Its been a great week of fishing both in terms of quality and quantity of fish. The pics above are just a sampling of the very best from the past week. I've floated with clients and waded new stretches of river tributaries all over various watersheds. As you can see from above there have been some very nice wild fish caught as well as some big stocked fish around. The highlight has to be the giant wild rainbow I caught in a fairly small stream. I had a client cancel for health reasons last minute so I decided to spend the morning scouting new water and it paid off with the largest wild rainbow Ive caught in this area and maybe the biggest I've seen from Northern VT. To catch a lake run steelhead this size is one thing, but a stream dwelling rainbow in an inland tributary, of which myself and clients have literally caught tens of thousands, a fish over 18" is rare and over 20" is like a unicorn. I've two caught large rainbow's this week in two completely different watersheds. That says a lot for the health of our fishery at the moment.
River flows right now are perfect for wading or floating and water temps range from 50 to 60 degrees. We have some warm weather forecast next week so its time to start thinking about taking water temps and moving on if the water reaches 70. Nymphing has been primarily the name of the game, though I have got some fish on dries on the over cast days. The past two full day floats under bright sun I saw a total of one fish rise. Before 11 AM fish seemed to sporadically take anything from big stones, to caddis larvae to mayfly nymphs, but after 11 they have been keyed into #14-16 mayfly nymphs like Pheasant tails and hares ears. I have caught a lot of fish on stoneflies in the past week so don't overlook them just because you see other bugs in the air. Its also time to start swinging your drifts and have taken fish just under the surface this week doing just so. If you see some rising fish a #14 mayfly emerger or dryfly is a good place to start, and if you are getting no looks try swinging wet flies like soft hackle pheasant tails or lafontaine's sparkle pupa's.
As for hatches I've still seen Hendrickson's, Quill Gordon's, and recently seen some Eastern Sulphers in size 16. There have also been grannom caddis, as well as 16-18 dark caddis and tan caddis. I've seen brown stonflies and yellow sallies in sizes 16-18 as well. I have not seen any golden stones Hatching yet but they will in June.
I would encourage everyone to use barbless hooks or pinch their barbs as well. Its better on the fish and on you when you hook yourself. If you are going to take a picture of a fish it can be done in a way that is not very stressful to the fish, even if you are in a drift boat. Have your camera ready or have your partner have it ready. Hold the fish in the net under water, think ahead of time how you need to place your hands on the fish for the pic. If you are alone set the camera on a rock at the waters edge while the fish remains in the water, press the timer button and orient your hands on the fish the way you want them, about 3-4 seconds before the pic is taken lift the fish out of the water and after the pic is snapped immediately put it back in. The fish will be out of the water for about 5-6 seconds on average. The same goes for a boat. Have your boat partner get the camera ready, and sometimes its helpful for them to hold the net while your get your hands oriented on the fish while its in the net under water. Lift the fish and have them snap a few quick pics as fast as possible and put the fish back. It should be out of the water not more than 5-6 seconds. I have begun holding the fish in front of the clients like you see above because many people just don't know how to hold a fish and if it falls into the boat it could end up being out of the water for much longer than is safe for the fish.
Crazy how fast things have improved out on our area rivers. It was a late spring that had me tied up with maple surging until last week, and as I said in my previous fishing report, I wasn't missing out on too much. Though that was a week ago, it feels like a month in terms of how fast the fishing has progressed and how many of our rivers have become fishable.
Last Sunday was my first day out and pretty much all the rivers were blown out so my self and guide Andy Masenas, who will be doing trips for us this year, brought the drift boat down to a small trout pond that neither of us had ever fished. We ended up landing about a dozen rainbows from 9" to about 15". There were some much bigger fish in that pond as well. Andy got broke off by one and I had a big fat rainbow take a booby fly on the hang right at the boat but couldn't keep him on. The fish in the ponds were fairly shallow and cruising a marshy shoreline shoal and a small bay tucked against a bridge. There were two occasions when we saw some midges coming off and fish began to rise. Overall it was a very successful scouting trip and Ill keep it in the back of my mind for days when things are blown out and I need to get clients on fish.
I also got out on some small Champlain Valley streams and had good success. Andy and I landed about 8 or so fish in the small wild trout stream pictured above. 2 wild brookies of 6" and 11", two wild browns of 7" and 9" and some rainbows from 6" all the way to one nice fish around 14-15". I made a terrible mistake netting that big one and it got away without a picture. We also witnessed two fish trying to jump a waterfall. I can only assume they were rainbows wanting continue migrating to spawn. I don't think they had a chance of making it up over the falls. I also hit our local steelhead stream one morning and didn't hook an adult steelhead, but did land the bass pictured above so there will be more showing up soon. Aside from the trout and bass I landed suckers and fall fish, I guess everyone is hungry. I also stopped at the lower end of a Northern VT trout stream while driving from a meeting and ate lunch. Not being able to resist, I grabbed my rod and walked to a deep pool with just my running shoes. Only having a nymph rod and no good way to make a drift, I just tossed into the pool and let my flies sink before stripping them back in. Suddenly on my first cast a giant brown appeared right near my feet and ate my fly. Unfortunately it instantly broke my 6x tippet. Stripping the fly with no shock absorption from the rod tip, it happened instantly. I know where he is and maybe can go back and get him. I'd bet he was 22-24".
Water temps are in the 50's thanks to all the sun and warm weather and fish are happy. We caught most fish on various mayfly nymphs from sizes 12-16, and a few fish on stonefly patterns. Bugs are showing up now in good numbers especially midday. The fishing actually slowed the other day as we got later in the evening and not as many bugs were hatching. I've seen Hendricksons in the air, and tons of nymphs in the water, some smaller mayflies that I think were blue quills, and likely I've mistaken some Quill Gordon's for Hendrickson's when they were flying above me. There are also some small brown stoneflies around as well as some tan caddis (Grannoms), and midges around as well. This time of year the fish can be keyed into a specific hatch or be munching on a variety of bugs. When nymphing, you'll definitely want to have a PT nymph on as one of your flies and rotate your second fly. Its time to start grabbing your dry fly rod and boxes as well. I'll typically carry a rod rigged up with a dry dropper for certain water types, and if fish begin really eating on the surface clip off my nymphs and throw on the appropriate dry.
The majority of the rivers look like they are in great shape right now. I can't believe how fast the big rivers have dropped and cleared and they are definitely fishable right now for about the first time in a while. Many rivers will be getting stocked soon so there will be many more fish in some rivers. Some times its a good thing on the rivers don't support wild trout or very few, but other times it can be a pain trying to work throughout the stocked fish to find a bigger wild one.
Have a good weekend on the water.
Ben Wilcox Owner/Guide Maple Country Anglers