The collection for the next generation of Farmington River Survivor Strain broodstock was completed on Monday. The river is now back to a normal medium height (about 240cfs in the permanent TMA). Here are some details on the collection, conducted within the permanent TMA, from Fisheries Biologist extraordinaire Neal Hagstrom:
“We captured approximately 90 brown trout that we took to the Burlington Hatchery for broodstock. The largest was a 22+inch wild male. The state facebook page has some streaming video of the fish workups (visit the CT DEEP Facebook page and scroll down to September 11 — neat stuff!). We also took 15 other smaller or injured trout for general background health checks of diseases, something we do every year.”
Some of the broodstock are Survivor Strain from this year (left red elastomer) and last year (left yellow). About half of the older fish showed no signs of spawning and were returned to the river. The DEEP looks for genetic elasticity in their broodstock combinations, so there is a broad range of sizes, Survivor Strain and wild, and of course both sexes in the sampling.
Neal commented that while there were plenty of fine specimens, there weren’t a lot of trophy trout. This dovetails with my experience this year: an abundance of high teens browns but not a lot of true brutes. He said the fish should be returned to the river in early December, “and no, we did not take everything. There are still plenty there.”
Thanks, Neal, and thanks to the DEEP for this amazing fishery and breeding program.
We grow ’em bigger than your net. A true 20″ Survivor Strain brown (clipped adipose) taken this summer. It’s hard to photograph a fish this big by yourself, but it’s surely a most wonderful dilemma.
Last night’s rain’s added too much water to the system (over 130cfs from the Still) so the broodstock collection has been rescheduled for Monday, September 11. I do not know if they will increase the dam outflow (currently 50cfs) this weekend, so check before you head out.
The collection takes place within the Permanent TMA. Yes, you can still fish, but anglers are asked to give the DEEP crews a wide berth. Quite frankly, I’d skip fishing until the water gets back to a more sporting level, but if you must go, why not volunteer to help out on the collection crew? It’s a great way to give back to the fishery, plus you get to see where the big boys and girls hang out…
If you’re interested in learning more about the Survivor Strain Program, here’s a short piece I wrote a few years ago for The Drake. Survivor: Farmington
The trusty DEEP sampling crew in action.
If you’re a regular reader, you should no longer be falling for that scandalous teaser headline. We’re talking about the DEEP’s annual electroshocking/sampling/broodstock collection that eventually produces those wonderful wild and Survivor Strain browns.
You may have noticed the Riverton USGS gauge dropping like a stone:
Here’s the word from DEEP Fisheries Biologist Neal Hagstrom:
“The hope is to get the broodstock collected tomorrow if the river is low enough. If not we will try again on Monday. They are changing out a gate at Rainbow Dam and need the reservoir down to do the work. They are looking at refiling the reservoir on Wed late/Thursday. The river should return to normal flows then. Of course, hurricanes can change everything…”
Glass houses, stones, and all that. So this week when I hooked into a 20+” Survivor Strain brown on the Farmington, I started the clock. 93 seconds — hand-stripped, no reel — from hook set to net. (And it was only that long because I had trouble fitting him into the net first swipe.)
Unfortunately, I had camera disasters. I was using my main shooter for a different project earlier in the day and hadn’t changed the setting, so I ended up with out-of-focus mush. Then I attempted a GoPro movie of the release, only to discover that the battery was dead. So you’ll have to use your imagination: kype, clipped adipose, leopard spotting, brawny, and no match for an angler with a sharp hook and a reliable leader.
I guided Mina yesterday — a cool, dreary day for most of it. We headed to the permanent TMA and for the first hour we had the place all to ourselves. Mina wanted to delve into the black arts of wet fly fishing. Water was a little higher than I like for wets (440cfs — they’ve since (of course) dropped the flow — and it was cold! 45 degrees made for some chilly legs and feet. Bug activity was also low — some micro midges and a couple caddis, and no H-bombs, at least not while we were there. We covered lots of water before we found some customers. A couple bumps, a couple dropped fish, and a couple to net, but that was more action than I saw elsewhere. Ya done good, Mina, under some tough conditions.
Mina is a thoughtful angler who came armed with loads of questions and a strong desire to learn. Here she is, acing a pop quiz. I have to give props to my last two clients. Both Mina and Vicky were confident waders who weren’t afraid to venture into some more challenging water to get their flies in front of fish. Sometimes the angler that covers more water is the angler who catches more fish.
We used a bead head soft hackle of Mina’s creation on point to help get the flies down in the higher flows. This guy (who’s beginning to sport a kype) took that fly on the dead drift. Note the cool cirrus cloud effect on the surface.
In the interest of some informal field research for the DEEP — not to mention my own curiosity — I did a little recon yesterday on a part of the river where the fish would have faced significant stress in the last 50 days. I purposefully went in the afternoon, when the water temperatures would be highest. I wanted to know if, on an unseasonably warm September day, the water temps would be below 70. If they weren’t, I would not fish. Most of all, I wanted to know if anyone made it through the long, hot summer. I visited three locations, staggered downstream at varying distances. Spot A was 67 degrees; Spots B & C were a hard 68.
I found active, healthy fish in all three places. I nymphed up a nice, fat brown, over a foot long, in the first location. He was in the net before he knew what hit him. One quick digital shot and back he went. There were two trout actively feeding on emergers in the second spot; I gave them a few quasi-wet presentations with un unweighted nymph rig, had a bump, and left them to their feeding. Ironically, the spot farthest downstream had the most action: three active feeders. Wanting to err on the side of caution, I didn’t bother trying to catch them.
To be safe, I would wait another week before venturing below the permanent TMA. We’re supposed to have some cooler temps, both day and night, after today. Most of all, a week will give the trout a chance to restore their vigor.
Looks like we made it! This guy was hanging out in about 18″ of whitewater right below a boulder. He took a size 18 soft-hackled Pheasant Tail.
We began the fall 2016 presentation circuit in fine fashion. A fed presenter is a happy presenter, and a beer for dessert is always welcome. The members of the North Jersey Chapter of TU treated this road warrior with great kindness, and I’m grateful to them. The best part was that they let me go on before the business end of their meeting, knowing that I had a long drive home. How thoughtful, and again, very much appreciated. A good crowd turned out to hear all about the Farmington River, and we had a strong followup Q&A. Now all we need is rain.
The Pulaski Christmas Tree, stumbled upon in the woods near Pineville, December 2014.