The Farmington River: The Fly-Fishing Capital of Connecticut

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Courtesy of Farmington River Trading Company

Mike Gregory, Sports Editor

The west branch of the Farmington River in Connecticut is located in perhaps the state’s most beautiful and scenic section: the northwest corner. Crisp air, tall hemlock trees, and breathtaking views surround the winding roads and bridges that follow the Farmington River up through the towns of Canton, New Hartford, Barkhamsted, and West Hartland. Venturing up to this section of the state may feel like traveling through Vermont or Maine to those who have never been, but those who do make the trek through the hills and deep forests usually do so for one reason; Farmington River fly-fishing. 

Farmington River fishing has been prominent for a long time, but the last decade has brought a boom in the number of people choosing to start fly-fishing. The Farmington River offers convenient access for fishermen, a massive population of fish (especially trout), and a fishery that can be fished all year round.

The Farmington River has grown into a 12 month a year destination fishery for fly fishermen from all the surrounding states and beyond. More people seem to fish it every year, partly due to the easy access and proximity to major population centers, and partly because the fishery continues to get even better over time and is relatively predictable and stable.” Said Torrey Collins, a Farmington River fly-fishing expert who manages the Upcountry Sportfishing store in New Hartford. 

Those who regularly fly-fish the Farmington River can access weekly reports and updates on conditions of the River via a website managed by Upcountry Sportfishing. Additionally, those who are new to fly-fishing can book sessions with local guides and instructors to teach them the fundamentals of fly-fishing and to provide them some on the water experience. Fly-fishing can be very difficult at it’s most advanced levels, but it is a very easy sport to pick up and many who choose to do so get “hooked” on the sport. 

“For many years I used to go fishing in the lower sections of the Farmington River, but a couple of years ago I began fly-fishing on the river, and it has been awesome. I went out with a guide my first time, and I really learned a lot about different techniques and strategies. The upper stretch of the river is gorgeous, and offers some fantastic fishing.” Said Farmington high school senior Kyle Wogelius. 

Fishes fish at the Farmington River in Barkhamsted, CT during the 2018 Riverton Fishing derby. Fly fishing is a popular sport in the area.

People of all ages enjoy fishing on the Farmington River, but the management and habitat of the river is what makes it one of the best fly-fishing destinations in the northeast. The river is regarded as a “tailwater fishery”, meaning water is released from the bottom of a dam and fed into the river. Reservoirs in West Hartland and Colebrook are deep enough to where water remains cold at the bottom year-round, and be released into the Farmington River via a controlled dam release. This system allows the water in the river (especially the sections closer to the dam) to remain cold year-round, even in the scorching heat of summer.

A fisherman wading in the river on an 80-degree day in July may find themselves with numb legs due to the cold water in the river being released from the dam. This method of management creates optimal living conditions for fish in the river, specifically trout, which are often the primary target of fly-fishermen. Unlike many other rivers in Connecticut, fish are able to survive at high rates during hot summers, making it possible for fish to be frequently stocked in the river. The river holds an estimated trout population of around 2,000 fish per mile in the upper portion of the river consisting of stocked fish, wild fish(born in the river), and holdover fish (stocked fish who remain in the water for multiple years).

Fly-fishing is truly a sport for all ages and types of people, and the Farmington River is an outstanding destination for fly-fisherman. Fly-fishing on the Farmington River is a great way to get outside and explore nature, and reeling in a monster Farmington River trout is something a person will certainly remember for a lifetime.