Friday, December 29, 2023

Friday 12/29/23 Farmington River Report: Still very high but dropping again

Store Hours: 8am-5pm, 7 days a week. 

Holiday Hours:
-12/31/23 Sunday New Year’s Eve:8am-3pm.
-1/1/24 New Year’s DayClosed
Back to 8am-5pm starting Tuesday 1/2/24.

Stop by for some bargains! Select T&T Zone rods are 40% offThomas & Thomas Avantt rods all 40% offHardy Ultralites (not the LL’s) also 40% off

We recently purchased another huge collection of quality fly tying materials. Stop by and check it out. Hooks, dry fly necks, streamer necks, dubbing, flash, squirrel, used vises, tying tools, fur, zonker strips, rubber legs, deer hair, foam, and LOTS more. 

UpCountry has also purchased a large collection of Used graphite, bamboo & fiberglass fly rods, used fly reels & classic fly reels. Most of this equipment is very affordably priced and will only be offered in store to our walk in customers. There are lots of classic Orvis, Hardy, Pfleuger, custom, and much more. Come and take a look before someone gets there first. Most items are between $10 - $200 with a few higher end bamboo rods mixed in. If you have ever considered buying an affordable bamboo rod to fish with, this is the time, we have some great rods from $100-500 dollars and a few premium ones for the more experienced bamboo aficionado.

Pictured up top is customer Mike Andrews with a high water beauty of a brown trout, looks wild to me. While I cannot recommend fishing in these very high flows, a few experienced anglers have been braving the high flows and catching a few bigger fish by standing on the bank and fishing the edges with streamers, Junk Flies & bigger nymphs. 

Morning Conditions:
Despite a 550cfs flow cut at the dam yesterday (Thursday) of 1,350cfs down to 800cfs, another heavy rain Wednesday night/Thursday morning shot the Still River up over 900cfs, and also put runoff into Riverton. Riverton USGS gauge is reading 1,060cfs & dropping this morning, the Still is down to 570cfs & dropping fast. Total flow in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release is over 1,600cfs and receding- still too high to recommend fishing, but it should be fishable sometime soon. And at 1,000+ CFS, even Riverton is super high. Not sure when they will do the next flow cut, they don’t tell us until after the fact- it could be any day. I do not recommend fishing the Farmington River until the total level comes back down under 1,000cfs. We will update this report when the MDC makes their next flow cut.

Because the MDC has been defaulting to a frustrating minimum flow regime since early 2022, that paradigm has kept the reservoirs full and anytime we get substantial rain they have to dump a lot of water for at least a few days to as much as a week. Historically they would do a good job managing the water and get the reservoirs low by September, and this gave them some ability to buffer heavier hurricane rainfalls. The water temp below the dam is 41.75 degrees this morning. Downstream from the Still River in the mid to lower river the Farmington River has been averaging upper 30’s  to low 40’s, depending upon distance from dam, time of day, and weather. FYI the Still River tends to be a cooling influence in the late Fall & Winter, especially in the mornings after a colder night. In the Summer it’s a warming influence. Sunny days will see the biggest water temperature increases, with peak water temps in the mid to late afternoons.

New Hardy Marksman rods just arrived, this replaces the Ultralite series (not the Ultralite LL though). They are super nice with improved recovery and even better actions/flex patterns. We have the freshwater Marksman from #3-7, and the saltwater Marksman Z (replaces the Zane Pro) from #7-10. 

Friday morning 12/29:
As noted up top, we will close at 3pm this Sunday 12/31, and be closed on 1/1/24 for New Year’s Day, so plan accordingly. You will need a 2024 CT fishing license if you plan on fishing New Year’s Day.They can be purchased online on the CT DEEP website.

Just over 1,600cfs & dropping in the permanent TMA/C&R as I write this, that’s too high for most wading anglers, but you may see some anglers floating it in boats. MDC made a flow cut Thursday, but rain Wednesday night/Thursday morning shot the Still River back up over 900cfs, and it’s down under 600 and dropping fast now. Everything is still too high to recommend fishing currently, look for the total flow to get back under 1,000, or Riverton at 600cfs or less. We will update this report when the MDC makes their next flow cut, which could be any day. When fishing in higher flows, target the water closer to the banks in the softer water off the heavier main current. Streamers, Junk Flies (Eggs, Worms, Mops), bigger Stoneflies, and hot-spot nymphs and good choices when flows are up and/or off color. When flows come back to normal on the Farmington, go back to more natural & smaller flies. Jigged streamers fished slow & deep on a Euro rig can be very effective in cold water on lethargic trout, when standard streamers presentations aren’t producing. You’re putting your fly right in their face, which makes it easy for them to eat, rather than having to swim up in the water column and chase their meal. 

When normal flows resume, in the afternoons look for Midges & small Blue Winged Olives to bring a few trout to the surface in the bigger, wider, slower pools. There are also Winter Caddis in the early to mid mornings. We have a good selection of the specialized Winter Caddis dry fly patterns from #18-24, it’s a unique hatch that you don’t normally find on other rivers (exception: Swift River in MA also has them). The Winter Caddis larva are about a #18 and yellowish in color, and are also worth fishing this time of year. That same fly imitates Black Caddis larva (also yellow & small), as well as some Midges- killing 3 birds with one stone. Small nymphs are typically good this time of year, with the smaller size often being more important than the exact pattern. 

Nymphing remains a consistent producer if you are proficient at it, no surprise there. Sometimes in the colder water of Winter, gaudy and/or large nymphs can be the ticket when more imitative flies aren’t working. Think flash, UV materials, hot spots, bigger Stoneflies, Junk Flies (Eggs, Mops, Squirmy/San Juan Worms, Green Weenies), etc. Probably due to far less bug activity this time of year, fish become more opportunistic, and gaudier or bigger flies sometimes do a better job getting their attention and triggering an eat. Remember though, colder water equals a slower metabolism, which means they don’t have to eat as much. This coincides nicely with the reduced food supply in Winter. Having said that, currently many of the medium to large brown trout are extra hungry due to weight loss during the recent spawn. A small jigged streamer nymphed Euro style with occasional twitches can be just the ticket- looks like a mouthful of food, and it’s easy to eat because it’s right in their face. It also represents a LOT more calories to the trout, and sometimes a fish that won’t move slightly to eat a nymph will suck in a jigged streamer- just what a hungry post-spawn brown trout needs to put some weight back on. 

Traditional Streamers fished slow & deep are having their moments- play with colors and retrieves to find out what works, it can vary. Lately the top streamer colors are tan, white, and olive- color can make a BIG difference some days, so don’t get hung up on only one color. Tan has been hot lately, but other colors can be better at moments. Effective nymphs have included assorted smaller #18-20 patterns, egg flies, Junk Flies (Mops, Squirmy/San Juan Worms), Caddis larva, and attractor/hot-spot flies. Fish have seen a LOT of egg patterns this Fall, so make sure to pair egg flies with a nymph to give them another option. The spawn is basically over, but there are always a few late spawners, sometimes as late as early/mid January. Stay clear of the redds and the first 15 feet below them, otherwise you will walk on and crush the eggs. They don’t hatch out until February/early March. 

No need to start early now (due to colder water temps), unless you want to hit the early to mid morning Winter Caddis hatch (7am-10am is typical for that, but can be earlier or later). Typically this time of year the fishing just seems to improve as the day progresses and water temps rise, and morning Winter Caddis excepted, most of the hatching activity is all in the afternoons. Nymphs, dries & streamers are all possibilities right now. When water temps get truly cold like they are now (30’s to low 40’s), rising water temps during the day tends to get the trout active and feeding. 

Tiny Midges & Blue Winged Olives #22-28 are the two afternoon hatches, with rising trout in the bigger, wider, slower pools. Overall, afternoons have fished a lot better than mornings, probably due to rising water temps and increased insect activity/hatching. This is especially true after colder night- when you get a mild overnight the early morning fishing can be good. Nymphing is the most consistent tactic, but streamers are also producing some nice fish.

Please be careful not to step on or just below brown trout spawning redds. Walking on these areas crushes the eggs. Redds are the light colored oval areas in gravelly riffles where the brown trout spawn. By this time of year, 99% of the browns have completed spawning. Even though the spawn is basically done now, egg flies will continue to work well straight through the Winter. Pair them up with a smaller nymph for best results.

The best flies lately have been Junk Flies (Eggs, Mops, Squirmy Worms), smaller nymphs #16-22, and various streamers. If trout are rising, match the hatch- Midges are the main bug, but there are still some BWO’s. During normal flows, think smaller more imitative nymphs, and that should also lead to more dry fly fishing on small Blue Winged Olives & Midges, and in the mornings Winter Caddis. Look for bigger, wider, flatter pools to find rising trout. Streamers are still a good choice, especially early & late in the day and on cloudy days- play with colors & retrieves, it can make a big difference. I’d slow your streamer presentations up now and try to fish them deeper- colder water temps slows the trout down. Post-spawn trout are depleted and hungry, looking to put weight on and a streamer looks like a lot of calories to them.  

Fishing Advice During & After the Spawn:
Keep an eye out for redds, the oval light colored depressions in gravel riffles where trout deposit their eggs. These are commonly located in riffle water in pool tailouts and in side channels, often in shallow water. Trout look to spawn where there is pea sized gravel with the right amount of current. Avoid those areas and the first 10-15 feet below them (many eggs drift downstream), otherwise you will crush the eggs if you walk there. The eggs don’t hatch out until about February/early March, so watch where you walk or you will be crushing & killing future wild troutDo NOT fish to actively spawning fish on redds, they are already stressed out, just let them reproduce in peace and make more wild browns. Fish the deeper, darker water downstream of the redds, there will be plenty of unseen non-spawning trout gobling up drifting eggs.


The state stocked the river with good sized brown trout in early October from just below the Rt 219 bridge in New Hartford all the way down to Collinsville & Unionville and below that too. Please remember that as of 9/1, the entire river from the dam all the way down to the Rt 177 bridge in Unionville is strictly Catch & Release. The MDC stocked the upper river (above the permanent TMA/C&R up to the dam) in early/mid October with quite a few pretty rainbows.



***Midges & Small Blue Winged Olives are the 2 main afternoon hatches, with Winter/Summer Caddis in the mornings***

-Blue Winged Olives #22-28: afternoons, especially on cloudy days, probably getting near the tail end of the hatch.

-Midges #22-28: afternoons up until dusk, all Winter long

-Summer/Winter Caddis #18-24: hatching in early to mid morning, all year long, with peak hatching in both the Winter & Summer


-Junk Flies (Eggs, Mops, Squirmies/SJ Worms, Green Weenies): especially good in high/stained water, or as a change-up fly after you have fished a good run with standard nymphs, also killer on recently stocked trout

-Egg Flies #12-18: spawn is basically done, but egg flies will continue to produce right through the Winter. Try shades of yellow, pink, orange. 

-Blue Winged Olives (BWO) Nymphs #18-22, assorted patterns: fish in the afternoons when they are active. 

-Zebra Midge #18-22: black, olive, red

-Assorted Small Nymphs #18-22: most of the bugs in the Winter are small & skinny, and darker colors such as brown, black & dark olive are common. Try Zebra Midges (black, red, olive), Pheasant Tails (natural, flashback, Frenchies, olive, black, chocolate brown, etc.), BWO/Olive nymphs, Winter Caddis Larva, etc. The size, shape & presentation are generally more important than exact fly pattern. Play with drab, flash, UV, hot-spots, and no hot spots to see what works best, because it can and will vary depending on the day, time of day, and light conditions. Fishing pressure will also affect fly preferences.

-Frenchies & Pheasant Tails #14-22: various sizes imitate many different Mayfly nymphs (BWO, Isonychia, Sulfur, Iso, etc.) & smaller Stoneflies and are quite effective everywhere, all year long. A Pheasant Tail in #16-20 is rarely a bad choice on the Farmington River.

-Caddis Larva (olive to green) #14-16: anytime, lots of these in the river. Good choice when you aren’t sure what to fish, work well in the late Fall, Winter & early Spring.

-Cased Caddis #10-16: underfished pattern, there are tons of these in the river. Many are dislodged during high water & flow bumps from the dam.

-Jigged Streamers #8-12: various colors/patterns- dead-drift, twitch, swing & strip, best on a Euro rod & leader, excellent choice to fish in the Fall

-Attractor Nymphs #14-20: anything flashy, gaudy, or with a hot spot such as Sexy Waltz, Rainbow Warriors, Frenchies, Prince, Triple Threats, etc

-Wet Flies & Soft-Hackles #10-18: assorted patterns, Partridge & Orange can be very good almost anytime


After the fall brown trout spawn, in early winter many trout have lost weight and are depleted and are looking to put weight back on, and to a trout a streamer represents a lot of potential calories. Big trout are almost always on the lookout for bigger bites, especially early & late in the day (low light) and during lulls in bug activity. Also a great choice anytime the flow is up or off-color. 

-Jigged Streamers #8-12: various patterns/colors, deadly fished on a tight-line/Euro rig

-Woolly Bugger #4-12: assorted colors

-Zonker #4-6: white, natural

-BMAR Yellow Matuka #6. Also standard Matuka in olive, brown

-Zuddler #4-8: olive, yellow, white, brown, black

-Complex & Mini Twist Bugger #2-6: assorted colors

-Classic Streamers #6-10: Sometimes they work better than bulky modern streamers, maybe due to their mostly slimmer profiles & drabber designs. Or maybe it’s because not many people fish them anymore, who knows. 
Try: Black Nosed Dace, Muddler Minnow, Marabou Muddler (especially white!), Grey Ghost, Black Ghost, Baby Brown Trout, Mickey Finn, Hornberg, etc.