We have received over 2" of rain in the last 12-16 hours. Rivers in our area are very high and dangerous. The Mad for instance is 5600 CFS right now. It begins to become fishable somewhere around 500 CFS. Small streams will clear and drop first so look to them tomorrow. Its also a good time to get out on the lakes and ponds for both warm and cold water fish. The hex hatch is happening now and it brings big fish to the surface. This is a fun hatch when you hit it right. Think warm, calm nights. I have done well on both duns and cripples. Cast to any risers within in distance as fast as possible before the fish go back down and be ready to strike at any minute. You may catch the biggest brown, brook, rainbow trout or bass of your life! I am guiding from camp on a great Hex pond this week Sunday through Wednesday then Ill be in Maine vacationing and chasing stripers. Please let me know if you want to get out for an evening!
I was not on the rivers too much this week but got out with clients a few times. The fish were taking caddis dries in the AM, but mostly nymphs. I fished smaller streams because of the high flows. The fish have definitely begun feeding in their normal summer times, early and late. Ive noticed this switch over the past two weeks. Prior fish were feeding all day, but they are definitely much more active right now early and late. We picked up fish midday but it was certainly slower than it had been.
As you can see the bass fishing has been good. My partner and I were happy to take a second place finish at the 2017 Ditch Pickle Classic Fly Fishing Tournament. This was especially rewarding as we had a breakdown and no outboard motor on day 2. We were basically stuck within 500 yards of the launch where we could use the trolling motor. We targeted both large mouth and small mouth with dark colored flies. The magic depth for feeding largemouth was 3.5 feet in sandy bays, while smallmouth were caught in 3-10' of water both on rocky bottom drop offs and sandy bays near the drop offs. I caught my largest smallmouth bass of my life on a top water popper in 4' of water. It was 20.25" and was a beast. My partner did a great job of netting it. All of the fish wanted an erratic retrieve.
I'm off to Orvis in Manchester today for the night and ill get some fishing in down there before heading north to camp. Everyone have a great fourth!
Good Fishing Continues
We've been lucky enough to have the cool and wet weather continue. While most people loved the brief heat wave last weekend, I have been loving the former. We have had enough water that even when we had warm weather the water temps stayed cool for the most part. I took temps in the morning last weekend of 65 degrees on the big rivers. Last year at this time our rivers were low and cooking and out wild trout were under a lot of thermal stress. This year our trout have experienced little, if any warm temps depending on the river. This mean that the trout will have more time to feed and grow bigger, and should be in better shape when we get into July and August.
Fish have been keying into mayfly nymphs and soft hackles, as well as golden stones and caddis to a lesser extent. I have still seen very very few fish rising, but they are willing to feed just under the surface. I spotted two trout today feeding about 6" to just under the surface, but they would not eat a dry fly or emerger drifted on the surface. I tied on a #14 hares ear and #18 soft hackle pheasant tail and nymphed up both fish, one on each fly. Hatches consist of Light Cahills, Cream Cahills, Sulphurs, Iso's, Hexagenia on still water, Golden stones, and tan caddis. There was a hatch of Iso's on a mid sized stream this week. They were big about a size 10. I would have mistaken them for another fly had it not been for finding their nymphal shucks on the rocks. They were definitely bigger in size than our fall hatch, which is when they hatch in good numbers and fish key into them on dry flies. They Hexagenia ponds are going to be getting going and the hatch usually peaks around 4th of July. Ill be guiding on a northern pond that has a great hex hatch and brings the largest Brown and Rainbow trout to the surface. You can scroll back through the last two years fishing reports around the 4th to see some of the big fish we have caught. Please feel free to contact me to set up an evening trip to fish the largest mayfly in the East! Ill be up there the 1st of July through the 5th.
As I mentioned already, the fishing has been good this week. I've been on small, medium and large rivers and been able to find very willing fish everywhere I've been. The guided trips have produced well for beginner and intermediate anglers I've had on the water. I did have a customer cancel two days on me this week, and I used this morning where I should have been guiding to do some competition fishing practice. I chose a small low river to fish as this is very demanding and technical fishing typically. The intent was to practice tight line nymphing on small, clear shallow water as well as flat water. Both present challenges to the fly angler in terms of being able to present the fly without spooking fish and in being able to detect takes while keeping your nymphs off the bottom. The solution, besides being stealthy is to fish upstream. This is easily done with a dry fly, but when the fish aren't on drys you need to be able to change tactics. In shallow water casting a nymph under an indicator present a lot of difficulty because you cannot control depth, effectively, and on flat water the indicator can spook fish. What I learned from some very good competition anglers is to the grease your sighter and allow your sighter to float on the surface. This works on both flat and riffly water. By laying your cast at different angles you can control how quickly your nymphs sink. Watching your sighter as it drifts back toward you, you are able to detect strikes by seeing your sighter dart under water. Using lighter weight flies and adjusting the weight of the fly to the depth is important. Eats are not as obvious as with an indicator and you don't feel them at all. It is a definite advanced tactic, but can increase your catch rate dramatically in marginal water, or water I would have walked by a few years ago. If you use a typical tight line drift where you are across from your intended lie, you will spook a lot of the fish in shallow and flat water. I ended up catching 10 browns, one brookie and one rainbow in water that many people would have not even fished, in fact the pools near the dirt road that I felt should have had the most fish didn't have many at all, probably because they had been caught and kept for dinner by bait fishermen.
This weekend is also the Annual Dtich Pickle Classic Bass Fly Fishing Tournament on Lake Champlain. It is one of my favorite weekends of the year. This year there are some great prizes and anglers in the event and about 60-70 teams entered. My teammate and I have gotten 4th two years ago and 3rd last year, hopefully we can improve. Either way its a fun time, lots of beers are consumed, friends made and fish caught! the fishing should be good. Water levels on the lake are at a good level and water temps should have fish feeding heavily. We are going to target some productive largemouth water that has produced good numbers of fish in the past, and then go looking for large smallmouths. I wish we would have had time to practice, but that just has not happened at all. Good luck to all the competitors this year.
Feels like late July out there right now. I just got off the water with clients from Georgia. Water temp was 65 at 6:30 and 66 when we got off at 10:45. The Winooski was 69 last night at 8 PM and likely hit 70 lower on the river. We will likely get over 70 degree water temps this afternoon, but we get a nice cool down starting tomorrow, and the fishing should remain great through that timeframe. Hopefully people will give the fish a break this afternoon. Thankfully the flows have been on the high side so the rivers are not heating up too bad.
Fish have been keying into golden stones more in the last week and almost all of the wild rainbows caught have been on stonefly nymphs like the one in the first pic. Soft hackle caddis emergers have taken a fair amount of fish as well. Fishing was good the past few mornings. We have mostly been targeting riffles, runs, and pocket water. As the temps get nearer the mid 60's more and more fish will be found in well oxygenated water found in these areas since the warmer the water the less amount of dissolved oxygen the water can hold. This is why we stop fishing for trout at 70 degrees because the fish are stressed to the point that many die after being released.
Fishing bouldery brawling pocket water generally will hold a lot of trout but can be difficult for many anglers as there are different currents moving at high speeds, and inevitably, moving in all different directions including upstream. On top of that are huge changes in in depth as water moves over shelves and boulders. Nymphing is usually the most productive method though it requires precise fly placement and depth control in order to get the fly down to where the fish are, while keeping the fly from hanging up. You also need to battle those different currents by keeping your fly and line in the same current or you won't get your fly to the fish. Using and indicator rig has some serious short comings in this water as it often lands in a different current than your fly, greatly lowering your chances of hooking a fish because your fly is not being presented at the correct depth or speed. My method is to use a tight line nymphing technique with no indicator, and varyingly weighted flies. I keep my fly line off the water and control depth with my rod tip allowing me to keep my fly in the strike zone and moving at the speed of the current the fly is in. If you'd like to learn more get in touch with me and I can show you how to land a lot more fish in pocket water. I have specialized tight line nymphing rods and leaders set ups for my guests to use.
Good luck on the water, and again, don't forget to get in the habit of taking river temps.
Swing Your Flies
(Fishing right now is on fire! We have had cool damp weather that has kept river temps perfect in the upper 50's to low 60's and enough, but not too much, rain to keep flow high but perfect for floating, though still very wadable. We've also got a lot of new bugs joining the party. Large #12 March Browns, Eastern Sulphers #14-16, Cream Cahills #16, and I found my first Golden Stone shuck on the rocks stream side yesterday (which do really well for me in June). Tan Caddis are everywhere, a few small BWO's and I've seen more lime and yellow sally stoneflies, I am sure there are some bugs I haven't identified as well. I don't spend a lot of time trying to identify each bug, as long as you know what species are hatching, and are familiar with their life cycles, sizes and how to fish them you will be ok.
Swinging your flies at the end of the drift is the name of the game right now as fish are feeding throughout the water column and willing to move to your flies. The fish are also spread out throughout shallow riffles, pockets, pools, runs, and deep slow water. By swinging your flies you can cover much more water and you don't need to get the perfect drift to get an eat. When you do swing your nymphs remember to break your habit of tugging up stream when you feel a take, instead sweep your rod low and to the side. Tugging straight back pulls the fly out of the fishes mouth, while the latter will drive the fly into the corner of the mouth and you will hook many more fish. My client on Friday did a good job of making the adjustment. We netted 16 rainbows out of about 40 eats. Probably 2/3 of the fish were on the swing, and many took right at the surface as he was about to pick up the fly. Nearly every time his muscle memory kicked in and he jerked the rod back we didn't hook the fish, but when he consciously made the sweeping low set to the side we had fish on much more consistently.
I had a cancellation on Saturday and unfortunately didn't fill the spot. I went out for a couple hours on my own to continue scouting a new area I had mentioned in the last post. I hit a stretch of heavy pocket water and my intention was to fish really quickly at the prime spots to learn more water and what fish inhabited the area. Well a bit under 2 hours later I had covered about 100 yards and brought 28 fish to the net, a mix of stocked browns and wild rainbows. To say the fishing was on fire was an understatement. As soon as I had caught a couple I decided to really start picking the area apart, which is what I like to do anyway when I fish. Its fun to try to catch every fish in an area. This spot was loaded with boulders and pockets with a fairly long, deep run down the middle. I found fish everywhere, in fact, less fish were in the prime looking run, then the tailout, edges, bank, and riffle above the pool. I guess if you take anything away from this is that don't just run up to the nice pool and start fishing. Start at the tailout and pick your way through the water to cover it all. You will end up with many more fish at the end of the day.
The fish really wanted a #16 tan fly I tied on a czech nymph hook with a Coyote Mask body, red collar and silver tinsel rib. I tied this to imitate a scud when i was in PA, but it looks generally buggy and the fish could take it as an emerging mayfly nymph or caddis pupa I think.
A word on river etiquette, or what not to do, from an out of state fly angler yesterday. As I was landing a fish yesterday, a guy pulled up along the opposite side of the river on the edge of a very busy highway, got out and watched me for a while. I netted a few more fish and then he disappeared. About 10 minutes later he re appeared with his gear on and walked directly down and began to fish about 10 yards up river from me. There was not another sole on the river. I simply told him that he was not going to make many friends high holeing people but I didn't mind if he kept fishing, though other guys might and I would if I had clients. He was good about it and moved down about 100 yards. Generally, my rule of thumb in VT is if there is a car or person fishing, I will continue driving, or if I'm in the river go out of sight of the other person. With so much water and such little fishing pressure, I rarely see another angler on the water anyway.
I've got some availability this week so give me a shout. This week looks really good weather wise, and fishing should be phenomenal.
Ben Wilcox Owner/Guide Maple Country Anglers