Winter sure can be cold, but the fishing can still be hot; you just need to know where to look! Right in my home state of Connecticut a great place to be this time of year is on the upper Naugatuck River. The section of the river in Harwinton holds some monster Atlantic salmon as well as trophy brown and rainbow trout. It can be fished year-round, but during salmon season the regulations change a bit so you’ll need to be mindful of that. From 12/1-3/31 no bait is allowed and artificial presentations are limited to flies and lures with a single, free-swinging hook.
Tucked up in the northwest corner of the state, this portion of the Naugy is absolutely gorgeous. You can access the river right off of route 8 via Exit 41, onto Campville Road. The Campville section is where salmon stockings occur in late autumn and early winter of the surplus broodstock fish with some specimens climbing up into the 20-pound class. There are some great pools at this location, and in my opinion it beats out the Beacon Falls area of the same river. Heading down from this initial stocking point as the river twists and turns, there is a good variance between deep, rocky holes and shallow areas consisting of sand and gravel. The river gives you options so you in-turn have options for the fish—especially if you spot them sunning themselves on those bitter cold days. The deeper pools are cold enough even during the heat of summer to allow fish to holdover and survive the stressful time of year.
Fishing down from the starting point of Campville to the final destination of the Thomaston dam is pretty much the main bit up that way. It is the right section of the river to focus on if you want some quality fish. I’ve even pulled a few salmon and decent browns from right below the dam, too. The dam itself really isn’t what you’d think. It is basically a big pipe on the backside instead of a spillway. However, it does produce a good flow and makes the water that much more oxygenated which attracts our salmonid friends.
Fishing the river during the winter months is very peaceful. It is a great destination for both fly and spin fishermen chasing trout and salmon. On the fly, drifting wooly buggers is a great way to hook-up. We’ve found that the fish also like traditional streamers like grey and black ghosts. I myself am more of a spin guy so I lean towards smaller spoons like Crocodiles and Little Cleos. I also make sure to swap out my trebles for a single hook on small lipless cranks and Blue Fox spinners in 1/4-1/8 ounces. I have had excellent luck with Blue Fox spinners over the years because the blades make a ton of noise and vibration, even more so than my favorite Panther Martin spinners. The excessive noise can trigger aggression-strikes from picky salmon that would usually let your offering pass on by. So if you can’t get them to bite out of hunger, then you’ll need to make them mad.
Designated Broodstock Area Fishing Restrictions
From October 1 to March 31, angling for all species in the designated salmon broodstock areas on the Naugatuck and Shetucket Rivers is restricted to fishing methods that are legal for Atlantic salmon (a single fly or a lure with a single free-swinging hook only). Additional weight may not be added to the line. Anglers are reminded that the season is closed from March 1st to the 2nd Saturday in April for all species other than broodstock Atlantic salmon except in the upper Naugatuck River Broodstock Area. This area is within the Naugatuck River TMA, which is open year-round for trout (catch-and-release only).