Friday, March 10, 2023

Friday 3/10/23 Farmington River Report: Snowy Saturday, but a nice Sunday

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.

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 parenting done right: a team effort between Levi Stratton and his dad John to land a big brown. Second fish pic is one of many big browns from an epic day James Veit had this week.

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 in 2023. Joe Goodspeed, (formerly of Cortland and T&T) designed this newseriesin 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.


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 another batch of flies, this time a mix of streamers & nymphs, including single Ice Picks & Marvin the Martian. We still have some of his #14 tungsten Infant Stones available in both black and brown, they imitate the Early Brown & Early Black Stones, and the brown one will double as a Hendrickson nymph. 

The Farmington was stocked recently from the dam in Riverton downstream 21 miles to the Rt 177 Unionville Bridge (the 6.2 mile permanent TMA/Catch & Release section was excluded, it gets stocked once per year in April)It’s 100% catch & release on the Farmington river in this section until the second Saturday in April. And as of March 1st, all trout streams in CT remain open to fishing (no closed season anymore as of last year), but not to harvestall are strictly catch & release from 3/1 until 4/8.

We are in that time of year where new product arrives every week, so take a look around when you come in or ask us. FYI the excellent Diamonback Ideal Nymph reels (for Euro) are restocked and were just dropped from $525/$550 down to $475. Not an inexpensive reel, but in our opinion it’s the best Euro reel on the market. The Redington Strike is a great option at $280, and Greys makes some nice full cage reels ranging from $80 (Fin) to $130 (Tail) to $220 (Tital). Cheeky does a full cage Euro reel, the Sighter, for $180. Lots of options. 

I think this is the 3rd week in a row where we will get snow Friday night (about 3”), and then nice weather on Sunday with sunshine and highs in the mid 40’s and not windy. This has been a windy week with 10-20 mph almost every day. Despite that the diehards have been venturing out and landing plenty of stocked rainbows, as well as some high quality larger holdover & wild browns. You have to work for the bigger trout, they don’t come easy. Flows are great at 283cfs total flow in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R), consisting of 157cfs in Riverton, plus 126cfs from the Still River. Water temp is 37 degrees in Riverton this morning, it peaked at 40+ yesterday afternoon- typically the highest afternoon water temps on mild & sunny days will be further downstream. The water is currently coming out of the dam steadily in the upper 30’s, and then heats or cools as you move further downstream, depending upon the daily weather and time of day. Remember the time change this weekend, starting Sunday we will gain an additional hour of daylight after we get out of work! 

Bugs are getting more active subsurface now that we are into March, which makes nymphing the most consistent & productive tactic overall. Even when you don’t see hatching activity, there may still be quite a few nymphs & larva in the drift. If you are fishing a 2 nymph rig, using a medium nymph paired with a smaller one to cover your bases- the majority of nymphs in the drift currently are in the #14-20 range FYI. Don’t rule out bigger #6-10 nymphs such as larger Stoneflies. We’re seeing both Early Black & Micro Stones hatching, especially on milder, sunny afternoons- this tends to be more of a nymphing deal, but sometimes trout will rise to them. Also trout are rising to Winter Caddis in the mornings. Streamers are an option- iffish them slow & deep you can pull some nice trout at moments, and sometimes the biggest ones of all. Big trout frequently prefer big bites. 

Currently the entire river is open to fishing from top to bottom, but catch & release only. This is true of all trout streams in CT during March and up until 6am the second Saturday in April. I’m hearing reports of fishermen in Riverton (especially Beaver Pool) keeping trout, saying that “the season is open, so I can keep 2 fish”- this is 100% wrong, just point them to the signs on the trees that spell out it only C&R currently, and the 2 fish 12” is only 4/8 through 8/31 this year- goes back to C&R after that. Please also report them to the CT DEEP by calling their hotline at 1-800-842-HELP (4357). Even if they cannot respond by sending an officer, all calls are logged in the sytem and will help us get more enforcement on the river in the future. 

Fishing advice remains similar to what it’s been lately. Everything outside of the permanent TMA/C&R down to the Rt 177 bridge in Unionvillewas recently stocked (about 3weeks ago), and those fish are still easier to catch than the ones in the permanent TMA/C&R- they are mostly 12-14” rainbows,with a smaller number of browns mixed in. The fresh stockers will hit a wide variety of flies, with Woolly Buggers (peach,black, olive), Junk Flies (Mops, Eggs, Worms, Green Weenies), and gaudy/flashy nymphs being the most successful. The holdover & wild trout are more dialed into natural food and are more apt to eat drabber, more imitative nymphs- drab Walt’s Worms (not the “Sexy” version with flash and a hopspot), Early & Winter Stones, darker colored Perdigons, #14-18 Pheasant Tails/Frenchies, Caddis Larva, larger Stoneflies. For the recent stockers, they aren’t as picky on flies, it’s more a matter of locating them as they are podded up near where they were just stocked. They should spread out gradually over the next few weeks, and they are starting towise up a little now that most of them have been pricked & caught several times. I’ve read it takes about 3 weeks for stocked trout to get dialed into natural food sources, and my personal experience matches up with that. FYI the one food all hatchery trout are familiar with is Midge larva & pupa, that hardy bug can live in concrete hatchery raceways.

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. There is a 6.2 mile section (just below Whittemore to 219 New Hartford bridge) that is 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, so be patient. At the end of the day you have the combination of peak water 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 the medium sized #12-16Early Black Stones are hatching now too. FYI the Stones hatch best on milder, sunny days. The Early Brown Stones are next. The Early Stones are active underwater 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. 

Some afternoons 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, especially in the Winter & Summer- help you decide when and where to fish.

Remember that in colderwater (under 45 degrees, and especially when it’s in the 30’s) 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 in 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 actively feed subsurface 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. 

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. 

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 in early to mid morning, often go later in to the afternoons, adult egg-layers can also be present in the evenings
-Early Black Stonefly #12-16: afternoons, especially on milder/sunny days, nymphs are active subsurface and in the drift
-Tiny Winter Black Stonefly #18-24: 
-Midges #20-28: afternoons, if they don’t rise then nymph Midge Pupa subsurface
-Mole Fly #20-24 (olive, brown): deadly emerger that covers many small bugs & fools difficult trout in flat water

-Early Stonefly Nymph/Strolis Infant Stone #14-16 (black, brown)
-BMAR Black Winter Stone #18
-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 lookout for bigger bites.
-Don’s Peach Bugger #8
-Rich Strolis articulated streamers (assorted), tied by the man himself, restocked recently
-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)