Opening day of the Vermont Trout Season is less than three weeks away but with it comes a lot of uncertainty. Many areas of the country are shut down thanks to COVID-19 including Vermont. My hope, along with everyone else, is that we can assume some normalcy by then and have the virus under control. Starting today the state is going under lockdown with all non essential businesses shut down for a couple of weeks. Residents are being ordered to stay home for non essential activities. Best case scenario is that the strict social distancing measures can stop community transmission during the next few weeks.
While many, including myself consider fly fishing absolutely essential, I doubt the Government does. Will that stop me from getting out as soon as I wrap up my maple sugaring season? (agriculture is an essential business, because people need to eat) No, but I'll probably be fishing alone. I don't really start booking trips until mid May and all of the trips booked are a go. We will see where we are at when we get into May. I certainly haven't had new inquiries about fishing for the past week or so. I will probably take some more protective measures when guiding in the short term like having clients aways driving in their own vehicles, keeping snacks and drinks in separate coolers, maintaining a safe distance between people and sanitizing cork grips of fly rods. The great thing about fly fishing and all other outdoor activity is that it is an activity that can still be done while containing the spread of this disease. I can't imagine how much harder it would be to quarantine in say, NYC. I'd go crazy. We as Vermonters should all feel lucky to live in a great state where the outdoors is simply out our back door.
All winter I had been prepping for the 2020 Fly Fishing National Championships in Basalt Colorado at the end of April, which has been postponed until the fall or next spring. This is a big tournament for myself as well as my teammate Matt Stedina, we are ranked 10th and 11th in the country going into the tournament. The top 15 point getters make Fly Fishing Team USA so a decent showing is important for us to make the team. I've tied lots of flies, done as much research on the water as possible, and evaluated all the gear I'll need and upgraded some things like reels, fly lines etc. I am really hoping the tournament happens in the fall. The end of April was a big stretch for me as I don't usually get the opportunity to fish prior to that, so I would be going into nationals without having really fished since October. The other competitors have been fishing all winter. I'm going to take the spring and really get some training in especially if COVID-19 hangs around and I don't do a lot of guiding. Last summer I worked a lot on dry dropper fishing, this summer I'll also focus on dry fly fishing, as well as nymph tactics in all types of water. I will focus a lot on clear, low streams, and flatter water and fish a lot of less desirable water that most people pass up. Im also playing around with different leader formulas and will continue to dial that in before nationals. My goal is to catch more fish on a dry fly than I ever have and I plan to bring two rods with me at all times (except early season) with one being a dedicated dry fly rod.
I anticipate early season trout fishing to be quite good. We've had an early spring so the snow has been slowly melting for the past month. Most mid sized and small rivers look great right now and have me itching to get out more than usual for this time of year. I anticipate the by the time trout season opens we will already have some bugs hatching or at least moving, and the water may be a little warmer than usual. This should make the fish a bit more active and willing to take a fly come opening day. I have seen fish rise on opening weekend on a few occasions but nymphing attractor patterns and larger bugs and slowly fishing small to mid sized streamers will be the best producers for sure.
Everyone stay healthy and we will be on the water before we know it.
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Ben Wilcox Owner/Guide Maple Country Anglers