Finally some much needed rain
Its been a busy week with non related fishing stuff but have still managed to get out a bit, unfortunately I don't have time to get pics uploaded for this report and I wanted to check in after todays rain. On my last guided trip a few days back river levels on even the bigger rivers were quite low and clear for the time of year, and we are around 5+" below our average rainfall for the date. This combined with bright sun made fishing during the middle part of the day a bit challenging. We fished the tail end of a long riffle that holds a lot of fish, and were 2 for 5 in a couple hours. A few hours later we hit the same run for about 15 minutes at the very end of the trip. The sun angle was a little lower and a few high clouds had moved in. We went 2 for 6 or 7 in that short time period.
I am hoping with the rain we received in the last couple of days the fish will be more active and feel more comfortable with some higher flows and stained water. Yesterday was a bit of a disappointment as we got very little rain from the line of storms moving through. The flows in the Winooski watershed did not budge, while Lamoille came up only a little, the White received the most rain, though it is still fishable. Today however exceeded my expectations and we got a couple round of a nice soaking rain where I was in Underhill. I don't think levels will rise much, but it will hopefully go a long ways into keeping water temps below 70 on the big rivers and maintain good fishing through the weekend until the next cold front comes through on Saturday. I am hoping again for a good amount of rain out of that system as I have 3 Drift boat trips toward the end of the week and the higher the flows the more options we will have on where to float. The other god news is that behind that cold front on Saturday our temps return to seasonal and even below seasonal averages. I expect fishing to remain excellent for at least the next week or so.
I have seen fish rising sporadically in the last week, but I had the most success with brown and grey soft hackle nymphs in #12 and #14, and fish have been taking them dead drifted though some have been on the swing as well. Zug Bugs, PT nymphs, Caddis pupa, golden stones (especially if the water is off color) and hares ears have been good as well.
I have been using a foam indicator fly with success and the past week or so. I have had fish take the dry fly dead drifted, swung and stripped back upstream. I really like to emphasize swinging and stripping in your nymphs as the fish are feeding throughout the water column and will take the nymphs thinking that they are emerging insects.
My wife and I will be fishing the White River Open Fly Fishing Tournament this Saturday. I think river levels and temps will be perfect for putting a lot of fish in the nets! The White is not my home river and usually only fish it from a drift boat. As this is a wade only event, I am hoping we can find some productive and uncrowded water. I have a few places we will hit and see what happens.
Happy Memorial Day
Happy Memorial Day weekend. This is one of the best weekends to be in Vermont. Between prime time fishing conditions and all the great activities like the Vermont City Marathon, you just can't beat it.
The weather has cooled and is cooling the rivers off as well. The big rivers were in the 60's which is great, but I was a little worried that they could creep a bit too high so early in the season. Flows are great for fishing and floating, though low for the seasonal averages and some rain would be a good thing. Small streams are looking pretty darn low, but there is still a lot of ground water running which will keep things from getting real low until we get some rain next week.
As of now pretty much all the rivers have been stocked and the fish are very active and willing to eat on the surface and all through the water column. Last night the stocked brown trout seemed to literally eat anything. They took big foam stimulators, caddis pupas, golden stone nymphs, PT's and caddis dries. Every fly that was tied on produced at least a fish. It was fun at first, but made it difficult to get dialed in to what any wild fish may be focusing on or even getting the flies to them. I even caught two browns at once. One took the dry and the other the nymph I had dropped off of it, its not the first time that has happened but its a pretty fun thing to have happen. I hope I can repeat that in the White River Open Tournament next Saturday!
During the day, if you can find a location where there is a hatch going on you will catch fish as long as you are prepared for what is hatching, and the life cycle the fish are keyed into. Look for birds swooping over the water from you car as you drive along the river. The fish really follow the insect activity. If there is no hatch, then you can and will certainly catch fish, but you will need to likely nymph them up or use a dry dropper rig with an attractor dry, or streamer. Flip over some rocks to see what is under them and start there with your nymphs. I use at least two and keep switching them until you find what the fish are keying into.
As for bug activity there is a lot going on. During the full day float I had Wednesday, I saw a good flurry of tan caddis #14-16 laying eggs around 10 AM with some yellow #14-16 stoneflies mixed in. As the afternoon progressed we began seeing the mayflies pop and I saw the first two big March Browns of the season floating on the water, a few Pale Evening Duns which are fairly abundant in this area, and some small #20 maybe, grayish mayflies, I did not capture any in order to identify. The Caddis and Stoneflies were sporadic throughout the day as well.
The weekend should feature some very active trout and an increase in the number of March Browns and PED's. The fish have been looking up so you will probably get some opportunities here and there throughout the day on dries and more likely towards dark. Look for spinners (mature mayflies) in clouds above the river bobbing up and down and laying eggs on the water, and fish rising in slower water. It may be a bit too early for the March Brown spinners since they just started, but you may see some of them, or the last of the Hendrickson spinners. I try to match the size, and a spent wing rusty spinner imitation usually gets the job done.
I will say for all to hear that I am in no way an entomologist. I have self taught through tons of reading and time on the water and I guarantee I am not always correct in identifying insects. I will say the more you know the greater your catch rates will be. I would recommend anyone who fly fishes to start learning as much as they can. It will help you so much in your ability to consistently catch trout. Thomas Ames' Hatch Guide For New England Streams has been on my bedside table for years. I look at it almost daily during fishing season.
Now for my story from Wednesday's guided float trip. I did a full day trip on Wednesday with the clients intention of wading in the morning and then heading up to fish a trout pond in the NEK. I woke the night before around midnight and could hear the wind howling. I stressed for hours that night on what to do and finally after checking weather reports and river flows decided the wind was way too much to take the drift boat on a pond. I called an audible and decided a full day river float would be best. At least I figured I would have the current to help the boat down the river. The guys had never fly fished and the 30-40 MPH wind gusts being channeled up the river valley where not going to make casting easy, in fact near impossible. They had their spin gear and that really saved the day. I pinched barbs and we made our way down the river with white caps coming up it many times. It was actually kind of comical as they would cast out in front of the boat and the lure would land 30 yards behind it!! Good news is that the fish did not seem to mind and we caught fish all day including a lunker rainbow of about 18-19" and fat. We unfortunately did not get any pics as it flopped out of his hands. The float, which usually takes around 6 hours if you don't stop very much, took us 9 hours and we only stopped once. My arms and back really got a workout as I had to push non stop the whole time to keep us going down the river. It was a tough day, but a very successful one that took a lot of plan changes to make it work.
We were able to get out on the drift boat both Friday afternoon and Sunday morning, both on the Lamoille and Winooski and both put up some nice fish for us. There were an insane amount of Hendrickson spinners on Friday night, but it was not until some tan caddis joined the party around 7 PM that the trout began to really get interested. Prior to that we had seen no action on nymphs, and no rises, but picked a few fish off with brown streamers. The Rainbow on the right smashed my streamer at the boat in an area I would not expect to see a fish whatsoever. As the caddis began hatching I saw a rise and pulled the boat over. I tied on a lafontaine's caddis pupa in green and hooked that fish on the first drift. Soon another rose above that one and again first cast the fish was hooked. The only downer was that we broke a new Orvis Helios 2.
Sunday a friend and I got on the water around 7 for a short 3 mile float. The big browns, though sparse in this stretch, were feeding. First cast with the streamer and we hooked the 17" holdover brown pictured right, and then shortly afterwards a 12" wild rainbow. It was now my turn to cast from the rowers seat. I had a nymph rig on and first drift I landed the other brown pictured. It was not until I got home and uploaded the pics that I began to wonder whether it was the same fish, and I do believe it was. I compared some of the spots and am pretty certain that the same fish took a streamer and then a hares ear not 10 minutes apart!! I on my second drift I hooked a fish that immediately broke me off, I never got a look but I think it was a real good fish. We missed a few more fish in the next 1/2 mile of river and then the sun really poked out and slowed things down. There was a decent caddis hatch around 9:30 that drew no attention from the fish. Towards the end of the float we moved one of the biggest browns I have seen in the river. It charged our streamer right to the boat, but nerves got in the way and we pulled the streamer right out of the water. It left us both shook.
Thunderstorms and High water
The rain and thunderstorm event that lasted yesterday through this AM changed things up considerably on our local rivers. From the Lamoille north, generally saw under an inch of rain while to the south we got around an inch and a half with some places seeing more. All rivers are high and dirty and even this afternoon many small streams were still dirty. By tomorrow the many of the mid sized rivers will be fishable to some extent. The large rivers should be OK by the weekend, I hope. I plan on getting the drift boat out for the first float of the season Friday afternoon, and will head to whichever river has the lowest flows.
As far as fishing goes, I got out on the Winooski yesterday afternoon for a short time right after the Thunderstorm rolled through and the water rose. I nymphed up a few Rainbow's which were holding in a long narrow depression in the middle of a riffle that is around 1/4 of a mile long. This means that fish have been willing to venture into summer feeding lies now that the water temps have warmed into the 60's and bugs have been popping. I did not have any action on the swing, but from now on I would recommend swinging every drift and slowly stripping your nymphs back to you.
I saw a few caddis, a few Hendircksons, and a fair amount of Blue Quills. I flipped some rocks and sticks and there were a LOT of Golden Stonefly Nymphs crawling around. I saw a variety of sizes from about a 10 to a 6, in fact a #10 double bead golden stone nymph was the hot fly yesterday for me.
My go to flies for the week will be Golden Stones, PT nymphs, Lafontaine's Sparkle Pupa in chartreuse, a green and purple caddis pupa imitation, Zug Bugs, Princes, and Hares Ears. We may see a few rising fish but I doubt there will be many.
Ben Wilcox Owner/Guide Maple Country Anglers