This tiny state is well-known for its status as one of the original 13 colonies. Most people also know that it’s the choice of residence for many powerful politicians and other members of the rich and famous upper echelon.
Connecticut also boasts another distinction – it offers fly fishermen a rich and diverse angling experience. With the state’s fish stocking program depositing over a million trout among the various waters statewide, not counting the other species that are stocked as well, fly fishing is alive and well in the Constitution State.
From the coastline on the Atlantic Ocean to the rivers, streams, and lakes that make up the rest of the state’s waters, there is much to choose from. Here are a few favorites that are sure to give the novice and the expert fly fisherman an invigorating challenge.
This 46-mile waterway in the northwest portion of the state is considered one of the best trout fisheries in Connecticut. The area below the Hogback Dam down to Riverton is the most productive for fly fisherman, holding healthy quantities of stocked, wild, and holdover rainbows and browns. It’s not unusual to land 15-inchers, or even fish up to 20+ inches.
The west branch of the river offers deep pools, lively riffles, and runs and pockets. There is a trout management area that begins a mile above Route 318 and runs four miles down to the Route 219 bridge. The slow pools, pockets, and runs in this section offer a productive experience to beginners and veterans alike, and the tree-lined banks give shade in high sun. As you move downstream the water becomes warmer, although there are still plenty of fishable pockets until you reach about to Collinsville.
Fishing access to the Farmington is good, as roads run alongside the river most of the way. There are access points at Beaver Pool, Ovation, Hitchcock Chair, and various locations down to Collinsville. The trout management area typically yields the largest fish, but it’s also heavily fished and the trout in this area require a close fly match. Still, no matter where you are on the Farmington you’ll be rewarded with beautiful scenery and a lively population of trout to play with.
Visit our DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Farmington River for more information.
This 18-mile long tributary of the Thames River runs approximately 20 miles through the eastern part of the state. This waterway offers the unique opportunity to land browns, rainbows, and brookies, as well as Atlantic salmon. Wading is good along Highway 32 below Willimantic, and from Scotland Dam downstream about four miles you’ll have the best chance for salmon.
There is also good trout fishing along the Little River, a tributary of the Shetucket which joins up with the river in Versailles. This area is stocked with trout and offers a combination of pools, riffles, and runs. The most productive stretch lies in the Pudding Hill Wildlife Management Area above the Hanover Reservoir.
This river meanders for nearly 150 miles throughout western Massachusetts and Connecticut. Between the Falls Village dam and Housatonic State Park is an area that is stocked with 9000 fish twice per year – once in the spring and once in the fall. While the flow of the Housy – as locals affectionately call it – used to be controlled by releases from the dam, it is now a natural flow river which means the trout are more evenly distributed and the waters are much more hospitable to anglers.
From the area around West Cornwall at Route 112 and Route 7 there is a Trout Management Area that runs down to the Route 4 Bridge. As the TMA continues from the covered bridge at West Cornwall, it gets faster and offers lovely pockets, deep pools, and classic runs. Some of the pools in this stretch are actually named – such as the Garbage Hole, Monument, The Elms, and many more. Pockets here can yield large fish, making this 10.4-mile section one of the most popular fly fishing destinations on the Housy.
In addition to stocked trout, the Housatonic also plays host to smallmouth bass and pike, giving unique fishing opportunities for boaters, particularly when the water flow is heavy.
Visit our DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Housatonic River for more information.
For those seeking a bit of variety, the Naugatuck offers the opportunity to fly fish for Atlantic salmon. This tributary of the Housatonic follows along Route 8 for the most part, ultimately emptying into the Housy. The state stocks salmon during October and November.
There are two sections to consider when fly fishing here – between exits 23 and 26 on Route 8, and exits 40 to 41. The first area tends to be deeper and swiftly flowing, presenting a challenge to waders. There is a bridge pool at Pines Bridge Road which is a good place to begin, although it can also be crowded. The second area is located at a narrower stretch of the river – about 20-40 feet – but there can be fish holed up in the large pools here.
From October 1 through all of November, this area is a catch-and-release only. From December 1 until March 31 you can keep one salmon per day. You can only use an artificial, single-hook fly.
If you’re looking for a little variety, check out Long Island Sound. Between Greenwich and Fairfield you will find no shortage of public access points (like Compo Beach and Pennfield Reef) from which to try your hand at a little saltwater fly fishing action. These spots can yield that prized striped bass cruising the shoreline looking for an easy meal. You may also encounter bluefish, flounder, or black sea bass.
Connecticut offers year-round fly fishing action in most lakes and ponds, while the fishing season for rivers and streams runs from the third Saturday in April through the end of February.
The most productive months on the Farmington are from April through the end of October. The Housatonic offers the best dry fly fishing in May, June, September, October, and November, with a variety of standard hatches taking place during this time.
For the Shetucket, spring is best for trout, while summertime can be a challenge. Fall yields the larger browns, and winter is excellent for Atlantic salmon. Salmon on the Naugatuck is also best during the wintertime.
Bring along your typical gear, including waders, a hat for sun protection, a rain jacket with hood, a vest or pack to carry your small items, polarized sunglasses for seeing into the water, nippers or nail clippers and other accessories, snacks, water, and a wading staff for unpredictable tailwaters. You’ll also want fleece waders for the Naugatuck along with a pair of fingerless wool gloves in order to withstand the chill of the waters during salmon season.
On the Housatonic you’ll want a 9-foot 5 weight rod with a 4X tippet and 9-foot leader. Trout fly line and streamer stripper sink tip fly line will both serve you well. The hatches here can include hendricksons, cahills, March browns, blue-winged olives, mayflies, and caddis. You’ll want some stonefly nymphs, pheasant tails, caddis larvae, and woolly buggers.
On the Farmington a 10-foot 5 weight rod with 6X tippet and 9-foot leader is a good choice, along with trout fly line and clear sink tip fly line. Keep a variety of flies on-hand – emerging caddis, blue-winged olive, midges, sculpins, ants, pheasant tails, classic nymphs, and stonefly nymphs.
On the Naugatuck you could encounter 20+ pound, extremely strong salmon that put up the good fight. You’ll need a 7 to 9 weight rod equipped with a mid- to large-arbor reel with hefty backing and drag system. Use a 6 to 7.5-foot leader, and play around with different streamer patterns – from bright, to smaller bead-head nymphs. Depending upon how the fishing pressure is affecting the salmon at any given time, you may have to try different approaches.
If fishing the coast, make sure you’ve got a good 8 or 9 weight with a large reel and ample backing. An intermediate sinking line is best, with leaders of at least 12 pound test weight. Keep steel leaders on-hand just in case, as the bluefish are a bit toothy.
People age 16 and up require a fishing license in the state of Connecticut. For residents ages 16 and 17 the cost for an inland license is $14. From age 18 up you’ll pay $28 per year. Permits to fish all waters in the state cost $16 for those age 16-17 and $32 for adults. Senior citizens (age 65 and up) can obtain a free inland or marine waters license. Non-residents may purchase an inland waters license for $55 or an all waters license for $63, or a marine waters license for $15. Non-residents also have the option of purchasing a three-day inland fishing license for $22, or a three-day marine waters license for $8.
Connecticut may be small – in fact it is the third smallest state – but as far as exciting options for anglers, it is mighty.