February 05, 2020 7 min read
Greetings Compleat Anglers! We may not be in the heart of fishing season but that doesn't mean that we don't try to get out on the water occaisionally when the weather is nice. Winter fishing isn't for everyone, but when the weather cooperates - and it's been a pretty mild winter thus far - hitting one of your favorite rivers for a few hours can be a great way to stave off cabin fever. Read on for the latest from a few rivers that we've either fished, or received decent reports from, over the last few weeks.
Our local streams have been fishing quite well for those anglers who have ventured out recently. A good Fall stocking by the DEEP, coupled with a very mild winter, has kept the recent additions to the streams happy and feeding. We have been speaking to a handful of anglers that have been fishing on a regular basis and reports are good. Depending on the day, numbers are anywhere from a fish or two, to as much as 10 to 15. It seems that ambient air temperature and precipitation are the critical factors that determine the level of trout activity. No surprise there. Warm and cloudy days are seeing the best fishing while the colder, sunny days keep the fish very finicky. We have also seen these fish being quite selective. Size 12 nymphs are not going to get the job done. A very small midge is where you want to be this time of the year. A size 20 or 22 black midge nymph is about as good as it gets. A larger attractor pattern fished in front of the midge will yield results provided it is fished correctly. A good drift with adequate depth is critical. Small wet flies have also been productive especially when fished low and slow. All of these flies should be fished on nothing heavier than 6x and 7x is ideal and even 8x when the situation calls for it. The trout will be hunkered down in areas with good depth and moderate to slow current. Once you find them, rest assured they will be very reluctant to leave these areas meaning you can count on fishing those same holes for the next month or so with good odds of success. Small eggs flies have been quite productive as well even in our smaller stockie streams where natural reproduction of salmonids is virtually non-existent. We recommend having a handful of options in terms of flies. More often than not, getting hook-ups relies more on fishing a fly that the fish have not seen than say locating fish or “matching the hatch.” With that being said, a small stonefly nymph is one of the more prolific aquatic insects at the moment. On warm days, these little stones will begin to crawl up onto the rocks and hatch. As they make their way to the banks, they are often knocked off and washed down to the waiting trout below. So give a small size 16, 18, or 20 stonefly nymph a shot if you are seeing little stones on the rocks around you. Midges and tiny BWOs have been hatching as well and fish are coming up for them (albeit sporadically). Size 22, 24, or 26 midge dries will take fish when they are hatching but be prepared to work for them. Equally, a midge emerger can entice a bite when fished just under the surface. 8x is a must when fishing these flies. We have about a month or more before fishing really gets hot again. However, this time of year offers good fishing with far fewer anglers on the water which is always a nice treat. If you really focus on fly selection, remain observant to the bugs around you, and work at it, there is a high probability of success. If you do plan on fishing in the coming weeks keep in mind that all Trout Management Areas are Catch and Release only. A few of our streams across the state received what I would call a bonus stocking this past week. The weather has been such that the DEEP decided to sprinkle fish throughout some of our rivers and the fishing has been great as a result. The rivers that got fish can be found on the stocking reports page. If you do come across one of these streams, you can bet that almost anything will work. Smaller streamers will be your best bet. A 6, 8, 10 Wooly Bugger is as good as anything. Color won’t matter for at least a week. About ten rivers got fish, a few with multiple stockings in a few locations so get out there!
The Farmington remains as consistent as expected for a winter fishery. Expect to work for fish. The water temperature is hovering around 34 degrees and because the river is a tailwater, expect the water to only bump a degree or two during the warmer days. However, this one or two-degree bump is often all it takes to get those fish to actively feed. So if you are thinking about driving up it is best to fish in the afternoon on the warmer days. If you can get a cloudy day, even better. A warmer night is often advantageous as well. Most anglers tend to focus on the daytime high temperature (which is important) but the nighttime high is equally as important. If we have a mild or significantly warmer night, the bite will begin earlier and can often be much better especially if that coincides with a warm and cloudy day. So keep an eye on both temperatures. Nymphing remains the most effective method for putting fish in the net. No surprise there. A wide variety of flies will work up there right now, depending on the method of nymphing you decide to deploy. Euro-style tightlining will offer you more options in terms of flies because the presentation is so good. Squirmys, mops, stones, and other junk flies have still been taking fish on tight line rigs. Eggs have been accounting for a fair number of fish as well. A small Frenchie and midge with a junk fly is a good combination this time of year. For the indicator anglers, fly selection is a bit more important. It is best to focus on a variety of midges as the primary fly. Any decent midge pattern fished behind an attractor will often yield the best results. A good attractor is a size 16 stonefly or caddis. I have often used a size 16 or 18 midge/caddis as an attractor with good results. With indicators, a nice long drift will often out produce those shorter spring-style drifts. Make sure you are getting down deep as well. More split shot is better than too little. And expect subtle takes. Set on everything. As far as dries go, on the warmer days expect to see midges 20-26, maybe some BWOs 20-26 and Summer/Winter Caddis 18-24. There could also be some smaller stones popping as well in a size 18-22. Depending on the day, it would be wise to have a variety of all these patterns. If you see fish coming up, especially when they first start doing so, try swinging a little wet through that area. Size 18 to 22 wets will often take fish as they begin to rise. These wets will imitate the emerging insects and if you have the right size and color, they can be very effective. Winter on the Farmington sees fewer anglers giving you the opportunity to cover water, check out new spots, and fish unencumbered. This is a great time to do some scouting for the coming Spring and early Summer. Big fish are still being caught by anglers who put the time in so it is definitely worth it.
We have not heard much from the Housatonic. Most anglers are opting for the Farmington over the Housey at this point. That is not to say that the Housatonic will not fish well. Odds are, the fishing would be just as good as anywhere else. The Housey is a bit harder to tight line but that method would certainly yield results. The water is coming down making it a viable wading option. Junk flies on Euro rigs should provide action later in the day. Midges and stones on indicators will also be productive. With both of these methods, make sure you are getting down nice and deep. Err on the side of caution and use heavier anchor flies or a decent amount of shot. The hatches will be the same as the Farmington. Midges, Summer/Winter Caddis, maybe a few BWOs and early stoneflies when the weather is warm enough. One thing is for certain, there will be few, if any anglers on the water. This makes it a nice option if you are looking to check out some new spots, test fish a few holes, and do some reconnaissance for the spring. And you never know, you could hit it just right and have a great day on the water.
The New York tailwaters that are open have been fishing very well of late. Sure, it’s not a numbers game, but what you will find is quality fish. Our anglers have been catching some really nice fish. Browns over 20” are a real possibility if you know where to fish and what to use. Tigh-lining remains the preferred method, with a combination of squirmys, mops, frenchies, stones, and midges. Regardless of where in the state you decide to fish, a combination of these flies will yield at least a fish or two. It is a bit early for dries but in the next month or so, we should see an uptick in caddis, BWOs, and stoneflies. Streamers will become more productive as it warms up so be ready for the spring transition and Reservoir turnover.
The Great Lakes Tributaries are still fishing very well. Many anglers have gotten their Steelhead fix and the crowds have dwindled quite a bit. The Browns have retreated back into the lake and it’s all about the metal heads at this point. On the Salmon River or any other tribs in the area, the further up you fish the better. These fish are up high in the rivers staging for the Spring spawn. Walking paced water that has some depth to is where you should focus the majority of your attention. Get down deep with your flies and cover as much water as possible. Long drifts are key. A switch rod with a deep bellied line that can throw big mends is advantageous. This will allow you to get out into the meat of the run and effectively drift the whole line. Use shot where allowed to get down deep enough. Also, be prepared to lose a few flies. If you’re not snagging bottom every once in a while, you're probably not deep enough. Egg patterns will still take fish but do not underestimate stoneflies, brightly colored nymphs, and even a small drifted baitfish pattern. Many of the salmon eggs have been eaten already. As a result, the fish will be looking for any other available food source and Stones have been particularly effective.