Monday, March 27, 2023

Monday 3/37/23 Farmington River Report: Flow Update

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.

Antoine is bringing Yannick Riviere, the former World Champion French angler, back to do multiple clinics July 17th-22nd, contact him directly to sign up at 860-759-4464. He is a fish catching machine on another level, and he will show you some unique ways to deceive difficult trout with dry flies & nymphs. He hammered Farmington trout when he was here in 2022, including some big fish, in technical low water conditions. Detailed clinic description on our events page.  

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 a handful of big wild Farmington River brown trout, and that is Zach St. Amand’s hand holding it. Second pic is Lane Finely with the ol’ Rubber Lip Trout, the true Native, also know as a Sucker. Last fish pic is John Stratton with yet another nice fish he jigged up on a streamer- the missing maxillary flap on it’s mouth makes it look like it’s smiling, pinch those barbs down please and unhook carefully!

Purchase our favorite and arguably the best Euro rod, the T&T Contact II from us, 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 is my current 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, gives you 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 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 popular with some top competition anglers.


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 second batch of flies, this time a mix of streamers & nymphs, including single Ice Picks & Marvin the Martian. 

The Farmington was stocked in February 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, even a little nice than our previous favorite, the Sage ESN reel. 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.

Tuesday afternoon 3/28 update:
Due to rain & smowmelt (from up in MA), the reservoir is over 100% capacity and the MDC has raised the dam release from 181cfs all the way up to 801cfs. This is very high for Riverton and puts the total flow in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release up to about 1,300cfs (Still River is adding in 489cfs as I update this). Hard to say for sure, but I imagine they will run this flow at least until Friday, and hopefully if they lower Colebrook Reservoir enough they will cut it back Friday morning, but there is no way of knowing until then. 

Monday late morning 3/27 update:
The MDC increased the dam release by 10cfs at 9am, so minimal change there. At 10am they bumped the East Branch from 300 to 350 (East Branch comes in about 3/8 mile below UpCountry). Best water levels currently are above the East Branch all the way up to the dam in Riverton. From Dog Pound/Satan’s down, the flow is 1,000+ cfs, and that’s pretty darn high. Riverton above the Still River is lowest of all and in the low 200cfs range- I’d call that medium and just about perfect for that section.

Monday morning 3/27:
Looks like some nice weather for the most part this week- 40’s/50’s Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday with no rain. Total flow in the permanent TMA/Catch & Release (C&R) this morning as of 9am is 665cfs & dropping- I’d call this low end high but very fishable and pretty normal for late March. Riverton West Branch USGS gauge is reading 218cfs, and the Still River is adding in 447cfs & dropping. You may see the MDC make an upward flow adjustment today due to last week’s snowmelt, I’ll update this report this afternoon if they email us a flow change. Nymphing has been the mainstay lately, and also streamers at moments (especially early & late in the day). The big 3 nymphs have been #16-18 Baetis/Blue Winged Olives (BWO’s), #14-16 Black Stoneflies, and also immature Hendrickson Nymphs about a #14 (they are not hatching yet, but active and in the drift). You can use a Pheasant Tail or a Frenchy to imitate the Hendrickson nymphs, or a specific imitation. For the Olive Nymphs & Stonefly Nymphs, make sure the patterns you choose or tie have skinny abdomens like the naturals do. Hendrickson nymphs are a Clinger nymph and are somewhat blockier in the abdomen- something brownish and a little thicker will imitate them. At the current flows the dry fly fishing is pretty limited, check Church Pool for risers, it’s good even in higher flows. Think Winter/Summer Caddis in the early/mid mornings, and Baetis/Olives & Early Black Stoneflies in the afternoons. The Caddis & the Stonefly dries are often best fished with occasional twitches, but make sure to dead-drift the Olives. 

Quality over quantity right now for the most part (unless you find of pod of stocked rainbows). Expect to work for your fish currently, but also expect any browns you catch to average on the big side in March, 16-19” is typical, with some up into the 20+ plus range.

Water temps are ranging from upper 30’s to mid 40’s on milder, sunny days. The trout stocked outside of the permanent TMA/C&R (mostly 12-14” rainbows) have moved around and completely infiltrated the permanent TMA/C&R from top to bottom- if you find a pod of them you might rack up some big numbers. The bigger holdover & wild trout are more difficult and you have to do everything right and put in work for them, but the reward can be beautiful 16-20” plus browns- Zach landed a 22” wild femalerecently.

Stoneflieshatch best by far when it’s mild & sunny. If you are fishing a 2 nymph rig (I would), 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. I also like streamers in March/April, they can be effective and sometimes gets you into a bigger class of fish. Olive is a good starting color, but also try tan, white, brown and other colors to see what the trout prefer. Think slow & deep, but play around with your retrieves. 

Match the above mentioned bugs when nymphing, and add in #14-18 Frenchies/Pheasant Tails (PT’s), big Stones, Sexy Waltz & plain Walt’s, Caddis Larva (both regular olive/green & Cased), and also Attractor Nymphs (hot spots, fluorescent tags, flash, bright colors) & Junk Flies (Mops, Eggs, Worms). Various Perdigons in #14-20 are working too. The recently stocked trout will hit a wider variety of flies, and often prefer gaudy patterns. You have to work and do everything right for the bigger holdover & wild brown trout, they don’t come easy- typical of pressured rivers. They are more dialed into natural food sources and imitative flies. 5 x-6x tippet is about right for most nymphs, and you can go as heavy as 4x with bigger Stoneflies. Don’t neglect smaller jigged streamers on a Euro rig, it fished them slow & deep and can be deadly in March/April. Olive, tan, and white are top streamer colorslately. 

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 system and will help us get more enforcement on the river in the future. 

Everything outside of the permanent TMA/C&R down to the Rt 177 bridge in Unionville was recently stocked (about 5weeks 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.  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 even 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 seasonAnd 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. 

Remember that in colder water (under 45 degrees, and especially when it’s in the 30’s) trout usually 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. However, during milder sunny afternoons they may slide up into medium to medium fast riffles to feed on drifting nymphs/larva. They will often pod up in colder 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 chasetraditionally fished streamers. 

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 Tips: Caddis Larva (both regular & cased) will be an excellent nymphing choice for the next couple of 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). 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.


*Baetis/Blue Winged Olives #16-18: afternoons
*Early Black Stonefly #12-16: afternoons, especially on milder/sunny days, nymphs are active subsurface and in the drift
-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
-Tiny/Micro Winter Black Stonefly #18-24: afternoons, hatch is almost over
-Midges #20-28: afternoons, try a Midge Pupa subsurface
-Mole Fly #20-24 (olive, brown): deadly emerger that covers many small bugs & fools difficult trout in flat water

*BWO Nymphs #16-18: best in the afternoons, active in crappy weather
*Early Stonefly Nymph/Strolis Infant Stone #14-16 (black, brown)
*Hendrickson-type Nymphs: not hatching but in the drift, something brown about a #14, can use a Pheasant Tail or a BMAR Hendrickson
-BMAR Black Winter Stone #18
*Frenchies & Pheasant Tails #14-20: various sizes imitate many different Mayfly nymphs & smaller Stoneflies and are quite effective everywhere- try #14-16 to imitate immature Hendrickson nymphs
 *Caddis Larva (olive to green) #14-16: anytime, especially March/April, lots of these in the river
*Cased Caddis #12-14: abundant and an especially good choice in March/April, 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
-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, 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, 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,especially early & late in the day.
-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)