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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Calling all Farmington River fly anglers: help needed Wednesday, October 17. You fish, DEEP collects, big trout are created.

Due to heavy rains, there was no draw down of the Hogback dam this fall, which meant no broodstock collection for the Survivor Strain program. DEEP is going to try to do it au naturel tomorrow — by fishing with hook and line — and they need your help. How much fun is this job? You fish, catch a big one, the DEEP collects it and takes it back to the hatchery to do its thing. Here are details from Neal Hagstrom:

“I wanted to confirm for you that we will be meeting with anglers at the Greenwoods parking lot on Wed.  We will try capturing brown trout to use as Farmington River Survivor Broodstock using hook and line.  I will be there with the tank truck about 9 am and will bring smaller live cars for use in the river.  There are a couple of anglers who will be starting earlier in the day, so I will be at the river early (7am) and have to leave to get the tank truck from Burlington.  I will stay as late as people want.  We greatly appreciate everyone’s willingness to help out. Law enforcement has been notified of that effort.”

A Survivor Strain broodstock brown sulks in the shallows. Quality fish like these — and their wild progeny — are counting on you tomorrow to help keep the program going.

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Farmington River report 7/9/18: Presentation is Everything

I guided David yesterday afternoon into the evening. David wanted to work on his presentations — a man after my own heart — and we began by swinging wets through some choppy water in the permanent TMA. Bug and surface activity was light — nonetheless, I was surprised that we didn’t find any players. We then headed upstream to some classic dry fly water to prepare for the evening rise. We had surface activity from around 4pm through darkness, and a lot more bugs in this pool: sulphurs, Light Cahills, mats of midges and a few caddis. The fishing wasn’t easy — David had dozens of quality drifts that went unscathed — but we fooled quite a few trout and netted some beauties. We fished with a 13-foot leader (9′ 5x) and tippet (4′ 6x) system, and took fish on the Pale Watery wingless (16), Catskills Light Cahill (14-16) and Sulphur Comparadun (18). Great job, David! And man, was that water cold. 56 degrees. I haven’t shivered that much since the winter. Double layers next time.

Mr. Presentation, getting it done.

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The size of the rise doesn’t always belie the size of the fish. This high teens Survivor Strain brown was making tiny swirls along the edge of some frog water. David did an exemplary job with his hook set and landing. All the fish we hooked were fat, healthy, and happy.

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Farmington River Report 2/15/18: Two Hours of Fun with Streamers

Some days I get so ambivalent about how and where to fish that it annoys the hell out of me. Not today. In fact, I knew last night it would be the Permanent TMA and streamers. The water was receding but still up (550cfs) and that along with heavy cloud cover suggested to me that some big browns might be on the hunt.

Spot A was a blank. One other angler was there, nymphing. He reported a blank, too. Spot B produced two fish, although I dropped the second to an incredibly bad hookset. I should have known what to look for after the first fish: no dull thud or sharp tug, but rather the sensation that the fly was hung up on the bottom, with the bottom then moving. I assumed the second fish was a rock, set with the tip, and a few seconds later the trout was off.

While I had Spot B all to myself, Spot C was a regular angler’s convention. (There were a lot of people out in the Permanent TMA today.) Everyone blanked there.

Fished the full sink integrated line and a short (<3 foot) leader.

I don’t often fish articulated streamers, but the trout liked this olive Peanut Envy today. Here’s a nice mid-teens brown.

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A classic Survivor Strain adipose bump.

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2017 Farmington River Broodstock Report

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.

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Farmington River broodstock collection update

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.

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Shocking news from the Farmington

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:

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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…”