Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Tuesday 1/31/23 Farmington River Report: Flow Bump

Winter Store Hours: 7 days a week, Mon-Fri 8am-5pm, and Sat-Sun 8am-5pm. 

Don’t forget to get a 2023 CT fishing license, they can be purchased online or in our store. All CT 2022 fishing/hunting licenses expire after Dec 31st, 2022.

Guides Zach & Derrick are doing a fly tying class showing you some of their go-to nymphs, dries & streamers to catch big wild trout on the Farmington River- these patterns will work magic on other pressured fisheries also. They are doing 2 half day classes on Sunday 2/5/23, only 3 more open spots in the afternoon class and then that’s it- don’t miss out, these are some deadly flies. See our Events/Classes page for details. Call the store at 860-379-1952 to sign up.

Another giant tying material collection walked through our doors in late 2022. It includes a variety of items, including 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, 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 customer Rich Foster with a fantastic brown he landed over the weekend, likely a wild fish with all those perfect big fins. Second pic is Jeff Weissman with a really nice holdover brown he recently caught on a Mop, and the last but certainly not least is once again Aidan Bridwell with a long & heavily spotted brown trout he landed on a nymph Saturday- also looks like a holdover to me (look at the dorsal).

Purchase our favorite and arguably the best Euro rod, the T&T Contact II from us this 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 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 very unlikely for long/thin leaders or Mono Rigs to work their way outside the frame- a common problem with most modern reels (very few are full frame, 90% have a half 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. The ultra 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 rapidly and take 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 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, very low swing weight, 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 good sized 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 your tippet against big trout. Plenty of power in the butt section to handle bigger trout, and a bit of extra flex in the tip 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 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,the newer 10’ 10” #6, 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.

Well once again, we are back to high water. Rain last week has pushed Colebrook River Lake up above flood stage, so the Army Corps of Engineers is making the MDC run an additional 400cfs of water starting Monday 1/30(MDC currentlywon’t run more than 150cfs unless they are legally made to do so), bringing the dam release from 400cfs up to 803cfs (consisting of 150cfs “natural flow”/MDC, 53cfs from Otis Reservoir that they have to add in, plus 400cfs mandated by the Army Corps for flood control). USGS gauge in Riverton above the Still River is reading 878cfs 2 miles below the dam, and the Still is adding in 315cfs & dropping, putting the total flow in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R) at 1,193cfs & dropping. I imagine they will run this flow through at least untilFriday, and then they will cut it back on either Friday (maybe) or more likely Monday. 

Weird blip in the weather this week: we are currently back to normal Winter temps with highs in the 30’s through Thursday, and then Friday night (-4 low) through Saturday will be brutally cold (high 24, low -7 for Sat), and then back to unusually mild Winter temps in the 40’s again starting Sunday. Schizophrenic weather, the “new normal”. Riverton at 800+cfs is narrow & fast, so not really a good option, as it’s hard to find fishable slower water there currently. Below the Still River it’s close to 1,200cfs, that’s quite high for a wade fisherman. Tough conditions for a wading angler unless you know the river very well and are careful where you fish, but you will see a few boats successfully fishing the river at this level. As it gets under 1,000cfs, it’s still pretty high but more soft water opens up for wade fishermen. Believe it or not, even at the current flow, you can likely find a few rising trout in the lower half of Church Pool on the East (parking lot) side closer to the bank- plenty of softer/slower water there because the pool gets much wider on the East side, creating a current break.

As flows drop and we become more fishable, try streamers, medium to large nymph & Junk Flies (Mops, Squirmies, Eggs) all applicable. Nymphs with hot spots (e.g. a Frenchy) can be good, I’d fish them in the #12-16 range. Cased Caddis are a more common item in the drift during the Winter when flows are up- they live in slower water/pockets and often get knocked loose by flow bumps. Streamers fished slow & deep can turn some big trout.

Be careful and DON’T wade out into fast deep water this time of year, that’s a dangerous thing to do in high cold water, plus it’s not an effective fishing tactic in the Winter. Some of the normal spots will be too fast or deep to fish, so look for water with current breaks- typically that will be closer to the banks. Also inside corners, and spots where the river goes from narrower to wider (spreads out & slows the current). Even at 1,000+ cfs, Church Pool normally has rising trout in the flat water when the Winter Caddis and/or Midges are hatching. 

Water temps in Riverton peaked at 38+ degrees yesterday, it is 37.5 degrees this morning- temps will drop this week with the colder weather. Some afternoons water temps have crept into the low 40’s in the permanent TMA/C&R on mild sunny days (especially after a mild night)- the sun is a BIG driver of increasing water temps, especially as you move downriver away from the dam. Cloudy & colder days see much smaller water temp increases. The water comes out of the dam in Riverton at a consistent temp and then rises or drops as you move downriver depending upon the time of day, weather/air temps, and distance downstream. During mild, sunny weather downriver sees the highest/best water temps. During cold snaps, the water is warmest right up near the dam in the upper 2 miles (above the Still River), especially in the mornings. A thermometer can be VERY useful in the Winter & Summer.

Remember that Winter trout usually like to hold in slow to medium speed water. They don’t have to eat as much due to a much slower metabolism when it’s cold, and there is far less food available, so their main concerns are minimizing energy expenditure & safety- typically this means trout are holding is slower currents with adequate depth. Sometimes during milder sunny afternoons they may slide up into medium speed riffles to feed on drifting nymphs/larva. They will often pod up in optimum Winter holding water, so if you catch one trout, and you may find a bunch more nearby. But….you have to catch a Bite Window when they turn on & feed. Be patient, it can be the difference between zero fish and a successful outing. If nymphing, this means lots of drifts in prime areas, and expect the hits to be subtle most of the time- set the hook gently but quickly on anything remotely suspicious. If you are streamer fishing, play around with retrieves, but on average think slow & deep (with some exceptions for reasons only the fish know). Try faster retrieves occasionally if slower presentations are not making it happen, you never know what will work at any given moment until you try it. Also play with streamer color, pattern, and size, they can all affect things- color can make a profound difference some days. And fishing a jigged streamer slow & deep with a European Nymphing approach incorporating occasional twitches can elicit strikes some days when trout are not willing to chase streamers. 

If you are chasing the morning Winter Caddis hatch, target the early to mid mornings, with the hatch sometimes going into the afternoons on certain days. You need to be patient in the Winter as there are periods when the trout just aren’t feeding, and then a switch will flip and they will suddenly feed for an hour or two. Most days there has been a subsurface “bite window” in the mid to late morning period, and usually again at some point in mid to late afternoons when water temps peak. There have been Midges in the afternoons- if they are not rising (often the case, especially when the flows are up), nymphing subsurface with #18-22 Midge patterns (Zebra Midges, Pupa, etc.) can be effective. The lower the flow, the more likely you are to see rising trout. Church Pool is one spot that is almost immune to higher flows, there are almost always at least a few risers somewhere in that big, long pool no matter what the flow. 

As you can see by the pictures posted every week here and on our social media (Instagram & Facebook), those paying their dues have been catching some big trout. Not every outing, but if you put in the time you can catch some very good ones. Typically the morning Winter/Summer Caddis is an early to mid morning hatch, but some days it’s been going into mid/late afternoon. First the pupa hatch, and then the winged adults come back later to egg-lay. When they are not rising, fish subsurface with nymphs & streamers. Slow and deep is generally the name of the game in the Winter. 

We are in Winter conditions now, meaning cold water temps (30’s, maybe low 40’s during warm/sunny weather), so keep your expectations reasonable and expect to work for your fish on most of the time. Sunny days will see water temp increases (unless there is a lot of snow on the ground), and often the best subsurface fishing is in the afternoons when water temps are rising and at their highest. This increases both the trout’s metabolism, as well as insect activity. However, the Winter/Summer Caddis is the exception to this, typically emerging 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 often pod up but won’t move far for your fly, so you need to thoroughly fish the good water to make sure you get at least one good drift close enough to their mouths that they decide to open up & eat your fly. If you catch one in a nice looking spot, there could be many more close by. 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” (Mops, Eggs, Worms) & larger #8-12 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 but gently (so you don’t destroy/end your drift if it’s not a trout), “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. 

Pro Tip: Caddis Larva (both regular & cased) will be an excellent nymphing choice for the next few months, pair them up with a “Junk Fly”(Egg, Mop, Worm), #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 16-20”+ holdover/wild browns & holdover bows are showing up in the catches, mixed in with 6-12” wild browns and averaged sized (12-14”) stocked rainbows.

This time of year, I generally recommend a later start (mid to late morning) to let things warm up a bit, and dress warmly in layers of synthetics (FYI make sure to bring a warm hat, heavy wool socks & insulated fingerless gloves). Best bet is to focus on the mid 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 distinct possibility in the afternoons- if they don’t rise to them, then fish subsurface. 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. 

Keep an eye out for redds (light colored oval/circular areas) where the trout spawned in the Fall. 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. The brown trout fry will normally emerge in February/early March- IF nobody steps on the eggs before then.

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.

FYI people are unknowingly walking through redds (the light colored oval/circular patchs in gravelly riffles where trout deposit their eggs), so please educate yourself & pay attention to where you walk. Also avoid the first 10-15 feet below them, as many of the eggs drift slightly below the redds. The eggs will hatch into Fry normally at some point in February- IF you don’t step on the eggs……


-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
-Midges #20-28: afternoons, if they don’t rise then nymph subsurface
-Mole Fly #20-24 (olive, brown): deadly emerger that covers many small bugs & fools difficult trout in flat water

-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. 
-Caddis Larva (olive to green) #14-16: anytime, especially Winter through early Spring, lots of these in the river
-Cased Caddis #12-14: abundant and an especially good choice in the Winter & early Spring, also during/after flow bumps (knocks larva into the drift) 
-Zebra Midge #18-22 (black, red, olive, brown): Wintertime staple
-BWO Nymphs #16-22: various patterns, anytime, they Behavioral Drift a lot
-Big Stoneflies #8-12 (gold/yellow, brown, black): anytime, esp. during higher flows
-Antoine’s Perdigons #12-20: various patterns
-Frenchies & Pheasant Tails #14-20: various sizes imitate many different Mayfly nymphs & smaller Stoneflies and are quite effective
-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- dead-drift, twitch, swing & strip
-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 water make sure to fish them deeper using a weighted point fly, and/or sinking leaders/sink-tips/sinking fly lines

Post-spawn early to mid Winter brown trout are HUNGRY and looking to put some weight back on. Plus big trout are almost always looking for bigger bites all year long. 
-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)