Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Tuesday 12/13/22 Farmington River Report: Winter Wonderland

Fall/Winter Store Hours: 7 days a week, Mon-Fri 8am-5pm, and Sat-Sun 8am-5pm. We will close at 3pm on 12/24, be closed for Christmas on 12/25, and closed for New Year’s Day on 1/1/23. Don’t forget to get a 2023 CT fishing license, as of December 1st they can be purchased online or in our store. All CT 2022 fishing/hunting licenses expire after Dec 31st, 2022.

A backpack containing insulin, a Go-Pro and more was turned into us this Fall, it was found somewhere along the Farmington River this Fall. If it’s yours or you know who lost it, please contact us directly and identify the contents. 

Guide Mark Swenson is doing another Beginner Fly Tying Class on Sunday January 15, 2023 from 9:30am to 4pm- cost is $150. Contact him directly at 203-586-8007 to grab a spot. Classes max out at 6 people so don’t wait or the class will be full, the January class is always the most popular one.

Another giant tying material collection walk through our doors recently. It includes are variety of items, including a ton of high quality bucktails (it's been harder to get quality bucktails in 2022), priced to sell at $7 each. Currently bucktail prices have gone up and average retail is $10 or more now from our suppliers, and that’s with us pricing them at a shorter than normal margin to try to keep them affordable. A lot of saltwater & Great Lakes steelhead/salmon tying materials in this collection.

Simms G4 Pro Waders are on sale for about $150 off at $650 (normal is $799.95). You can purchase these in-store or online, we expect these to sell out quickly, and once they are gone that’s it. Simms will only be doing the zipper G4Z version of these for 2023 at $999.95.

We will be limiting the pictures in the reports to 2 or 3 in total. Additional pics & videos will be posted on our Facebook and Instagram “Stories” (they stay up for 24 hours there). Up top is artist Jim DeCesare with a large snowstorm brown that redeemed his otherwise slow afternoon- Jim is a diehard angler. Second pic is a beautiful brown by customer Mike Boyle. 

The vast majority of Farmington River brown trout have spawned, but there will be a few spawning fish as late as early/mid January. I posted a recent pic of an actual trout redd (courtesy of R.M. Lytle) from the Farmington River in October & wrote a Fall Spawning PSA below so that everyone knows 1) what they look like, 2) avoids fishing to trout spawning on them, and 3) avoids walking through them and the first 15 feet below them so as not to crush the eggs before they hatch out.

Purchase our favorite and arguably the best Euro rod, the 
T&T Contact II from us this Fall/Winter, and we will throw in a free Euro Nymphing line of your choice from our wall plus free setup and advice. Call or stop by the shop for details.

New for 2022, Diamondback Ideal Nymph Reels:
These are the most well thought out & designed Euro nymphing reels out there, the product of Joe Goodspeed who designed the Diamondback Ideal Nymph Rods. It has a full cage which makes it veryunlikely for long/thin leaders or Mono Rigs to work their way outside the frame. The machined tolerances are also extra tight to help with this. It has removable weights so you can fine-tune the rod/reel balance. Theultra large arbor, large diameter, narrow spool is ideal for Euro nymphing where you don’t want or need a ton of line capacity- this also gives you a faster retrieve rate and less line coiling. The drag is ultra smooth to protect light tippet. The most unique feature of all is the offset reel foot, which gives you the ability to put the mass of the reel even closer to the rod butt, improving rod balance. If you need to take up slack quickly the reel is designed so you can hit the spool with your palm to spin it rapidlyandtake up excess line. Anywhere the line/leader can rub against the reel when stripping line has been machined round to eliminate abrasion. The Ideal Nymph reel is unique, with all the features you wanted and clever ones you never even thought about. They use the latest 5D-5 Axis machining to make this unusual & beautiful fly reel. These reels have already become a hot seller.

The T&T Contact II 10’ 9 2wt rod is a new model for 2022, and it is an excellent addition to the best line-up of euro rods. I absolutely love it- the perfect rod for conditions that dictate lighter tippets & smaller/lighter flies: casts great, very sensitive, and a blast to play the fish on. It might be my new favorite rod, it’s really fun to fish with. The length is ideal for rivers like the Farmington, allowing you to fish & cast further away, make longer drifts, casts easier/further, faster hook sets, and the soft tip will protect 5x-7x tippets against big trout. Plenty of power in the butt section to handle bigger trout, and a bit of extra flex in the tip for better for casting thinner leaders and lighter flies. The new 2wt is a great compliment to your arsenal, especially if you already have the 3wt, which has been the “all 'rounder” for Euro Nymphing. 

The new 2022 Diamondback range of Ideal Nymph rods are in stock. These fantastic Euro nymphing rods are available in 10’ 1wt, 10’ 2wt, 10’ 10” 2wt, 10’ 10” 3wt & 10’ 10” 4wt, with more models to come. Joe Goodspeed, (formerly of Cortland and T&T) designed this series, and he did a great job. At $525-550, these rods are a deal and easily the best Euro rods in the $500 range. Using the latest, state-of-the-art materials & construction, the rods are light with excellent recovery & sensitivity, plenty of big fish playing power, double rings on the downlocking reel seat, 3 snake guides on the rod tip for minimal line/leader wrap with thinner/micro leaders, and 2 single foot ceramic stripping guides to reduce friction & improve line shoot. The 10’ 10” #2 has been a best seller for the Farmington River, also the 10’ #1 (a unique & very fun rod).


River Conditions:
The entire upper 21 miles of the Farmington River, from the dam in Riverton downstream to the Rt 177 Unionville bridge, is now Catch & Release from 9/1/22 until the second Saturday in April 2023at 6am. If you see people violating this and keeping fish, PLEASE make sure to call the DEEP hotline at 800-842-HELP (4357). Program the number into your cell phone, and call!! Even if they cannot respond fast enough, the call & location of the offense is logged. The DEEP field officers add the vehicle descriptions to their database and will catch repeat offenders, but ONLY if you call it in.

As of this morning we are at 
a medium flow of 381cfs total flow in the permanent TMA/C&R (catch & release) and slowly dropping- 240cfs from the dam, plus 141cfs & dropping from the Still River. Water temp this morning is 41 degrees in Riverton, it reached 43 degrees there Monday afternoon, water temps are slowly trending downward- no need to start early.  Winter has fully arrived now, we received about 6” of snow over the weekend, we have that “Winter Wonderland” look now. We are transitioning toWinter conditions, meaning cold water temps,so keep your expectations reasonable and expect to work for your fish. Sunny days will see water temp increases, and often the best subsurface fishing is in the afternoons when water temps are rising and at their highest. However, the Winter/Summer Caddis typically emerge in the mornings if you are looking for some dry fly action.

If you are nymphing, read the water carefully, take your best educated guess where the prime lies are (usually in slow to medium speed water with decent depth near structure, drop-offs, current breaks/seams, etc.), and fish them slowly & thoroughly. In cold water, trout won’t move far for your fly, to you need to thoroughly fish the good water. The smaller your fly, the shorter the distance the trout will move for it, so with #18-22 nymphs make more casts in an area then you would do with #14-16 flies. Trout will move the furthest for Junk Flies” & larger Stoneflies, so you can cover water faster when fishing them. Also expect the strikes to be more subtle in cold water- when in doubt, set the hook quickly & gently, “hook sets are free”. Be patient, because after hours of slow fishing a “bite window” can open up for an hour or two where the fish suddenly go on the feed, but if you give up & leave early you would never know that. Many times during cold weather the last 1-2 hours of the day has redeemed an otherwise slow day for me. Plus bigger browns are more active in low light, and the water temps are highest in mid to late afternoon.

Unless you are out in the mornings looking for rising trout during the Winter/Summer Caddis hatch, I would focus on the late morning to late afternoon time slot 
to find the most active/catchable trout. Water temps are running upper 30’s to mid 40’s depending upon what section of the river you’re in and the time of day (warmest in Riverton), and they will continue to slowly drop now that true Winter weather is here to stay. The early to mid morning Winter/Summer Caddis hatches have been goodmost days and bringing trout to the surface, often going into the afternoon. If the trout aren’t rising, you should be fishing subsurface with nymphs & streamers. 

Pro Tip: Caddis Larva (both regular & cased) will be an excellent nymphing choice for the next several months, pair them up with a Junk Fly, #8-12 Stonefly, #16-20 Mayfly-type nymph (could even be a Pheasant Tail/Frenchy or a Hare’s Ear), or a #18-22 Zebra Midge (black, red, olive). Overall anglers are working for their fish, but some quality browns & bows are showing up in the catches, mixed in with 6-12” wild browns and averaged sized stocked rainbows.

10 Day highs average in the 30’s, lows are mostly in the 20’s. Trout will still be in a variety of water types currently, but they are moving around. Although most browns have spawned, a smaller number are still pre-spawn & spawning. Some trout are still near spawning areas, but many 
havebegun to slide into Wintering lies (slower/deeper water) as the water temps continue to slowly drop. Riverton is running in the low/mid 40 degree range, downstream temps can be colder than this during cold weather, especially in the mornings after a cold night- temps normally rise in the afternoons, especially on sunny days. Currently you can find fish anywhere from slow to medium-fast water, depending upon the time of day and hatching activity. Skip the really fast stuff until next Spring. Feeding trout in the afternoons will often move into medium speed riffle water to eat, before that you may find them backed down into somewhat slower/deeper water near structure.

This time of year, I generally recommend a later start to let things warm up a bit, and dress warmly in layers (FYI make sure to bring a warm hat, heavy wool socks & insulated fingerless gloves). Best bet is to focus on the late morning to dusk time slot when water temps are rising/highest, the trout & aquatic insects are more active, and it’s a more pleasant time to be out. Exception: the early to mid morning Winter/Summer Caddis hatch. Other than that though, no need to start early. 
Midges #20-28 are a possibility in the afternoons, Blue Winged Olives are pretty much over now. Long leaders, light tippets, and accurate drag-free floats are key to success when fishing tiny dry flies on flat, slow water. Jigged streamers are pulling nice trout, as are standard streamers- you can go big (4-6”) with articulated patterns if you are willing to have less action but increase your odds of sticking a 20” plus brown. 

The majority of trout that are going to spawn (sexually mature adults) have done so already, and many of the better fish of late have that thinner spawned-out look to them. There will still be smaller numbers of late spawning trout as late as January. DON’T WALK ON THE REDDS OR THE FIRST 10-15 FEET BELOW THEM OR YOU WILL CRUSH THE EGGS! All those eggs are future WILD trout. 

If you are nymphing (and you probably should be more often than not right now), think Junk Flies (Eggs, Mops, Squirmy/SJ Worms), Stoneflies, and hedge your bet by adding a smaller more imitative, drabber fly.  Eggs remain a key fly (especially in the mornings), and streamers are another very good option. When streamer fishing experiment with fly size/color/retrieve, it can make a BIG difference- make sure to also cover lots of water and show your fly to more fish. If standard streamer techniques/flies don’t work, try a tight-line smaller jigged streamer Euro approach with a mix of dead-drifts/twitches, as well as swinging & stripping.

Due to rainfall in October/November plus water released into the Farmington River (in MA) from Otis Reservoir, after a long droughty Summer the inflow to Colebrook Reservoir is up where it should be and the MDC 
has to run that amount of water out of the dam (they are legally required to at least match the inflow up to 150cfs, beyond that it’s discretionary), plus the additional water being released from Otis Reservoir (comes in above Colebrook Reservoir) they are required to also add to this. The Still River adds water to the dam release (comes in a little below the Rt 20 bridge in Riverton), and slightly below UpCountry the East Branch is adding in 50cfs currently. All this is keeping us at relatively normal flows after 4 straight months of very low water this Summer/early Fall.

DO NOT walk through redds (the circular/oval light colored patches in gravelly riffle water where the trout spawn & deposit their eggs), and DO NOT fish to fish sitting on the redds (they are spawning). There are plenty of non-spawning trout downstream of these areas eating eggs & bugs. FYI people are unknowingly walking through redds, so please educate yourself & pay attention to where you walk. Best insect activity is still in the afternoon. If you must start early, use flies that are independent of hatching activity: streamers, “Junk Flies” (egg flies, Mops, Squirmy Worms, Green Weenies), and Attractor nymphs (Princes and hot spot/gaudy flies like Frenchies, Sexy Waltz, etc). 

MDC has been holding back water in the West Branch (reservoirs are at 86.4% of capacity as of November 30th) since July and doing the bare minimum releases they are legally allowed to do- so the low flows we had this Summer were NOT due to the drought we had, but rather the MDC deciding to 
not release the water, even though they have had a surplus (they were at about 90-95% capacity most of the Summer). Otis Reservoir is currently letting out 78cfs last I knew (comes in above Colebrook River Lake) , and the MDC has to add this to their planned water release. 

PSA regarding Fall trout spawning:
Typically on the Farmington River peak brown trout spawning occurs between mid/late October and mid/late November, but I’ve seen spawning brown trout as late as mid January. Please leave spawning trout alone and let them do their thing. Spawning is very stressful on the trout and really depletes their bodies & energy stores, so don’t add to that. It’s okay to fish below spawning trout, usually the first deeper/darker water downstream of them finds other trout eating loose eggs. Trout spawn on what is called a redd, where the females dig circular/oval depressions in the shallow gravelly riffle water with good current (pool tailouts are common areas for this), and then they pair up with the males and deposit eggs there and cover them with gravel. Be aware that many eggs drift 5-15 downstream of the redds. Even after the trout are no longer spawning you want to make sure you don’t step on the redds or the water immediately below them, or you will crush/destroy the eggs & future wild trout. The trout fry hatch out & emerge from the gravel in late Winter, typically February or early March, so be careful where you tread during that time period. The redds appear as lighter colored circular/oval depressions in the darker gravel, commonly in the tail ends of the pools (can be in riffles at pool heads & side channels too). We consider it unsporting to fish for fish that are actively spawning/on the redds, plus it adds to their already high stress level (some trout die from spawning). There are always plenty of other trout to catch that are not on the redds that are pre-spawn, post-spawn, or non-spawning. Let the spawning trout do their thing unmolested and make more wild brown trout, and don’t walk on the eggs they deposited. Our river has a healthy wild brown trout population that seems to be increasing over time, and they have fantastic genetics- lets try to keep this trend going.

Riverton was stocked in early October by the MDC, from the dam going downstream about 4 miles to Whittemore (right above the Campground).


-Summer/Winter Caddis #18-24: hatching well in early to mid morning, often go later in to the afternoons, adult egg-layers can also be present in the evenings
-Mole Fly #20-24 (olive, brown): deadly emerger that covers many small bugs & fools difficult trout
-Midges #18-28: anytime

-Small Nymphs #18-22: Assorted. Most nymphs are small this time of year with a few exceptions (some Stoneflies, some Cased Caddis). Experiment and try drab, flashy, and with & without hot-spots.
-BWO Nymphs #16-22: various patterns, anytime
-Big Stoneflies #8-12 (gold/yellow, brown, black): anytime
-Antoine’s Perdigons #12-20: various patterns
-Frenchies & Pheasant Tails #14-20: various sizes imitate many different Mayfly nymphs & smaller Stoneflies
-Caddis Larva (olive to green) #14-16: anytime, especially December to April, lots of these in the river
-Cased Caddis #12-14: abundant and a good choice in the Winter & early Spring 
-Junk Flies (Eggs, Mops, Squirmies/SJ Worms, Green Weenies): good during the Winter, non-hatch periods, also for higher/off-color flows & fresh stockers, or just as a change-up to natural/imitative flies after you fish through a run with standard nymphs
-Jigged Streamers #8-12: various colors/patterns
-Attractor Nymphs #14-20: anything flashy, gaudy, or with a hot spot such as Rainbow Warriors, Sexy Waltz, Prince, Triple Threats, etc.

Soft-Hackles/Wet Flies:
-Hare's Ear, Partridge & Flash, Leadwing Coachman, March Brown #12-16
*best fished 2-3 at a time, on 4-6” tag end droppers, spaced 20-30” apart
*dead drift them, swing them, twitch them, bounce them
*especially good for imitating Caddis, Isonychia and other faster swimming/emerging bugs
*in cold weather make sure to fish them deeper using a weighted point fly, and/or sinking leaders/sink-tips/sinking fly lines

Fall & early Winter is PRIME TIME to fish streamers, as brown trout spawning ramps up aggression, and after they are done spawning, post-spawn trout are HUNGRY.
-Jigged Streamers #8-12: various patterns/colors, deadly fished on a tight-line/Euro rig
-Rio's Precious Metal #4 (Kreelex copper, olive, white)
-BMAR Yellow Matuka #6
-Zuddler #4-8: olive, yellow, white, brown, black
-Complex Twist Bugger #2-6: assorted colors
-Conehead White Marabou Muddler #8
-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)