Director Matthew Vinick just released the third teaser for his upcoming film, “Summer on the Farmington.” You may recognize that almost-handsome face, and I’m pleased to note that no cameras were broken during the filming of my segments. Here it is:
You can also find the other teasers featuring Mark Swenson and Antoine Bissieux. The world premier is Wednesday, January 12, 2022, 7pm, at Brewery Legitimus in New Hartford. Tickets are $25 and are available online through the FRAA. Hope to see you there!
Just a friendly reminder that the Farmington River fishes 12 months a year, and December can be a good time to connect with some bigger fish. The browns are generally off the spawn, and looking to bulk up before things get really cold. I understand it’s a busy time of year, and short notice, but just sayin’ that I had a cancellation this Friday 12/3 in the 10am-2pm slot. First person to reach out gets it. Otherwise, I’ll go myself, so it’s a win either way. Note that this primarily a nymph/streamers time of year; if you’re looking to learn to swing wets, it would be best to wait until spring. Also, this is the time of year where people ask about buying a guide trip/lesson as a gift. I’ve already had some takers, but if you are looking to drop a hint to your best-beloved gift buyer, show them this post and they can take it from there. You can go fishing now or wait until spring/summer. Thanks, and you all know where to find me.
Doug and Paul chose a spectacular fall day for a session with yours truly. Unfortunately, the bite didn’t match up to the conditions. We fished two sizable marks from 10am-2pm, and all we could manage was one bump and one hookup. That actually isn’t as bad as it sounds; angler traffic was fairly heavy for a fall weekday, and I didn’t see anyone else hook up the entire time. So well done, Doug and Paul! The river was running medium high (530cfs) and the water is beginning to cool nicely. Observed: caddis and a few tiny BWOs. Leaves are a bit of an issue, and we had all our action on white streamers. (I should have mentioned that we were dedicated to the streamer cause, both traditional presentations and long-leader jigged micro streamers.) Both anglers fished hard and well, and on another day might have connected with dozens.
Yesterday I wrapped up some drone footage with Director Matthew Vinick for his upcoming film “Summer on the Farmington.” Elevated flows (650cfs in the Permanent TMA) and leaves were an issue, but we got it done. Adverse conditions didn’t discourage the legions of anglers I saw out enjoying the river and weather. I had 30 minutes to fish for pleasure after the shoot, so I hit a favorite mark for some tight line nymphing. Sadly, every stall of the sighter or tangible bump turned out to be either bottom or debris. I was not alone — of the dozen or so anglers I shared water with, I did not see a single trout hooked. On a positive note, the water is noticeably cooler than it was a week ago. Things can only get better, right?
Yesterday was supposed to be a shooting day for a film and some personal projects, but the wind was most uncooperative, so we bailed. Already on the river and two hours to kill…what’s an angler to do? If you said, “fish,” you are correct! I decided that absent any consistent rises, and with the gusty wind, indicator nymphing would be my best bet for hooking up. I fished three marks and found players in two of them. I was asleep at the switch for one of the hits, and dropped the fish as I fumbled and bumbled the late hook set. But I did connect with evidence that even in harsh, trout-stressy warm water, nature finds a way. Believe it or not, this was my first outing on the Farmington since June.
On Tuesday the DEEP collected broodstock for the next generation of Survivor Strain brown trout. The MDC drew down the reservoir to about 70cfs and the collection crews had at it. Normally, I like to give warning of the event (you can still fish, but you need to stay clear of the collection crews) but I missed that boat. However, I’m happy to report that well over 100 trout were collected — and after the challenging summer conditions these fish made it through, you can rest assured that the survival aspect of their genetic material is exceptional.
With cooler days and nights upon us, re-stocking the river will begin soon. Then we can pretend that this summer never happened.
I wish I had all good news for you, but once again we will be experiencing challenging conditions on the West Branch. Let’s start with flows. The Labor Day weekend party is over as they’ve jacked up the dam release to 1,100cfs:
And we’re back to water temperature rearing its ugly head. Look how the release temp spiked with the increased flow:
In a word, ugh. There’s nothing to be done about the flow increase, as the MDC needs to maintain a certain safe reservoir level in case of hurricanes. But the news isn’t all bad. Torrey Collins says the Still River is actually a cooling influence, and the long range forecast calls for overnight lows mostly in the upper 50s, so that’s going to help. Who knows when the DEEP will stock, or if they’ll even do a Survivor Strain broodstock gathering. I’ll do my best to keep you posted. In the meantime, I’m heading for the salt.
What a disaster summer this has been for major river fishing in Connecticut. Pity the poor Farmington: too much rain, too much flow, too much warm water. Its current story is best told by these USGS Waterdata graphs.
I regret being the messenger of such dire tidings, but it is what it is and there’s nothing we can do about it. Suffice to say, please don’t fish for trout. And hope those tropical systems out there right now stay away from Connecticut.
In case you’re wondering why the water is so warm, this article by yours truly may help.
I’ve been getting a lot of questions about Farmington River water temps. The basic outline is, “I thought the Farmington is a tailwater. Why is the river so warm?” The answer is pretty simple.
In case you don’t know, a tailwater is a river with a dam release. The flow of the Farmington River West Branch is controlled by water that comes out of gates from the base of a reservoir dam (Colebrook Reservoir and Hogback Dam). If you’ve ever gone swimming in a pond or lake, you know that the water is warmer near the surface and colder near the bottom. This is called thermal stratification. In a larger reservoir, you have three different thermal layers: the epilimnion (the warmer upper layer; the metalimnion (or thermocline, the middle layer); and the hypolimnion, the coldest bottom layer. But I said this was simple, and there I go throwing all kinds of hifalutin hydro-science terms at you.
Ideally, there’s a happy medium of bottom release flows on a tailwater: cold water is never released in amounts that cannot be quickly replenished. But there are two situations that screw everything up.
The first is severe drought. Water that flows into the Colebrook Reservoir is reduced to a warm trickle. The volume of the reservoir shrinks from evaporation. The temperature of the water rises, especially if it’s hot, which decreases thermal stratification. As a result, what comes out of the bottom of the dam is warmer than ideal. (By agreement with the CT DEEP, the MDC must maintain a minimum release of 50cfs.) Because the flow is so low, water downstream warms quickly, trout get stressed, and it’s a bad scene all around. (This was the case in 2016. It was so bad that the DEEP took the unprecedented step of declaring thermal refuges on the Farmington.)
But that’s not what happened this year. This year, we had too much water. All that rainfall in July meant that the MDC needed to bleed water, and lots of it — so much, in fact, that it wiped out any meaningful thermal stratification in the reservoir. They’re still running such a high volume of water that there’s no chance for the stratification to re-establish — at least not in the heat of August. So that’s why at noon today the water was coming out of the dam at a very trout-unfriendly 69 degrees.
Eventually, it will get better. But right now, the best thing you can do for Farmington River trout is play the waiting game.
In case you didn’t hear, the historic New Hartford House building was gutted by fire earlier this week. The three-alarm blaze happened Monday night/Tuesday morning. New Hartford House was the large, stately building with the clock tower in the center of town. Please send your thoughts and prayers to those who lost their homes and businesses, and also to the first responders who were injured fighting the blaze. You can read more about the fire in this story from the Courant.
Meanwhile, you shouldn’t be fishing the Farmington right now. Here’s the Riverton gauge at noon — and the heat wave has only just begun.
We are certainly going to lose some trout (nature will find a way for others). If you must go fishing, pond bluegills are a blast on a small stream rod and an Elk Hair caddis. Bass, striped or largemouth or smallmouth, are other viable options right now. But please, give these stressed fish a break.