The foliage is at peak and the colors are far better than average, however the trout fishing has been as difficult as I have seen for this time of year with fish going long stretches of the day not willing to eat a fly. Thankfully being on the water this time of year offers more than just beautiful trout. The water is historically low and the trout have been hunkered down hiding under rocks leaving an angler wondering if the river has any fish in it. Not to say trout aren't being caught, but we have found ourselves on the river at times where no matter what we do the fish will have none of it. We have gotten into trout on a variety of rivers both large and small with nymphing being most productive, but there have been fish willing to eat a dry fly. Up stream Euro Nymphing has been the best tactic for me. Fish have been in pools and pocket water, but I think deep pools have been the most productive. I have been sneaking to the tailout of the pool and kneeling or sitting down casting as far up into the pool as possible and watching my sighter for the slightest tightening. This has worked to coax a few fish out of deeper water. I've explored some new waters both here and down south and have continued to find some pockets of stocked fish that survived the summer, in addition to some wild trout.
We are forecast to get some significant rain this week, but one rain event will really not help our river levels or bring up the water table much, we need a wet period with frequent rain to really help. If we do get a bump in water levels then the fish will likely feed and let their guard down.
I'd like to congratulate Guide Andy Masenas on taking second place at the Otter Creek Classic last weekend. Andy and I had a tough day Saturday but Andy put himself into third place on after day one. We fished some new water and got some wild and stocked browns and rainbows in the morning, then we chased ghosts on new water that was so low I don't think a trout was within a mile of us, and finally returned and got a few more where we started the day. Andy was able to fish well enough Sunday to jump into second place by technically nymphing a small spooky wild trout stream and then catching fish on dry flies out of a large pool to end his Sunday on a high note. He deserved a good result especially after having me slow him down Saturday. I had been looking forward to this tournament all summer, usually it is opening weekend of trout season and I cannot get there to fish. I ended up getting quite Ill on Friday night from a nasty cold the kids brought home earlier in the week, I almost bailed on Saturday and probably should have but ended up having one of the most miserable days on the water I have ever had. I decided midway through the day I'd not be fishing Sunday because I was functioning at such a low level and my wife was sick taking care of sick kids. I didn't submit my scores and DQ'd myself, turns out I would have had enough to be in 4th place but I had no desire to be out on the water, which is crazy because tournament fishing is one of my favorite things. I'm pretty bummed how it turned out but don't regret not fishing Sunday. Andy's great result really made my miserable weekend better. He is one of the best fishermen I know, and having competed against some of the best in the world, he is among some the best out there.
There is an awful lot to talk about in todays report. If I had a chance I would have made 2-3 more since my last. My apologies for the delay.
On the Guiding front we have gone from famine to feast in the matter of a few weeks. The summer was terribly slow, and suddenly i'm not able to get everyone out. Please bear with me if you want to get out in the next few weeks. I am trying to work through figuring out how to get three kids to and from 5 different school/ daycares throughout the week thanks to COVID, and Andy is now available only on weekends. I have had a lot of people looking to float. Thats not an option due to continued low water. We will be booking wade trips only. Thank you all for the support. I have heard from a lot of repeat clients in the past month.
As you all can tell we have entered a fall weather pattern which is so damn welcomed. This summer was really wearing on me. It was just so hot, humid, and sunny every day. I couldn't stand the sun anymore, and everyday just hoped it would be cloudy. The weather has been great the past few weeks aside from some nasty wind here and there, especially during the Ditch Pickle Classic which I'll get to later. Im back on the trout wagon after spending about three weeks thinking of only bass fishing which has been pretty good with a lot of fish eating top water flies in shallow water.
Now for our bread and butter, and the reason most of you read this report- trout. The fishing has ranged from quite good to mediocre. As expected there are not many stocked fish left in our rivers, though I have heard reports of some still being caught in deeper gorges and such where they were able to stay cool, but for the most part we are fishing for wild fish. I've found that the wild fish have made it through another really tough season fairly well. Though we have seen some areas of the bigger rivers that have not produced too many fish. I'd say that maybe some wild fish died in some stretches but more than likely the wild fish migrated to better, cooler areas of the river and have not spread back out. Either way there are less fish available, but the quality has been good and even those small wild fish fight much better than a stocker. Please take care fighting those fish and handle them with care, they just had a tough time. A bunch of wild rainbows I caught on the Lamoille the other day were pretty skinny, but very strong, they just need to feed heavily this fall.
I personally have been hooking into nice fish almost every time out for the last month or two. I don't know why because usually I'm the one who catches a ton of fish but not the big ones. I don't think I am doing anything different, other than fishing more dry flies, but I'll milk this little run of bigger fish as long as I can. My recent clients have done fairly well on dry flies, catching small and mid sized rainbows and browns. September is just about the only month where I seem to have days that more fish are willing to eat the dry than the nymph consistently. That was true on the two trips I guided this weekend, although I fished for 15 minutes between my trips Saturday and nymphed up a double, and other two rainbows one of which was all of 16-17" and built well. Friday night we had our first frost of the season and the water was only 52 degrees to start the day on a medium sized trib, but was 68 on the big river in the afternoon so don't forget the thermometer. The trips we had out the previous weeks went similar to this weekend, but I noticed that the fishing seemed best this weekend midday, while the last few weeks it was steady all day.
The Iso hatch has been in full swing, but is waning especially on the big rivers, but on one trib saturday I saw more iso shucks on the rocks than I have ever seen on any river. The iso hatch is usually considered more of a big river hatch so this was kind of a surprise for me to see. The trout Saturday were preferring larger bushier dries size 10-12, but usually a go to iso pattern for me is a size 14 Adams irresistible. Remember that these are swimming nymphs, swinging then stripping in your flies will draw takes even after the hatch is over, and you can do this with both dries, and nymphs as well as soft hackles. I haven't seen a ton of other bugs recently other than tiny tiny baetis mayflies, but have seen some caddis, a few golden stone shucks, and terrestrials.
Next week is the Otter Creek Classic and we just had the Ditch Pickle Classic a few weekends back. Its great to have these events still happen and have something to look forward to during these strange times. I am particularly excited to fish the OCC happening now in the fall instead of the traditional opening weekend because I am usually not able to fish it at that time of year. I'll be prepping for the tourney by tying flies and trying to make a game plan. Unfortunately I don't know a ton of water down that way, and the water I do know that is productive is well known. I wish I had a chance to get down that way and scout but that will not be happening; I've got too busy a week ahead of me. I'll just wing it and hope I can find some fresh fish I can beat up on early and then pick apart some waters that other people have already fished and hopefully clean up some they left behind.
We finished 2nd once again as team in the Ditch Pickle Classic. My teammate Mike Woulf and I have fished it for 6-7 years together and still cannot seem to win one. I think its our second or third 2nd place and our 6th straight finish of 2,3 or 4th place. This year we were dealing with the remnants of a hurricane and the weather was about as bad as it gets. I had done a couple scouting trips prior to the event and had come up with a game plan that I thought would win it for us. Of course that game plan was out the window due to weather. We fished one small sheltered area of one bay most all of the first day until we were chased off by a large storm. At the end of the day we had caught only 5 bass three of which were small. I lost one good one on top water the took the fly 60-70 feet away and popped off in the weeds. Coming back in to the boat launch we were in 3-4 foot waves and that's after it had calmed down a bit. Right after dark the wind kicked up and it was almost hurricane force at my camp on the west side of the inland sea. We were worried about the giant tree out front falling on the camp. We set the alarm for 4:30 and woke to sustained probably 40 MPH winds. Not one of us even thought about going out it was so windy, so we went back to bed till 7 basically writing the day off. I texted my friend to see if he was out and said he found some sheltered water and was fishing so we decided to trailer over to a sheltered area we had never fished. We got on the water around 8:30 or so and began tossing top water in some weed beds, soon we had three nice largemouth in the boat, and Mike picked up two small but scoreable smallmouth right at the end to secure our second place. Losing that time really killed us however. Had we been staying in a place that wasn't getting pounded by the full force of the storm we would have probably gotten out sooner, but it was just so gnarly at my camp it wasn't even a consideration. Either way the weekend is always a highlight for us no matter the finish, many beers are drank and laughs had.
Good luck out on the water. We need more rain, it will really get the fish fired up to eat. If it does rain, see if you can get out that day or the next, even if the water is stained. I'd rather fish stained water than gin clear. In the fall the baseline flows are low so generally even when we get a big rain event the rivers clear and drop fast. When the rivers are clear move slow, blend in and fish up stream. If we do get some nice bumps in the flows the land locked salmon will start to push up the rivers. From here on out you'll have a chance at a big landlocked if you are in the right places. A big push or water is key, sometimes it takes a few to get them to run in good numbers.
Ben Wilcox Owner/Guide Maple Country Anglers