Don’t Let Your Skills Become Rusty

If your primarily a trout fisherman, you do not need to let your skills become rusty while we have been experiencing one of the hottest summers on record. Eastern Connecticut has many different size rivers and streams to hone your fly fishing skills on. A case in point is the Willimantic River which will be a topic of discussion at this month’s Thames Valley TU Meeting by my friend and fellow guide, Steve Babbitt.

I have said this a number of times before in other Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts, as well as this blog, that I use the Willimantic and other marginal trout streams as training grounds to keep my skills up when I am not able to get to the Farmington or some other cool water trout stream during the summer.

First, let me digress for a moment and gripe a bit on how the weather channels use the term ” 90 degree days . ”  I could be off  here-  I’m not a meteorologist – but,  I feel that their claims of a 90 degree day whenever the temperature reaches 90 degrees is a little overrated . Let me explain:

I make a definite distinction between a 90 day that hits 90 at 9 or 10 am vs. a 90 degree day that reaches 90 at 4 pm, but by 4:30  it is back below 90 again. The day that it is 90 at 9 or 10 am is a much  ” hotter ” day and more troubling for a trout fisherman than the one that peaks 90  at the height of the day but starts cooling immediately afterwards. Unfortunately this summer we have had a number of days that reached 90 degrees or better early in the day.  Thankfully, we also have had a wet summer, too, which has helped keep streams flowing ! Hopefully after this next round of heat ends, we will start to see our days and nights start to cool off so fall trout stocking can begin. 

Now back to the main topic. As I mentioned above, I use the Willy as my training ground when I can not get somewhere else. It is a river that is roughly 25 miles long and starts in Stafford at the confluence of Furnace Brook and Middle River. It is a relatively fast flowing river with your typical New England riffle to pools configuration. It has some deep pools but for the most part it is fairly shallow and easy wading. Plus, it has numerous bridge access and ” open lands ” for the public to gain entry in addition to a year-round Trout Management Area.


This is within the Merrow Park section

It also has undercut banks, overhanging brush and limbs, and plenty of space to practice your skills like:  casting under brush or  fishing around structure, honing your tuck cast  or slack leader cast, and mending techniques – just to name a few.

Although it has a small population of holdover and wild trout within the TMA, it mostly receives trout stockings from DEEP . Other organizations like Thames Valley TU and Connecticut Fly Fisher’s Association  provide occasional float stocking as well but, for the most part, much of your summer season is spent fishing for other species. As you can see, the ” Willy ” has a diverse population. Of particular importance is the fallfish !

Fallfish are one of Connecticut’s native species. They can grow to be rather large, too. Connecticut’s state record is 2.4 lbs.. My friend, Rowan Lytle, caught two in Pennsylvania recently that would have beaten our state’s record. They are a fun fish to catch on a fly rod and definitely keep your skills sharp ! From my experience as well as some other fisherman that I have talked to, I feel that fallfish are less picky than trout in terms of what flies to use but are just as finicky and demanding as to how they are presented, and are even faster than trout at striking and/or rejecting them . They are not the ” garbage ” or nuisance fish that you might think….and stop calling them dace !


Pete, a new client of mine, wanted me to critique his skills and help him improve them.

As you can see from a teaching perspective, the Willimantic (and other Eastern Connecticut rivers and streams) can offer you a very good lesson that is most likely a few minutes drive from your residents. At the same time, you probably will be on the river by yourself  to boot !



Thin Leaf Sunflowers dot the river banks of the Willimantic


While your fishing, the Willy or another Eastern Connecticut river or stream will probably have similar flora and be very picturesque, too.

Get out there wherever you live and find a local river or stream and just fish ! Work on the all important fundamentals ! Catch fish ! Be happy fly fishing on some quiet stretch of water in your backyard !

Don’t forget to come to this month’s presentation on the Willimantic by Steve. It will be much more informative.

As always, I hope to see you out there some time and don’t hesitate to contact me for a lesson or guide. Also, please join your local conservation group or Trout Unlimited- help is always needed. Thames Valley TU will always welcome you !






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