Friday, June 16, 2023

Friday 6/16/23 Farmington River report: Changing hatches & low flows

Store Hours: 7 days a week, Mon-Fri 8am-6pm, and Sat-Sun 8am-5pm. 


***We have 
FRAA sun shirts in both short & long sleeve in several colors, they came out really nice***

River Conditions:

We will be open until 6pm on weekdays now (probably through September), weekends will stay at 5pm.

The FRAA stocked 57 large rainbow trout in New Hartford on June 8thfrom 19-24” and very fat, ranging from about 3-8#. They were stocked from below the Rt 219 bridge (the Wall) down to Satan’s Kingdom. These fish will spread out rapidly and have already been hooked, lost &landed. These are in the section where they can be harvested (2 fish 12”) through the end of August, but we would hope that people will just take a picture and release them so multiple anglers can have the thrill of hooking and hopefully catching a trophy trout. These are high quality Kamloops Rainbows that come from Harding Hatchery, a very tough strain of trout. They are quite fat with great coloration. If people release them they willhold over will look amazing in 2024 and be even a little bigger.

Diamondback Ideal Nymph 10’ #3’s are in stock, they were unavailable for a long time.

***Check yourself for ticks after you walk through the woods, they have been very active lately***

Our poster boy for this report is Fly Fisherman Magazine editor Ross Purnell. He was up with a crew from the magazine and they put some big trout in the net while guided by Zach & Derrick, including this stellar 20" wild brown, as well as a 21” holdover Survivor Strain brown, and a 21” obese FRAA stocked rainbow. Not to mention a bunch of other nice fish.

Friday morning 6/16/23 Report:
Conditions are evolving & hatches are changing and also moving upriver. Despite a reservoir system at close to 100% full, the MDC is doing the bare legal minimum release and the river is at a quite low Summertime level. As such, think Summer tactics. A stealthy approach will pay off in low flows, as will a longer leader, lighter tippet, and maybe a lighter fly rod/fly line if you have one. The upside of low flows is that during a hatch a lot of trout will rise because it becomes more energetically efficient for them to do so (slower & shallower water is easier to feed on the surface). Also makes for some easier wading and access. When it’s sunny out and there isn’t a hatch, the trout, especially the better ones, will hunker down in cover in the deeper spots, seeking shade whenever possible. The Still River is currently adding in some water, albeit it also warms the river, which can be both good & bad. The water coming from the dam can be icy cold (40’s), and the addition of warmer water can boost temps into the ideal range, at least for a ways downriver. But…. if you go too far downstream on hotter, sunny days it can put temps too high. Water temps are coldest in Riverton and have been running from mid 40’s to mid 50’s (depending upon time of day), and midriver in New Hartford I got 66 degrees just before dark Thursday evening. At the moment the flow from the dam & the Still River are almost equal, usually in mid June there would be a LOT more coming from the dam, but the MDC is choking the flow way back. We have a total flow in the permanent TMA of 125cfs (312cfs is the historical normal/median total flow), with 65cfs from the dam (normal median flow would be 247cfs), and the Still river adding in 60cfs (historically normal flow). Which givesus colder water up top (40’s-50’s), and better flows from below the Still River, albeit still well below normal.

Hatches have varied quite a bit this week and been somewhat spotty compared to the previous week or two, and on average have tended to be best early & late in the day on average- stay until dark if you can! At moments it’s dead, and at others it’s very good. It will also vary quite a bit depending how far up or downriver you are. Late morning through early evening, when bugs aren’t hatching, is a good time to fish terrestrials like ants and beetles. The bigger Invaria Sulfur (averages #16, can be as big as #14) are moving upriver, I didn’t see many at all in New Hartford & Canton last night, but I did see fish gently sipping #20 Attenuata. When I was younger I called those “Olive Sulfurs”, but they are not a Sulfur and you will get a ton of refusals if you fish #16 Sulfurs to imitate them. They are closer to a 20, and have a brightly colored light green to almost chartreuse body, with cream wings and legs. It’s easy to mistake them for a smaller Sulfur- look for them from downriver upstream at least as far as New Hartford and quite likely into the permanent TMA/C&R. As you move upriver, you will once again get into Sulfur hatches, and with low flows and rising water temps, we are seeing more of the smaller Dorothea Sulfurs (average #18, but can be as small as #20 on the Farmington) now. I’d say look at Church Pool and up if you are looking for Sulfur hatches (and you should be!). They can pop at just about anytime of day on this river, from about mid morning and up until darkness and beyond. Don’t forget about the spinners! Spinners cannot get away, and big trout will often key in on them. When riseforms go from more obvious to subtle & sippy, it often means they switched to spinners. Dimpling rises and also gently porpoising rises are typical during spinner falls.

The bigger Invaria Sulfurs (#14-16) hatch in medium to fast current, and the smaller Dorothea Sulfurs hatch in medium to slow current. Trout can get very picky during Sulfur hatches, so make sure to have a good variety of dries, emergers, cripples, and spinners. Use a long 6x tippet (as in 3-6’, depending upon wind) to get a good drag-free float when dry fly fishing. When they are not rising, a Sulfur type nymph in about a #16 has oftenbeen the ticket, but don’t forget about Caddis pupa and other small nymphs like Olives and even Midges. Dry/Dropper is a great tactic in low flows- gives you a stealthy presentation and keeps your nymphs off the bottom. Wet flies & soft hackles are also good choices. With late Summer water levels, you don’t need much weight when nymphing or you will be too deep and hanging bottom constantly. Look for those sections that are frequently too fast & deep to nymph, and these very low water levels those sections will be just about perfect. Also consider lengthening you leaders to 12’ and adding tippet for dry fly fishing. While we would definitely like to see the MDC release more water from their over 99% full reservoir system (for a whole bunch of reasons), low flows do make for easier wading & access, and when there is a hatch the trout tend to rise like crazy. 

Look for a change to sipping rises just before dark, this typically means they have switched over to spent Sulfur spinners. You may see March Brown spinners in the air over the riffles at dusk, think #10-12 for them- this hatch will be more upriver now, I'd say Campground & up. They are a trickle hatch during the day, one here and one there in faster water, but the spinners fall in concentrated numbers at dusk over riffles & pocket water. Downriver in Canton, Collinsville & Unionville, Isonychia are starting to hatch, mostly #10-12, with a few pushing a #8- it’s been a spotty hatch so far, July is normally the big month for Isonychia in the permanent TMA/C&R. A few in New Hartford now- not enough to call it a hatch yet, but soon. Remember that Iso’s are a fast water bug, so look for them there. Vitreus should still be hatching upriver (Riverton) but getting near the end. 

This is also a great time to fish wet flies- guide and wet fly/soft hackle aficionado Steve Culton has reported good fishing swinging wets lately. A lot of the “surface activity” I’ve seen appears to be fish intercepting nymphs just below the surface, egg laying/diving Caddis, and Mayfly emergers in the film. Big trout will key on the easier to catch prey, and a classic Mayfly dun can fly off the water at any time, but a nymph or emerger cannot. Fishing wets is fun, productive, and relaxing. Fish them 2-3 at a time, on tag end droppers, 20-30” apart. Make sure not to use light tippet, and keep your rod tip up to cushion the strike- this also creates a slight bow which allows the trout to inhale your fly, you need some controlled slack or you will get a lot of hits that don’t convert into hooked fish. Dead-drift, swing, twitch, retrieve, skitter & bounce, the trout will tell you how they want them presented, and it will vary.

In their current paradigm, they typically adjust the flow on Monday to match the average inflow from the previous week, from a minimum of 50cfs to a maximum of 150cfs, and if Otis Reservoir is releasing, they have to also add that in. Unionville is quite low at at 217cfs, normal/median flow for today would be 453cfs. We need rain, and we need the MDC to stop artificially choking the flow back when they have full reservoirs. The upside to lower flows is easier wading, and when there is a hatch more trout will feed on the surface. Lower water = more rising trout.

Quick Tip:
In lower flows and sunny conditions, look for shade & structure during the daytime. Trout will move to shady areas, and the biggest trout will be near or in structure (bigger rocks, downed trees, undercut banks, tree roots, etc.). Choppy/broken water is also a “cover” of sorts, as it obscures the view of trout from avian (bird) predators. 

Sulfurs are the main hatch from about Church Pool & up, averaging #16 (Invaria) and #18 (Dorothea). We still have Vitreus in Riverton, but getting near the end for that hatch.We are seeing a wide various Caddis averaging #14 to #18 in various colors (especially tan ones, but also olive, green, black, brown, and gray). Trickle hatch of #10-12 March Browns from Campground and up, with a spinner fall at dusk. Isonychia are making an appearance from Canton & downstream, averaging #10-12, can be as big a #8- spotty hatch thus far. Look for Iso’s in faster water sometime between late afternoon & dark. They should be into the permanent TMA/C&R by late June, with July normally being the prime month for them in that river section. We have a great new locally tied Iso pattern, the Trigger Point Iso Emerger, check it out. But remember, currently you need to go downriver to hit that hatch.

If you have been struggling to catch fish, the fish in the permanent TMA/C&R receive the most pressure and will be the most “educated”, and the rest of the river will see trout that are somewhat less pressured and more willing to eat on average. The stocked rainbows are easier to fool than the holdover & wild browns. As usual, fishing pressure has been high, so start early (and/or stay late), cover plenty of water, fish the “B” & “C” water, and experiment with fly patterns & presentations. Nymphing can catch trout all day if you know what you are doing, but trout are looking up now and there are rising trout if you you are there during a hatch. If you are out in the evenings, stay until dark! June is the big month for Sulfurs in the permanent TMA/C&R.

If you are nymphing, make sure you have a Sulfur nymph in your rig, #16 is currently the ticket. Dead drift them, but always let them swing up at the end of the drift to imitate an emerging/hatching nymph. Small Blue Winged Olive nymphs #18-20 are often a great choice, especially on cloudy and/or cooler days.

A LOT of anglers have been fishing, so be flexible on where you fish and please don’t crowd other anglers- give them the room you would want somebody to give you. Ask people what direction they are working in (upstream, downstream), and if it’s okay if you jump in above or below them. Don’t jump ahead of people working upstream or downstream and high hole/low hole them, it’s bad etiquette. If a spot is already crowded, don’t make it even more crowded- find some other water with less anglers in it. A little courtesy goes a long way. Trout have spread out and can be found in a variety of water types, including faster water. Bigger holdover & wild trout will often move into the current during bug activity to feed on hatching nymphs & pupa, as well as the Behavioral Drift of nymphs & larvae. Behavioral Drift happens early and late in the day (also at midnight) when the light is low, and creates a big spike in subsurface bug activity. FYI many nymphs in the drift are smaller and in the #16-20 range. 

You have to work and do everything right for the bigger holdover & wild brown trout, they don’t come easy- typical of pressured rivers. FYI big trout are everywhere on the river, even in the kill zones where bait guys routinely kill their limit (2 fish, 12”). Bigger fish that have been in the river for years are more dialed into natural food sources and imitative flies in general. Under normal flows, 5x-6x tippet is about right for most nymphs, and you can go as heavy as 4x with bigger Stoneflies & Mops. For dries, we recommend longer leaders (12 feet or longer) with added tippet in the 5x-7x range, matched to your fly size/wind resistance. Don’t neglect small, heavy jigged streamers on a Euro rig, if you fish them slow & deep, they can be deadly when trout aren’t eating bugs- especially bigger fish. Olive, tan, and white are top streamer colors lately, but always experiment. Try running a streamer through a run after you nymph it, sometimes you will pull a big trout that wouldn’t move to eat a nymph.

Pro Tips
Just because there is a hatch does not automatically mean dry flies. Look for risers, but often there are few if any fish feeding on top, and you are better off matching the hatch by fishing subsurface with nymphs, pupa, larva, wet flies, and soft hackles. Many bigger trout rarely feed on top, and only at very specific, brief moments. This time of year many trout have spread out into faster water in the riffles, runs & pocket water and it’s an ideal time and situation to fish wet flies & soft hackles. When the fishing is slow, you can often turn things around by focusing on drifting your flies near the rocks in sections of pocket water, and on bright sunny days look for shade. 


-Sulfur #16 (Invaria): mid to upper river, focus on water with a little current, spinner falls at dusk. Hatching anytime from mid/late mornings until dark.
-Sulfur #18 (Dorothea): seeing more now, mostly in slower water, mid/upper river
-Assorted Caddis #14-22 (tan, olive/green most common): hatching in early to mid AM, come back to egg lay at dusk
-March Brown #10-12: upper river mainly, Campground and up, trickle hatch in faster water during the day, concentrated spinner fall at dusk over riffles & pocket water
-Vitreus #12-16: upriver in Riverton, evening hatch in faster water, almost done
-Isonychia #10-12: downstream currently- Canton, Collinsville, Unionville, faster
water insect, late afternoon through dark, spotty hatch so far
-Baetis/Blue Winged Olives #20-24: late afternoon & eves, esp. cooler cloudy days
-Ants & Beetles #12-20: good choice late morning through early eves when bugs aren’t hatching but trout are sporadically sipping small stuff, you can also blind fish bigger ones
-Summer/Winter Caddis #18-24: hatching in early to mid morning, often go later into the afternoons, adult egg-layers can also be present in the evenings
-Midges #20-28: mornings & eves, try a Midge Pupa subsurface
-Mole Fly #20-24 (olive, brown): deadly emerger that covers many small bugs & fools difficult trout in flat water

-Sulfur Nymph #16-18: #1 nymph currently
-Caddis Pupa #14-18 (mostly tan or olive/green): dead-drift & swing in medium to fast water, especially early & late in the day
-Frenchies & Pheasant Tails #12-20: various sizes imitate many different Mayfly nymphs & smaller Stoneflies and are quite effective everywhere
-Antoine’s Perdigons #12-20: various patterns, all year
-BWO Nymphs #16-20: just about anytime
-Caddis Larva (olive to green) #14-16: anytime, lots of these in the river
-Cased Caddis #12-14: abundant bug, very effective 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, with & without hot-spots. Good on pressured fish, even big fish.
-Jigged Streamers #8-12: various colors/patterns- dead-drift, twitch, swing & strip, best 
on a Euro rod & leader
-Zebra Midge #18-22 (black, red, olive, brown): an often neglected bug to imitate
-Big Stoneflies #8-12 (gold/yellow, brown, black): early to mid AM in fast water
-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, even on big wild browns

Soft-Hackles/Wet Flies:
-Hare's Ear, Partridge & Flash, Leadwing Coachman, March Brown, etc. #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, Vitreus, Isonychia and other faster swimming/emerging bugs

Big trout are almost always on the lookout for bigger bites, especially early & late in the day and during lulls in bug activity. Also a great choice anytime the flow is up or off-color. 
-Don’s Peach Bugger #8
-Rich Strolis articulated streamers (assorted), tied by the man himself, restocked recently 2 times
-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 (peach, black, olive, white, brown, tan)


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 debuted in the spring of 2022, and itis 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 is my current favorite rod, it’s really fun to fish with, and guides Zach St. Amand & Derrick Kirkpatrick are also big fans of it, as is shop employee/shop rat Joey. The length is ideal for rivers like the Farmington, allowing you to fish & cast further away, make longer drifts, cast easier, faster hook sets, and the soft tip will protect your tippet against big trout. Enough power in the butt section to handle bigger trout when necessary, 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 is the “all 'rounder” for Euro Nymphing. 

The new (as of 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’ #3, 10’ 10” 3wt, 10’ 10” 4wt, and 10’ 10” #6, with more models to come in 2023. Joe Goodspeed, (formerly of Cortland and T&T) designed this new series in 2022, 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). The 10’ 10” #3 has the backbone to handle larger trout & heavy jigged streamers. I’ve also noticed the 10’ #2 is very popular with top competition anglers who have access to any rods they want.