We've had some pretty good fishing during the last two weeks of June. Water temps have held in the fishable range on most rivers, however the big rivers have gone over 70 a few times. The lakes are heating up with surface temps jumping from mid 60's two weekends ago on Lake Champlain during the Ditch Pickle Classic to mid 70's last weekend.
Unfortunately we have a bit of a heat wave on the way for the fourth of July week which will put all of the big rivers and many mid sized streams out of play as far as trout fishing goes. You may find some mid sized streams to be under 70 early in the mornings especially on clear nights where we get a lot of radiational cooling. We also have a lot of ground water flowing and fairly high flows thanks to all the rain we have had this spring so that extra water will be helping to cool the rivers as well. This time of year rain is almost always a good thing for our trout so I am hoping that the wetter than average year continues. Higher flows during the summer means lower water temps, more food, more available habitat, and more cover from predators.
We've been having good luck fishing dry droppers on the rivers. On smaller streams I've been fishing with a tight line rig with a dry fly on the tag and a small to medium sized mayfly or caddis nymph about 20" below. In this scenario its important to be stealthy and fish upstream because you cannot cast much over 30', equally important is changing the weight of your nymph depending on water depth. In skinnier water a 2.0-2.3 mm bead will keep you fly near the bottom but not hanging up constantly, in deeper water a 2.8-3.0 mm bead will get down but not sink your dry fly. In deeper pools I've been fishing the dry dropper first and then clipping off the dry and adding a second nymph to get to the bottom part of the pool. This allows you to first target any fish suspended in the pool and then target the fish nearer the bottom. In a pool recently I used this tactic to first catch a suspended rainbow in the middle of the pool and then four browns nearer the bottom with the double nymph rig. On larger streams a typical weight forward 5 wt line and rod with a nymph suspended between 2-5' below the dry will work. When fishing on my own i'll use two nymphs under the dry but its prone to tangles if you are not used to casting this rig. Generally I'll cast 45-60 degrees up stream and then drift the flies past my position and extend the drift as long as possible by shaking line out of the rod tip and then swinging the flies before stripping the flies back into me.
As I mentioned before I fished in the Ditch Pickle Classic two weekend ago. Unfortunately, our 4 year run of top three finishes came to and end and we ended up with 5th place out of about 60 teams. Fishing was tough this year for bass, and we decided to focus all of our time on smallmouth. Scores overall were lower than normal as most teams struggled. The theme for us was small and medium sized bass and Pike everywhere. Generally its exciting to hook big pike but in a bass tournament catching more pike than bass gets to be a bummer. Plenty of times we thought we may have a big bass on only for it to be a pike. We caught so many that we were eventually able to tell if we had a bass or pike on by the way it fought before we ever saw it. We hit all of our traditional big smallmouth spots where we have hooked 18+" fish in the past but didn't find any over 17". I can only assume that the cold water temps and late spring had pushed back spawning and altered where the big bass and also the pike were hanging out. I can only assume that we should have spent more time fishing deeper water in the 15' range. We did get some nice top water eats early in the morning. I've found that smallmouth will come into shallow bays very early to feed and you can catch nice bass in 2-5' of water with poppers. I look for swirls in the bays and if you see some be sure to target them. The one swirl I saw this year resulted in 2 bass in 2 casts on the popper. Most of our bass came on small streamers with intermediate line in 5-8 feet. It was a constant grind this year and we never got into any good windows when the fish were really on the hunt as normally happens. It was just one maybe two fish and lots of casting in between fish. My partner Mike did catch the biggest northern of the tournament and won a nice fully loaded fly box from Vermont Fly Guys which was a nice reward for all the grinding. We are already looking forward to next year and know what we want to work on. Hopefully we get the time to pre fish next year to find out where the big bass are before the tournament.
I am looking forward to the hex hatch starting on some of our local ponds and lakes. I'll be up north for about 5 days and hopefully I can get a few evenings of good hatches.
Ben Wilcox Owner/Guide Maple Country Anglers