Friday, February 23, 2024

Friday 2/23/24 Farmington River Report: Still very nice conditions

Store Hours: 8am-5pm, 7 days a week. 

Don't forget to have a 2024 CT Fishing license plus a $5 Trout/Salmon Stamp if you are planning to fish the Farmington River. All 2023 CT fishing licenses expired after December 31st.

Stop by for some bargains! Select T&T Zone rods are 40% off2023 Thomas & Thomas Avantt rods all 40% offHardy Ultralites (not the LL’s) also 40% off

We purchased purchased several huge collections of quality fly tying materials in 2023. Stop by and check it all 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. As we sell through these materials, we keep putting more out. 

UpCountry also purchased a large collection of Used graphite, bamboo & fiberglass fly rods, used fly reels & classic fly reels in 2023. 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. 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 and frequent flyer at UpCountry Alexis with a big colorful FRAA holdover rainbow, part of the batch they stocked in early June of 2023. Quite a few have showed up in angler catches over this winter, good to see them being released & holding over. Next down is Fulling Mill USA president Nick Yardley with his first fish of 2024 while fishing with myself & Joey this past Wednesday, a flawless wild brown trout. He lives in VT where it's a lot colder and doesn’t normally get to trout fish until about April, so he was psyched to get a head start to the season and be on the boards already. Water temps cracked 40 degrees on that afternoon.

Currently the Riverton USGS gauge is reading 204cfs at the Rt 20 bridge, and the Still River is adding in 151cfs below this, giving us a total flow in the Permanent TMA/Catch & Release of 355cfs. I’d call this a medium flow and a great water level for all angling methods. Water temp this morning in Riverton was is 37.5 degrees, it reached about 39 degrees Sunday afternoon in Riverton. Downstream from the Still River in the mid to lower river the Farmington River has been averaging mid 30’s to low 40’s, depending upon distance from dam, time of day, and weather. Cold snaps will drop water temps, but if you have sunny & mild weather it can be a warming influence on water temps in the afternoons. Sunny days will see the biggest water temperature increases (especially after a milder night), with peak water temps in the mid to late afternoons.

Because the MDC has been defaulting to a very frustrating minimum legal flow regime since early 2022 (50cfs–150cfs, plus any water released from Otis Reservoir in MA), that paradigm has kept the reservoirs full (except during droughts), and anytime we get substantial rain they have to dump big water for a few days to a week. Historically they did a good job managing the water and had the reservoirs low by September, and this gave them some ability to buffer heavier hurricane rainfalls & snowmelt, but they stopped doing this in 2022. 

New Hardy Marksman rods recently arrived for 2024, 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 2/23/24 Report:
After running our inventory down last year due to to very rough water conditions in the summer & fall of 2023, we have been doing some serious restocking in February and have filled some holes recently, with lots more stuff arriving weekly. Filled in with Fulling Mill on tungsten beads, their excellent barbless hooksfly boxes, CDC & stripped peacock quills. We now have a good selection of  fly lines from Scientific Anglers, Rio & Airflo, and Airlock strike indicators are back in stock. 

HUGE fly tying material orders (and some fly boxes) from both Wapsi & Hareline recently arrived, and both are up on the walls now. We also received a BIG Simms preseason order, which includes the new heavy duty brand new Simms Confluence Wader. I’m working on a Nature’s Spirit order (things like Hanak & Daiichi hooks, and tying materials from Hends, Sybai, FNF, highest quality deer & elk hair, dubbings, and lots of natural materials). You will see the holes on the walls getting filled weekly, along with some cool new products in the mix. 

put literally hundreds of hooks on sale at about 40% off- it’s a mix of overstocked hooks, ones we are no longer going to carry, and discontinued models. This includes overstocked & discontinued hooks from Hanak (lots of different models & sizes), Fasna (we have to drop them because our supplier dropped them), Tiemco/TMCAhrex, and Gamakatsu. FYI these sale hooks are for walk-in customers only, so we will not be taking phone orders for them. We got in a big Rezetti vise order, more Regal vises, and we are well stocked with the brand new 2024 Hardy fresh & saltwater fly rods. 

Rich Strolis dropped off a batch of his famous Infant Stones, #14’s in black and in brown. They imitatate the Early Black & Early Brown Stoneflies, both of which are active subsurface currently. Each color has moments they work better, and the brown ones double to imitate a Hendrickson nymph. 

Once again the weekend is at hand, with Sunday looking like the nicer day (40 degrees, sunny, very little wind). Water conditions remain excellent, with a total flow in the permanent TMA/C&R in the mid 300cfs range, and Riverton is about 200cfs (above the Still River). Remember it’s still winter, so that usually means you will work hard for every single bite. Sometimes you will get lucky and stumble upon a bite window and a pod of trout. You are also fishing for 100% holdover & wild trout, no recent dumb stockers as yet (soon though). The keys to success are good water reading skills, patience, slow & repeated thorough presentations, and changing fly patterns until you find what the trout want. Bites in cold water (30’s to maybe low 40’s) are typically quite light & gentle, so set the hook on anything. “Hook sets are free!”. The best nymphers set their hooks the most, even when they aren't sure if it's a trout. Nymphs, streamers, and dries are all possibilities, with the edge lately going to nymphing- no surprise there. 

It’s still typical winter tactics with it being a quality over quantity situation. The holdover & wild fish you will catch in the next month or two will typically average the biggest of the year. As you’ve seen from the pictures posted, some browns in 18-22” range are getting landed every day by persistent anglers, with an occasional big holdover FRAA rainbow. Sometimes it’s on imitative nymphs/larva, sometimes Junk Flies, sometimes dry flies, and sometimes on streamers fished slow & deep.

The state just started stocking trout streams this week (2/22) along with some lakes, and once they stock the Farmington River, the fishing will get a lot easier. We won't know if they are going to stock here until after they do it, they don't announce it in advance. Should be any day now. Not only will the fresh stockers be easier to catch, but the competition with the holdover & wild trout usually gets them feeding more aggressively too. 

Be flexible in your approach. If you can, fish from mid morning to late afternoon, and at some point during the day you should catch a bite window where the trout decide to feed for 1-3 hours. It’s important to be very patient in the winter, more so than the spring through fall season. You need to cover the water thoroughly, and be in the right water when the fish finally decide to feed. It can redeem what was a slow outing. If you are pretty sure you are over fish when nymphing, change flies until you figure out the trout’s preference. Fish pod up in the winter- where you catch one there could be a lot more, so make sure to fish surrounding area thoroughly. In cold water trout won’t move as far to eat, so it’s important to identify the holding water, and then saturation bomb it with plenty of casts to ensure you get at least one good drift very close to a trout’s mouth. In the winter, it’s often literally a game of inches.

There has been some limited dry fly activity, both in the mornings to Winter/Summer Caddis, and in the afternoons to small Midges. There have even been some of the Early Black Stonefly adults spotted recently, usually we don’t see them until March, but I guess the mild weather has them going early. February Stonefly activity is usually the Tiny/Micro Winter Black Stones #18-24. Underwater, all three varieties of Stoneflies are active & in the drift.

Nymphing has generally been more consistent than streamer fishing over the past few weeks. I’d pair up something in the #12-16 range that could be imitative of an Early Stonefly (black, brown), immature Golden Stone, or a smaller Hendrickson nymph (something Mayfly shaped & brown), with a slim #18-22 fly in a darker color that could imitate things like Tiny Black Winter Stoneflies or Midges. The tiny Stones (#18-24) are starting to mix in with the Midges in the afternoons, and the Early Stones (both black & brown #14 or so) are active subsurface. Early to mid morning Winter Caddis hatch aside, the bug activity is confined to the afternoons when water temps rise a little. 

Better streamers colors lately are tan, olive, and white- fish them slow & deep for best results. Winter nymphs typically include Junk Flies (especially Eggs & Mops), Midges #18-22 in black/red/olive (Zebra Midge, etc.), Winter Caddis Larva #18, and small Mayfly Nymphs #16-20 such as Pheasant Tails & BWO’s (Blue Winged Olive). Also Olive/Green Caddis Larva #14-16, Cased Caddis #10-16, Walt’s Worms/Sexy Waltz #10-18, Attractor & Hot-Spot Nymphs #14-18 (Triple Threats, Frenchies, Perdigons, etc.). Nymphs with metallic pink beads can be above average producers in the winter.

The best time to be out in the Winter is typically late morning through dusk (early to mid morning Winter Caddis hatch excepted), but some days lately it’s been better from 9am-1pm. Afternoons are when it’s the most comfortable, water temps are rising and/or at their highest, bugs are most likely to be active, and the time of day when trout are most apt to do a little feeding. Trout don’t normally feed heavily in the Winter- cold temps slow down their metabolism a lot so they don’t need to eat much, plus there are minimal hatches and food is much less available.

Nymphs can be either fished under an Indicator (best for slower water, fishing farther away, and on windy days), or tight-line/Euro style (better on riffle drop-offs and up close where you have at least some current). Trout are holding in Winter water now, which means slower & deeper water. They may move up into moderate riffles to feed in the afternoons. They will often pod up in cold water, so if you find one, thoroughly fish that area as there are likely a bunch more nearby. Refuge from the current & predators supersedes access to food in the Winter, as their metabolism is slower. This means they don’t have to eat very much, plus there is way less food available & not a lot hatching. However, under normal flows, trout will sometimes rise to the morning Winter Caddis & afternoon Midges. 

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 and combine that with some patience, 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 and/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. 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. 


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 are the main afternoon hatch, with Winter/Summer Caddis in the mornings. The Tiny/Micro Black Winter Stones have started up (afternoons), and we are beginning to see Early Black Stones too- usually they don’t start up until about March***

-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

-Tiny Black Winter Stoneflies #18-24: afternoons

-Early Black Stoneflies #14-16: afternoons, just starting (early this year)

-Early Brown Stoneflies #14-16: afternoons, a few


-Strolis Infant Stones #14 (black, brown): tied by the man himself, this popular pattern imitates the Early Brown & Early Black Stoneflies, with the brown version also passing for a Hendrickson nymph. These always sell out fast. 

-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. Good also when nothing seems to be working. 

-Egg Flies #12-18: the brown trout spawn has been done for a while, but egg flies will continue to produce right through the Winter/early Spring. Try shades of yellow, pink, orange. There will also be spawning Rainbows in February/March, and Suckers in April. Plus fresh stocked trout in the Spring will hammer an egg fly until they get dialed into natural nymphs, larva & pupa. 

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

-Winter Caddis Larva #18: suprisingly the larva are yellow, not brown. Can also imitate Black Caddis Larva (also yellow) & Yellow Midge Larva (common color). 

-Blue Winged Olives (BWO) Nymphs #18-22, assorted patterns, all year long

-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, and in assorted colors like 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. High fishing pressure usually means you want to fish drabber & smaller flies that are more natural looking. Black beadheads can be good on trout that have seen too many gold, copper & silver beads.

-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 especially 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. They also Behavioral Drift in the daytime, unlike most bugs that do it in low light or even in the dark.

-Jigged Streamers #8-12: various colors/patterns- dead-drift, twitch, swing & strip, best on a Euro rod & leader, but can also be drifted under an indicator. Excellent choice to fish in the Winter. Tan, olive, and white have been the best lately.

-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


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. Hot colors in 2024 have been white, tan, and olive.

-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 tradtional featherwing & bucktail streamers work better than bulky modern patterns, maybe due to their mostly slimmer profiles & drabber designs. Or maybe it’s because not many people fish them anymore, who knows. Especially in low/clear water with sunshine, these sparser/drabber flies can be just the ticket. Use split shot, sinking leaders, or sink-tip/sinking fly lines to get these flies down (unless you are fishing shallow water).
Try: Black Nosed Dace, Muddler Minnow, Marabou Muddler (especially white!), Grey Ghost, Black Ghost, Baby Brown Trout, Mickey Finn, Hornberg, etc.