Here is a nice article from US Fish and Wildlife Service highlighting the improved returns of LL Atlantic Salmon to the Winooski River. Its a good read and thanks to the Sea Lamprey control program the upward trend, I believe, will continue. I look forward to putting more clients on these awesome fish next season.
Winter is a great time of the year to improve your fly fishing knowledge, and feed your addiction until the season rolls around. Let's face it, in Vermont when the forecast calls for a high of 3 degrees, like tomorrow, even the most die hard anglers are probably going to find something better to do. During the winter I especially enjoy reading up on tactics and techniques and then perfecting them on the river in the spring. I find that many people including myself have preferred methods that can be hard to shy away from. The best anglers are knowledgeable in all aspects of fly fishing, and identify where they can improve. The beauty of fly fishing is that we will never know everything about the sport and there is always something to learn.
Going back to last season I have really decided to focus on tight line nymphing and have committed to learn as much as I can this winter. I cannot wait to really commit some serious time this spring to perfecting some of these techniques. To me it is a blast to learn something new, and I can tell you from experience that if you give new techniques like tight line nymphing a chance you will hook more fish. With that in mind, I wanted to share an awesome web site and blog that has some of the best and most consistent content out there. The dudes at Gink and Gasoline will keep your Facebook news feed filled with awesome fly fishing content. Check their website and look them up on Facebook.
Happy New Year from Vermont! Before we know it opening day will be here, and winter will be a distant memory. Until then two things: 1. Don't forget to get your 2015 license, there is a link to VT Fish and Wildlife website in the guided fishing trip info page. 2. There are waters that are open to catch and release fishing if you just can't resist the temptation to give it a go. In our area the Winooski is open below Bolton Dam all the way to the lake, you can get into steelhead and maybe a few salmon are still kicking around. There are a handful of other Champlain Tributaries open year round that have a steelhead run as well. Make sure you consult the 2015 rules and regulations before hitting any water.
For some reason the blog posts below are in the wrong order, so I guess read to the bottom if you want to get to the newer posts.
The last four days have been just about ideal conditions. We had a large rain event that dropped about 1.5" of rain on Wednesday which flushed a bunch of warm water through the river systems. That has been followed up by daytime temps only in the upper 60's with cloud cover and sporadic rains. The big rivers are running above average flows and are slightly off color and the temps are in the lower sixties! Needless to say we brought a lot of rainbows to hand Friday as the water clarity improved, Saturday and Sunday. I approached the Winooski on friday night looking at fairly dirty water and immediately thought streamers and nymphs. There was a lot of insect activity with #12 Iso's in the air as well as some BWO's and Cahill's. I soon hooked a few fish on the swing and missed one on my foam stimmy. As I began to see a few fish rise I clipped of my two nymphs that were dropped off of the back of my dry fly and tied on a grey Wulff and began consistently hooking fish until dark. The rest of the weekend went in the same fashion with the majority of the fish being taken on dries though Zug bugs, #18 pheasant tails, and black stones were taking fish here and there. Saturday we had the drift boat out and caught fish on nymphs in the morning hours. I was able to Euro Nymph up a few nice bows as well. The best fish of the weekend was a beauty of a wild Rainbow around 17-18". I believe we missed this fish from the drift boat Saturday when a big fish swiped at a foam stimulator drifted inches from a large rock. On Sunday while wading in the same spot I hooked the big rainbow next to the same exact rock on my second drift. It took an Adam's Irresistable in tan/ grey. I also had the opportunity Sunday to teach my friend Max from Quebec to fly fish. He picked up casting very quickly, throwing nice tight loops and we found a nice low casting angle to be most effective and natural for him. We threw on a grey wulff and missed 7 fish in a row until he finally landed one. As someone who is used to being a natural at everything he tries, he was more than frustrated when he was unable to hook a fish. When we finally brought a 12" bow to net and snapped some pics it was an awesome moment!
After a warm start to September, we have gotten in to a cool weather pattern that has the fish feeding heavily. I have been fishing a stretch of the Winooski that has a lot of pocket water with a few deep pools. The low flows have allowed me to fish the entire river, which usually is not possible. Fish have been holding everywhere even in very skinny water. Fish near the shore before stepping in to the water to fish the pools. I like to drift a adams over the shallow riffles where nymphing will not work. You will be surprised at the number of fish you will pick up in these areas. We have been bringing many wild rainbows, a few wild browns and stocked Rainbows, browns, and salmon. Most of the fish have been taken on Iso imitations.
Nymphs during the day such as Zug Bugs, Princes, dark stoneflies and PT's in sizes 12-14 have been eaten readily. I always drop a small baetis nymph off the back size 18-22. Some favorites are PT's, and red Copper Johns. Dead drift your nymphs through any likely runs and holes and swing your flies at the end of the drift. Hold the there for at least a few seconds, and then strip them back to you. You will get as many or more fish on the swing and retrieve. Work the entire river with your swing not just the end of the pool. When swinging nymphs it is beneficial to use yarn or my favorite a foam hopper or stimulator as an indicator. You will spook less fish and pick up some on the dry as well. One thing I like about this time of year is that with fish chasing swimming nymphs it is a great time to get beginners on the water and in to fish as presentations do not need to be perfect.
The last hour before dark has been the best fishing of the day however, has been the most exciting fishing. Fish have been looking at the surface and largely ignoring nymphs which is OK with me! Parachute Adams have been my fly of choice as I can see it in the low light and riffles. Epherons- White fly spinners have been around too so a white wulff or similar pattern will see some action. October Caddis will start to show up soon. That means orange will be another color to imitate both on the surface and below.
Bottom line is get on the water. This is prime time right now!
We are nearing the end of September, though it feels like August out there. Fishing has continued to be good, though rivers are extremely low. I have avoided anything but the big rivers as the small to mid size streams will be super spooky. The fish continue to look up and dries have out produced nymphs hands down for me. The Iso hatch is all but over, and Blue Wing Olives, and caddis have been the preferred choice of fish. There has been a great flurry the last half hour of light. Stay until dark, and even bring a headlamp and you will be rewarded.
The heat and low water have kept me from fishing any streamers for large browns or exploring some of the LL Salmon rivers. I have heard of some fish being caught, but until we have some real rain, its not going to be very reliable. I hope to target some very large fish after it rains next weekend.
Its been a fun salmon and steelhead run this year. We have seen good numbers of fish and some very nice fish have been landed. Many fish from 22"-28" have come to net. I lost the largest Lake Champlain LL salmon I have seen the other day while fishing with my wife, and it was a true heartbreaker. I hooked it on a nymph only 10' from my feet where it came out of the water and almost gave me a heart attack. It then turned and proceeded to take me almost to the end of my backing. I was able to get it stopped and began gaining line but suddenly it popped off. Upon further inspection, my hook was straightened a bit. I'm sure that when I gave it the extra pressure to stop it from spooling me the hook bent a bit. I hope to get another fish of that caliber on your line soon.
Below is a pic of a short but very fat and healthy Lake Champlain Steelhead.
Ben Wilcox Owner/Guide Maple Country Anglers