The first week of trout season is in the books. I spent a little more time on the water than I am normally afforded as my Maple Sugaring season wrapped up about a week and half early this year. The past week saw flows dropping and clearing or rising and dirty depending on the day, and what precipitation we had just received along with snow melt from the abnormally warm weekend. I hit a river Friday afternoon that flows through my grandfathers old farm land and a minute from where I grew up. When I was a kid this river had a well deserved reputation for producing big wild browns through the stretch where i lived. I recall so clearly standing on the bank with my dad and watching two huge brown trout holding under a log. I would fish the river frequently and always seemed to have good luck, and always had a blast snorkeling and chasing all the trout around. When I moved back from Maine I was really bummed to find that the trout population had plummeted. I am unsure of what really happened but my outings in the spring before the river was stocked nearly always resulted in no fish. In fact I dont think I had caught a fish in the river for over 6 years. After catching some wild fish in a small tributary last year, I decided I'd give it a try. When the pictured wild brown took my fly I was ecstatic. It was a great way to start my season, and I really hope that this is a sign that the trout are rebounding in this stream. The next morning I spent looking for steelhead with a good friend of mine. We covered a fair amount of water and only hooked juvenile steelhead and suckers. It was a good time, but we didn't get into any adult steelhead. I think the fishing will continue to improve here. I did talk to one angler who landed an 18" steelhead. I'll be on the river again this week and expect things to be better.
I did see a good amount of brown stones on friday afternoon, but the fish were not keying into the nymphs in the dirty water. As soon as I tied on the red worm I got a hook up however, and I had throughly fished the water already with a variety of nymphs. I also had a #18 black caddis land on my hand and saw some small midges in the air. On the steelhead stream the fish seemed to want Pheasant tails and frenchies in size 12.
Looking ahead the water levels and clarity will be clearing on the small and mid sized streams, while the big rivers will still be blown out. Keep and eye out for hatches and if fish are keying into those nymphs or if the want attractor patterns. You should be fishing two flies at least with something brighter and something more natural like a brown stonefly nymph or pheasant tail while prospecting. It is also still a great time to cover water with streamers. If you are fishing with nymphs I like to find water that I am confident is holding fish and really cover it well, changing flies until I find what the fish want, while streamer fishing is more productive if you cover lots of water targeting bends, pools, and woody structure until you find and aggressive fish willing to chase your fly.
Good luck on the water this week.
Its finally here, and since I havent been out I posted some pics from the last day of 2016 regular trout season. That day was the last day I was on the water, and it was a good one. A big rain storm a day prior had pushed a ton of Landlocks that had been waiting all fall to run, up into the river and it was a special day. We caught a pile of large salmon including one on my very first drift.
Now onto 2017. The very good news is that our drought is over. The bad news is that fishing will be tough this weekend but should help us out as we get into late spring and summer. We have over 100" of snow still on Mount Mansfield, and we were greeted on this opening day with another 4" here at my house. Rivers are running very high, dirty, and cold right now as we also had a ton of rain last week. The 9th annual Otter Creek Classic is happening this weekend, and while I have registered, I dont think ill be able to make it out as my other business of Maple Sugaring is still going for another week or so, I may be able to hit the water first thing tomorrow morning for a couple hours.
By tomorrow some smaller streams will likely be clear. I'd try to find some lower elevation streams that may be a little warmer when the sun comes out tomorrow. Around the Champlain Valley there was no snow, so they may be running a few degrees warmer. Tactics should be fishing deep holding pools and with high water target areas that are out of the swift current like eddies, inside bends, behind structure, and along the bank. These areas do not need to be huge to hold a fish in high water. Fish low and slow with larger stoneflies, worms, and attractor nymphs as well as brighter streamers.
Ill have more to report in the coming weeks as the water recedes and warms and I am able to get out. We should be seeing steelhead now through the beginning of May and with the good flows I anticipate a decent run. I prefer high off colored water when fishing for steelhead and Id say we have that! Good luck out there and wade safe.
Ben Wilcox Owner/Guide Maple Country Anglers