What an amazing spring fishing season we had! Lots and lots of fish were caught, and all trips were quite successful. Two months of really solid fishing thanks to good river temps and ample rain was a welcomed change from the previous two spring seasons where we only had a short window of good fishing. I spent a lot of time guiding and instructing both new and repeat clients. I was also able to get to New York for a fishing tournament and took third place in a stacked field, as well as get to Northern NH with the family camping and fishing. I took as much time to get outside as I could because on Monday, June 27 I underwent ankle and foot reconstruction surgery. I'll be on crutches the entire summer and am hoping to get back in the river by mid September if all goes well. Obviously, I will not be doing any guiding, but I am booking trips for Andy and John all summer.
Going forward we are obviously in the summer pattern of lower flows and higher temps. This combination typically has us fishing for trout by focusing on small streams that stay cold year round, or fishing for bass and fallfish on the lower stretches of the big rivers. That being said, on trips this week we have been able to get on some mid sized streams thanks to below average air temps. The fishing has remained good both with dries and nymphs. Andy's client a few days ago had to deal with really high water from a morning downpour but after some moving around they found fishable water and some nice brook trout and even hooked into a giant brown trout in the turbid water (when big browns like to feed during the summer) but it came un buttoned. The brown ate an un weighted stonefly in fairly shallow water. The fourth of July weekend is looking warm but only briefly before we see below average temps return next week once again! Typically I head north to camp for the holiday and fish the hex hatch on still water for big fish, but that's obviously not happening this year. We could potentially get a few clients out for the hex hatch next week if we get a specific request.
My Favorite rig this time of year is a dry dropper either on a euro rod or standard rod for longer range applications. When fishing a small stream I still prefer a 10' euro rod over say a 7.5' 3 wt. I have been quite enjoying my new Diamondback 10' 2 wt. I find that on small streams using a thin long leader and 10' rod allows me more control over my dry and nymph than a small weight forward rod and line set up. By being able to cast the thin leader into small pockets or runs from below the fish, I can attain a much better presentation than with the shorter rod. This is because when you cast a shot rod with a heavy fly line (in comparison to a long mono leader) the short rod is not able to hold the fly line off of the water resulting in the heavy line landing immediately on the water and accelerating over the tail out of a pool or run therefore pulling your fly out of the strike zone where the majority of fish are found. Remember, trout will eat a swung or skated fly, but rarely will eat a fly being pulled downstream faster than the current. By sneaking close with a 10' rod and long leader I can flick a short cast forward and hold the entire leader off of the water getting the absolute best presentation from the moment the fly lands all the way through the tail out. Lots of trout, and brook trout in particular, will hold under the rocks at the end of a plunge pool or pocket and eat your fly just before it spills down to the next run. I hear many people say there's no way you can cast a 10' rod in tight tree lined streams but its simply not true. If you have any space at all you can find an angle to make a cast, and the places where you cannot a bow and arrow cast is effective and accurate. The 10' rod also gives a distinct advantage when bow and arrow casting allowing a longer cast, from further away, and better presentation. Ive certainly used the bow and arrow cast to great effect in tournaments where trout were holding in difficult to reach places.
The last week in June was the annual Ditch Pickle Classic bass fly fishing tournament on Lake Champlain. My teammate Mike Woulf and I were defending champions from last year and had a good showing this year as well, finishing third out of about 50 teams. It was a great way to go out before surgery. The fishing was challenging but we ended up catching more fish than ever before, we were just a couple 18" fish short in the end. We came into the tournament with a plan to fish shallow and mid depth bass and vary our locations to find bass feeding shallow. This is because we are better at this type of fishing and enjoy it more. The problem was we had two hot days back to back that jumped surface temps up about 10 degrees in one day. We found that the bigger bass went deeper in every area we tried during the day. We got some good ones early and then only found small fish during the heat. We ran all over the lake but didn't find any big fish till evening. The combination of that evening from 7-9 and next morning from 5-6:30 was maybe the best top water fishing for bass either of us have experienced. Huge numbers of smallmouth filtered up onto our flat we had chosen and began chasing baitfish. Throwing a popper toward swirls resulted in a bass almost every time. In the end we put a lot of fish in the net. I came up with 5 in the 18-20" class and two just under that I had to count for my seven total which gave me two points under the leaders who tied three way with 7 bass in the 18-20" range. I was happy that I didn't lose a single fish the entire tournament. Mike was just behind me, but ended up loosing three giants and had to count a few smaller bass in his bag. The winners all found fish deep throughout the day and we didn't make that adjustment. We now know what we need to work on next year! Thanks to all that hosted, organized and sponsored the event. We look forward to that weekend every year.
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Ben Wilcox Owner/Guide Maple Country Anglers