Thursday, October 9, 2014

The fishing did get better thankfully

I'm not going to say that my wife is a jinx.  First of all, I enjoy being on the water with her.  I've had some very successful days while with her as well.  But, this is her first season fly fishing.  When I point out different bugs in the air, she just sort of listens.  Last week, I got excited when I saw my first Northern Case Maker caddis of the season in the air.  It meant absolutely nothing to her, but it certainly made a difference in my fishing the past few days.  I'll point out various bugs and then explain to her why we are using certain flies.  I do this as I'm tying her flies on for her.  Or getting her un-snagged (I did teach her to roll cast to try to get herself un-snagged this past week), or untangling knots.  Or simply checking her tippets for wear or her hooks for sharpness.  I guess the point is that I'm still doing all of these things for her, plus coaching her on how to cast, where to cast and where to stand when casting.  This takes time away from my fishing.

Still, I love being out there with her.  It's time we can share together.  It was fun to simultaneously hook some browns last week, even though neither of us landed the fish.  But, on Monday of this week, she went back to work and I still had three days of vacation time. - time that I'd be fishing alone.

Monday, I headed north to the Black River.  There are (at least) 2 Black Rivers in Vermont - one in the southeast portion of the state that empties into the Connecticut River and one in northern Vermont that empties into Lake Memphremagog.  The southern Black River is a well known trout stream and it can be crowded at times.  The northern Black River seems to be much less well known, and I've never seen another fisherman on that river.  Last September, I had a very fun 8-fish day on that river.

I started this Monday a few miles upstream from the town of Coventry.  In this part of the river, the primary fish are small wild rainbows.  The water was a little bit higher and cloudier than I expected, and not long after getting started, I changed my 2-nymph rig into a white bugger with a trailing BWO nymph.  On my third or fourth cast with the new set-up, I hooked a fish, but I never saw which fly it had taken.  A bit later, after no action for a while, and after losing my nymph to a snag, I switched to a small beadhead PT nymph.  Almost immediately, I hooked and lost a fish.  A few minutes later, I hooked and landed a feisty rainbow in fast water.  Fifteen minutes later, I hooked a slightly bigger fish in fast water, and after a nice fight, it threw the hook just as I was about to net it.  And then, things died.  I went 2 hours without another strike.  I even went into the town of Coventry and fished for a while at the falls.  This spot usually gives up at least a couple browns on stripped white woolly buggers.  Be careful not to fish this spot early in the year.  It is closed for fishing to protect spawning rainbows in the spring.  I think it opens on 6/1 every season.

So, despite an interesting period of time when the fish were "on", the day ended with only one rainbow in the net.  But, I'd had 3+ hours of fishing time just for me, and I'd had some strikes and hook-ups.  This was much better than any day the previous week.

On Tuesday, I headed to the Winooski.  I got to the river at 2:30 in the afternoon and I was surprised by the number of people fishing mid-afternoon on a week day.  Doesn't anybody have a job anymore?  Luckily, a popular spot that I fish on occasion was not occupied.  Both parking spots for this area were empty.  On the weekends, both are full all the time.  This spot is a long riffle leading into a sharp corner up against a stone face.  The best fishing tends to be higher in the riffle, in the moderately deep water, but the current is fast there.  I started with my rig from the day before - a white woolly bugger and a PT nymph.  This is a frequent tactic of mine.  Rather than change flies right as I arrive at a stream, I'll start with what is on my rod while I look into the water and into the air to see what insects I can find.  After 10 minutes with no strikes, I'd seen plenty of BWOs and one Northern Case Maker caddis.  I had the appropriate nymphs for these insects, but they weren't weighted and they were small.  So, I switched to a sinking tip leader and went with a 3-fly rig - size 14 Beadhead Prince Nymph to help get the flies down, size 16 orange caddis pupa, and size 18 ju ju baetis.  I continued to fish where I'd started, and after about 10 casts or so, decided to move downstream.  One thing I always do when I move up or down there days is leave my flies in the water.  You never know when just moving down or up a bit can lead to a strike, and that can't happen if the flies aren't in the water.

Just as I completed my 3rd or so step downsteam, I got a strike and hooked a fish.  It turned out to be a holdover stocked rainbow that had taken the baetis nymph.  Over the next hour, I caught 5 more fish, but surprisingly, they were all browns.  I got 1 on the prince nymph, 2 on the caddis, and 2 more on the baetis.  I rarely catch browns in the Winooski, so getting 5 was quite a surprise.  And, if I hadn't been paying attention, I could have completely missed that they were browns, and assumed they were light colored rainbows:

This is some of the lightest coloring I've ever seen on a brown trout, and all 5 of them were similar.

I kind of hated to leave this spot, but with about an hour of daylight left, I wanted to try a spot upstream that holds some big fish.  The river was really crowded by now, as the 9-5 workday people had descended on this stretch.  Someone immediately grabbed my parking space as I drove away, and I saw at least a dozen fishermen on the river during my drive upstream.  I was pretty sure my second destination would be empty, although it seems like more and more people are finding this spot these days.

The spot was empty, but the fishing was challenging.  Due to slower currents, I had to get rid of the sinking tip leader.  Otherwise, I kept the same fly rig.  I managed one wild rainbow on the baetis just after sunset, but that was it.  Even though a full moon was rising behind me and I intended to fish into the darkness for a bit (I was wishing that I had some mouse patterns with me), that ended abruptly when some kids who live nearby started throwing large stones into the water near me.  I yelled to them a few times but only heard laughter in return.  Rather than risking a rock in the noggin, I called it a night.  But, 7 fish in a day was my best day in months.

Yesterday was my last day of vacation.  The weather forecast called for intermittent rain.  My son needed to use the car in the morning.  My daughter had a 4:00 soccer game.  This limited my time, so I opted to fish the Third Branch of the White.  This is a river that has been challenging to me for years, despite the fact that I can access it less than 2 miles from my house.  But, it seems to finally be recovering from Hurricane Irene and the number of wild fish is definitely on the rise.  Due to my limited time, I had to fish quickly - a few casts in each hole and then move on.  This allowed me to cover over half a mile of water in less than 2 hours.  Early on, while still in a tributary named Ayers Brook, a fish flashed at the bugger, but never struck. Fifteen minutes later, in a hole that was crystal clear, I noticed my woolly bugger being sucked under a branch, and I was afraid of a snag.  I pulled the fly back to try to avoid the snag and was shocked to discover that I'd hooked a brown on my trailing PT nymph.  I don't know if the change in direction triggered the strike, or if the timing was just lucky.  Either way,  I managed to catch a stunningly beautiful wild brown:

The rest of the fishing resulted in no strikes at all, although I wish I'd had another hour to fish the last 2 big holes.  I hiked through town, back to my car, and caught the second half of my daughter's soccer game.  And just like that, my vacation is over.

However, fishing season is far from over.  There are 3 weeks left in the regular season, and I can fish the lower Otter, lower Winooski and lower White all winter if I want.  I'm sure I'll be out there again this weekend, with or without my wife.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Not what I expected

My fishing vacation has pretty much been a bust so far.

I took a week off a bit earlier last season and did pretty well.  I've been at it for over a week now and the fishing has been unbelievably slow, while at the same time, I am seeing reports of lots of fish and big fish from around the state.  It's been very disappointing, to say the least.

We started just over a week ago - my wife and I - on a Saturday morning on the White River.  This has been a consistently good spot for me, but there was just nothing going on that morning.  We went through the standard flies for this time of year - Hare's Ear, Prince Nymph variations, BWO nymphs (small ju ju baetis, RS2's and tiny bead-head swimmers), pheasant tail, orange caddis pupa (the Northern Casemaker caddis is one of our latest hatches), etc.  I also tried an iso dry for a while with no luck.  Despite a sunny morning, we saw just a few BWOs and tricos in the air.  No surface action.  no strikes.

The next evening, we headed further downstream on the same river.  Same flies.  Same lack of luck.  Again, no bugs in the air, despite some warm sunlight.

The next day, we fished the Winooski in two different spots.  The first one almost always produces fish, especially when there are BWOs around.  There were just a few BWOs in the air, but neither wets nor dries produced fish.  Not one strike.

Now, to be honest, our water levels are low and the water is clear, especially on the White.  We have stayed away from big streamers so far, waiting for some water to cloud up the rivers and bit.

We moved downstream on the Winooski to a spot that doesn't give up many fish, but frequently gives up big fish.  Just before sunset, my wife and I each caught one fish on an iso nymph, while on the retrieve.  That is a funny thing about this hole; dead drifting and fishing on the swing seem to fail often, while fish will attack on the retrieve.  Hey, whatever works.

The next day, we headed to Addison County.  My son came along this day.  We started on the New Haven, just above Bristol, in some nice pocket water.  Absolutely nothing.  We got some lunch and stopped in at the local fly shop.  I picked up a few extra ju ju baetis and orange caddis pupa, and the guy at the shop said that our next destination was fishing as well as anywhere.  So, we headed to Belden Falls on the Otter Creek, fishing from the far side.  But, the water was low and the fishing was just plain slow.  I caught one smallmouth on a Montana Prince Nymph.  The takes were all very subtle.  At one point, my wife and I each hooked a brown at the same time.  I don't think she ever really set the hook and the fish was gone quickly.  For me, it was just bad luck.  I was fishing a double-nymph rig and the fish was on the upper fly.  I had him almost to the net when the trailing fly snagged for a moment and that allowed the fish to easily escape my barbless hook.

After that, we had a couple days of other obligations, including an expensive trip to Boston to see Bryan Ferry, who cancelled the show long after all of our gas, food and lodging money had been spent.  This was very disappointing.  I really wanted to see the show, but I also hated spending so much money to see nothing at all.

Last night, we got back out on the river.  We fished the White again, in some pocket water between our last two fishing spots.  We'd had some decent rain the night before, so I pulled out some streamers.  The best colors in that river are usually olive or black, so I concentrate on those, plus the normal nymphs.  I had one strike in 3 hours.  My wife had none.  Just as we'd started to fish, a local friend had sent me a text, asking if I wanted to join him and a friend in a river closer to home.  We passed, not wanting to create a group of 4 on a small river.  He later caught a 20" (or so - my best estimate from photo) rainbow, got half a dozen fish to net including one nice brown as well, and missed more than he caught.  The one difference in terms of flies was that he was using white streamers rather than dark.

My wife is back at work today.  After 5 days of fishing, we have each caught 1 trout.  I have three days of vacation left, and I'm leaving shortly for a long drive to northern Vermont to a river where I usually do well with small wild rainbows and occasionally a big brown downstream.  It's supposed to rain the next two days after today, so I'm not sure where I'll fish, but I'll be out there, I'm sure.

Compared to my vacation a year ago, this one has pretty much been a bust.  I caught 2 big rainbows last fall and I got fish almost every day out.  These days, it seems like a good day if I simply hook one fish.

Maybe I really do suck at this game.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Third Branch of the White

I consider the White to be my "home" river.  I fish there at least 50% of the time that I fish.  But, I tend to fish the main branch despite living only 2 miles from the Third Branch.  Why?  Because I tend to find that the Third Branch sucks.  The other guy in my small town that fly fishes a lot says that he gets skunked at least every other trip to the Third Branch.  Recently, he's had some better luck, running into a yellow sulphur hatch and getting some fish, and he's even taken rainbows with mouse patterns.  But, he's a good fisherman and even he admits he struggles on the Third Branch.  A fisherman that I see once a year in Addison county for a fly fishing tournament tells me how lucky I am to live by that river.  I think he may have last fished it 20 years ago, when it had a reputation as a decent river.  These days, it's a struggle and a little more driving almost always yields some fish.  (Well, Saturday morning, I was skunked on the Winooski, so other rivers are not always better.)

Upstream from the town where I live, the state stocks brookies in the river.  From the middle of town down to Bethel, the state stocks browns.  I usually catch a few of those browns every year, but not too many.  I know that there are large wild fish in the river as well.  One of my son's co-workers took a brown close to 30" 2 summers ago.  A friend saw a fish at least 24" spawning in a tributary last fall.  A few years earlier, someone kept a stringer-full of 5 browns and they were all huge.  So, those fish are in there, but I find it to be a very tough river.  For the most part, to be honest, I just ignore it and drive a bit more to fish the main branch.

Yesterday afternoon, I was taking a nap on the couch, planning to fish, closer to sunset, about 20 miles downstream from where we live.  While I was taking a nap, the aforementioned local friend sent a text.  He had found a huge hatch of flying ants midday and was fishing on the Third Branch.  I saw this text a few hours later and assumed I'd missed it completely.  But, shortly after I saw the first text, he sent two more.  He told me where he'd been fishing and said to "just head down to the river and listen for the splashes".

Dry fly fishing opportunities like that don't come along very often, so I headed out quickly.  I found the spot, but had a few issues.  It was a steep descent to the river.  The land was posted against trespassing.  And, even down at the river, I didn't see any easy way to cross to where I needed to fish.  But, I could see fish rising, so I knew I had to fish.  This was right where a small stream entered the third branch.  So, I hopped in my car and drove to a spot where that smaller stream crossed a road, and waded/hiked about 20 minutes downstream.

As I arrived at the spot, things were very quiet.  The flying ant hatch appeared to be over.  I approached the water very stealthily, keeping a low profile, even though the sun was already behind the distant peaks.  As I knelt down to tie on an ant pattern, a fish broke the surface.  Then another.  And another.  By the time I was ready to cast, there were 8-10 fish working the surface.

I tried a few casts (I had tied on an ant pattern hoping to match the flying ant hatch that was winding down) into the lower, slower pool, which is where the fish seemed bigger.  But, they were also wary and I couldn't tempt them to the surface.  Even with a long, fine leader, each cast seemed to put the fish down for a bit.  So, I worked on the lower end of a riffle where some smaller fish were working the surface pretty loudly.  After 10-12 casts and no strikes, I wasn't sure what was up.  I couldn't see my fly in the water, so it was hard to know if it was floating or even in the right lane for the fish.

I reeled in to change flies, and discovered I couldn't see my ant because it wasn't there.  It had snapped off, probably on my first cast or two, and due to a bad knot.  I was really torn on what fly to use.  Finally, I opted for a size 16 Royal Wulff, primarily because it seemed the fish were eating small bugs and this one would be easy to see.

By the time I changed flies, I knew my fishing time was short.  It was already sunset or close to it, and I had a decent hike back to the car.  But, on my third cast to the riffle, a fish hit my fly hard.  It was a decent brown, although I couldn't be sure if it was a wild fish or a holdover from spring stocking:

I apologize for the poor pictures, but when I'm solo, I try to keep the net wet, land the fish, unhook it quickly, snap a quick photo, and get the fish back in the water.  This brownie was probably just short of 12".

It was only a few casts later that I had another take.  This time, the fish was clearly bigger, and it moved downstream to fight in the big, deep water.  At one point, it had taken out most of my fly line, and it was showing no signs of getting tired.  The fish was deep, my fly line was deep, and suddenly the water erupted on the other side of the stream as the fish streaked for the surface.  At that point, I was finally aware that it was a rainbow and not a brown.  After a good fight, I landed the feisty fat rainbow - one of the my better fish of the year.  I quickly got this fish unhooked and back into the water, but I got a decent photo:

At this point, the fish were all down.  The rainbow had seemingly notified every fish within 100 yards to be careful.  I sat on the bank, waiting for any fish to return to the surface.  The first fish to return were the bigger fish in the slower water.  However, they were still very wary and any cast in their direction put them down immediately.  Not long after that, the fish in the riffle started rising again.  This time, it only took one cast and I hooked another fish.  My first thought was that it was a rainbow, because it was tail dancing on the surface the second it felt the hook.  Instead, it turned out to be a brown - the smallest of the 3 fish I'd caught:

At this point in time, it was about 20 minutes past sunset.  I had a tough hike back to the car.  But, I didn't want to quit quite yet.  I waited 3-4 minutes to be sure no fish would return to the surface, but it remained very quiet.  So, I headed to the car.

All told, I probably drove 40 minutes.  I hiked another 40 minutes.  I fished maybe 25 minutes, and probably 5 of those minutes, I had no fly on my line.  Other times, I was simply in a waiting mode.  So, in 15 minutes of real fishing, I took 3 nice fish from a river that rarely gives me any fish at all.  I'd call it quite a successful little adventure.

In 5 days, my fly fishing vacation starts, not that I'm counting down the days...

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Isonychia Dry Flies

Below are pics of some of the isonychia dry flies that I've been using.  The comparadun certainly got smacked around on the White River on Sunday night.

If you like them, contact Vermont Fly Guys on Facebook and order some for yourself:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sunday Evening on the White River

I got to the White last night with over 2 hours to fish before darkness.  The first thing I did was check the water temperature, even though I was sure it would be cool enough to fish.  Just 2 weeks ago, a friend had measured the river at 72F near the town of Sharon.  A week ago, a small tributary of the White that is almost always very cool was 67F.  Last night, the White was at 59.6F.  This was in the main branch, downstream from Bethel and upstream from South Royalton.  I was very surprised that the water had cooled that much so quickly.

Because I had a good chunk of time for fishing, I opted to start in the lowest part of this stretch of river.  I rarely fish this lowest part and I don't know if I've ever taken a fish there.  But, I had plenty of time and with low water levels, I could wade to a spot that allowed me to access some deeper water that I rarely ever get to fish.  I spent about 20 minutes in this stretch and then decided to move up to a more reliable fishing spot.  When I turned around to head upstream, I was shocked to see 2 other fishermen right in front of me.

I'd checked for cars when I parked.  I'd looked up and down the river as well.  If I'd been able to see anyone fishing anywhere in this stretch, I would have gone elsewhere.  The White is not a crowded river.  The only time I've shared this stretch with anyone other than my son or my wife was during a fly fishing tournament earlier this season.  That day, I was the second person to arrive and I gave the guy who was there first a wide berth.  I fished far away from him, talked to him for a couple minutes, and then went somewhere else.

These two guys had parked close to my car and basically stepped into the river not very far from where I was fishing.  If I'm in Pennsylvania, I'm used to seeing stuff like this on the Yellow Breeches or Little Juniata.  Those are streams that get a lot of pressure, especially on the weekends.  Even in VT, I can think of spots on the New Haven or Otter or Winooski where I might see another fisherman.  But, I've never had anyone step into the river right beside me like that.  But, the White is a big river and I knew I could go around them and get upstream to some better fishing.

On the way past, I talked to them a bit.  They had never fished the river before.  I pointed out a seam in the main pool that they were working, and suggested they focus on that.  I suggested some flies to them, but they had never heard of isonychia (or the more common name - Slate Drake).  I tried to find some in the air to show them, but the iso's were sparse last night.

They didn't have any of the standard nymphs that they should have been carrying - Prince, Hare's Ear, Pheasant Tail, RS2, etc.  One of them was fishing a muddler minnow and I don't know what the other guy was using.  If they hadn't crowded me out of a spot I was going to fish, I might have given them a couple flies to try.  But, I guess I'm not that nice, so I simply headed upstream.

I got at least 50 yards upstream before I put in another cast, determined that I would not crowd them as they had done to me.  I did see them each catch one fish in the lower pool, so maybe I should fish muddler minnows in the White more often.  To be honest, I don't think I've ever thrown a muddler minnow in the White - a river dominated by rainbows (my last brown in the White was caught almost 2 years ago).  I tend to find that if rainbows are going to eat streamers, a white or olive woolly bugger is usually going to work.  And, I had no luck in the pool above them.  By now, I'd tried hare's ears, an isonychia nymph, a BWO nyph and a prince nymph variation, along with a grasshopper pattern.  No strikes at all.

I headed further upstream.  This was where I had a clear advantage over the other 2 guys on the river.  I know this stretch of water inside-out, and the best fishing is the topmost pool in this half mile stretch of water.  I continue to work the nymphs as I headed up.  With the cooler temperatures, I worked some shallow riffles that never produce anything when the water is warm, but sometimes produce in cooler water.  Nothing.

As I got to the lower end of the top pool, I decided to try a strike indicator.  I prefer to fish without them and really work hard to feel the strikes on my own.  This is probably foolish, as I know they work and they can really help with a dead drifted nymph.  I had no luck with the added strike indicator either.  I was now wondering what was going on.  I don't think I'd fished this stretch this year without a strike, and it was getting close to sunset.

Insects in the air were sparse.  I'd seen two iso's and a couple BWOs.  I hadn't seen one fish rise, although the 2 guys below me had seen one fish come to the surface.  But, I was looking at getting skunked, so I decided to try a local version of an isonychia comparadun.  I know a local guide who claims he fishes this fly all through the autumn, even when no fish are rising.  As I was tying on the fly, I saw two more iso's in the air, which I took as a good sign.

On my third cast, I got a strike. I was so surprised that I didn't even set the hook.  A few casts later, a big fish came up for the fly and missed it, but flew completely out of the water.  He was easily in the 16"-18" range.  A few casts later, I caught a feisty wild rainbow.  Not long after that, after the fly had sunk at the end of the drift, I hooked a fish while retrieving the fly underwater.  Then, I caught another fish.  Missed a few more.  Had another strike while the fly was underwater.  Caught another on the surface.

By the time it got dark, I'd had at least 10 strikes on the surface and 2 sub-surface.  I only got 3 fish to the net, but it was a very exciting 30 minutes.  I guess I'm going to be a bit quicker to go to this pattern for the next few weeks, even if we don't have many bugs in the air or fish coming to the surface.

A 12-day vacation devoted to fly fishing around the state of Vermont starts on 9/27.

Monday, September 8, 2014

White River Tributary

Late last week, I got some flies from The Vermont Fly Guys.  It's great to have a local company that will custom tie flies at a reasonable price.  They know the local waters, they fish the same rivers I fish, and I can give them a rough idea of what I want, and they'll hook me up.  If you fly fish in VT, and you don't tie all of your own flies, I highly recommend these guys.

I had ordered a bunch of isonychia patterns.  I wanted them to cover the entire life cycle, from swimmer through spinner.  I expected to get some comparaduns, the standard dun pattern for isonychia.  They also did some articulated duns, which was pretty cool.  The spinners are very interesting, taking advantage of more modern materials and adding a little bit of bright foam for visibility and flotation.

For swimmers, this is what I got (both pictures are from the Facebook page of the VT Fly Guys.  I didn't take these photos):

For emergers, this is what I got:

And, I got a few other bead head nymphs as well.

The delivery of these flies cause me all sorts of logistical problems.  I spent Saturday going through my flies and fly boxes.  To be honest, I had no idea how many flies I owned.  I have two big boxes of large streamers that I only use early season, in high water, or in the fall for browns.  I have a box of various woolly buggers.  I have 2 boxes of all dry flies.  One box dedicated to stoneflies of all sorts.  And then, I had 3 more boxes of nymphs.  I did a quick count of the flies.  There were too many to be precise, but there were over 600 flies spread among 9 boxes.  The buggers and big streamers are boxed appropriately.  I carry those boxes only when I expect to need them.  The stones are boxed appropriately and I carry them all the time.  The classic dries for Vermont (Hendricksons, BWOs, Cahills, Quill Gordons, Caddis, sulphurs, terrestrials, plus attractors like Adams, Royal Coachman and varieties, stimulators, humpies, etc.) are all in the 2 boxes of dries.  I catch fewer than 20% of my fish in VT on dries, so it's not a huge collection.  But, it's probably at least 150 dry flies.  Then, the nymphs needed some work.  I re-organized them into a box of the core patterns that I always need - mostly the classics like PT's, hare's ears, zug bugs, various baetis nymphs, Sloan emergers, RS2's, etc.  The other bigger nymph box got was filled with the flies I use less frequently, but I need them sometimes.  And finally, because the iso's are so seasonal, I put them in a box of their own.

I can't imagine how guides deal with carrying so many flies and always having the correct fly for their customers.  There are times I feel the need to carry up to 6 of these boxes, which is a pain.  But, I'd rather not be a mile from my car and find fish feeding on something when the appropriate fly is back in the car.

So, after all of that work, I headed out to a favorite White River tributary last night.  Despite easy access, I've never seen another fisherman on this stream.  The wading is easy.  The water temperatures are usually cool, although at 67F last night, it was as warm as I've seen it.  But, the main branch nearby was 74F and not fishable.

At the car, I tied on a yellow humpy.  I know this fly doesn't get used a lot in VT.  It's probably a throwback to my days fly fishing in the Sierra Nevada in CA, where all you needed most of the time were elk hair caddis and humpies.  And, they were often interchangeable.  I like the humpies because the little bit of extra color makes them easy to see.  They also float well.

After tying on that humpy, I brought 6 boxes of flies with me - 2 boxes of dries, two of nymphs, one of stones, and one of isonychia patterns,   I then fished for 2.5 hours and never changed my fly.

That's the conundrum at times.  When I hit the water, I can probably name 3-4 flies that will be all I need most of the time.  If I could go to 10 flies, I'd be covered 99% of the time.  Yet, I somehow carry over 100 patterns on a regular basis.

As I got to the stream, I looked in the air and in the water.  Everything came up caddis flies, although there were a few midges around.  I did see a solitary BWO at sunset.

The fishing was a bit slower than the last time I fished this stream.  The water was clearer and two holes that always seem to produce gave me nothing.  I did have 8 strikes in the first 30 minutes or so, hooking 2 and landing 1.  And then things went dead for a while.  I did see 2 decent size fish in one pool and they didn't seem to have seen me.  But, multiple casts right over them provoked no interest at all.  I debated changing flies, but I'd just had a bunch of hits on the humpy, so I stuck with it.  Finally, as sunset approached, the action picked up again, despite the lack of bugs in the air.  I caught another fish.  Missed a couple.  Hooked and lost another.  Missed a couple more. 

By the time it got dark, I'd hooked 4, landed 2, and missed maybe 10 other strikes.  Not bad given the low, clear, warm-ish water.

I've got some time off work later this week, and with our temperatures heading down, I might try to see if the White is fishable in the morning late in the week.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Lots of Bugs, One Fish, and a Quick Look at Patagonia's Foot Tractor Wading Boots

My wife and I rarely skip going to the gym during the week.  But, we've had a lot of hard workouts the past couple weeks and we decided to skip it last night.  We tried to get out of Burlington as quickly as possible, to get home early for once.  Traffic was a nightmare, but we made it to the highway eventually.

On the way home, I decided I was going to sneak out for a little bit of fishing.  I opened a weather app on the way home and was disheartened to see that sunset was at 7:36.  It was at 8:00 not that long ago.

I got home and got my gear together as quickly as I could.  I ditched the mono leader that caused me problems last time out.  I took a best guess on what flies would work, going with a Prince nymph trailed by a baetis nymph.  I got this all done as quickly as possible and left for the river at 6:45.  I got there at 7:00 and got my waders on.  I also had my new Patagonia Foot Tractor wading boots (online review here).

I mentioned recently that Orvis was amazing with their customer service when my left wading boot fell apart.  Regretfully, as I looked around for new boots, the best deal I could find on a sufficient boot was not an Orvis boot.  I will give the refund I'm getting from Orvis back to them in business.  I think I owe them that based on how they treated me.  But, after reading reviews and checking prices, I chose a non-Orvis boot.  But, they sell plenty of other things I can use on the water.

I ordered the boots in my true shoe size based on online recommendations and that was clearly the right size.  They slipped on quite easily and laced easily.  Despite their reputation for being a heavy boot, they are lighter than my previous boots.  I did slip on grass going downhill to the river, but once in the water, I was amazed at how them gripped rocks that felt slick the last time I fished this section.  I was instantly sold on them in the water.  For hiking, probably not.  But for in-water safety, I am simply sold.  They were comfortable and supportive.  I hope they are durable, but time will tell there.

I had a limited amount of time, so I decided to work three holes in the 75 or so minutes that I had.  The first hole typically generates some action, and I'd hooked a big fish on a prince nymph the last time I was here.  As I started to cast, I was watching the air and the water surface.  At first, I noticed the caddis.  Then, I saw there were a number of small BWOs as well.  Midges are always there.  But, bit by bit in the fading light, I started to notice isonychia duns.  Just a couple at first, but then more.  They were big too.  Regretfully, I had just ordered some isonychia flies from the Vermont Fly Guys, but they haven't arrived yet.  I worked the nymphs I had started with and kept my eyes open for any surface feeders.

Surprisingly, the first hole produced nothing at all.  No surface feeders and no strikes.  The last time I fished here, I not only hooked a big fished, but watched another good sized fish rise at least half a dozen times.  So, I moved up to the second hole.  This is where the new boots were really amazing.  For this second hole, it's really nice to get pretty far out to get a clean drift, and you are wading in fast water.  Normally, I stop short of where I'd like to cast because I'm concerned about the safety.  Last night, it felt safe and easy to go the whole way out.

I had one soft strike on my second or third cast, but I missed the set.  Then, a good sized brown cleared the water, going after something.  I stopped fishing for a while to see if he would return.  As I waited for the fish to rise again, I was trying to decide between an Elk Hair Caddis, a BWO, or something to approximate an iso, if needed.  A Dark Hendrickson was probably the best I had in that department.  While I was waiting, a smaller fish rose a few times well downstream.  I finally gave up on the big fish returning and made a few more casts with my nymphs.  Nothing, so I moved upstream to the most productive of the three holes.  I worked the lower part of the hole, that sometimes gives up wild brookies, but no luck.  As I got near the top, I missed one fish on a subtle strike.

I also saw another good sized fish rise, but after waiting a while, that one didn't return either.  As I got to the top of the hole, I hooked and landed one small wild rainbow.  He had taken the baetis nymph.  Shortly after releasing this fish, I noticed three different fish rising.  Two were clearly small and rose multiple times.  The third was far away and would have been difficult to reach with a cast.

It was getting dark, so I started back downstream.  I fished down to where I started, staying there until the last bit of light had faded away.  Near the end, the bugs were all gone, the fish weren't biting and it was just me a and a bunch of bats flying above me in the air.

So, 75 minutes, three soft strikes, one small fish, some fish to the surface but I stuck with nymphs, my first iso's of the season, the boots seem like they'll work, and it was a good day.