3rd place at the Ditch Pickle Classic Tournament, high water, and the Hex hatch
What a week we just had. First off river conditions. We had a lot of rain last week and the first part of this one. In fact we just broke a record for the wettest June in parts of the state, while Burlington is still at around the third or fourth. Big rivers remain largely unfishable, though I did find fish both on my own and with clients on the main stem of the Winooski last week in brown high water, and even saw a few fish rising in a long slow run. The key is finding where fish are holding out of the main current or in long slow pools where they do not need to spend as much energy. I did guide on a small brook trout stream that usually produces a lot of fish, and found it to be a bit slow, though still caught fish. Ill be spending most of my time this coming week on mid sized streams, and on small streams when rains bring levels up again. The Lamoille is in the best shape of any of the bigger rivers right now as the Northern third of the state received less rain than the rest. I have not seen a ton of insect activity when I have been on the water, but caddis was most prevalent. Golden Stones should be really hatching in earnest and looking back on my notes from last year, golden stone nymphs produced a lot of fish from mid June through mid July, and I found a ton of stonefly adults around the 4th of July at night.
Because of this, it is a great time of the year to use a dry dropper rig. I like to use a foam stonefly around size 10 and float a heavy golden stone nymph around 4' below that and then tie a small nymph off the back of that around 1' below it. It is important to drop your nymphs far below your dry, it will be harder to cast but you will catch more fish. Shortening your leader to your dry will help out a lot. I usually run around a 7' leader when fishing this way. I change the small nymph out frequently depending on what is hatching, but leave the stonefly nymph on almost all the time as its weight helps get my other nymph down quickly. Fish will sporadically take the dry on top of more consistently eating the nymphs. If I encounter rising fish I will clip off the nymphs and tie on the appropriate dry or emerger. In this situation using Orvis' Dropper fly box is really handy because it allows you to store your dropper rigs all pre tied and keeps them from tangling.
The Hex hatch has begun as well on some of our trout ponds. I actually saw a few Hexes around three weeks ago but the hatch really gets going this week and peaks around the 4th of July or just before. It then continues sporadically for a while longer. When fishing the hex hatch, it is important to cover the rises as quickly as possible as the top layer of water is warm and the fish do not hang right at the surface for long. The next best tactic if there are no rises within casting distance, is cast to a group of hexes on the water. They tend to linger on the surface for minutes or more. If you can get your imitations near some real bugs then very often the trout will rise to a real bug and then continue to eat your imitation without much hesitation before it heads back down deep. I always fish two flies during this hatch.
The Ditch Pickle Classic Catch and Release Fly Fishing Bass Tournament on Lake Champlain just wrapped up this weekend. It is always a highlight of the summer for all of us. There were 63 teams and around 140 competitors in this years tournament, the biggest it has ever been. My fishing partner Michael Woulf and I had a good showing tying for third place as a team and tying each other for 4th place overall. We lost the podium in a tie breaker, though I thought we would have won the tie breaker. We were really happy with our result, though are always bothered by the ones that got away, which there were plenty of. We fished a lot of different water this year during the tournament and some of our hot spots did not produce while others had fish holding in different areas than usual. We fished both largemouth and small mouth with both streamers and top water. The top flies were by far a small crayfish imitation fished on a sink tip and a small black popper with white legs. We found largemouth in weedy bays anywhere from 7 feet to 1' and smallies in 14-4' off of islands and shelves. Smallies were hanging shallow at first light sunday morning and moved deeper as the day went on. If you ever want to join a fun fly fishing event be sure to put this one at the top of your list. The captains bags are worth more than the entry fee and prizes are great, including rods, reels, a kayak, and even a guided fishing trip in Louisiana. The awards ceremony is a great time and lunch is provided. We are looking forward to next years tourney and are really hoping to get the top spot.
I can guide on Lake Champlain though only can guide one person at a time from Canoe. If you ever want to get out on the big lake let me know and we can chase bass, pike and bowfin.
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Ben Wilcox Owner/Guide Maple Country Anglers