but not yet what it will be in the late April through July time period. 
However,the patient/flexible angler should be able to get a fewnice fish- just don’t expect to do double digits unless you get into a pod of freshly stocked trout or you are a skilled angler who knows the Farmington River well. If you are in the as yet unstocked permanent TMA/C&Rsection, you will be targeting holdover & wild trout, and you will work harder for less but bigger fish. Rising water temps and the beginning of bug activity gets the big trout hungry- eating and dominating their feeding lies. Afternoons with rising water temps and hatching Stoneflies and other nymphs in the drift (Caddis larva, immature Hendricksons, Baetis/BWO/Olives, etc.) can push trout into moderately fast (but not super fast) water to feed on nymphs & larva as the day progresses. Don’t leave early, there is often a bite window for bigger browns at the end of the day when the light levels drop and water temps are still at their highest of the day. Leave early and you will totally miss it. 

If you are targeting recent stockers, they often prefer somewhat different flies. Gaudier flies (with flash, hotspots, unnatural color schemes), “Junk Flies” (Mops, Squirmies, Egg Flies, Green Weenies) and small to medium streamers will often outfish drabber more imitative flies- although any nymph tied with Hare’s Ear (like a Walt’s Worm) is often good for fresh stockers (maybe looks like a food pellet once it gets wet haha). It takes hatchery trout several weeks to learn how to effectively feed on natural aquatic food. About the only aquatic bug trout raised in concrete raceways may be familiar with is Midges, they can literally live almost anywhere. That said, it’s hard to beat Woolly Buggers & Junk Flies on freshly stocked trout. Until they get “educated” by angling pressure and start to avoid those flies.

Nymph Color Selection Tip:
Quick tip for selecting nymph colors from late Fall through early Spring: overall the colder weather nymphs tend toward darker colors such as medium to dark brown, black, and medium to dark olive/olive-brown. When the hatches get cranking during milder weather and the leaves come out in the mid to late Spring, and going well into the Fall, many of the nymphs/pupa/larva are light to medium colored: tan, light/medium brown, amber/ginger, light olive. This is a general rule, but probably about 80% true. Gives you a starting point, adjust from there- flip rocks to see exactly what the nymphs/larva look like.

1,109cfs total flow is the reading this morning in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R)- this is pretty high. We have  838cfs at the USGS flow gauge in Riverton, and the Still River is adding in an additional 271cfs. Water temps rise during the day, peaking in mid/late afternoons. Riverton water temp was about 40+ degrees this morning, it reached 41.5 degrees yesterday afternoon. Water temps have been averaging upper 30s/low 40s in the upper river above the Still River, but further downstream (below the Still River) mild nights combined with warmer sunny days has pushed afternoon temps downriver into the mid 40s even upper 40s on milder sunny days, with 50+ degrees possible on the warmest/sunny days.

Unionville USGS flow is very high at 1,730cfs & dropping this morning (historical normal for today is 951cfs)- I’d wait until it’s under 1,000cfs (and preferably lower than that) unless you know that section well. It’s a much bigger river down there and it can be intimidating, especially in higher flows. Due to the distance below the dam it acts more like a freestone river than a dam controlled tailwater- water temps are often higher than upriver during mild weather like we have now, and that’s a good thing in the chillier water of the early season. The Still River is a warming influence in the Spring: in April during milder temps, the afternoon water temps are often significantly higher downstream of the Still River due to the Still warming up fast while the dam steadily releases water still in the upper 30s.

Be patient when fishing in cooler water and cover the likely water slowly & thoroughly, as trout won’t move as far to eat as they do in 50+ degree water.. Gotta spoon feed them and put your flies right in their face. Try to pick the best water, and then saturate it with plenty of casts. Where trout might move 12-18” to either side in May/June to eat your nymph, in colder water they might only move 1-3” some days. On the coldest days you might have to literally drift it almost into their mouth to get an eat- I call this a defensive eat haha. 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 subtle on average, so pay close attention and strike on anything. Play with colors, as sometimes gaudy flies will trip their trigger- pink is often a good accent color/hot spot in cold water. 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 Baetis (BWOs)/Stones/Midges in the afternoon. 

Expect to work for your trout in the and keep your expectations of numbers caught to be low most days- the exception being if you are over a pod of freshly stocked trout. They are lethargic in colder water, and there is far less insect activity. You can have big numbers in early Spring, but that’s the exception, not the rule, and several factors have to line up at the same time for an epic day. 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 colder water 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. Behavioral Drift can also occur in the late afternoon/dusk period too (it’s when some of the nymphs/larva randomly free drift in the current, creating almost a nymph hatch of sorts, also happens at first light). The books say to fish in the early Spring from about 10am-4pm, 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 late afternoon to dark window in my experience. So take the “rules” with a big 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.

Flies & Hatches:
Fishing advice is to stay mostly subsurface (unless you see rising trout), slow & deep with streamers (regular & jigged), Junk Flies (Eggs, Squirmy/San Juan Worms, Mops, Weenies), Stonefly nymphs (#6-16), Caddis larva (regular green/olive & Cased), Attractor nymphs (hot-spots, flash, gaudy/unnatural colors), Midge larva/pupa, and small/medium (#14-20) Mayfly nymphs (Pheasant Tails/Frenchies, BWOs, Perdigons, etc.). Higher flows typically means bigger flies, and lower water usually fishes better with smaller flies. Look for Winter Caddis in the early/mid mornings, Black/Brown Stones, Baetis (BWOs) & Midges in the afternoons. We are seeing Early Black Stones #12-16, especially on mild, sunny days- Baetis/BWOs like cloudy 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 (early Spring) on holdover & wild trout with 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. Jigged streamers fished on a Euro leader/tight-line rig have been particularly deadly many days when other presentations & flies have failed. Bigger browns are usually looking for big bites to eat, and this can be a good time to fish streamers. Some of the better colors have been olive, brown, tan, black, brown & yellow, and white- 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. 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. Typically late morning through late afternoon is overall the best time to be on the water this time of year due to the rising/higher water temps. Positive water temperature movements (which in early Spring would mean upward) tend to make bugs hatch and get trout feeding too. Temp drops can shut the bite off like somebody flipped a switch.

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. Coming out of the leaner times of Winter, with rising water temps and more bugs trout will whack them due to hunger and the need to put weight back. Smaller jigged streamers fished on a tight-line Euro rod/leader system can entice trout to eat even when they won’t hit a traditional streamer presentation (swung/stripped on a standard fly line)- this enables you to fish a streamer slow & deep, and put it right in the trout’s face so they don’t have to chase it.  A little yellow mixed into in your  streamers can be very effective some days, both two-tone (brown/yellow, olive/yellow, etc.) and all yellow. Olive, white, and tan are all good starting colors for streamers this time of year. 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. Bug activity increases in early Spring, but is still not what we get in the mid-Spring to early Summer time period. Be prepared to fish streamers, wet flies (slow & deep) 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 due to the weather. 

Check out the latest Hardy Ultralite & Ultralite LL (Euro) rods. Very impressive series of rods, especially the 10’ 8” #0/2 Euro rod- don’t let the line designation fool you, it fishes more like a #3 with a very light tip but fast recovery, with the lower 2/3 of the rod being surprisingly powerful. Still very light in the hand, sensitive, accurate, and well balancedThese rods are giving the T&T Contact II’s some serous 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’ 9” #2, 10' #3, 10' 9" #3, 11' 2" #3, 10' 9" #4 & 10' 8" #6) is a home run, arguably the best Euro rods currently on the market in our opinion and according to many experienced Euro nymphers. I’ve fished them for quite a while now, and they are amazing. Brand new and just as of March is the 10’ 9” #2, and it’s REALLY nice and rounds out/completes their line-up: a great rod that will protect 6x-7x tippet but is still capable of landing large trout. It is fantastic for casting/fishing micro leaders (thin butt sections in 6-10# range) that are getting popular now. The Contact II series features 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.


*Baetis/BWOs/Blue Winged Olives #16-18: afternoons, esp. cloudy days
-Summer/Winter Caddis #18-24: early/mid mornings usually, sometimes go later
*Early Black Stoneflies #12-16: afternoon hatch, heaviest on sunny/mild days
-Midges #18-28: afternoons
-Parachute Adams #12-24: imitates many, many different bugs: Olives, Midges, Caddis, etc.

*Olive/BWO Nymphs #16-18: various
*Junk Flies (Eggs, Mops, Squirmies/SJ Worms, Green Weenies): good in colder water & non-hatch periods, and also for higher/off-color flows & fresh stockers, or just as a change-up to natural/imitative flies after you fish through
*Big Stoneflies #6-12: gold/yellow, brown, black
*Wade’s Early Stone #14: black, brown
*Cased Caddis #10-14 (especially high water & after flow bumps)
*Caddis Larva (olive to green) #14-16
*Jigged Streamers #8-12: various colors/patterns, we have a bunch of new ones
-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: common in Behavioral Drift (first & last light)
-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
*Midges/Zebra Midges#16-22: olive, black, red: Midges are a staple food item, esp. when there aren’t many other hatches

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 are all once again back in stock- lethal flies!
*Jigged Streamers #8-12: various patterns, deadly fished on a tight-line/Euro rig
*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)