We are cruising right through March and with the unfortunate state of the country at the moment, there has been a glimmer of hope for the fly fishing community. As “social distancing” becomes more prevalent, companies going on leave, schools closing, sports cancelled, and travel restricted, many anglers have surmised that one of the safest places to be is on the water. Coronavirus is not something to be taken lightly and we hope that all of our readers are taking the necessary steps to keep themselves, their loved ones, and the people around them safe. Yet, despite the chaotic nature of all of this, many of us now have more time to get out on the water, and at a great time of year no less. As such, we are getting a lot of reports of great fishing throughout the Northeast. So stay safe, and read on for details...
We have seen an uptick in anglers fishing rivers and streams throughout the state. While this is typically a slower month in our state, this year March has been busy! Lots of anglers have been hitting numerous streams, catching lots of fish, and having a blast. Quite serendipitously, a mild, late winter allowed the state to stock many of Connecticut’s Trout Management Areas perfectly coinciding with the Coronavirus precautions. The Stonefly hatch is in full swing and the dry fly fishing is about as good as it gets right now. This past weekend was a bit cold which snuffed the bugs a bit but things rebounded well this week with temps in the 50’s. This weekend looks great down toward the coast with temperatures cooling off farther inland. We also got some much-needed precipitation this week and things are shaping up nicely as far as river conditions are concerned. The smaller streams will warm up a bit faster than the larger ones which equates to more active fish and stronger hatches so keep that in mind. We always recommend hitting the stockie streams first not only because the fishing is great, but also because once opening day rolls around, most of the fish are taken out and the streams are devoid of trout until the next stocking. After opening day is when the locals spread out elsewhere. Something to consider. The Stoneflies have been taking center stage and are certainly the draw for most anglers. But if you are new to the sport or prefer other styles of fishing then nyphing will be productive as well. Any small nymph that roughly resembles a Stonefly is a good starting point, though where you are fishing can significantly dictate the style and size of the fly you will throw. If you are fortunate enough to have a fishery that is not hit that hard then a wide variety of flies and sizes will work. On the other hand, if pressure is significant then fly selection is everything. The fish have been in the river for quite some time at this point and if you are fishing pressured water it is time to downsize your nymph. Black zebra midges are a good starting point. Size 18 and smaller fished on 6x or 7x is critical. Fishing a tiny fly on 5x won’t cut the mustard.
The Farmington has been slow outside of the stocking sections however many of the fish caught have been quality. This time of year, things are slower on the Farmington than elsewhere in the state. The water is colder and the fish are simply more lethargic. That said, if you are willing to put in the time and work hard, you can catch some of the largest fish of the year. Things are warming up a bit with afternoon water temps around 40 depending on the day. Morning water temps are in the mid 30’s. The farther down on the West you go the warmer it will be and for that reason many anglers in the know are headed well below the permanent catch and release area. This is where you will have a good shot at a fish over 20”. The stonefly hatch is strong but the fish are rarely coming up for them so your best shot will be nymphing. A wide variety of flies will work depending on what style of nymphing you plan on doing though smaller stones, midges, caddis, and smaller mayfly nymphs are all on the menu. Switch flies frequently to hone in on what the fish are looking for that particular day. Later in the afternoon will be when the water is warmest and when the fish are most active. We recommend being in your intended spot around 12 or 1pm to capitalize on the late afternoon warmer water. We do have Hendricksons on the way so it may not be a bad idea to drown a Hendy nymph. With the recent rain a streamer would not be bad idea either as higher water tends to lend itself well to streamer fishing, but this will be a low percentage tactic. If you had choose one, nymphing will be the most productive.
The Photo above is our long time customer and friend Paul Battipaglia with a gorgeous 22” Brown from this past week. This fish was taken nyphing. This fish just goes to show what accomplished anglers can do during the “marginal” times of the year. Great fish buddy!
The Housey is high and trout fishing is a real long shot. I was on the water Sunday and even at 1,200 CFS it would have been a bit treacherous to wade. There are a few places you could get in and fish but it would have been an exercise in futility. Until that water drops it would be best to fish elsewhere if trout is your intended target. A few Smallies have been taken on the upper reaches but the water is still a bit cold making these fish fairly sluggish. In the afternoon as things warm up you could see an uptick in activity. We are a ways away from the good spring bite. The Pike fishing, however, has remained good! You will need to cover water and do a lot of casting but if you put the time in, you could be rewarded with nice sized fish. They are certainly actively feeding and with the right fly, you could have a great day. The Pike are on the cusp of spawning which means that any day now the fishing will shut down. So keep that mind. Pike fishing for the next week or so will be your best bet if you want to hit the Housey and it should stay that way until the spawn occurs.
Above is one of the Pike Eli Vock of Ryze Fishing caught with friend Pogo Pike this past Sunday. The fish were active and feeding to say the least. I was fortunate enough to tag along and get my first Pike on the fly which was one of the coolest fly fishing experiences I have ever had. If you are thinking about targeting these fish I highly recommend fishing with Pogo. He is an incredible guide and one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. He has intimate knowledge of this fishery, a fun and enthusiastic demeanor, and is a blast to fish with. If you want to catch a Northern on the fly, this is your guy.
As we reported last week, most of the streams throughout the state are still closed. However, the Steelhead streams are open and fishing well! The water has been high but those anglers brave enough to get out there have been hooking fish. A wide variety of techniques have been working of late, with nymphing and swinging both accounting for their fair share of fish. Steelhead are approaching pre-spawn and we will see an uptick of activity as the fish get the last feed in before spawning sometime in April. Those anglers who are doing well are covering water in the lower sections of the river and also switching flies quite frequently. The bite will come in waves and one hour may be fruitless while the next can yield multiple hook ups. Many of you may be surprised to learn that “fresh” fish will continue to enter the river right up until the spawn begins so it is still entirely possible to hook into chrome metalheads. The majority of the fish will be colored up stream residents that have been in the system all winter. They are holding in deeper, slower sections of river and can often be quite selective. Remember that these fish have been hammered all winter long. Many of the fish have been hooked multiple times so natural patterns and unique flies are often the key to success. Natural stones, small white or cream-colored eggs, and even small baitfish patterns are quite effective this time of the year, a dramatic departure from the big and flashy flies often used early (and yet, those big flashy flies can work as well so do not discount them entirely). Mid-day has been on the slower side with the afternoon providing the most action and a few hook ups in the morning. If you are thinking about heading up to the Great Lakes now is a great time to fish.
The photo above is from friend, customer, and avid angler Lane Finley with a Great Lakes Steelhead taken this past weekend when the water was over 2,000 CFS! Just goes to show you if you are persistent and adapt to the conditions, fishing can be great this time of the year.
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