Friday, February 17, 2023

Friday 2/17/23 Farmington River Report: trout stocking has begun

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.

There are 3 spots left in the afternoon session of Zach & Derrick’s fly tying classes this Sunday 2/19/23. Call 860-379-1952 to sign up. 

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 2/19/23(original date was 2/5), 3spots in the second class are open, 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 huge 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 wayup and average retail is $10 to $12, 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.

We will be limiting the pictures in the reports to a max of 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 once again Jim DeCesare with yet another 20” brown trout, and next pic down is Derrick with one of many big browns this week. Third fish pic is guide Steve Hogan with one of two big browns he landed Wednesday. 

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 2023 at 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.

Rich Strolis dropped off a pile of his articulated streamers this week, so if you are a big trout streamer fan check out the bins! Have a good assortment of different styles, with 2 color variations on each pattern. 

There are 3 spots spots left open in the afternoon session of Zach & Derrick’s fly tying classes this Sunday 2/19. Learn how to tie some deadly guide flies for the Farmington River! 

The Farmington was stocked in two different sections on Wednesday & Thursday- from the dam in Riverton down to the bridge abutment at the tailout of Whittemore, and also from the Rt 219 bridge in New Hartford down to the Collinsville Dam. It’s 100% catch & release on the Farmington river until the second Saturday in April. I was out yesterday afternoon and did not realize that the river was stocked…. until I went 5 casts in a row with a 12-14” rainbow on every drift haha. Ended up pulling 25 ‘bows out of that one slot. But for 45 mins to an hour prior to that I had zero bites until I found that pod of fish. I was finally able to catch a handful of wild & holdover browns later in the afternoon. Incredible day to be out, 60 degrees, cloudy, not windy, flow just over 300cfs, water temps cracked 40 degrees in New Hartford. Derrick has been train wrecking 18-21” wild & holdover browns all week. The bigger browns don’t come easy though, you need to be dialed in on location, flies, presentation & time of day. For the recent stockers, they aren’t picky on flies, it’s more a matter of locating them as they are podded up near where they were just stocked. I was using a Sexy Walt’s worm paired up with a smaller flashy dark colored Perdigon and caught trout on both (60/40 ratio favoring the Waltz but it was the anchor fly on bottom so that may have been why)- all the browns ate the smaller Perdigon on the dropper though. I imagine the state will also stock Collinsville & Unionville today or early next week- you can check their interactive stocking map. 

The river looks great at just over 300cfs- very fishable, very wadeable. Highs low 40’s & sunny for Saturday, and upper 40’s & cloudy for Sunday. The weather for the next week is highs in the 40’s & 50’s, nights in the 20’s & 30’s- very mild weather for mid/late February when we normally see some of our coldest winter temps. I saw a few of the larger Early Black Stones (#12-16) yesterday, but not enough to call it a hatch. Milder weather has made the morning Winter Caddis hatches on the light side, they actually hatch better when it’s “normal” winter weather. Nymphs & streamers are the main flies, and your fly choice can depend on wheather you are targetting fresh stockers or holdovers & wild trout. Recent stocked trout often prefer gaudy flashy flies with hotspots (and sometimes wild trout like those too), but wild fish often bite better on flies that look closer to the natural bugs. Right now the stockers have not yet spread out, so it can be feast or famine- if you don’t locate them you cannot catch them, but if you find a pod you can catch a lot. They should spread out gradually over the next 2-3 weeks, and they will also wise up quickly after they have been pricked & caught several times.

There is officially no closed season on trout in CT now (exception being a small number of lakes that close off in late Fall) on all trout streams. Starting March 1st, ALL trout streams become catch & release until 6am on the 2nd Saturday in April when they revert to whatever their normal specific regulations are. The Farmington however is catch & release right now (starts 9/1 every year) for the entire upper 21 miles (dam in Riverton downstream to the Rt 177 bridge in Unionville), and on April 8th at 6am you can keep 2 fish 12” or bigger in 15 of those 21 miles, with a six mile section (just below Whittemore to 219 New Hartford bridge) C&R and barbless 12 months a year. Some people think that because the season in now “open” in March & early April that they can keep trout in that time period, but that is 100% false. Every trout stream in CT is open to only catch & release fishing during what was previously the closed trout season. And up in Riverton, from the top of Pipeline Pool upstream for 1+ miles to the junction of Hogback Rd with Rt 20 (Canal Pool), it is completely closed to fishing from April 1 until 6am April 8- they do this so they can privately stock large trout for the Riverton Derby (4/8) and still sort of have an “Opening Day” for the derby. This short section also includes Lyman Rock, Hitchcock/Riverton Self Storage, as well as Van’s Pool/Zach’s Pool. 

Big fish continue to be caught every week as you can see by the photos in the reports every week, but you have to work for them and be there during a bite window- a lot of them come in the last 1-2 hours of daylight, sobe patient. At the end of the day you have the combination of peak waterwater temps & low light bringing the big browns out of hiding to feed, win/win for us anglers, less so for the big trout. 

We are seeing the smaller #18-24 Tiny Winter Black Stoneflies hatching this month, and in the medium sized Early Black Stones are just starting to show up (only a few so far). The Early Brown Stones are next. The Early Stones get active underwater about now and you can fish imitations of them, either a specific pattern or something suggestive like a #14-16 Prince Nymph, Pheasant Tail, etc. Nymphs that size in a brown color will also suggest an immature Hendrickson nymph, black would be imitative of the Early Black Stones. Junk Flies are still in play, and a Mop, Egg, or a Squirmy can be a good change up fly after you’ve already fished through a pool/run with your standard more imitative nymphs. If you are streamer fishing, make sure to get your flies slow & deep, and play around with different retrieves- slower is typically better in the Winter, but there will be days they still want the fly moving fast. Winter Caddis are hatching in early/mid mornings, sometimes going into the afternoons- this hatch can bring trout to the surface to feed, as can Midges in the afternoons some days. And when they aren’t rising, #18-22 flies such as Zebra Midges (black, red, olive) can put trout in the net in the afternoons when you see Midges hatching. 

Big Simms preseason order arrived Monday 2/6, and it among other things it included a cool new $85 Challenger full-zip hoody in 2 colors, Guide raincoats, the new Guide BOA boot, camo Tributary waders, and a bunch of new ball caps. 

Water temps in Riverton peaked at 39 degrees yesterday, it is 38 degrees this morning. Some afternoons (like yesterday) water temps have crept into the low 40’s in the permanent TMA/C&R on warmer 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,especiallyin the Winter & Summer- help you decide when and where to fish.

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 activelyfeedsubsurfacefor 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(sort of haha), 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 it’s warm and there is a lot of snow on the ground causing ice-cold snowmelt), and often the best subsurface fishing is in the mid/lateafternoons 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 #6-12 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, #14-20 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 (12’ or longer), light tippets (6x-7x), 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. 

If you are nymphing (and you probably should be more often than not right now), think Junk Flies (Eggs, Mops, Squirmy/SJ Worms), Stoneflies (both small & big), and hedge your bet by adding a smaller more imitative, drabber fly- or maybe an attractor-type pattern (gaudy, flashy, or with a hot-spot).  Eggs remain a key fly (especially in the mornings) in the Winter, 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.


-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 Midge Pupa subsurface
-Tiny Winter Black Stonefly #18-24
-Mole Fly #20-24 (olive, brown): deadly emerger that covers many small bugs & fools difficult trout in flat water

-Early Stonefly Nymph #14-16 (black, brown)
-Frenchies & Pheasant Tails #14-20: various sizes imitate many different Mayfly nymphs & smaller Stoneflies and are quite effective everywhere
 -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) 
-Small Nymphs #18-22: Assorted. The Farmington River is LOADED with small bugs. Experiment and try drab, flashy, and with & without hot-spots. Good on pressured fish.
-Jigged Streamers #8-12: various colors/patterns- dead-drift, twitch, swing & strip
-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, all year
-Junk Flies (Eggs, Mops, Squirmies/SJ Worms, Green Weenies): good in cold water, during 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
-Attractor Nymphs #14-20: anything flashy, gaudy, or with a hot spot such as Rainbow Warriors, Sexy Waltz, Prince, Triple Threats, etc.- not uncommon for these to outfish drabber, more imitative flies

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 (like now) make sure to fish them deeper using a weighted point fly, and/or sinking leaders/sink-tips/sinking fly lines

Big trout are almost always on the lookoutfor bigger bites.
-Rich Strolis articulated streamers (assorted), tied by the man himself, restocked on 2/15
-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)