Fall is Just About Here
The last few weeks continued to be a roller coaster with below seasonal temps and rain interspersed with hot muggy weather and increased river temps. I had some good trips and one tough one in low water. River flows have been up and down as well. Fishing has been good when we have had cool weather and obviously tougher when it has gotten hot and low. It looks like that may change for the next week or so as we have a period of cool dry weather forecast with highs in the upper 60's and low 70's and lows in the 40's and 50's. This should bring some very good fishing both with dry flies and nymphs. River levels will drop but should remain cool everywhere, but please don't forget to take temps.
Iso's began slowly hatching a few weeks ago when I saw a shuck on a rock and many smaller iso nymphs on overturned stones. We should hit the hatch perfect in the next few weeks. In my last report I went over how to fish this hatch so you may want to scroll down and find that.
I've also heard reports of flying ants and people taking fish on ant patterns recently so have some ready to go. I began fishing with two rods again. One with a tight line nymph set up and the other with a dry fly, that I also will fish as a dry dropper when things warrant. I've still had the most dry fly fish on smaller stimulators. Sunday I was on the river early and caught most fish on dark nymphs (think ISO nymphs). I saw a single rise on a rip rap bank and my first cast with the stimulator I hooked a big rainbow. Unfortunately he came unbuttoned but let me know exactly how big he was when twice he jumped 3-4 feet out of the water after he came unhooked! I also caught some nicely colored browns who clearly had put on their fall spawning colors.
I had a trip the day before I left for QC that went well and fish were really keyed into golden stonefly nymphs. I had not had a ton of fish keying into them earlier this year, but that day they were. We fished up through a fast riffle and missed a few fish. Put on a golden stone and fished back down where we and already fished and I think the client landed 6 in short order. There are still a ton of golden shucks on the rocks so don't abandon them.
I also checked on a salmon river I frequently guide on Saturday. After being cool for two previous days I was not worried about water temps but took a temp anyway before fishing. 72 degrees, I am used to freestone streams draining out of the green mountains, but this river drains another lake and the surface temp of the lake was keeping the river temps up there. I left without fishing, but unfortunately saw 5 anglers all fishing one pool, their license plates were NH and MA.
I should at least go over my trip to Gaspe Penninsula in QC. Unfortunately they were in the midst of a severe drought up there and it hadn't rained in two months. As I got closer I began noticing the lawns and fields were brown and every river I drove over looked like a trickle. I was already concerned the fishing would be tough way before I got there and I was right. I only fished one day, the last I was there, as I waited for rain that never came. I was told at the ZEC no one was catching fish. I fished the York River which was low and gin clear. I spent half the day looking for fish and then went back with the whole family. I fished the tailout of a pool with 11 salmon looking between 10 and 20 lbs each. It didn't help that my daughter was dressed in bright pink, but the trip was a family vacation, not a fishing trip. I had one large salmon nip at my fly lazily but was never on. We plan on going back, earlier in the year and without the kids. It was pretty stunning to see 20-40 lbs wild Atlantic Salmon in a perfectly clear river.
If you go there are a lot of differences between fishing in the US. Each river is controlled by a ZEC and split into zones. The ZEC is responsible for administering passes, licenses, and controlling how many anglers are on the water. Each zone is either unlimited access, meaning any number of anglers can fish these zones, but for a fee, or controlled access. The fee on the york was $61 per day plus license. The controlled access zones where you must enter a lottery and be drawn to fish are more money. It was $95 per day if you are drawn, but some other rivers are more. We actually won a lottery on the Bonaventure but it was $185 per person per day and the fishing was poor so we didn't take it. We learned a lot about some of the rivers and and how the lotteries work as well as when to fish. It is certainly not cheap to fish, but if you only go once a year or less its worth while. Ill be back for sure!
Looking Good Again
Had a lot of trips out in past couple weeks, most being before the 5 day heat wave we just got through. Above are pictures of just two of the very successful trips I had the pleasure of leading. Fishing was good to very good while the water and air temps were cool with fish being caught on dries, mostly stimulators, and mayfly and caddis nymphs, odd that while the fish preferred stimulators on the surface, largely ignored the big nymphs. Out of probably 35+ fish landed by clients that week I think only one was on a stonefly nymph. Fishing seemed better in the morning, and as the days went on the trout were less willing to move off the bottom to eat. This made getting a good drag free drift that allowed the nymphs time to sink to the bottom more important. Water temps were in the low to mid 60's on the big rivers in the end of July, but pushed up into the 70's and hit seasonal lows this past week. I did notice more anglers on the water than any time I can remember ever. I found anglers in places I guided that I never have seen them before. It was a little challenging on a few trips. In one instance we had just over an hour left in the trip and the clients back was sore so we took a little ride to a different section of a smaller stream and gave his back and arm a short break. I drove probably 2 miles up the road seeing many anglers and finally turned and went back down in search of a place we could fish upstream and not run into any anglers. We got to the first pool and began fishing when a guy came down and fished below us for maybe 3 minutes before coming our way. He asked what our plans were and I told him we were going to fish up stream for a little ways. He wasn't familiar with river etiquette I guess as his reply was there is plenty of water to fish and trudged up the river past us. I didn't tell him I'd just driven about 2 miles along the stream to find a place where we could avoid people. Oh well, we got back in the truck and moved again. Overall it was really bizarre how many people were out fishing, Im pretty spoiled I guess cause crowded rivers, a norm in many places, are not really an issue here aside from two weeks ago!
I only ran one trip this week because of the conditions and things were not easy. We hit the mid to upper reaches of a mid sized trib, early. Though it had been hot, water temps were 58 degrees to start out and the level was low. I had made sure my anglers wore natural colored clothing the night before anticipating spooky conditions, but was also hopeful that the river would get hit with the mid week front that pushed through the night before. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to move the river levels up at all. The anglers were beginners and we spent some time working on casting before working up stream with dries and nymphs. Situations like these really test the anglers skills. As we slowly approached one flat pool I put my angler into casting position down stream and under a hemlock, while I snuck forward and sighted into the water. Seeing three browns spread throughout the pool and watching one eat from the surface I was hopeful. First cast from my client had the correct distance, but the caddis dry landed opposite side of the pool in the shallow gravely area. Immediately a brown came about 15 feet from the pool to the fly and just as it was about to eat the fly dragged and the trout refused. It took a lie in that area and I instructed my client to let the fly float well past the trout and then make the same cast again. As he picked up the fly it made a "plop" sound and two trout instantly disappeared never to be seen again. We worked for the third higher in the pool but he too was spooked at some point. Overall it was a fun, challenging, and nice morning, i think 4 trout ate the fly.
We are getting moderate to heavy rain as I write this mid day Saturday. This should help fill the rivers and flush the warm water out. Right now the Winooski is very muddy in Richmond but still fairly low. Looking ahead this week we have highs only in the upper 60's thru Wednesday and then mid 70's following that. This should set us up for some good fishing on most if not all rivers in our area. Mid August cool downs have traditionally been some of the best weeks of the year if you are lucky enough to hit it right with water temps in the 60's. As we get into August be on the lookout for a few things. Terrestrials, hoppers, crickets, beetles, and ants are on the menu. Be on the lookout for flying ant hatches. When the flying ants emerge they can be seriously dense and if you happen to find a swarm near a trout stream there can be a lot of ants on the water and a lot of trout keying into them. You really can't go wrong throwing an ant pattern this time of year as you may pick up fish at any time. The next thing to be on the lookout for are Isonychia may flies. These are a grey mayfly around a size 12. Parachute adams, grey wolulfs, and adams irresistible's are all good, with the latter probably my favorite. While there are a few Iso's that hatch in the spring, the end of August and beginning of September are the prime time for this insect. This is my favorite hatch of the year for a couple reasons. One, it is the best opportunity for consistent dry fly action in this area, and one of the few times trout will ignore nymphs and eat dries off of the surface. After your dry fly has finished its drift, allow it to swing across the current and strip it back to you. You will get fish to eat your dry this way. Two, when the hatch is just starting, or not happening, trout will happily take a nymph. The Iso nymph is a swimming nymph and a good one at that. Unlike most mayflies, they crawl to the edge of the stream and crawl out on rocks, similar to a stonefly, to hatch. This means that you have nymphs swimming all over the stream and makes fishing pretty easy. Many times perfect presentations are not necessary. Cast upstream and allow you nymphs to sink and then swing your flies at the end of the drift. Allow your flies to hang in the current before stripping them back to you. The third thing to look for is BWO's and Baetis mayflies. These small mayflies become a more important part of the trouts diet as we move toward september. I usually will fish a heavy Iso pattern nymph with a #18-20 nymph such as a red copper john as the dropper.
Please continue to monitor water temperatures and seek out cool water through September and focus on getting the fish in and released quickly. If I take a picture of a fish for a client we leave the fish in the net well under water pointing upstream, get the camera out and ready then lift the fish out of the water for probably 3-6 seconds before returning it to the water. Research shows a trout out of the water for more than 15 seconds has a much higher rate of mortality. There have been many a time that the fish has just not cooperated in staying still for us and we just let it go rather than continue to stress it to get a perfect pic.
Im guiding Monday which should be good, before the whole family leaves for the Gaspe peninsula of Quebec to camp, and try my luck at Giant wild Atlantic Salmon that have returned from the Atlantic Ocean to spawn. Ill be back around the 15th of August if you'd like to get out.
Ben Wilcox Owner/Guide Maple Country Anglers