The State of the Farmington River Survivor Strain Brown Trout

Nature doesn’t always cooperate with mankind’s timetable, and that was the case this fall with the attempted collection of broodstock browns on the Farmington River. Rain, rain, and more rain — coupled with unusually high releases from Hogback — conspired to muck things up to the point where a Hail Mary had to be called. Many thanks to the DEEP staff and anglers who came out Wednesday to collect broodstock. The results weren’t what we’d hoped for, but you get what you get and you don’t get upset (a nod to Mrs. Kawecki,  my kids’ pre-K teacher). Life goes on, as will the Survivor Strain program.

The good news is that the Farmington River browns are in pre-spawn mode, and there’s plenty of water in which to get jiggy. DEEP tells me that the Farmington River wild trout population is doing well, (I can confirm that through personal experience.) What’s more, back at the DEEP reproduction facilities, 16-18″ Survivor Strain trout are also ready to do their thing. Those fish will be released into the Farmington next spring, and their progeny to the Farmington and the Hous.

If you’re interested in reading more about the Farmington River Survivor Strain Program, here’s an article on the subject.

This is why we do it. Not a Survivor Strain brown, but she could be the mother of many.

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Farmington River Report 9/1/18: Finishing with a bang

Yesterday I guided Pete and his son Scott. They wanted to learn the mystical arts of the wet fly, so we had a stream side mini-class then had at it. The water was a little higher than I’d like (400cfs+ in the permanent TMA, 64 degrees) and the hatch activity was about a 2 on the 10 scale, but we managed to move a few trout in Spot A. Still, not the action I was hoping for. Off to Spot B where I noticed a few risers. They weren’t having the wet (this is the second time in two weeks I’ve witnessed this) so I switched Scott over to an X-leg Hopper Caddisy thing with a wet dropper. Second cast, we had a rise. A few casts later, pay dirt. Many thanks to both Pete and Scott for being such swell company. Weather was great, and the river was far less crowded than I expected.

Just as time was running out on the session, Scott nailed this stunning high-teens wild brown. What a gorgeous fish!

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DEEP Farmington River Sampling scheduled for September 9, 10, 11

This comes from Neal Hagstrom of the DEEP:

Just a heads up for everyone. The DEEP will be sampling the River Sept 9-11th. We will be working from Barkhamsted downstream.

On the 9th Hogback Road, around the Campground, and possibly the drive-in Pool.

On the 10th Halford’s Run, and the Greenwoods – the big brood stock collections at the Wood Shop that pm.

On the 11th Ovation and above Satan’s Kingdom. We hope to get flows restored mid-day on the 11th. 

This assumes that mother nature cooperates and no rain limits our work. Angler’s cooperation on clearing the river during these activities is greatly appreciated because your safety is a primary concern and people in the water affect the efficiency of our operation. 

As always, all broodstock will be returned to the river in early December after they complete their recovery from spawning.

If there are questions I can be reached at the Marlborough Fisheries Office 860-424-4179

Neal

~

In case you are unaware, the MDC draws down the flow from the Hogback dam in early September so DEEP and volunteer crews can take their fish census and gather brood stock browns for their Survivor Strain program. As Neal mentioned, it is best to stay clear of the crews while they are working. That doesn’t mean you can’t go fishing elsewhere on the river. However, given the recent stretch of unusually hot weather and a forecast that calls for more of the same, I would suggest that it might be prudent to give the trout a break.

If you’ve never been on a sampling, it’s a fascinating experience. Anyone can volunteer by contacting the DEEP.

Tip of the week: visit the river while the water is way down. Note where the truly deeper holes are. Bank that information for future withdrawals.

A brood stock brown that was captured and bred in fall, 2012, (red elastomer left eye) then returned to the river in December of that year. I caught her in April of 2013. I wonder how many of her kids I’ve crossed paths with?

Big Survivor Strain brown hen

Why I love the Survivor Strain program

Not every big fish in the Farmington is wild. Here is a Survivor Strain brown from a recent outing. Large, well-developed fins, clipped adipose, and some distinctive haloing around the lower spots. I wonder what else is in that belly? The fish’s attack was textbook big brown: hit, hit, then the take. You read so many reports of people catching 18″ trout on the Farmington that I suspect a good percentage of those fish are actually short of 18, what with it being such a nice, round default number. But I can tell you with certainty that this fish was at least 18″, measured against my landing net, which I’m pleased to report had some difficulty accommodating the catch.

Farmington Survivor Strain brown

Farmington River Mini Report 6/7/15: Let the dry games begin

A quick 90-minute session on the river last night from 7:30-9:00. Walked a riffle-pocketed run swinging wets. A couple bumps, but no firm hook sets. I was a little disappointed by the lack of surface feeding activity — there were plenty of bugs (caddis, midges, light Cahills), but nothing on them. That changed once I moved down to some smoother dry fly-type water. Three anglers were just leaving, so I moved in. I witnessed three different rise forms: the showy slash/splash, the subsurface boil, and the spinner sip. Unfortunately, it was one of those evenings where very few of the fish were showing any consistent feeding pattern. Still, I managed to stick a half-dozen browns ranging from nine to about fifteen inches. They liked the Pale Watery wingless (Magic Fly) size 18 and a size 20 Catskills Light Cahill. There was one good fish feeding (spinner sip) in about a foot of frog water on the edge of a impossible-to-mend-across current seam. I had at him repeatedly over the course of an hour. He did not come to net, but getting him to take was the highlight of the evening.

Time to warm up the cane pole for sulphurs.

Farmington River Report 3/13/15: More fun with streamers

Fished the upper TMA for about 2 1/2 hours today. Streamers again (today’s favorite was a slim profile pattern with a gold bead head, and white and chartreuse marabou).  The usual winter setup: full sink integrated line, three-foot leader, letting the fly sink/swing, then a slow, jerky retrieve. The strike pattern that was established on Tuesday’s outing was present today — a swipe by the trout to stun the fly, then the hit-to-eat. Two fat, healthy, sixteen-inch browns to net. One JR Cuban Alternate Cohiba Robusto and a very happy angler smoking it. The water was up a few inches from the other day, but still clear and cold at 36 degrees. A few midges here and there, and the early grey stones came out about 1pm. Snow pack was less of a walking issue, mostly because of last’s night’s freeze. Still, plenty of anglers out for a weekday in March.

Streamer tip of the week: these big browns aren’t eating on the first strike; rather, they’re smacking the fly to stun it. It feels like more of a bump than a tug. Don’t set the hook. Let the fly sit for a moment, or continue to micro strip. The eating strike will come a moment later.  16%22 late winter brown

Steelhead Report 12/5/14: Neither here nor there

You get two kinds of steelhead reports.

The first is celebratory. The bite was on, the hookups plentiful, and the giddy recollections make you wish it was you who had written them. Such reports are usually accompanied by multiple grip-and-grins, or artistic renderings of gleaming flanks, spotted tails, and hook-and-Estaz neatly secured in mouth.

The second focuses on the friends you fished with, or the solitude you basked in, but most of all the glory of just being there. Umm, the fishing was slow. What else is there to write about?

No matter which end of the spectrum your trip falls into, the truth always lies somewhere between the two. Yes, there is no other rush in fishing that compares to the knowledge that the bellicose, cartwheeling silver machine you’ve been dancing with is going to be in your hands in a matter of moments. And yes, it is glorious just to be there. (You cannot, after all, catch a steelhead in Connecticut.)

Here’s my somewhere-in-the-middle from Friday.

Morning. I had planned to fish one of the nearby creeks, but the water was falling too fast for my liking. So I explored some of the diversions below Altmar. Friends, I covered water to the point of excessive thoroughness. I moved around. I gave the steelhead a choice. Nothing. Whatever was there, it wasn’t eating what I was throwing. I spent the first three hours picking ice out of my guides and trying to coax my fingertips into a functional setting. At least I had my pick of spots. By 11am, though, I’d had enough.

It wasn’t cold by Pulaski standards, but it was cold enough to make crystal lily pads. IMG_2619

Afternoon. From the start, I viewed this as a bonus trip. After my wildly successful November, I was playing with house money. So I decided to head downriver, instead of up to where the heavier concentrations of steelhead (and anglers) would likely be. If I had to do it over again, I probably would have chosen both.

I learned that some of the places I can cross the river at 1,000cfs are far more challenging at 1,400cfs — even with a wading staff — and still others are plain impassable. That limited my choices here. Run A was a blank. Run B produced my only steelhead action of the day. I kicked it. Asleep at the switch. By the time I realized the bottom was a steelhead, it was  swimming indifferently downstream, never to be seen again. (I am working on an algebraic proof that states: after the 499 good drifts you make, eyes keenly focused on the indicator, reaction potential equal to a cobra’s, looking for an excuse to set the hook, the one take you get will come on the 500th when your senses are taking a nap.)

Run C was dark and deep and surely held a few fish fresh from the lake. Or not. Run D was formed by a perilous conglomeration of deadfall. I waded out between logs, stripping out line, trying to decide where to cast. I was already a little annoyed by the missed opportunity (and lack of others). So when my fly got snagged on one of the submerged logs before I could even make a cast, I angrily tried to snatch it back. Thrummm! Asleep at the switch again, only this time the fish was hooked. Not a steelhead — that was abundantly clear from the non-hysterical headshakes. Good thing, too, because with all the barriers and overhangs, there was zero chance of landing something chrome. But I will take a 20″ brown trout over the skunk any time.

Lousy picture. Decent brown. Incredible luck. IMG_2642

Run E appeared to have potential, but after 45 minutes it remained unrealized. So I went back to the dropped steelhead location well, in hopes of a repeat. Hopes were dashed. At 3:15pm, with over eight hours of hard fishing in the books and lake-effect sleet bouncing off my hood, I began the hike back to the truck.

I tell you, it was really great just being there.

Christmas tree, Pulaski style. IMG_2628