Greetings Compleat Anglers! We're in for a chilly weekend so we expect to see only the most intrepid winter anglers out there braving the elements. That said, on balance it's been a surprisingly busy winter on many of our streams, with more anglers than usual out there targeting those winter weather windows. It does require a change in tactics, sure, but is still a nice option if you want to scratch the angling itch. Here's the latest on what winter angler's can expect.
The Great Lakes Tribs will be slammed with a cold front this weekend dropping the temps substantially. I would say this weekend is not the weekend you want to head up there. The River will slush up and trying to get a good drift will be very difficult. Not to mention that with a mid-day high of 12 degrees keeping your gear ice-free will become your full-time job. I would recommend waiting a week or so. Later in the week the air temps will warm up and it should be much better fishing as the water warms up with it. The water is 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 higher the number of fish you will find. But with the recent conditions, there have been lots of fish scattered throughout the entirety of these 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 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 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.
Remember that as of 1/1/2021 you will need to renew your fishing license for the state of Connecticut regardless of when it was purchased last year. If you plan on targeting trout in any capacity you will need to add the Trout Stamp as well. These license sales go directly to enforcement, trout stocking, and resource management, and are vital for maintaining our angling opportunities across the state. With many new fly anglers joining our ranks over the past year, it’s more important than ever to make sure that we support this effort and also get up to speed on the latest 2021 regulations regarding catch and release, open water, closed rivers or sections, and gear restrictions. The Connecticut DEEP has the latest regulations listed on their website at https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Fishing/Regulations/Fisheries-Regulations, so take a moment to familiarize yourself with the rules of the road for the new year. Here at the shop, we are predicting record crowds on all of our trout streams this Spring so being informed and helping police these rivers we love is more important than ever. If you do see any poaching, illegal fishing methods, fishing on closed water, or suspicious activity call the DEEP Hotline at 1-800-842-4357 and report it to the CTDEEP. It’s a 2-minute phone call that can make all the difference. If we all do our part to ensure these resources are being utilized respectfully and legally, we will have great fishing all year long. Please take the time to educate yourself, obey the laws, respect other anglers, and handle our fish with care.
I am still shocked at how many anglers we have hitting our local streams. It is great to see such enthusiastic winter anglers. While it has made fishing much more challenging this year, it is nice to see folks out there who appreciate the differences that winter has to offer for trout fly fishing. With an abnormally high amount of angling pressure, you’ll need to make adjustments to compensate for the crowds. 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, though 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 big 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 get more strikes. With dropping temperatures, expect fish activity to be at a minimum. The name of the game is trying to get the right fly in front of the fish. Switch often doing your best to decipher what the fish are willing to take.
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.
Not much of a positive change to the Farmington River report. Colder temps have taken hold of the Northeast and the Farmy is no exception. One of the gauges we use for CFS data has frozen up and is no longer providing accurate information. The Riverton gauge seems to be ok. Reports have been slim as well. On Wednesday, there was a bit of a flurry of activity. We spoke with one angler who did very well with big Browns brought to hand but he was the exception. A few other brazen anglers have been giving it a shot this past week but reporting very slow fishing. Ones and twos are what we are hearing. Some are doing a bit better but not by much. This weekend looks really nasty. While it will be clear and sunny, overnight temperatures will be in the low single digits with mid-day highs of 17 or 26. If you do need to scratch that itch, 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. 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, a dramatic departure from the absolute madhouse this river has been this year. Popular holes like Greenwoods, Legends, Church, Halfords or the Boneyard will be a realistic possibility for you to get when the weather is like this. These are big fish holes and seldom easy to get other times of the year. So, if you have been looking at trying to get into these places, now is a great time. 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 mandatory at this point, and 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 which will also 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 are looking just right. As always with the Housatonic, keep an eye on the water levels but things look great right now. 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. However, with the cold snap we are currently experiencing it is safe to assume the fishing will be tough this weekend. 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 and 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 when 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 provide the best approach. A reasonable attractor pattern in front of a midge-type primary fly is a good setup. Flies with little-to-no flash have been my top producers 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 on over the years. Keep that in mind. The fish will be most active during the midday temperature peak. From 12 to 2 will 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.