Greetings Compleat Anglers! Cold winter weather is here and the recent storm has had most anglers holed up indoors tying flies and staying busy with other activities. Of course while the fishing will be more challenging for those who do venture out, there are few things prettier than seeing your favorite stream in winter wonderland form. Just make sure to dress appropriately, enjoy the scenery, and if you manage to interest a fish along the way, so much the better! If you are thinking of venturing out, here is the latest word on conditions.
Not much to report on the Great Lakes. They have been getting a ton of snow and cold temperatures up there right now so waiting until warmer weather would probably not be the worst idea. 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 present. For any river on the Great Lakes, the higher up the river you go, the more fish you will find. But with the conditions lately, there have been lots of fish scattered throughout the entirety of these rivers. That means you can head 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 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 so you might want to make the most of it right now!
Not much to report for any fisheries this week, local streams included. The storm kept everyone off the water and with colder temperatures water temps will have fallen significantly. As such, it may be worth taking a bit of a break. However, if you do decide to venture out, smaller flies are critical. Anything over a size 18 is asking a lot. Occasionally a fish may take a larger fly, though 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 get more strikes. With the 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 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 water temperature has plummeted to a low of 32 degrees on the Farmington. With the storm we had this week, few anglers were out there but it is safe to assume that the fish will be shut down with the falling water temps. 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 as most are opting to stay home and tie flies. If you do need to scratch that itch, use small flies, long drifts and target holding water. Downstream of the permanent C&R section will have warmer water so the fish should be more active there though 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 typically 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 past year. Popular holes like Greenwoods, Legends, Church, Halfords or the Boneyard will be a realistic possibility for you to get on when the weather is like this. These are big fish holes and seldom easy to get on 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 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 so there is really no reason not to use it. From here on there will be very little in the way of changes to 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.
On the Housatonic, 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 drop in temperature we are experiencing, it is safe to assume the fishing will be tough this weekend and into next week. In addition, we are expected to get even colder temperatures next week which does not bode well. If you do decide to get out there and roll the dice, 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. 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 are the best approach. A reasonable attractor pattern in front of a midge-type primary fly will most likely be your best bet. 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. Keep that in mind. 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.