Farmington River Report 7/26/22: Low, cold, getting going at dusk

I guided Matt and his son John yesterday afternoon from 3:15-7:15. We started off nymphing in the PTMA. Water was 115cfs, a tad low for my liking, but plenty cold! Matt went tight line and John fished under an indicator, both drop shot. The fish, however, weren’t very cooperative, so we moved to another mark. Here we found some smaller fish, smutting. Whatever they were eating, we failed to duplicate the process. We held council and decided to try our luck at the evening rise.

The mark I wanted to fish was on lockdown, so we headed to Plan B Spot which we had to ourselves. The pool was dead as Julius Caesar, but summer evenings on the Farmington being what they are, I knew it wouldn’t be long before the natives got restless. To make a long story short: we had a modest hatch. Midges, sulphurs, caddis, but mostly attenuata. Attenuata can be a very frustrating hatch to fish — the rise-to-hook-stick ratio can be maddening — but we kept at it and had a blast fooling trout. I stuck around after the session and fished until dark. I rose a good two dozen trout, but had only one partial hookset. (Sigh.) The spinner fall was not that great, and we called at dark.

We like tight lines. So, like father…
…like son. We a treat to be able to guide two enthusiastic anglers. We got to cover nymphing and dry fly basics, plus a little bit of wet fly for good measure. Excellent job, Matt and John, in some very technically difficult conditions. Dry fly tip of the week: longer leaders make for better drifts. Think a minimum of 13 feet, and you don’t need to go below 6x.

Up…down…what’s with these Farmington River flows?

It’s a fair question, and unless you’re in the know (and sometimes even if you are) it can be confusing. The current situation is that the bottom release flow was increased over the weekend…and now it’s back down. Here’s a good explanation from our friends at UpCountry: “The MDC just emailed us, the CT DEEP is providing another 25cfs from their bank of water, which means the dam release went up by another 25cfs (they were already adding an additional 25cfs to the minimum flow that MDC has been running this Summer, so now they are adding a total of 50cfs). They were releasing 96cfs (was reading 113cfs at the USGS gauge)- this morning, this increase brings the dam release up to 121cfs, and by the time it hits the Riverton gauge (about 2-2.5 miles downstream) it will read closer to 140cfs, and with about 20cfs additional water coming in from the Still River the total flow below that will be around 160cfs, putting us closer to a normal late August level (200+ cfs) this weekend. This flow bump is being done to help lower the water temps- predicted highs this weekend of 94 for Saturday, low of 72 Saturday night, 96 high for Sunday, and a low of 77 Sunday night- the heat wave breaks on Monday/Tuesday. A big kudos to the DEEP for taking this action, it will keep the entire river cooler, and especially help the downstream trout in Canton, Collinville, Unionville & below make it through this hot weather. I suspect the DEEP will drop their 50cfs contribution down to 25cfs sometime soon after the weekend, as they don’t have a very big “bank” of water to use.”

That was posted before this most recent weekend. The dam flow on Monday noon is 122cfs and the release temperature is under 50 degrees, which is fantastic. Hopefully we’ll get some rain today, which will raise the Still River (currently under 20cfs) and temporarily add some water to the system.

Please, sir, may I have some more?

Heat wave Farmington River flows, or: Stratification and proximity are your friends

The bad news is, we’re in a disgusting heat wave. The good news it, we have some very cold water coming out of Hogback. Let’s start with this graph:

As you can see, the current release temps range from a morning low of around 47 degrees, and spike at around 56 in the afternoon. This is fantastic, and very fish friendly. But wait: that doesn’t mean all is well in Collinsville. With flows on the low side — just barely into three-figures of CFS — and air temperatures in the 90s, it doesn’t take long for that water to warm up.

So: use common sense. The closer you are to Hogback, the colder the water will be. The water will be warmest from noon into evening. Carry a thermometer, and use it. If you start getting readings approaching 68 degrees, don’t fish. Head north, or fish when the sun’s not beating down on the water.

I thank you. The trout thank you. Now, let’s all do a rain dance…

Housy, we have a problem

It used to be that you’d show up at the Hous in the July with a fly rod and a Woolly Bugger and you couldn’t keep the smallmouth off your fly. You might try to keep count, but somewhere after the second dozen it all became a blur. If you were fishing early morning or late afternoon, with the sun tucked safely behind the hills, entire stretches of the river would light up. At dusk, the river was boiling.

Those days are over. At the very least, the Housatonic River smallmouth population has been dramatically reduced. At the worst, we have a crash.

The fishery has been in decline for several years now. Marks where I was catching dozens of bass five years ago began their slide around 2019, and now it’s to the point where I’m catching one…or two…or none. This isn’t a localized problem; I’ve been covering water from Falls Village, way above the TMA, down to Kent. Miles and miles of river. And the fish just ain’t there.

I’ve got some calls into the CT DEEP to discuss the situation, and I’ll let you know what I find out. In the meantime, save your fishing chips for other rivers.

This video is from 2018. That late afternoon, I took bass after bass after bass on a Gurgler…then at dusk, I really got good. I fished this mark last night and in 45 minutes all I could manage was two fish.

Farmington River Report 7/15/22: Low and slow, but plenty cold

I guided Mike and his son Deven yesterday from late morning to mid-afternoon. We had a gorgeous sunny summer day. Although flows are low — 90cfs from the dam plus 40 from the Still — the water was delightfully cold (I got 60 degrees mid-day at the upper end of the PTMA). That’s great news for both anglers and the fish. As always, I urge you to aware of water temps in low, summer flows. If you don’t have a stream thermometer, please get one.

We started off in the PTMA. Mike, who’s an intermediate level fly fisher, decided to tight line nymph. Deven, who’s just getting started, spent a little time with me working on his casting; I then rigged him up with a two-fly wet team and we had at it. The action was slow, but, yes, Deven stuck a trout in a swift little slot under some overhanging branches. Well done, young man! Meanwhile, Mike got into a fish downstream. The action was very slow, however, and we decided to move on. (Many thanks to the very courteous and chill anglers who so graciously shared water with us.)

Next stop was a riffle near the top of the PTMA. Sadly, goose eggs. On to a mark above the PTMA. Deven and I concentrated on swinging wets in some faster water, then on using an indicator in some slower, deeper water with a large drowned hopper and a nymph dropper. We blanked, but Mike, who was now dry fly fishing, stuck one more fish on a tiny caddis emerger before we called it a day. A pleasure, gentlemen, and you both did well under some very challenging conditions.

Thankfully, what’s coming out of the bottom of Hogback is cold and clear and very trout-friendly.

More “Surfcasting Around The Block II” news

I almost forgot — I’m be contributing another chapter to Dennis Zambrotta’s followup to “Surfcasting Around The Block.” It will be a brief chapter on what you need gear-wise to fly fish the island. Of course I’ll have my own opinions, but my goal, as always, is to help you get the most out of your fishing experience. I believe Dennis is hoping for a late fall publish date.

You can be sure I’ll mention a good pack, a shooting basket, and a floating line. And a headlamp that has a red light!

Summertime fishing, writing, guiding, and other news

Hello, all. My apologies for the lack of regular posts, but it’s summertime, and I’m working hard, playing hard. And so much to write about! Here’s what’s going on.

First, the fishing. I am in hard-core summer mode, which usually means long afternoons into nights. I know you won’t begrudge me the chance to get out and fish at the expense of writing here. I hope you’re getting out too. I’m also doing a bit of guiding. Then, there’s the yard and the garden. Speaking of which…

…we need rain! They’ve dropped the flow from the dam on the Farmington to 85cfs. The Still is currently a warm trickle. Ugh! The good news is that what’s coming out of the dam is plenty cold. I suppose we’ll have to rejoice in that.

Hot bronze, baby! Fortunately, smallmouth like warmer water.

I’m currently writing a piece for Surfcasters Journal on fishing the sand eel hatch with a floating line. It’s going to be loaded with tips on how to catch those stripers that not everyone can. Naturally, I’ll let you know when it comes out.

Last but not least, I am now officially a Scientific Anglers Pro. I’m a big fan of their Mastery Anadro line, and I’m waiting to give the Mastery Bass line a whirl. As always, I never hump products that I don’t use and love!

Fish on!

Another disappointing Block Island performance

Ugh. That seems like a fair enough description of the the state of the Block Island fishery from shore. Like last year, it was very slow, giving us two consecutive years of ugh. I was able to catch fish every night (save one) only because I was hopping around the island from mark to mark in a desperate search for stripers. The most I could manage on any night was three, sometimes only one, and this is now three consecutive years without a slot or legal bass(!?!). Sure, the boat bite has been good — Cam scored a couple junior cows off the south side on a boat trip — but since mid-June, for both pluggers and fly anglers, the shore bite has been lousy. I saw very few bass cruising the east side beaches during daylight. There were sand eels scattered here and there, but no substantial schools. And no schools of cruising bass — just an occasional lone wolf. Stay tuned for a more detailed report/photo essay.

Spotlight on you, gorgeous. This near-slot striper hammered my Big Eelie as it drifted across a sandbar on the outgoing tide. It was one of three fish on that night. Every time I thought the bite was going to pick up, it didn’t. I say again: Ugh.

The B.I.G. Big Eelie Variant

I’ve had the B.I.G. Big Eelie variant on my brain ever since I read Dennis Zambrotta’s Surfcasting Around The Block. In case you’re unfamiliar, Dennis devotes an entire chapter to the popular needlefish plug — and he details how bright, fluorescent lime green was all the rage among needlefish aficionados. Dennis dubbed the color, “Block Island Green,” and it was so popular back in the day that you could always find an incredible number of fluorescent lime green spray paint cans at the island hardware store. Fortunately, you don’t need to summon your inner painter to tie the B.I.G. Big Eelie. All you need is some bucktail, a few pencil thin saddles, and a sandbar over which to swing this bright green striper catching machine.

The B.I.G. Big Eelie

Hook: Eagle Claw 253 3/0

Thread: Fluorescent green or chartreuse 6/0

Platform: 30 hairs white bucktail

Tail: First, a white saddle; second, 4 strands light green Flashabou; third, three chartreuse or bright green saddles. (All saddles pencil thin.)

Body: Pearl braid

Collar: Fluorescent green marabou, tied in at the tip, 2-3 turns