I first learned about the Willimantic by going through CT DEEP’s Angler Guide. As you may know, the state does a great job of classifying various waters. There are “trout parks” for easy catching, “Class 1” areas that feature wild fish and are not stocked, and various Trout Management Areas, or TMAs.
There’s a TMA for the Willimantic, which caught my eye, as it is fly-fishing only, C&R and open year-round. I then consulted Tom Fuller’s must-have book on S. New England trout streams (here).
So, I fished the TMA stretch a bunch in the spring. I visited it this autumn.
This stretch gets a healthy stocking in the spring, and when flows are up and the water is cool, there’s tremendous fishing. Things really die down in the summer when the water heats up, and I personally chose to stay away from it, to give the trout a break. The stretch is stocked in the fall, but not as robustly.
Tom Fuller notes that the river fishes well all the way up to Stafford Springs. I’ve focused on stretch from Roaring Brook to the I-84 bridge.
Here are some suggested fishy spots:
- Near Roaring Brook: Park at the dirt pull out (here), and follow the path down to the river. When flows are up, the confluence of the brook and river is a good spot. I’ve found that fishy spots continue downstream and that fish tend to hold closer to the far bank.
- Abutment Pool: Park at the dirt pull out (here) and follow the well-worn trail down to the river. You’ll see the remains of an old stone bridge, a good set of riffles and a very deep trench. This is a major stocking area. Tightlining, indicator nymphing and dry flies will work well, depending on which bugs are active.
- Above and below I-84: Walk south of Abutment Pool, and you’ll eventually hit the I-84 overpass. It’s a bit weird to fish with the sound of traffic whizzing by, but there are very good runs both above and below the bridge. This area also is stocked heavily in the spring.
One thing to note is that this fly-fishing only area gets hit hard with non-fly folks. Two spin fisherman pretty much sprinted away when they saw me get near them below Roaring Brook. An older angler fishing with worms said he truly didn’t care that it was fly-fishing only at that area. He also had illegally parked his SUV below the I-84 bridge. So, I took a photo of his license, called CT DEEP, and they came right over.
So, visit in the spring when the water is cool and the fish are there. It fishes OK in autumn. But, you’ll likely be the only angler amidst some great scenery. This fall, I worked Abutment Pool for about 30 minutes and landed two rainbows, including a 12″ one (photo above).
And, not another soul anywhere.