Fall Fly Fishing on the Farmington River

Today, I want to share with you some sound advice that will help improve your productivity next time you head out for some fall fly fishing.

The end of October can be a frustrating time to target trout on your local rivers and streams.  It’s the time of the year when the glory hatches are over for the year, the leaf hatch is in full bloom, and catching generally gets more difficult.  This is the time of the year I love.  Most of the fair weather anglers have called it a year and there is noticeably more open water to choose from.  The trout are indeed more challenging to catch, but, when you do get them to the net, they tend to be colored up and in my opinion the best they look all year.

Due to work and family I hadn’t fished in over two weeks.  I knew we were forecast for big rains this coming weekend so my only chance to fish was this past Friday. I got to the river at 9 am…which is a late start for my typical first-light starting times.  The air temp was 42, the river was at 150 cfs, and the water was clear. There was very little wind and not much of a leaf hatch to start the day.  I would call this ideal conditions for this time of year.  

I’ve been fishing dries a lot lately but knew my best bet was going to be nymphs to start.  So I started with a pair of nymphs on my Euro rig, tightlining some likely holding water.  It felt a little weird to be nymphing again but it felt right when on my third drift my sighter paused, I set the hook and started to dance with this beauty before eventually putting him in the net.  Needless to say, it was a great way to start the day.

Beautiful colored up fall brown.

To be honest the day started with a bang and didn’t stop. Without moving my feet, and a few more good drifts, I was on to a nice holdover rainbow.  I moved down a few feet and with another good drift again my sighter paused, and I was linked up with another good one.  Man, it must be my day.

Another beautiful colored up fall brown.

It  didn’t stop from there. It seemed like everywhere I set up and made a good presentation I was linked up with another beauty.  Life was good and then as fate would have it an email comes through on my phone and it came to an abrupt end as I had to walk back to my car to log into my computer for a work matter…doesn’t it figure?  I wasn’t happy about having to take a break from this good fishing but on the walk back I put on an indicator and drifted my nymphs as I walked which added another two fish to my count putting me at nine, with five over 16″ in one hour of fishing.

So, the morning was a mixed bag.  The fishing was great, but, at the first two spots, I fished I was forced to go back to my car for work. I caught fish everywhere, and, believe it or not, the prettiest wild of the day swam out of my net before I could get a picture.  That fish was only 15″ but an absolute stunner…wish I could have gotten a picture.

Now, for the advice I want to share.   I just told you about a great morning but that’s largely due to being a little lucky and quickly figuring out what they were eating, and, of course, knowing where the fish were.  Most of you will know where the fish are, but, not necessarily what they are eating this time of year as there aren’t a lot of bugs in the water.

A little later in the day, I went up river to meet up with a young man named Justin (@fishing1999 on Instagram) that I’ve been helping over the past year.  I really didn’t care if I caught any more fish at this point. I just wanted to say hello and to see how he was doing.  So, we linked up at a section of river with lots of pocket water and short runs that I knew holds fish.  

We stood together in the river talking about our day and what was working.  I made a few good drifts over a stretch of water that I knew held fish and nothing, not a bump. I told Justin to get in there with a different pair of nymphs to see what he could do. He did exactly what I asked of him. He threw his nymphs up to where I told him and had contact with his flies for a good 15 to 20 drifts and nothing, not a bump, even though his form was spot on. 

I said to Justin I knew for a fact we were over fish and that we weren’t presenting what they wanted.  Most people would walk to the next stretch of fishy water and forget about it, but, you would be leaving fish behind.  While Justin was fishing I was changing my nymphs. When he finished I walked right back in and made the same exact drift, except this time, it was success and I brought a healthy rainbow to the net.  

The lesson to be learned here is when you know you’re standing over fish and getting good drifts make sure you are rotating your patterns.  If you get five to 10 good drifts over a fish and you don’t get a hit, rotate your flies and show them something else.  This is what I do in the fall when I know I’m standing over fish. It may take a little bit of work to rotate your patterns, but, in the fall, when there isn’t a hatch, this is often necessary to stay productive.

Notice the drab color on a first year fish.
Healthy Survivor Strain Brown

In closing my best patterns were various Frenchies. Pink ice dub was #1, and a purple ice dub peacock body tag nymph was also productive.  Get out and have some fun catching fall browns.

Until next time, tight lines.

Andrew Lyons


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14 thoughts on “Fall Fly Fishing on the Farmington River

  1. Great report of a fine day on the river! Thanks for sharing both the story and good advice! Those brown trout are beauties.

    1. Thanks John, Mike, Sam and Ashu. The fish in the Farmington can be very selective especially if you are targeting the wild and holdovers. It’s a beautiful river and is worth the trip to fish it. This time of year can be difficult but trust me there are fish everywhere. You have to have faith you are standing over fish…because you probably are and rotate your patterns until you figure out what they are looking for. Good luck if you give it a shot.

      1. Andy, such a great post! Question: how do you know when fish are in the riffles or are hanging back in the quieter water (like in the winter)?

        I ask because, with bug numbers low this time of year, why would the fish be burning energy by holding in the riffles?

        Eggs? BWO nymphs this time of year are ample in the drift even if there isn’t a visible hatch?


        1. Jo I typically target water by water temp. That’s a critical factor and the reason I always carry a thermometer. I’ll typically stay away from the fastest water when the temp drops to the low 40’s and below. That being said fish will still hold in moderate water with low temps. I remember last year fishing with Zach and he was murdering fish in a moderate riffle in the dead of winter with water temps in the 30’s. Just because the water looks fast it doesn’t mean fish burn a lot of energy when they hug the bottom or sit behind a rock just moving to eat.

          Eggs will start to work for sure. BWO nymphs have their moments when conditions are right but I wouldn’t consider them a staple in the fall. They are of course small and hard to see with any debris in the water. I would try them but opt for some junk flies that can get a trouts attention this time of year. Squirmy worms, Mops, flashy flies all have their moments.

          That’s good news on the views I’m glad people are enjoying the post. I’ve got a lot to say but don’t want to clog up your blog with my ramblings.

          1. Andy:

            1. Thank you.
            2. I carry a water thermometer with me, too, and will be sure to use it more often. I had assumed the cut-off was around 50 °F.
            3. “Rambling”? Ha! Great stuff. Such a privilege to know you and learn from your experiences.
  2. Finally got out on the Swift tonight, leaving work a tad early. Nothing doing, but still changed flies often before it got dark. The part of the Swift I fish, the trout have become just as finicky as those in the catch and release areas. Sometimes I wonder if there even any trout in the old reliable runs.

    1. Thanks for the update. Water release is low there right now. I wonder if it makes the fish even more wary?

      1. Not sure, maybe it’s the leaves, but if I were playing baseball I would have to say I was in a slump. Nothing doing again last night, but I will give it a go again this afternoon trying zones I typically walk by just for a change of pace.

        1. I think you’re right about spots. I fished today and drove to a few spots, including some new water. It was fun. Some areas were loaded with fish. Others seemingly had none. So weird!

  3. Blog Fly Fishing Tag Sale Farmington Valley Trout Unlimited

    Fly Fishing Angler Gear Tag Sale
    Farmington Community Center
    321 New Britain Ave Unionville 06087
    January 5 2019 Start: 9 am
    Snow date: January 12 2019.

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