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