Fall is in the air and I couldn't be happier about it. Gone are the days of 90 degrees and 100% humidity. The river temps are dropping back into the 50's and 60's and fish have been looking up. I dare say September is my favorite month to fish in VT.
Before I get into current conditions I wanted to wrap up the summer. Again, my apologies for the lack of reports. There are only so many hours in the day and with an increase in guided trips this summer, meant an increase in nights tying flies and less (or no) time to write and manage the site. While things started out bleak in June, the summer turned out to be ok as far as fish health go. Thankfully the rain came, and while august and September haven't been wash outs there have been enough rain events and cooler weather to keep from worrying too much about the well being of the trout. In fact, just about every river I have been on that receives stockings of trout still has good numbers that survived. That doesn't happen, especially on the big rivers, every summer. While some stocked fish look unhealthy, many are still fit indicating a lack of stress. As for the fish I actually care about, our wild rainbows, browns and brook trout, they have looked to be in great shape, well built and strong. Lake Champlain fished quite well for bass most of the summer until around late August when we had a bit of a heat wave that warmed lake temps up and drove bass deeper. The water has since cooled off and fish are now coming back shallower where it's easier and more fun to get after them with fly gear.
I also had a great trip out to Colorado to fish some amazing wild trout rivers with my USA Fly Fishing Teammates. It was a great learning experience and I've got some new tricks and fly patterns to help my clients on the water when fishing is tough.
As for current conditions, rivers temps are prime, but could get a little too warm on a few of these warmer afternoons coming up on the bigger rivers. Nights are cooling down well and are longer now, giving temps more time to drop. The fishing has been a little more up and down than I'd like for the past week. It seems that the fish have either been all ON when there is a hatch or all OFF. When its on its been easy, dry flies and nymphs have been producing fish without much difficulty. When it's been off it has been a challenge. I've had to think outside the box to get them to eat. Throwing normal confidence patterns has not always worked. Small streamers, mops, and very small nymphs have produced when it been tough but not one method has been consistent. One day a black streamer was the ticket, another morning a client couldn't touch a fish until we put on a mop, and then later in the day only very small size 20 or smaller nymphs took fish. Just keep these in the back of your mind when you are not having success and you'll probably be able to turn a skunk into at least a few trout in the net. I think a few things have been playing into this feast or famine pattern- sustained fishing pressure, sporadic hatches, and generally low water levels.
As for hatches, the iso hatch is winding down. Swinging nymphs for these swimming mayflies has been losing its effectiveness. Two weeks ago I could have clients do nothing but swing nymphs and catch plenty. BWO and baetis have been coming off. I was able to pick off a few wild browns and rainbows yesterday afternoon on a size 20 shuttlecock emerger in some flat water. Cloudy and rainy days are best for these hatches. October Caddis should be around, though I have not seen any yet. These are large orange caddis around size 12. Ants have still been emerging and there were a lot on the water yesterday afternoon as well. I have still had the best luck prospecting dry flies with an ant. That has been true for me since June. Other terrestrials like hoppers and beetles are still a good choice. There are also 1000's of cray fish around, especially in the big rivers. Its never a bad option to have a crayfish imitation or just a brown woolly bugger on your line.
Ben Wilcox Owner/Guide Maple Country Anglers