Fall is Here
We had a good amount of trips out in the past three weeks. Fishing had been continuing to be mid summer conditions with some pretty good dry fly fishing to be had. The fish had been becoming very picky, and had been either refusing last millisecond or taking very quick. I had clients hooking less fish than usual because of that. On top of that if you missed a fish it was not coming back and if you made a poor cast it was down for a while. This made it a challenge for novice and even intermediate anglers. I did have the pleasure of guiding Jan from Florida and his friend. Jan is probably the most accomplished angler I've guided, owning double digit world records for salt water fly fishing. He had literally fished every amazing destination you've ever heard of in every corner of the world. He is pictured above with the nice male rainbow. We threw everything at this fish and it finally fell for a female flying ant. There was a hatch earlier in the afternoon, and the fish were not eating the ant pattern, but after about 10 fly changes at this particular fish, I went back to the ant and he ate first cast.
Mid summer conditions are thankfully a thing of the past, now that we have had a real weather pattern change. River temps have dropped into the 50's and low 60's in the afternoon on a warmer day. I've still been assessing the status of our wild trout on our mid and large rivers after what was the hottest summer on record. I can say, that these wild fish have really adapted to warm water temps that generally are lethal to trout and have learned where to go to survive. Some rivers or stretches seem to have weathered the summer just fine, while others maybe not as well. I got out on the lower end of one of our big rivers and got some wild rainbows. I was concerned that there would be none left down that low. I definitely don't think all of the fish made through the summer it but thankfully some did in our warmest biggest rivers. I also don't think the fish have spread back out completely from their summer thermal refuges they migrate to, though I'm sure they will continue to do so. I'd say cover some water when you are out to find the fish and please take care to handle them respectfully.
Productive trout flies will begin getting smaller as most of the big bugs are finishing up their hatches, though you'll be able to get fish to eat bigger flies throughout the fall. I like to fish a larger 14 or 16 and then a size 18-20 mayfly nymph like a PT or red copper john. If you see fish rising on a slow flat or pool then throw a small size 18-20 BWO emerger. That is usually my first choice in this situation. The ISO hatch is about done, and unfortunately we didn't get to fish my favorite hatch of the year thanks to the hot water, but you'll still get fish to eat a size 14-16 ISO nymph either dead drifted or swung and stripped back to you.
As we get cooler weather and water temps, cold fronts will have an increasingly negative impact on the fishing. I've found over the years that the day after a front moves through leaving a sunny, cold, windy day with the wind coming from the north or northwest, the fishing can be very slow. I fished those exact conditions Saturday and things were definitely slow. Andy ran a trip that morning as well and the clients had a slow day as I did. We got fish to eat but most fish were not interested. The good news is that after things calm down, think sunday and today, the fishing is generally pretty good. Mornings, especially early mornings, have also been slower since it cooled down and as the water warms up so has the fishing. Just keep this stuff in mind when you are heading out to the river.
Lake run salmon will be starting the show up especially with any good pushes of rain. Along with those salmon will be a few browns and steelhead. It looks like we have another good shot of rain coming tomorrow so the lake tribs will likely get some big fresh lake fish. I like traditional streamers for those salmon like a black ghost. The longer they are in the river the less likely they will be to grab a streamer so nymphing will be more productive. I like mayfly and and caddisfly nymphs from size 14 to 18. Please let me know if you want to get out after some big lake fish!
Labor Day Weekend
Happy Labor Day. I don't know why half of the pics uploaded sideways, and I don't know how to change it. I wish things were a little cooler so that we had more trout stream options for the holiday. We've been confined to the coolest few rivers and streams in the area, though I did get into a few more areas in the last few days thanks to a couple cooler days and nights, and though the remainder of the weekend will be very warm and keep most things above 70, we are now in September and it will be cooling off.
Trips for myself and guide Andy have been pretty good in the last few weeks for both trout and bass. We've had a lot of kids out which has been a blast. The dry fly fishing has been good with more fish being taken on dries then on nymphs, though we have had a couple trips that have been a bit slower. I had a mornning trip recently where the clients didn't want to get up early as I suggested and fishing was good from about 8-9 and then shut down completely. Most evening trips have been good. The big downside has been the fishing pressure has been higher that we are accustomed to, though not terrible, thanks to the few options around. I did get up north with a father and son on a wild trout steam and we landed a brookie, brown and rainbow up there. Most all fish were on dries, and things were spooky unless it was a faster riffle. I had scouted that area the day before and got fish on nymphs and not dries, so goes to show you that you need to be ready for everything. I also got out on a mid sized river real quick today to assess how the fish fared through the summer. The water was 67 degrees when I fished though I'd say it definitely over 70 by afternoon and will stay there. It got pretty warm throughout the summer, and I only got one wild rainbow. I was with my dad and dog and we really fished very fast just to see what was around, but in the spring in the same place fishing properly, I could catch 20-30 fish of all three species here, so I'm concerned there was a fish kill here but maybe they migrated to cooler areas and springs and haven't spread back out. Either way when it cools off I don't think Ill be guiding here. I'll be trying to scout more areas once we cool back down to asses how more of the fish fared, but I'm thinking ill be guiding higher in the watersheds than usual.
Fish have been taking a wide variety of food off of the surface, in order of productivity its been size 12-18 caddis, size 12-18 mayfly emergers size 16-20, mayflies size 14-18, followed by stoneflies and terrestrials. I've seen a good amount of mayflies, sulphurs, light cahills, blue wing olives, and small baetis out there, caddis of all sizes, large golden stones, small brown stones, and a good number of lime sallies. Iso's will be hatching now on the bigger rivers but we will probably miss this fantastic hatch thanks to water temps. This swimming mayfly crawls onto rocks and hatches like a stonefly into a grayish size 12-16 dun.
As I mentioned earlier there have been an increased number of fishermen on the few waters cool enough. Its still not like fishing in more popular destinations where there are people everywhere, but for VT we have seen more people than we are accustomed to. My guide Andy had a terrible experience with a fellow fly fisherman who broke just about every rule of etiquette we go by on the water. Unfortunately this guy was not new to fly fishing and really was just being a dink. Andy had selected a place to bring his father and son clients where there were no other cars or fishermen and as they began walking down this guy pulled up and asked if he was going to fish. Andy tells him yes and that his two clients were going to work up stream about 400 yards. The guys says mind if I hole hop with you guys and Andy says it would be appreciated if he gave them space to to learn to fish. He replies Im going to hole hop anyway, however instead he high holes them and begins fishing about 20 yards away. After a bit he comes down and begins talking to Andy while he is trying to give instruction and stands right next to him for a while and would not leave depsite being asked more than once to give them some space so he could work with his clients. To make matters worse, Andy got hooked in the nose by the son while tying on a fly for the father and the guy is still there right next to him! Luckily the client was a dentist and worked out the hook. Once the hook was out the guy who wouldn't leave asks what Andy tied on his clients lines, and then tells him that the flies are too big and will never work and then heads off upstream. Andy has much more patience than I. I'd have gotten pretty angry with the guy, if not before getting my nose pierced then after. As for the trip, the guys found some solitude and had way over 25 eats on the dry fly after that guy had already fished the water, so I'd say he had the right flies on!
Ben Wilcox Owner/Guide Maple Country Anglers