I'll recap the month leading into what we are seeing right now out there and what to expect for the next week or so. The good news is that the next week or two should be lights out fishing for most all species of fish. As usual I'll be focusing on the trout front mainly since that what 99% of guided trips are for and what 90% of my personal time is spent on.
The month of May was quite cold and wet. In fact, the average day that Burlington hits 80 is May 10 and the latest ever was June 12. We have not hit 80 as of today and may even break that record. Thanks to the cool weather, river temps have been in the upper 40's to mid 50's for most of the month and as of June 4 were still in that range. Generally, we are in 60's at this point if not higher over 70 and staying off of the big rivers. Overall the fishing was slow up until Mid May and then has been slowly ramping up since then culminating with this week being pretty darn good. Even though the rivers temps have been cool and steady the hatches have begun in full and the trout are responding. We've been catching fish in riffles when the temps are 50 degrees or less and been getting a lot of fish to chase flies swung through fast current. It seemed though that since the fishes metabolism has been lower because of the water, that not a lot of fish had been feeding at a time and they were only moving to the riffles to feed for short periods. I also had a lot of days guiding that were better in the morning even though not much was hatching, and by the afternoon when bugs were coming off in good numbers, the fishing was slow. I guided a float trip last weekend and we caught 16 rainbows in the first half hour and things progressively slowed throughout the whole day until it was downright slow by the last hour, when the most bugs were hatching. I can only guess that the fish were feeding on nymphs all morning and were becoming full by afternoon and since their metabolism was slower because of the river temps, they were not feeding much by the time the bugs were actually hatching. I would love to hear some of your thoughts on this as well.
We have spent very little time on the big rivers since they have been too high to wade most of the time, and have done a few floats when possible. Generally we are mostly on the big rivers at this time of year taking advantage of the tighter window we have to get on them before they get above 70 degrees and then moving to the mid and small sized rivers. It has been the other way around this year. We've definitely had to adapt, and some days finding good water had been tough. I've guided on rivers I've never brought clients to before just to find good river flows, but those trips have all turned out pretty well thankfully!
As for hatches there is a lot going on. It seems that some of the earlier hatching mayflies have been pushed back later. I still saw Hendrickson spinners a few evenings ago. Overall I think the hatches have been stronger than any other year I remember. I saw by far the densest March Brown hatch on a mid sized trib last week, though trout did not feed on dries. There have been a lot of Yellow and Lime Sallies, a few golden stones, and if you take a look at the picture above a few giant stoneflies, known out west as the salmon fly. I can only wish we had them in the numbers of some western streams. If you've never been in a salmon fly hatch it is quite an experience. Big trout eating the largest foam dry fly you have ever cast and 2-3" bugs crawling all over you. Its cool to see a few around here. Caddis have been present everyday, most dense in the mornings, both small and dark (Grannoms) and bigger size 14-16 tan. I've been having very good luck with a size 12 green caddis larvae both swung and dead drifted. On the mayfly front there are tons. Quill Gordons and Hendrickson's are done or soon to be. March browns size 12 or maybe 10 haven been out in force, size 16 Pale evening duns have been very prevalent, Blue Quills and BWO's among possibly others I have not identified.
Along with hatches being late, some spawning seems to be as well. I saw a ton of suckers spawning a couple of weeks ago on a mid sized trib. Usually they are a month earlier. The trout had taken notice too and once we put an egg pattern on we got into trout consistently. I'd guess the rainbows have spawned later as well. We haven't gotten a lot of big rainbows yet this year, though Andy had a client lose a big one last week. We've also caught some brookies in places we dont usually see them which is great. Andy landed one about 16", a trophy for around here, and it was with a bunch of stocked bows.
We have a lot of rain forecast tonight, and then a stretch of beautiful weather with temps in the 70's and not a lot of precip. River temps should be good as should river flows, there is still so much ground water even if we don't get a ton of rain. I anticipate the fishing to be excellent well into June, which is such a relief after last seasons warm weather starting in May. I'd definitely take cool wet weather over warm hot weather.
As for tactics you'll need to be prepared for everything. I've not seen a lot of fish rising yet, but have seen some, and have caught some on dries. I'd have a dry dropper rod along with a euro rig with me to cover the surface as well as subsurface. Fish have been eating a lot on the swing and I like to swing a dry dropper more than a nymph and indicator rig. The swung dry fly looks much more natural that a big bright indicator bouncing across the current but many times last week that didn't bother the fish. Fish will be found most anywhere from shallow riffles and heavy pocket water to runs, glides and pools. A few days ago most of the fish we caught were in smooth glides with 3+' of depth. Anywhere that we found this type of water we consistently and easily caught fish on the dead drift and swing, while pools and riffles produced few if any. That is just one particular day and everyday is different. Unless you are really proficient with a euro rig a big flat glide can be a challenge. A dry dropper or indicator will fish that type of water more effectively, while the euro rig will blow the indicator rig away in pocket water or fast riffles.
That should about cover it on the trout front. Now is the time to get out there and take advantage of the cool spring wether we have had. I can almost guarantee you'll have a good day on the river. I am hoping to get on a pond trout fishing soon and will get my boat out this weekend and do some bass fishing. The reports I have heard is that the small mouth have been on fire. I'll know soon.