Memorial day has arrived and I first want to pay tribute to all of our soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our way of life here in the United States. If there are any veterans reading this, bring up this post and Ill give you a discount on a trip.
A lot has happened since my report last week. We welcomed our second daughter into the world Saturday evening. It was an event that I almost missed. I was guiding the President of Orvis and his family along with Matt Stedina of VT Trout Bum Guide Service, when my wife went into labor. Thankfully the baby waited for me to get there I guess. We had a great day on the water though fishing was a little slow. Luckily they decided that we would push through the last mile of the float. Thats about the time when my wife began calling. I got loaded up as quickly as possible and met my wife at the park and ride in Richmond. We had the baby about 45 minutes later.
I was out every day of the three day weekend and every day was certainly different as far as fishing goes with fishing ranging from flat out amazing to pretty slow. On Saturday I had a full day float and we had pretty slow fishing. We started the day having to change plans a little and head north to find fishable water as the further south you went the more rain we got and the dirtier the rivers. We found high flows with about 3' visibility to start the day and it improved as the day went on. This river never gets very clear anyway and I was really anticipating some good fishing. Unfortunately I that wasn't the case even though there were good numbers of bugs hatching. The theme of the day was inconsistent, as we would nymph up a fish and then not touch another on that fly the rest of the trip, then have a take and a few chases on streamers and then it would be dead. We did find a nice fish rising and fooled him on a hendrickson emerger, but missed him on the hook set. The day ended with me a little confused and hoping for a better day with clients on Sunday.
Sunday was just the opposite of Saturday. We were on a different river with conditions pretty similar to the day before, higher flows and stained water that dropped and cleared as the day progressed. The first fish of the day was a memorable one, the wild brown pictured above took a #12 tan nymph in a very slow, long and very deep bend. The fish was sitting on a slight current seam right against a rock wall. It was my client Jakes largest fish of his life, and he fought the fish perfectly. It was really quite a moment. From there things were great and we ended up boating over 20 fish not including the ones lost and missed. At one point Karl in the front of the boat had 2 rainbows on his two nymphs and Jake had one on his line. We boated all three. I would say that would be possible if you were in a hole just stocked but we were no where near a road. It was another moment not easily forgotten. Fish were holding in all types of water from shallow riffles to deep runs and were taking nymphs both dead drifted and swung. From here on out you'd be advised to swing your nymphs as the fish are feeding throughout the water column. We took a lot of fish just as the nymph began to rise off the bottom. I didn't see as many bugs hatching as the previous day. The funny thing is that when the it clouded up for the last 1/2 hour of our trip we didn't touch another fish. As soon as the trip was over I raced up to my families camp on Lake Champlain for a BBQ. I took my wife, and 2 year old out in the row boat for a half hour and we shared one rod and caught 2 smallmouth and a decent northern all within about 40 yards from shore in 4-5 feet of water. The fish were happy and fought like crazy. I don't recall many fish hitting my fly as hard as that Northern did. Our daughter loved watching mommy and daddy catch fish, and see them jump out of the water. We were fishing floating line and a dark clouser.
Today, I took the day off from guiding as I hadn't been home since we had the baby, though I did have some people interested in fishing today. My wife did let me take off for a few hours and I hit a stretch of river I'd never fished. It was pretty awesome water. I covered about 150 yards and landed 8 trout, 4 small wild browns, a small wild rainbow, and 3 decent sized rainbows I believe were all wild as well. I am sure 2 of the 3 were. I also lot a nice fish that looked like a good rainbow. I couldn't believe all of the small wild fish as I don't catch nearly as many down lower on this river. It was a challenging place to fish as there were lots of hazards under the water. After landing three fish in the first run I moved up to the next and immediately hooked that large rainbow. After I lost it I attempted to fish the hole hard, well, about 20 minutes and 10 casts later I had lost 6 flies, re rigged 5 times and landed one 5" wild brown. After wondering if there were piranhas in the hole I decided there had to be some kind of cable or metal down there. I continued to lose flies and catch fish as I moved up. The fish were all holding in the deeper areas as well as the tailouts of the spots. Not much in the faster water or smaller pockets. The fish were taking smaller mayfly nymphs than sunday and on the dead drift only. This is a place I will definitely explore again with clients and there should be some big browns with all the juvenile fish around.
This coming week looks wet, but hopefully the rivers will remain in good shape. The fishing should continue to be excellent. The hatches are the same as the previous report with the addition of a few lime sally stoneflies I saw this weekend. I had a cancellation for This SATURDAY, if anyone wants to get out for a wade or float its prime time right now.
Fishing this past week began slow and ramped up dramatically with this record breaking heat. Temps on the big rivers went from the upper 40's to the low 60's as of noon today. The fish and bugs have responded and today the fishing was good to great.
I started the week floating a stretch of river I had not been on in a couple of years in preparation for a guide trip this weekend. Water temp was 49 and fishing was slow as expected, though we boated 8 trout and 1 bass. The big brown above was one of the 8, and we lost another as big. This big brown took a crayfish streamer pattern, and streamers accounted for about half of our fish with nymphs accounting for the other half. Fish were holding deep and I took a few out of a pool probably 8-10 feet deep right on the bottom. We did have a decent Hendrickson hatch for about an hour that got the fish more active. As the week progressed things really changed with the increasing water temps. I was able to get out with my daughter one evening and we had trout keying into #14 dark and light hares ears. The next evening I hit a smaller stream with my wife and got into some brook trout. This time though, they wanted the larger attractor flies. Moral of the story is that you need to make sure you don't get stuck fishing what you think the fish should want, and fish what they are eating. While you will see a huge variety of bugs hatching right now, the fish may or may not be keyed into them.
This morning I guided a good angler who recently moved to VT from California. We worked on his nymphing game as most of his fishing had been done on dry flies out west (lucky guy). Hitting a mid sized stream, It didn't take long to hook a fish on a dark hares ear pattern, but after a few more drifts without an eat, I tried some attractor flies and caddis imitations as there were 4 species of Mayflies, Hendricksons, Quill Gordons, Blue Quills, and a small Baetis or something of that nature coming off. On top of that were tan caddis and dark caddis as well as some brown stones. Thats a lot of options! After coming up short on the caddis and attractor flies we went back to mayfly imitations in sizes 14 and 16, and as his drifts improved so too did our hook up rates. For a while it was kind of silly as we were hooking mostly stocked fish almost every cast with a few wild rainbows in the mix. I'd say we landed 15 and lost a fair amount more. I eventually decided to move on from these fish and we hit the big river, looking for more wild fish and a better chance at a larger rainbow or brown. The water was on the high side for wading, but we managed a handful of rainbows both wild and stocked here as well. The difference was that the fish in the big river and higher flows wanted bigger stoneflies and attractor patterns. We also hit a flat that tends to be be a good area for dry fly fishing, but didn't convince and fish to eat.
The fishing should remain very good throughout the extended forecast. The water temps will be in the 50's after the front moves through tonight and there will be plenty of willing fish. Keep and eye on the water levels when deciding where to fish, as the front moving through now has the potential to drop a lot a rain quickly and blow out a stream. I am hoping that the big rivers don't come up too much as I will be guiding from the drift boat saturday. I am fairly booked from now through next weekend, but may be able to get a you on the water for a half day later in the week and maybe sunday morning. Please feel free to give me a shout and we can hopefully get out if not this week then the next. This is a great time to get on the drift boat and fish areas that are not accessible by wading.
Hard to believe that we are almost half way through May. Probably that's because we have had April weather the past few weeks. It was snowing here in Northern VT Monday and Tuesday. Water temps have remained cold, and that has kept the bugs and fish from really being too active. That will all change soon however.
Last week was green up day in VT and the family went out to one of my favorite stretches of the Winooski River to pick up trash. Unfortunately I left with extremely aggravated. I found 5 bags of deer carcasses, and picked up 15 bags of trash at one pull out. I was so angry I called the game warden to report it. I really hope that he catches the dirt bag who has been dumping trash and potentially jacking deer. At least we taught bailey about green up day.
As far as fishing, I got out on the lake, and we landed some bass and pike. First time out and it was nice to get some quality fish on the boat. Water temps were cold and it was important to retrieve the flies slowly. Trout fishing has been a bit of a grind this week due to the cool water temps but there are plenty of trout to be had. I got out for a little over an hour on a stream not necessarily known for its wild trout. Water temp was 46 in the warmest part of the day. I landed two chunky bows in some pretty fast pocket water. The fish were in the slack water behind mid stream rocks, right where you'd expect them. I didn't see any bugs what so ever.
As I said at the beginning of the post, the slow fishing will likely be a thing of the past, I'd say by the weekend. Today was warm and while I didn't get out I heard some reports of Hendrickson's, our first major mayfly hatch. The trend is for warming weather into next week, with a slug of rain on Sunday. This time of year we begin to have a ton of different bugs hatching. Your best bet is to pick up New England Hatch Guide, which will give you an idea of what is hatching and what flies to use to match the hatch. Ill try to go over some of the hatches in my next report when I have a bit more time. The good news is that Pheasant tails, size 12-18, and hares hears of the same size will cover most mayflies right now. I really like to fish soft hackles this time of year, mostly dead drifted. You'll also want some caddis larvae and stonefly imitations from size 6-16. This time of year fish can be keyed into a certain nymph or take just about anything. You'll also want to get your dry fly boxes out and have emerger, dun, and spinner patterns ready incase you find rising fish. Its still a great time to throw streamers anytime you are out.
Many streams have been or will be stocked very soon. The rain we have coming this weekend is a good thing if it raises the water levels much because it will spread out the stocked fish.
Smallmouth bass have been moving into our rivers in preparation for spawning. Any stream that runs into a bass lake may have some jumbo bass in it. The bass are fairly easy to catch when fishing rivers this time of year. Small streamers or large nymphs will take bass. You'll soon see them on their beds.
Drop me a line if you'd like to get out. I have the weekends beginning to fill up but have a few openings and plenty of availability during the week. Don't hesitate to give me a shout and we can hopefully find a time to get out.
I had the great pleasure to travel to State College, PA to compete in my first ever Team USA Regional Competition this past week. I headed down to PA a few days early to learn the fishery and have an idea of what to expect when the tournament started. What I found was an incredible wild trout fishery that rivals any I've found out west. Along with great fishing was a very dedicated group of anglers and fly shops that supported it. In particular, TCO Fly Shop was a great resource for me in learning the fishery, and a top notch shop and guide service. One thing to expect if you head down is that you won't necessarily find a lot of solitude on the rivers. Fishing pressure is high in this area, but I found everyone to be kind and courteous on the water.
Practice for me went by pretty quickly, basically I fished most of the day trying to hit each water in the AM and PM, tying flies in the evening, and sleeping in the truck.
As the tournament approached I felt mildly confident, but that completely changed at the draw when I met lots of new faces and heard story after story of the huge numbers of fish caught, and how well everyone seemed to know the rivers. The tournament also has a team component where teammates share info and and tactics, and I didn't have a team. At the draw I was split onto a team of other individual anglers, though they already knew everyone else and only one person wanted to exchange numbers and info. By the time I left the draw I was feeling pretty low about my prospects for anything but a poor finish.
My first session was on upper Spring creek, a small spring fed stream that is fairly shallow. It has a mix of small riffles, pocket water, runs, and flats. The picture below is of Pat Weiss fishing on Upper Spring. Congrats to Pat on winning the Event. As I headed to the beat I was seeing the water for the first time. It had some nice pockets at the very bottom, a deep bend under a low bridge, a shallow riffle and then a long flat with a deeper riffle at the top. Looking back, I did not fish the beat as well as I should have. I began fishing the tail out of the deeper bend before crossing to fish the pool. It was only a few minutes and I had my first brown on, though it was about 1/4 of a centimeter too short to score. A bit of a bummer but nice to know that I had on a good fly. Before long, my first scoreable fish was in the net. I continued to work the pool and was broken off on the hook set by a heavy fish, minutes later I had on another big fish, which turned out to be a sucker, a huge let down as it looked like a big brown. Moving up towards the head of the pool I landed my second brown trout. I headed up toward the shallow riffle and landed the biggest fish of the session in a tiny shallow riffle. I decided to move down the the end of the beat and hit the pockets at the end of the beat. I should have started here because I spooked a fish on the way down. I ended up landing two more browns but lost three in this small area. Time was running short so I began working up the flat. I casted out ahead of me with my dry fly rod as I had seen a single fish rise. I didn't fool it however. As I moved up the water proved to be deeper and better than it looked from afar. I wish I would have had time to look i over first because I would have spent more time here. I ended up landing two more and losing two more fish, ending the session with 7 scored and 7 lost. I ended up getting a 4 out of 6 on this session and the real bummer was that the three guys above me all landed 14!
Session 2 was on Lower Spring Creek. Its the same river as the morning, but is quite a bit bigger and and faster. I was feeling OK headed into the session because I had controlled Pat Weiss in his first session and felt like I learned a lot, particularly in fighting fish, that is until I met Pat in the parking area. He had just had his second session on my beat and caught 25 fish. I had to fish the same beat in an hour and he had just destroyed it. I was a little bummed to hear that to say the least. I headed down to the bottom of my beat and was going to work up. Something I had not done earlier. The beat was a series of shallow riffles leading into deeper but small bends and depressions near logs and trees. It was fun water. I began fishing the very bottom of a fast run that was fairly deep. The wind was blowing up river with gusts probably near 40 MPH. My strategy was to use a very heavy fly to and then a light nymph above that. The heavy fly served as an anchor in the water and kept the wind from blowing my line up river and keeping it from sinking. It was only a few minutes and I had a nice brown on. Taking what I had learned earlier, I made sure to keep the fish above my by moving my body down river if needed. This worked great and throughout the rest of the comp I was able to control the fish and quickly bring them to the net. Pretty quickly I had two fish scored, and had missed one. I soon hooked a real good fish at the very end of my beat. Unfortunately I could not move out of my beat and the fish got down below me in very fast water, and it eventually came off. I then began working the shallow riffles right above me making short drifts out ahead of me. I took a 37 CM brown out of about 6" of fast water right on the near bank. I then moved to the opposite side of the riffle and took two more fish and missed another right on the bank in very shallow water. They were lined right up along the edge of the riffle. I had 5 fish and began moving up and exploring my beat. I had not seen any of that water before and was hitting each feature as I went. I took one fish from under a large over hanging tree in fairly slow water then missed two more in a little depression which bothered me. Moving up I found a large log in the water that created a depression under it in pretty fast current . I drifted my nymphs under the edge of a log and saw a very large brown flash near my fly, and suddenly I felt him and set. This was a big fish as I saw him roll. Suddenly the line went a little slack but then I was tight again and a rainbow leapt out of the water. I brought this fish to net and found that the brown had taken my dropper nymph and broke it off. I had two fish on at the same time. I was happy to have landed the one rainbow. I continued up the river and it began to get dark and stormy. My controller mentioned there was a tornado warning. I was having trouble seeing my line or where the flies were landing. I hooked another fish right on the bank but lost it, then caught another that was too small to score. Suddenly a wall of heavy rain hit along with heavy winds. I couldn't see anything but threw into some froggy water under a tree and hooked and landed a good brown. I had about 4 minutes left and it was a severe storm. Suddenly a tree came crashing into the river and I decided that with a minute left I was done! I ended up with 9 fish and got second in the session. I was happy but had the fish on the win the session at the same time.
Session three was the next morning on Lake Perez. It was cloudy and windy and I figured there would be fish up high in the water column so I began with an intermediate line to fish about 3-4 under the surface. This proved to be fruitless, and I didn't touch a fish. I had seen some other competitors land fish both on dry dropper and on sinking lines so I figured I was not on the right flies. I switched lines and went to a type 3 to get a little deeper and kept running through flies. I missed one fish near the boat. Time was running low and I was facing a blank which would really not be good for y overall. With about 15 minutes left I changed to a floating line and put on a dry with two nymphs underneath about 8' and 10' below. With 2 minutes remaining I finally saw my dry fly dart and set into a 27 CM rainbow. It felt pretty good to save the blank though I knew I was not going to have a great finish. I got a 5 that session. In hindsight I should have gone to the dry dropper sooner, as it worked, and it was easier to cast in the wind because I didn't need to try to lay out 70' casts. Lesson learned and it was off the my final session.
The final session was not going to be easy. It was on the Little Juniata River and because of the severe storms it was anything but little. You can see the water was high and muddy. I was pretty bummed because I had done very well on this river in practice and thought I could have a good result. It was most like the rivers here in Vermont. That being said with high water, it is fairly predictable where you can find fish, its just a matter of being able to get to them to put a fly in their face. I was confident I could catch at least a fish, and knew that numbers would not be high, so thought I could do alright. I started at the bottom of the beat, and found a small island with some nice soft water behind it. It was beyond obvious that there were fish there and now I needed to land them. I began with two large attractor flies that could be seen in the high water. About 15 minutes in I hooked up and landed a brown. I then hooked another small brown that came off. I thought it was probably too small to score. I worked my up the edge of the river and quickly fished along the bank. I broke off my point fly and decided to just fish one fly for a little cause I didn't want to re rig. I found that I began getting better drifts and was more accurate than throwing two heavy flies. Even though the water was high the actual holding areas for fish that I could get to were small and not real deep so one fly proved to be better. I moved up and briefly had one on before losing it. Getting to the top of the beat I waded deep into a heavy rapid as far as I dared and made a tuck cast over the heavy current. The tuck cast drove my fly quickly into the soft water directly behind a bridge pillar and boom, I set into a good fish. I took off down stream and so did I. I lost my footing in the current and was swimming down river in the heavy current with the fish still on. Briefly I regained my footing but was then swept off my feet again. The fish was still on and I was keeping him from getting below me. About 40 yards downstream, the river shallowed and I was able to get the fish in the net. It was pretty memorable, a fish I won't forget. With not much time I headed back down to where I started and with only on fly on I was able to get some better drifts. I hooked a good fish and again in heavy current headed down. I moved down towards my beat marker and stopped fearing I'd go out of bounds and it wouldn't count. The fish got below me and came off. Pissed, I move back to the same spot with only a few minutes left. I missed a fish, then a few drifts later landed my final fish of the session. My three fish were good for second place in the session and I was pretty happy.
In the end I ended up with 10th place overall. I was happy with the finish but dropped too many fish. I did have a great time competing and learned a lot from some great anglers. Thanks to everyone who helped me out and organized the great event, in particular Madoka Myers, Ken Krane, Alan Bole, Pat Weiss, John Anderson, Andrew Koons and Mason Sims.
Ben Wilcox Owner/Guide Maple Country Anglers