March 25, 2020 10 min read
Greetings Compleat Anglers! As state-wide closures take effect here in Connecticut, and with many other restrictions coming into effect elsewhere, we want to take a moment to say a huge thank you to all of our loyal customers, both here locally and around the country, for your continued support. The outpouring has been phenomenal and you all are why we are in business in the first place. We love our fly fishing community and this past week was a great example of why. A heartfelt thank you from our whole team.
A quick word on logistics: while we are closed to public foot traffic per Connecticut restrictions we are continuing to fulfill and ship all web orders, and will deliver curbside here at the shop if you are local. So feel free to reach out by web, phone, or email and we'll take care of you. We will also continue to post any updates on our website here.
Ok, now to the actual fishing! Here is the latest word on our local rivers here in Connecticut and New York, and we're starting to get word from elsewhere in the Northeast too. Read on for details...
Steelhead are still very much a viable option right now and the fishing the past few weeks has been quite good for anglers who have been brave enough to go up there. A bunch of very nice Steelhead have been taken in the upper sections of the Salmon River while some fresh fish have been taken down low in the DSR. Just goes to show that there are still plenty of fish in the entire system. Of course they will be pre-spawn at this point so the higher up you go on the river, the higher the concentration of fish. Stoneflies have been taking the majority of the fish but egg style flies will still be productive at times. The DSR is now closed due to the state-wide shutdown. We are also hearing that hotels and tackle shops are closed as well, making fishing up there difficult for those of you who are traveling. At this point, if you have a friend who lives up there to stay with, that is about the only way to get lodging. However, if you can find a place to stay the crowds will be significantly reduced which could make for some great fishing. We also heard that most guiding operations are shut down as well. So, in theory, the Steelhead rivers should have a rare break in angling pressure making a trip up there all the more tantalizing. However, keep the closures in mind and make sure to do a little preparation. Be sure you have a place to stay up there and double check with any hotels or lodges to ensure that they are open and you are adhering to the new travel/business restrictions.
Opening day for trout fishing across New York State is this coming Wednesday, April 1st. While many streams such as the East and West Branch of the Croton will be absolutely mobbed with anglers, there are plenty of streams throughout the state that will have relatively little pressure. We should see a very busy opening day with many people out of work or working from home. So be prepared for that. Consider checking out some new water or intentionally avoiding the more popular areas. Have a plan B, C, and D in case it is complete anarchy at your plan A spot. Also getting there early can make all the difference. If you get to the river at 10am you will most likely be late to the party. Make sure your license is up to date and good luck!
The local streams throughout the state are still fishing quite well and are a great option for you quarantined anglers out there. To clarify, when we say “local streams” we are referring to the smaller heavily stocked Trout Management Areas throughout the state. The Stonefly hatch is still going strong and the fish are reacting accordingly. Some phenomenal dry fly action has been had by almost everybody. When the weather is adequate the hatch has been awesome. We are at the peak of the hatch right now and should see the Stones for another 2 weeks or so. A size 14, 16, and 18 Stonefly dry is where you want to be. Keep an eye on the weather. Warm and sunny days with no wind are when you should plan on fishing. These days will have the strongest hatches and prove the most fruitful on top. Now, keep in mind that many of our good Stonefly rivers have been extremely crowded. And as such, the fish are very educated at this point. So 6x tippet and a perfect presentation are the keys to success. Often skating the fly is critical as well. If you watch the Stones on the water, they skitter and skate across the surface in an effort to dislodge their eggs. Mimicking this behavior can often make all the difference, especially when it comes to educated fish. Also, in Connecticut the season has been opened early allowing anglers to distance themselves and preventing the "opening day zoo." The Trout Management Areas are are still catch and release only so keep that in mind. Without getting into all the specifics essentially, opening day was moved up to this past Wednesday. This allows us to spread out and find areas that are not hard hit or have a large number of anglers in close proximity. This was done in an effort to keep all of us safer as we venture out for some early season fishing. A big thank you to the CT DEEP for great stocking thus far and to the Governor for doing his best to keep the fly fishing community safe!
The Mianus river which is right down 95 from the shop has been the most popular spot for our local customers. And we are hearing it has been something of a zoo recently. This river gets a great Stonefly hatch but the crowds have been substantial. If you are trying to get away from the masses then we recommend another TMA that is less popular. If you are fishing on a day that is colder or cloudy, then nymphing will be the most productive tactic. And since the fish are much smarter than they were 3 weeks ago, we recommend downsizing your nymphs substantially. We completely sold out of black zebra midges in the past few days which should tell you everything you need to know. Size 16, 18, 20 and 22 black midges are the hot fly when it comes to educated and selective trout. When fishing these smaller flies, I always fish them behind another beadhead fly of some variety. The first fly is more of an attractor than anything but I tend to keep it reasonable in terms of what I think the fish will grab. A size 16 or 18 stonefly or caddis is a good option and will allow you to gauge the trout’s level of selectivity. Splitshot above the first fly is never a bad idea as well especially when fishing deeper holes. And make sure you are getting down to the bottom, I cannot stress that enough. Far too often anglers have the right nymphs and simply fish them too shallow. To give you a rough idea, I will often fish my indicator as much as 4 feet above my shot. A good practice is to get those flies ticking along the bottom (evidenced by your indicator bouncing as it drifts along) and then sliding the indicator down 4 to 6 inches. Doing so ensures that you are fishing deep enough. Constantly adjusting your depth, weight, and flies depending on where you are fishing is also equally important. Use smaller flies, less weight, smaller indicators, and fish shallower in sections of stream with less depth or slower water. The opposite holds true in faster runs, deeper holes, and bigger sections of water. These adjustments are equally critical for both smaller stockie streams and larger rivers alike. When indicator nymphing, regardless of the river; you should be doing these things constantly.
It’s been Feast and famine on the Farmington River of late. We have been in touch with a bunch of anglers who have been out there and reports have ranged from “the dreaded goose egg” to “awesome fishing with personal bests and big wild fish.” Anglers who are willing to put in the work sub-surface and fish away from the crowds have often been rewarded with some seriously nice fish. It is no secret that the fishing has been quite good on the Farmington recently for many anglers. The crowds have certainly reflected that, though weekdays are not as bad as the weekends despite state-wide closures. With people still working from home, a safe bet to beat the crowds is go on a weekday. Of course, if you can only go on the weekend have no fear! There is plenty of water to fish and if you stay away from the big and crowded holes you can have a great day, no doubt about it. As is always the case on this river, tight lining will be the most productive method and a wide variety of flies will work this time of year. Stoneflies, worms, mops, midges and mayfly patterns are all taking fish. The reason for this uptick in fish activity is that the temperatures are slowly creeping up with nighttime lows in the mid-thirties and afternoon temperatures getting as high as 43 degrees Fahrenheit. That type of temperature swing is great for trout fishing. Later in the afternoon as those water temps creep up, fish begin feeding actively as their metabolisms speed up. Often a bump of only a few degrees is all it takes to get those fish fired up and feeding. We are seeing an increase of 5 degrees or more which is a great sign and more than enough to kick things up a notch. The caddis hatch has been strong in the morning and the fish are occasionally coming up on them. Small black caddis in a size 18, 20, and 22 are hatching in the morning giving the dry fly anglers a shot at hooking a few fish before they go subsurface. Midges and BWOs will be hatching throughout the day and there is a chance you can get a fish or two on these smaller flies. There are smaller black stones hatching but few fish are targeting these bugs. It could be that the water is too cold and the fish just don’t want to run down an erratic adult stone. Who knows. But for whatever reason this is not a great hatch on the Farmington like it is on other smaller streams elsewhere in the state. That said, the Farmington is a great dry fly river, maybe the best in the entire state.
The Hendricksons, March Browns, and later Sulphurs are just a few of the predominant hatches on this river that offer dry fly anglers some incredible fishing. There are various caddis species that hatch all year as well as numerous midges, stoneflies, and of course BWOS almost constantly. So, if tightlining is not your thing, or nymphing in general for that matter, bide your time. Before you know it, we will have Hendricksons popping followed immediately by March Browns. Above is our friend, fishing buddy and accomplished angler Paul Battipaglia with ANOTHER killer fish from the Farmington this past weekend! He has been putting in the time recently, targeting larger wild fish with spectacular results. This fish was taken Euro-nymphing with a custom pattern he cooked up the other day. He told us that it has been a lot of casting and probing spots but that he has been rewarded with multiple fish over 18 every day that he has been out recently. Nice job Paul! Keep it up buddy.
The Housatonic is high. The CFS is well over 1,000 with the recent precipitation. That leaves the TMA unfishable for trout for the time being. Once the waster subsides one can expect some good fishing. Depending on when exactly the water comes down will dictate what methods will be the most productive for trout. It is safe to assume that it will be nymphing until the good hatches start. Smallmouth fishing has yet to pick up but there is a glimmer of hope. The Pike fishing has been very good. Pogo has been getting out there and doing well with the toothy critters. They have not started spawning just yet so the fishing should hold out for the next
week or so! Big streamers and covering water has yielded some nice fish recently. And some larger ones as well. If you ever wanted to get a Pike on the fly then now is a great time to go!
We are still a bit early for Stripers, no doubt about it. However, there are a few fish being caught right now, as many anglers with time off have gambled on an early run of fish. Now, as far as lights out fishing, this will be far from that but you will most likely have the spot all to yourself and you always have a shot at getting into some nice fish. Timing is everything. The weather can be unpredictable this time of the year so pay close attention to the wind forecast. If it is going to be blowing more than 8 knots then it may be better to stay home and fish for trout. But if the tides line up with a good weather window it may be worth a shot. The water is a bit on the cold side so a slow presentation is advantageous and a sinking line of some sort is a must. You will need to get right down to the fish to have any shot at a hook up. If you take all of these things into account then you may just have a great day early season Striper fishing! Remember that the Connecticut Striped Bass regulations have changed. We advocate for the release of all Striped Bass as the populations are overfished and declining, however if you do decide to take a fish the new Slot Limit is no less that 28 inches and no greater than 34.99 inches. All fish under 28 inches and all fish 35 inches and over must now be released unharmed.
We're just starting to get the first reports out of Massachusetts this spring, though by all accounts the fishing has been solid. Here's a quick word from guide Eric Gass, of GS Outfitters:
"Things have been pretty consistent the last couple weeks, the streamer bite has been decent. Water levels and snowpack are unseasonably low, so some rain will help. Big olive steamers and stonefly nymphs fished in transition water have been working well."