Greetings Compleat Anglers and Happy 2021! We hope you enjoyed a safe and restful break this holiday season. Now that we're a few weeks into 2021 we wanted to give you the latest update on winter fishing conditions in our area. The short version is that local trout fishing has settled into typical winter conditions, where picking your spots and windows carefully is the name of the game. On the Great Lakes Tribs, by contrast, the fishing has held up remarkably well into January with lots of fish throughout most systems. If you can get up there before the temperature drops, it will be well worth it. Read on for the details!
Mild temperatures for the Great Lakes have resulted in some pretty awesome fishing recently. Normally the slowest month up there, January has proven to be as hot as December when it comes to fishing. On the famed Salmon River, we have been hearing 5s and 10s from the vets and ones or twos from the newbies. Water levels are a bit low but by no means too low. At Pineville, the gauge is at 470 CFS and has remained relatively stable. This water level allows access to all of the good spots on the river. It is also high enough to allow those fish to stack in all of the typical holding water that Steelhead love this time of year. Holes like Schoolhouse and the Lower Fly are seeing lots of fish brought to hand. The lower sections are also seeing a reliable number of fresh fish coming into the system daily and as a result, there are no bad options at the moment. For any river on the Great Lakes, the higher up the river you go, the greater numbers of fish you will find. However with the conditions lately there have been lots of fish scattered throughout the rivers. That means you can stack up top with the majority of the other anglers or get away from the crowds and still have some great fishing.
For flies, smaller patterns are often the key to success. Now, that depends on where you are fishing but as a general rule smaller flies tend to be more productive. That is due to the unrelenting angling pressure these fish get throughout the season. Eggs are always a good starting point and will certainly take plenty of fish, however other patterns are very effective this late in the season. Stoneflies, worms and baitfish patterns can often outproduce any egg imitation. Again, these flies should be on the smaller side. If you are fishing a good section of holding water, switch flies often. We have some colder weather on the way and fishing could get a bit more challenging but right now it is hot!
We have settled into typical winter conditions at this point and our smaller stockie streams are no exception. We are seeing educated fish and dwindling crowds. The fishing has been a bit challenging of late with our seasoned vets doing well, while intermediate and beginner anglers finding it a bit harder to hook up. The fish have been hit quite hard over the past few weeks. That is uncharacteristic of the winter season but with so many new anglers entering the sport, all bets are off. As such, increased pressure has resulted in very educated, tricky fish. They are fully cognizant of the fact that anything that looks even mildly suspicious probably means danger, so anglers will need to make adjustments to compensate for that. Smaller flies are critical. Anything over a size 18 is asking a lot. Occasionally a fish may take a larger fly, however the vast majority won’t even look at it. Midges, smaller caddis, and tiny stonefly nymphs are a good starting point. Anything small with minimal flash is best. I like to fish these with an attractor in front to get the fish looking up, however that is not always necessary.
Another good option is small wets. While fishing streamers may be an exercise in futility, wets are quite productive when conditions line up. Swinging these flies through slower sections of water where nymphing can be tough is a great way to get on the board this late in the season. 6 or 7x fluorocarbon is a must for your primary fly. When fishing smaller flies for educated fish, tippet size is a huge part of the equation. 5x to the first fly and 6x to the second fly is the starting point. 6x to the first fly and 7x to the second will often get even more strikes. With the mild temperatures we have had, the fish should be plenty active. The name of the game is trying to get right fly in front of the fish. Switch often doing your best to decipher what the fish are willing to try.
As a reminder, all Trout Management Areas (where the DEEP has stocked) are all catch and release only as of August 31st. It is also Single Hook – Artificial only. The majority of fly anglers are catch and release anyway. However, if you do see any poaching going on, call 800-842-4357 and report it to the CTDEEP. That way the fishing will remain good all Winter. All TMAs will remain catch and release until mid-April of 2021.
The Farmington water temps are dropping and stereotypical winter behavior has taken hold of the trout. The fish are beginning to congregate in wintering holes and move well away from the faster sections of water. While on a warmer day we could see an uptick in fish activity, the best option at this point is to deploy winter tactics for these fish. Small flies, long drifts, and target holding water. Downstream of the permanent C&R section will have the warmer water so the fish should be more active there. However, a minimal change in trout activity is about all you can hope for. We are seeing one or two degrees in temperature change this time of year and while that is not much, it can make all the difference. The bite window will be mid-day when the temperature is the warmest. You may get a fish or two in the morning or evening but most of the action will be at peak water temperature. Keep that in mind. Midges, small caddis, and small stonefly nymphs will be the most productive. While the fishing will certainly be a grind, the river will be far less crowded. Sure, there will be anglers out there, but not many, and that’s a dramatic departure from the absolute madhouse this river has been this year. If crowds aren’t your thing but tailwaters are, then the Farmington is a great option right now. And there are plenty of fish to catch if you spend the time to figure the fish out. One thing to keep in mind: 6 or 7x Fluorocarbon is compulsory at this point. With the size of the flies you should be throwing, even 6x can be a bit on the heavy side. The fish are more lethargic with the water temperature in the mid-thirties and you should have no problem getting the bigger fish to hand with 7x. 7 also will lead to more hookups. There is really no reason not to use it. From here on there will be very little in the way of changes on the Farmington report. If there are any dramatic changes to conditions or anything like that, we will be sure to pass along the relevant information. Water levels look great. So, if you are thinking about giving it a shot, wait for a mild day and go for it.
Keep in mind: As of September 1st, almost the entirety of the West Branch of the Farmington River is now all catch and release. From the Goodwin Dam, 21 miles down to the Route 177 bridge is all catch and release only from now until the second Saturday in April. Please report any poaching to the DEEP by calling 800-842-4357.
The water levels on the Housey are finally down and looking good. While we do have some rain forecasted for Saturday, hopefully it does not jack the water up too much. Just keep an eye on it. The fishing has been similar to the Farmington. Maybe a touch better as far as numbers go. It is a bit warmer water and as such the fish are a tad more active. While it will certainly be a grind for hookups (as it will be anywhere) there are definitely fish to be had. Focusing on the right areas and fishing them effectively is the name of the game. While that is always the case in fly fishing, it is much more important in the winter months. During prime months, there are fish dispersed all over the river, so anglers who are less proficient at reading water or don’t understand where fish are (and why) can get lucky by just covering water. That is not the case during the winter. The fish are concentrated in holding water. These “softer” sections of deep, walking pace water, are key to success. Locate these pools and you have a shot of hooking up. After that, it’s all about presentation and fly selection. Small flies and long drifts is the best approach. A reasonable attractor pattern in front of a midge-type primary fly will most likely work best. Flies with little-to-no flash have been the top producers for me over the years. While bright-ish flies have their place at times, drab and natural patterns have always been my go-to in the Winter months. A fly that stands out a bit but that is not too flashy or bright is what I have had a lot of success with over the years. The fish will be the most active during the midday temperature peak. From 12 to 2 will more than likely be the bite window and it is best to be in the sweet spot during these 2 hours. That is when the majority of the activity will take place and your odds of hooking up are the highest. Keep an eye on those water levels and as long as the Housatonic does not blow out, the fishing should be pretty good for the next month.