The Farmington River is a popular fly fishing destination for trout. It is in Connecticut, and it is a tributary of the Connecticut River.
The river is stocked with trout and has a good population of wild trout as well. Popular species include Brown trout, Rainbow trout and Brook trout. Trophy brown trout exceeding 20+ inches are not uncommon.
Ready to check it out?
Read on for information on the best places to fish the Farmington and what you'll need to be successful on your fly fishing outing.
Learning about Euro nymphing on the Farmington River with the New Fly Fisher
About the Farmington River
The Farmington River is about 170 miles long and has a drainage basin of about 2,000 square miles. There are two main branches to the Farmington River, the East Branch and the West Branch. Both the East and West Branches water stays cool in summer and doesn’t ice over in winter.
The best trout fishing is found on the West Branch which is a tailwater created by the Colebrook Reservoir, and West Branch Reservoirs. The West Branch Hogback dam has a hydroelectric generator, but this doesn't alter the steady flow of water. The water is released from the reservoirs at the bottom and remains cold all year.
Best Places to Fish the Farmington River
The Farmington offers over 30 miles of fishing spots, and thousands of trout are stocked in its waters each year. The river reach through Collinsville has some of the best trout water.
A tailwater fishery issuing from Goodwin Dam, the Farmington River runs through historic and scenic Connecticut countryside. Stable flows support an excellent population of holdover browns and rainbows. Two specially regulated Trout Management Areas (TMAs) are located in this section.
The river is easily accessible from a number of parking areas or by walking or biking along trails.
The state also stocks several smaller streams that feed into the river that are worth exploring if you have time. These include Salmon Brook, Sandy Brook, Mill Brook, Roaring Brook, Cherry Brook, Unionville Brook, and the Nepaug, Pequauck and Still rivers.
Map of Farmington River Trout Management Areas
Farmington River Upper Trout Management Area
The Upper TMA is a 3.5-mile reach beginning approximately one mile above the Route 318 Bridge extending down stream to the Route 219 Bridge in New Hartford. Year round catch-and-release regulations apply and only barbless hooks are permitted.
This is a very popular destination for fly fisherman because trout rise 365 days a year. Classic pools abound in the Upper TMA with long deep sections that harbor large trout. Brown trout larger than 20 inches are not uncommon in this reach.
Farmington River Lower Trout Management Area
The Lower TMA begins below the Rt 219 bridge and extends 12.75-miles down river to the Rt 177 Bridge. Fishing here is catch-and-release from September 1 to the third Saturday in April (opening day in CT). A two fish creel limit applies from Opening Day through August 31st.
The Farmington in the Lower TMA is more rugged than the Upper TMA and is characterized by large boulders and deep pools that hold some large trout.
Best Time to Fish the Farmington River
The best time to fish the Farmington River is from April until October. The dam releases cold water that keeps the water at 50 degrees all summer.
As a result, the Farmington is great for fly fishing in the summer, with one exception. During the summer, you will find many kayaks, canoes, and tubers. On summer weekends, it is best to fish in the early hours of the morning.
How to Fly Fish the Farmington River
The west branch of the Farmington River from Riverton to New Hartford is most commonly targeted by fly anglers. This section is home to the largest trout population. The River is stocked heavily with mature fish averaging 12 inches. Holdover brown trout get much larger. During the prime months, the river receives a lot of fishing pressure so it’s best to fish during the week if you can.
The Farmington River's aquatic insects make up the majority of a trout’s diet. Blue-winged Olives and midges make up a large portion of the aquatic insect population. Fishing small flies is always more efficient.
There are many larger, slow moving pools on the Farmington. Because the trout have a better view of your fly, they are harder to fish than runs or riffles.
Although the Farmington offers some great dry fly fishing opportunities, the fish are not easy to fool. A nymph is a better choice than a dry fly for most anglers.
Farmington River Hatches
Blue-winged Olives are an important food source for trout, and are abundant in many trout streams including the Farmington. They hatch over a prolonged period of time in the early season and then again in the later part of the year.
The Red Quill and Hendrickson hatches are important on the Farmington, just like many Eastern trout streams. These hatches occur in late April, and continue into May. In the stream's fast water sections, you’ll find some American March Browns, and Light Cahill. These hatches are often very sparse.
From mid May to the end of June, Sulphurs are plentiful. Tricos and White Drakes hatch between July and August. Little Black Caddis (Grannom), begin to hatch in April and May.
Caddisflies are also an import food source on the Farmington and typically start to hatch between May and September. Terrestrial insects will be active from the middle of June until the first frost. You will find hoppers, beetles and ants along the banks.
Midges, as with all tailwaters, are very important especially when there is no other insects hatching. Midges are the most important insect to imitate all season. They are always there. You can choose from a range of hook sizes, from 18 to 26.
For larger brown trout, make sure you have plenty of streamers. Although sculpin streamers work best than others, there are many baitfish available in the river.
Best Flies for Farmington River
Regarding fly patterns, here’s a list of the some of the best flies for the Farmington River:
- ISO (#8-12)
- Blue Quill (#16-18)
- Trico (#20-24)
- Tan Caddis (#14-16)
- Midges (#20-24)
- BWO (#14-18)
- Light Cahill (#12-14)
- Stoneflies (#6-12)
- Light Cahill (#12-14)
- Blue Quill (#16-18)
- Elk Hair Caddis Tan (#12-16)
- ISO Dun & Spinners (#8-12)
- Sulphur Comparadun (#16-18)
- Bird of Prey Caddis
- Biot Body Stonefly (#6-10)
- Frenchie (#12-16)
- Hares Ear (#14-18)
- McKee's Rubberlegs Stone (#6-10)
- BH Prince (#8-12)
- Pheasant Tail (#14-20)
- GTI Caddis Larva (#12-16)
- Sculpin Patterns (#4-10)
- Green Weenie (#12-16)
- Sunken ant (#12-16)
Ventures Fly Co. offers a great selection of dry flies, nymphs and streamers that will catch fish just about anywhere. Set includes 40 high quality, hand-tied flies (see list below) and waterproof fly box.
- Adams Dry Fly
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Blue Wing Olive
- Royal Wulff
- Griffith's Gnat White
- Stimulator, Organge
- Chernobyl Ant
- Rubber Leg Nymph, Brown
- BH Pheasant Tail Nymph
- BH Prince Nymph
- BH Hare's Ear Nymph
- Barr's Emerger Nymph
- Zebra Midge Nymph, Black
- Wooly Bugger, Black (Size #8x2)
- Wooly Bugger, Olive (Size #8x2)
Essential Fly Fishing Gear
A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on the Farmington River. For larger nymphs and streamers a 9-foot 6-wt with a sink tip fly line makes life easier. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 6X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.
Farmington River Fishing Report
There are a number of area fly shops and online retailers that publish Farmington River fly fishing reports. A few to check out are listed below.
Farmington River Flow Conditions
Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish Little Lehigh Creek. The USGS stream gauges in Riverton and Unionville provide a good indication of current conditions.
The graph below shows the stream flow (discharge) for the past 7-days. If flows are considerably above or below historical norms (yellow triangles on the chart) then fishing conditions may not be ideal.
Visit our DIY Guide to Fly Fishing in Connecticut for more information on trout fishing in Connecticut.
Featured image by pedrik