The past weekend was the 8th Annual Otter Creek Classic. I was not able to fish the opening day of the tournament, though I did make it down to Middlebury to get score cards so that my wife and I could fish Sunday. I had about 20 minutes to kill between picking up the score cards and meeting some fishing buddies for a beer so naturally I hit the river in town. Clarity on the big river was surprisingly good and while I did not hook a fish felt really confident about hooking a fish or two the next morning in that exact spot. Believe it or not I saw two fish rise that evening. That is the second time I have seen rising fish on opening day of trout season.
We arrived on the river the next morning with temps in the low 20's and was unpleasantly surprised to find the river had come up and gotten pretty dirty overnight. I decided to stick it out as there was no pressure because of the conditions, everyone else was on the tribs fishing clear water! I ended up landing this brown around 10:30 once the water warmed a tad. I really had to work for this fish, but knowing there where fish in front of me helped me stay focused. I finally got the fish to eat an orange and tan streamer by casting up stream allowing the fly to sink to the bottom and dead drifting it along the bottom on a tight line. The fish took the fly just as it came off the bottom. I would recommend trying this tactic out if you are not having luck with nymphing or stripping streamers.
The tournament was a great time and was well run by the Middlebury Mountaineer as usual. There were good numbers of fish caught with about 20% of anglers landing at least one fish over the course of both days. The vast majority of fish were landed on Saturday, which made me a little bummed I was not able to fish! There were a lot of 20" fish landed which was great to see. Congratulations to the winners and everyone who managed to land a fish.
The fish are in really good shape as the winter was very good for them and they have not struggled through high spring run off. This means there are more big wild fish out there for us to catch this weekend, which looks awesome. The river levels are good and the sun will warm the water and get the trout more active. By the end of the weekend the smaller rivers could even get a little spooky when going after the big wild fish in the rivers right now, but by then the big rivers will be in good shape. This past weekend the majority of fish were caught on large stonefly nymphs and some on streamers. I would start there when out this weekend, but be on the lookout for insect activity and be ready with some smaller PT nymphs, and hares ears among others. I have also caught fish early in the season on green caddis larvae. Its probably not going to be a match the hatch type situation, but it always will pay to understand what type of bugs you are seeing and having a good nymph pattern to cover it.
Ben Wilcox Owner/Guide Maple Country Anglers