3rd place at the Ditch Pickle Classic Tournament, high water, and the Hex hatch
What a week we just had. First off river conditions. We had a lot of rain last week and the first part of this one. In fact we just broke a record for the wettest June in parts of the state, while Burlington is still at around the third or fourth. Big rivers remain largely unfishable, though I did find fish both on my own and with clients on the main stem of the Winooski last week in brown high water, and even saw a few fish rising in a long slow run. The key is finding where fish are holding out of the main current or in long slow pools where they do not need to spend as much energy. I did guide on a small brook trout stream that usually produces a lot of fish, and found it to be a bit slow, though still caught fish. Ill be spending most of my time this coming week on mid sized streams, and on small streams when rains bring levels up again. The Lamoille is in the best shape of any of the bigger rivers right now as the Northern third of the state received less rain than the rest. I have not seen a ton of insect activity when I have been on the water, but caddis was most prevalent. Golden Stones should be really hatching in earnest and looking back on my notes from last year, golden stone nymphs produced a lot of fish from mid June through mid July, and I found a ton of stonefly adults around the 4th of July at night.
Because of this, it is a great time of the year to use a dry dropper rig. I like to use a foam stonefly around size 10 and float a heavy golden stone nymph around 4' below that and then tie a small nymph off the back of that around 1' below it. It is important to drop your nymphs far below your dry, it will be harder to cast but you will catch more fish. Shortening your leader to your dry will help out a lot. I usually run around a 7' leader when fishing this way. I change the small nymph out frequently depending on what is hatching, but leave the stonefly nymph on almost all the time as its weight helps get my other nymph down quickly. Fish will sporadically take the dry on top of more consistently eating the nymphs. If I encounter rising fish I will clip off the nymphs and tie on the appropriate dry or emerger. In this situation using Orvis' Dropper fly box is really handy because it allows you to store your dropper rigs all pre tied and keeps them from tangling.
The Hex hatch has begun as well on some of our trout ponds. I actually saw a few Hexes around three weeks ago but the hatch really gets going this week and peaks around the 4th of July or just before. It then continues sporadically for a while longer. When fishing the hex hatch, it is important to cover the rises as quickly as possible as the top layer of water is warm and the fish do not hang right at the surface for long. The next best tactic if there are no rises within casting distance, is cast to a group of hexes on the water. They tend to linger on the surface for minutes or more. If you can get your imitations near some real bugs then very often the trout will rise to a real bug and then continue to eat your imitation without much hesitation before it heads back down deep. I always fish two flies during this hatch.
The Ditch Pickle Classic Catch and Release Fly Fishing Bass Tournament on Lake Champlain just wrapped up this weekend. It is always a highlight of the summer for all of us. There were 63 teams and around 140 competitors in this years tournament, the biggest it has ever been. My fishing partner Michael Woulf and I had a good showing tying for third place as a team and tying each other for 4th place overall. We lost the podium in a tie breaker, though I thought we would have won the tie breaker. We were really happy with our result, though are always bothered by the ones that got away, which there were plenty of. We fished a lot of different water this year during the tournament and some of our hot spots did not produce while others had fish holding in different areas than usual. We fished both largemouth and small mouth with both streamers and top water. The top flies were by far a small crayfish imitation fished on a sink tip and a small black popper with white legs. We found largemouth in weedy bays anywhere from 7 feet to 1' and smallies in 14-4' off of islands and shelves. Smallies were hanging shallow at first light sunday morning and moved deeper as the day went on. If you ever want to join a fun fly fishing event be sure to put this one at the top of your list. The captains bags are worth more than the entry fee and prizes are great, including rods, reels, a kayak, and even a guided fishing trip in Louisiana. The awards ceremony is a great time and lunch is provided. We are looking forward to next years tourney and are really hoping to get the top spot.
I can guide on Lake Champlain though only can guide one person at a time from Canoe. If you ever want to get out on the big lake let me know and we can chase bass, pike and bowfin.
What a trip to Rangeley, Maine. The theme of the trip was dry flies and high flows. It was kind of a tale of two trips as the first three days we saw high flows and few hatches, while the weekend saw good hatches and lower flows on some rivers, though one never became fishable, of course it was the river I wanted to fish the most. The first three pics were taken a day apart on the Magalloway and you can see the difference in flows on this particular river. We definitely had to adjust our tactics to the high water. You can see in the first pic Marie fishing the soft edges where the fish were holding to get out of the swift current. Much to my surprise, the fish still preferred dries over nymphs even in the high water. I actually had trouble nymphing up much for fish the whole week, though we caught way over 100 fish in five days. The only water type I consistently nymphed up fish was in a fast flowing stream with some decent pocket water. This was fine by me however as around here nymphs usually rule. I just love watching a fish take a dry.
As the week progressed water levels on some streams came down, though the fishing did not pick up much when flows dropped until more bugs began hatching. A great example of this was on Thursday. We were picking away at fish here and there on a variety of dries and decided to head up river for the last hour before dark. After a 20 minute hike, we popped out on the river to find a massive swarm of large golden stoneflies around size 8 or 10 laying eggs. Fish were stacked up in an eddy line at the edge of the strong current and we hooked a bunch of fish on large dries. It was a blast, but even moving up river 100 yards only produced a few small brookies.
By the weekend bugs had really started blasting and we hit a good sulphur hatch on saturday morning and caddis were going off throughout the day. On saturday alone we landed around 60-70 fish in 6 hours of fishing. We hit a popular pool below a dam in the afternoon and before I even finished tying on my flies Marie had landed 3 salmon! We did awesome that evening on small stimulators, caddis dries, and one particular caddis emerger pattern I had never seen before and bought at the local fly shop. One of the keys was moving the flies. I watched some other people fishing and some were catching as well but many were not. The two guys below us never caught a fish, but they were focusing so much on a dead drift. This is where understanding how different insects behave really helps. Caddis don't float down a river peacefully the was a may fly does. They skip, jump, dart and slam down on the river both emerging and egg laying. The trout understand this and look for motion. After working the near water I began making super long 70-100' casts in to shallow water on the other side of the run, mending hard and skittering my flies off the drop off where brookies and salmon were slamming them on the move or just after, no one was getting their flies to these fish. It was awesome hooking fish 75' away, but you also miss a lot. I returned by my self the next morning in a torrential down pour for one last hurrah and after making a few fly changes I found a caddis pattern the fish wanted and did very well. The fish on average were bigger than the day before, and I landed a bunch of salmon around 14-18' and got the biggest brookie of the trip at around 18". As luck would have it, the largest salmon of the trip came unbuttoned that morning after two huge leaps, and I flat out missed a monster brook trout on my dry fly. We did not get any of the huge fish this trip, but with the conditions and not being able to fish the best river for big trout and salmon, we did pretty well.
We stayed on a fly fishing only pond and spent a few evenings on the pond. I love to get out the ponds when the winds die down right before dark. Our particular pond did not have any huge hatches but there were enough mayflies and a subsequent spinner fall two nights to bring some fish to the top. The key was covering the rises as quickly as possible. This is because the top layer of water is warm, and the fish will cruise down deeper until they decide to come up for a bite. If you are able to get your flies near a rise before they head back down (less than 5 seconds) you can usually get an eat.
Well we are looking forward to getting back up to Maine again. If you are interested in a trip please give me a shout and we can hook up. If I am not staying up there I only do multiple day trips, but you really need to experience more than a day to even skim the surface of the variety of trout and salmon fishing in the Maine woods. I would also tell you if you have not been up there before to hire a guide. Most all of the rivers are dam controlled and it is important to know the flows, in addition many of the rivers are off un-marked logging roads miles and miles into the woods. To top that off, you cannot drive to many of the rivers because the log roads are gated and locked, so you may not even get to the river if you don't know where to go.
Maine for the week
This will be my last report until next week as we are headed up to Maine for some Brook Trout and Salmon Fishing.
Water levels at the moment are well above average, though just about everything is fishable to some extent. The Lamoille and Winooski are just starting to drop into fishable flows and clarity. Small and mid sized streams are clear and running fast and a bit high, but are in great shape. I like when levels are a bit high as the fish typically are not a spooky.
I got out for a minute tonight, before a heavy down pour came through. I was chased off as I left the raincoat in the truck. I was on a mid sized stream in an area that does not get any stocked fish and picked up one nice wild bow in short order on a green caddis larvae, dropped off a double bead stonefly that sinks quickly. I did not see much for insects other than a few tan caddis around size 14, but was only on the river a minute.
We have .5" - 1" of rain forecast over night and this will bring the big rivers above fishable levels for probably a couple of days, but there should be some great fishing on the mid sized and small streams. Tomorrow I am getting out with a couple friends that I have not been able to fish with yet this year. We are going down south on the drift boat for some seriously big Pike. I am hopeful river levels will be fine down there as they did not get nearly as much rain as we did last week up this way.
I am available to guide on Sunday, so feel free to hit me up if you would like to get out.
Tactics and hatches are the same as the last report.
As for Maine fishing, we are headed up to the North Woods. This region is one of the last places in the US to catch truly large brook trout. Fish run up to 5 lbs and the big males have the brightest red bellies you will ever see. The LL Salmon can get equally as big and are seriously acrobatic. Almost all of the fish we landed last year were on dries as well. All of these fish are wild and so is the area. It is just a great trip. We have a cabin rented on a fly fishing only brook trout pond that is a blast to head out on after dinner and before the camp fire gets going. I am hoping that river levels come down from where they are now, but we will get on the fish either way.
I am a Maine Guide, so if you wanted to come up for a day or so let me know and I can put you on some of these fish. Here are some of the fish we landed last year. Of course the biggest Brookies were lost before they reached the net!!!
Quite a lot to report here in VT. Pics above are some highlights since the last report. We have gotten a lot of rain especially here in the Winooski River Watershed, where some areas have received almost 4" of rain and will likely eclipse that by the end of the rain event tomorrow morning.
First off, I will start by re-capping what I saw over the weekend at the White River Open. I had the opportunity to fish the Tourney with my wife and it was a great day and a half where we met a bunch of new friends and fished some new water. One of my favorite part of doing these tournaments are getting to know new people who love to fly fish as much as myself. We shared a few beers and swapped a lot of fishing and hunting stories with some great people the night before the tournament. I would like to thank Matt Stedina for putting a couple strangers up in his home and for giving us some tips for the days tournament as he knows the White like the back of his hand and its not a river I know particularly well.
We began fishing at 5:30 on the main stem of the White and were greeted with low, gin clear water. We had never fished this area but we immediately got into fish on foam dries and nymphs. We were using foam dries and two droppers made up of a heavy double bead stonefly and soft hackle pheasant tails. I like to use the foam dry as an indicator and because it will take fish drifted and stripped back to you at the end of the drift. I think that Thingamabobbers tend to spook fish when swung and stripped back. The fish were feeding aggressively in the middle of the water column until around 9:30 or so. The sun soon poked out and the fish were hanging closer to the bottom for the rest of the day. I started using my 10' Orvis recon 4 WT and tight line nymphed up a bunch of fish on the same nymphs. Later in the day caddis larvae in green began producing some fish as well.
In the end Marie landed 5 score-able fish and a few wild bows too small to score and she lost another 6 or so fish. She ended up 1 fish shy of the amateur class winner. If only we could have landed her a couple more!! I ended up with 23 score-able trout a few too small to score, and probably lost around 15 or 20. At the end of the day I ended up Pro Division Tournament Champion.
Since then thing have changed dramatically. We desperately needed rain and cool weather as rivers were very low and temps were getting into the 70's. The reality is this is exactly what we needed, though a little less rain would have been nice. It has screwed up the beginning of the week, but in the long run is great. We received some huge thunderstorms Saturday night and a lot of rain Sunday, and today. Water levels have come up to minor flood stage on the Winooski and some fields have flooded. The River has crested in Montpelier as have the tribs, though in Essex it is still on the rise. The Lamoille has not been hit with as much rain around 2"+ and is faring better, though still is running very high and dirty. It has leveled off in Johnson and should begin dropping soon. I expect the lamoille to be somewhat fishable by Thursday and the Winooski to be a few days behind that. There should be some small streams fishable by tomorrow and hopefully some midsized rivers on Wednesday. I have trips Wednesday, Thursday, two Friday, and Saturday morning. We will likely have to change the game plan for at least Wednesday's float trip, but I expect fishing to be great by Friday.
This is a great few days to get on some still water. I was able to get out for a couple hours Sunday night with and friend and we landed the bass and Pike pictured above. As for rivers the remainder of the week, I would recommend throwing streamers in any stained and high water and nymphing with larger, heavily weighted nymphs. Golden Stoneflies have began hatching and that should be your number one pattern this week.
Saturday I saw Golden Stones, little green stones, yellow sallies, tan caddis, March browns, and sulphurs. Saturday I observed a March Brown hatching out of its nymph exoskeleton on a stream side rock in the same way a stonefly does.
Ben Wilcox Owner/Guide Maple Country Anglers