Thursday, November 26, 2015

Wishing I was fishing

It's Thanksgiving Day.  Sugarbush opened for skiing for the season today, but I wouldn't ski if I could.

It's warm enough that I would go out fishing today, if I could.  But, instead I'm in a hospital bed.  It's hard to imagine I'll fish again before spring.  If anyone really wants to see why I'm in a hospital rather than fishing, the story is on my other blog.

Otherwise, I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving.  I hope my fishing friends get into some nice fish today.  While I will miss the usual time with family today, in some ways I'm glad for the relative calm of the hospital. There aren't many patients in the oncology ward, so things are kind of quiet.  The nurses are awesome.  And, I'm hopefully on my way to being healthy for trout season next spring.

As a long-time ski instructor, it's going to be a long, strange winter.  But, I have stuff to take care of for the next few months.  No complaints, just some shifted priorities.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.  Tight Lines!

Monday, November 16, 2015

And, I'm Still Fishing

The ski resorts have been able to make some snow, but November continues with above average temperatures.  So, I agreed to meet my buddy Jack and chase salmon and steelhead on Lewis Creek this past Saturday.  We knew we were in between the seasons, but it was worth exploring.

The salmon are mostly done spawning and most have probably returned to Lake Champlain.  And, the local fishing reports showed that no one has reported any steelhead yet.  They are probably waiting for some more rain to push into the river.  But, we gave it a shot anyway.

The drive to Lewis was a bit interesting.  There had been snow at the higher elevations the night before, and the roads were a bit slick.  I have studded snow tires, but I still took it easy over the first mountain pass.  It was 24F at the summit, so the ice wasn't melting yet.  I met Jack, moved my gear to his car, grabbed some coffee and we took off on the next section of the drive.  The next mountain pass had some snow, but nothing dangerous.  We had a few options for fishing Lewis Creek, but we started with the easy and obvious choice - downstream from the Rt. 7 Bridge.  There is easy parking and access to the water there.

I started in some water by the old bridge while Jack headed downstream.  Somehow, on this very cold morning, I managed to slip on a ledge in the water, landing hands first in the creek.  I was able to squeeze most of the water from my gloves, but my hands were cold for the next few hours.

I had no luck throwing a black stone fly and an egg pattern.  As I worked the water down toward Jack, I did see one small fish - either a rainbow or a salmon parr, but it disappeared into deeper water quickly.  Neither of us had any luck at all, fishing down to the flat water as the creek approaches Lake Champlain.  So, we decided to head upstream to the upper end of the open water.  Regretfully, there were two fisherman at the falls that mark the upper end of open water.  As soon as they realized we were also fishermen, they headed downstream quickly.  Regretfully, that is what we had wanted to do, but they were there first and we respected that.  We fished at the falls for half an hour with no signs of fish.  Then, we headed back downstream.  We were parked, planning to fish upstream from where we'd started earlier in the day.  But, we were pretty sure we were fishing a nearly empty river.

I suggested we could fish Otter Creek instead, where I'd had some luck the weekend before.  Jack had never fished the Otter, so we opted for that.  I knew that the killer fly the weekend before had been Prince Nymphs, so I stayed with my black stone fly and added a Prince Nymph below it.  Later, I added a Batman Prince as well.

Within 5 minutes of starting to fish, my fly got slammed by a fish.  I quickly landed a decent wild brown.  This was surprising, because everyone had been catching rainbows the week before.  Regretfully, that fish was our only solid strike all day.  There was a guy fishing below us, and we are pretty sure he worked the same water we were fishing.  He told us that he had caught 8-10 rainbows on Prince Nymphs.  So, we had the right fly and the right water, but we got there a bit too late.

I was cold, but I kept fishing.  I had been upstream from Jack for most of the time, but we swapped positions at one point.  I looked upstream a bit later to see him sitting on a log, with his rod broken down.  I was guessing he's had enough, and the sun was now starting to recede from the little canyon where we were fishing.  I walked upstream to talk to him and he was indeed done, so we called it a day about an hour earlier than we'd planned.

So, nothing on Lewis, although I may get out there in the next few weeks if ski season doesn't start.  And, one decent brown on the Otter.  Given the time of year, any day I don't get skunked is a good day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Late season fishing

Last week was really warm.  I heard about people taking rising trout on dry flies during the warmer periods during the week.  I desperately wanted to get out of work on Thursday to fish, but there were some complex problems at work that required me to be here.  So, I waited until Saturday.

The weather wasn't as nice on Saturday, but it was close to 50F, a bit breezy, and mostly sunny.  I decided to head to Otter Creek, which I hadn't fished since opening day.  It's been a few years since Otter Creek shut me out for a season, and I wanted one last chance at the browns in the river there.  To be honest, I'm not sure if I caught a brown this season.

I got to Belden Falls just after lunchtime, and I was told that there had been 15 or so fly fishermen in the area just a couple hours earlier.  But, a quick check showed that the water I wanted to fish was open, so I geared up and hiked for a few minutes.

I had a few quick strikes, but couldn't seem to hook anything.  I was fishing a white woolly bugger and a Prince nymph trailer.  I was guessing the missed strikes were coming on the trailing fly, but I couldn't be sure without catching one.  Finally, a fish managed to hit the fly and hook himself.  I was surprised to see that it was a rainbow:

The fish had indeed taken the Prince Nymph and not my woolly bugger.  I fished for another hour or so at Belden with a few more strikes but no more hookups.  From there, I traveled back to Middlebury to the lower dam.  Two other fishermen were leaving as I arrived, but they had no waders, so I was guessing they hadn't fished the water I wanted to fish.  Regretfully, it didn't seem to matter, as I came up empty in the two main spots I'd wanted to fish.

I was now stripping the woolly buggers, trying to provoke browns to strike, and my hands were getting wet and cold.  About 15 minutes before sunset, I'd had enough and I headed back to Middlebury for a beer at Two Brothers.

I only got one fish, but it was better than nothing at all the last time I was out.  It is also rare for me to catch rainbows in the Otter, so that was an interesting change.

It is quite possible that I'm now done fishing for the season.  But, on Sunday, it's supposed to be sunny with temperatures close to 50F.  Maybe I'll give the White River or the Winooski one more shot this season.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Is my season over?

I know some friends were still having luck with landlocked salmon on the Clyde last weekend.  I wasn't having any luck at all.

The weekend before, I got out on the Winooski, focusing on two particular spots I like a lot.  One is notorious for big rainbows, including my biggest VT trout ever.  The other has more fish and it's where I catch more browns on the Winooski than anywhere else.

At the first hole, really a large seam that creates a hole, I had half a dozen strikes.  It was a cold, windy day, and when the sun came out, the fish seemed most active.  I was fishing a large muddler minnow, a GR hare's ear and a ju ju baetis.  At this time of year, I expect most of the action on the baetis, but instead, it seemed to be the hare's ear getting the most attention.  I only managed to get one fish to the net, but after fishing the White a few times recently with no strikes at all, it was nice to just be fishing where I knew the fish would think about the fly.  After about 2 hours here, I headed downstream, below the Bolton power dam.

I was very surprised to have the entire river to myself.  It was opening day of rifle season for moose, and I did hear some gunshots.  OK, it was also 34F, windy, and the forecast included rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow.  I got all of those plus some hail.  The second spot I fished is very popular, and I tend to do best in the faster water above a deep pool.  I worked through this water and had 4 or 5 very quick strikes, but they weren't solid.  I didn't hook anything.  Then, the cloud ceiling dropped, the hail started, and then switched to sleet and freezing rain.  After 20 minutes in these conditions with no additional strikes, I called it a day.  But, I had at least 10 strikes - more than I had all of September and October in the White.  And I got one wild rainbow to the net.

This past weekend, the weather was still raw and the water was colder.  I had a Saturday morning orientation at Sugarbush for my winter job there as a ski instructor.  After that was over, I had lunch with some friends and headed to the confluence of the Mad and the Winooski.  This spot never seems to fail me.  I did spook one small rainbow that was basking in shallow water as I waded upstream.  The water was cold and it was windy.  I was fishing a 3 weight.  In these conditions, I would normally fish my Sage RPL+, and overline it with a 6 weight line.  But, the tip broke a few weeks ago on that rod, and I have to send it in for a warranty repair.  (Do any other Sage owners find the concept of a lifetime warrantee that costs $60 every time you use it somewhat absurd?  That's a lot of money to pay for something called a lifetime warranty.)

So, I used my 3 weight again, but with the 10' rod length, the casting went OK.  I know there are big fish in this area, but I've never gotten one.  But, I almost always catch something.  This past Saturday, the water was cold, the air was cold, the wind was raw, and 2 hours of casting led to no strikes at all.  It's very rare that I get no strikes here.

Finally, I was too cold and called it a day.

If things don't warm up a bit, I'm guessing that will be my last day for the season.  Since some surgery in early September, I fished 5 times - 3 on the White and 2 on the Winooski.  I caught a single rainbow on the Winooski and the three days on the White yielded zero strikes.

I fished way fewer days than most seasons and caught way fewer fish than normal.  For the second year in a row, I caught no big fish at all.  Someday, maybe I'll learn how to fly fish and things will be different.  I think I've been saying that for 30 years now.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Season winding down

I haven't posted in a long time.  I was sick for months and I had some significant surgery in mid-September.

I did take advantage of Hardy ending their production of the Zenith rod  (the newer Zephyr has already been released) to buy a new rod specifically for nymphing.  I got a 10', 3 weight, and added a Lamson Litespeed reel.  The goal was to create a rod that was both long and lightweight, and use it primarily as a nymphing rod.

I've been out 3 times since my surgery and I've used the new rod all three times.  At times, I wonder if I should have gone one size bigger in the reel.  The balance point is a bit forward in the rod - just in front of the cork, to be honest.  I am going to add some weight to the back of the rod to hopefully fix this minor issue.

I've been a huge fan of my other Zenith rod that is paired with a Hatch Finatic Plus reel, and I really like this set-up as well.  But, for the price, I think it's very reasonable to expect a lot from this equipment.

My first time out, I hit my favorite spot on the main branch of the White.  This was before any significant rains in September, and the fish still seemed to be stuck in the deeper holes, rather than dispersed throughout the river.  I was still feeling run down from my surgery and I only fished 90 minutes, but I had zero strikes.

My second time out, I fished about a mile upstream from my previous outing, but still in the main branch.  A local farmer was kind enough to let me park on his property and access the river through his property.  Some very good looking water produced a grand total of 1 strike in 3 hours.  I have really struggled on the White this year, and I'm not the only one.  The past two years, I had done pretty well on the White, but this year, while I didn't fish as often as the past two years, it seemed like my trips to the White were often a complete waste of time.  I did catch 5 fish in the WRO tournament, but 4 of them were stocked.  I think I caught only 2 wild trout in the White this season.  None came from the Third Branch, where I did well last season.

Because of my surgery and illness, I fished a lot less than many years.  But, my per-day fish numbers on the White were terrible.  Hatches were almost non-existent.  What is going on with this river?

This past weekend, I braved snow, sleet and rain to fish the Winooski.  It was the opening day of rifle season for moose, and between people focused on hunting and the bad weather, I had the river pretty much to myself.  I saw no other fishermen, despite fishing some popular spots.

At the first spot, I had half a dozen strikes, mostly when the sun was out, and I got one standard issue wild rainbow.  It was a pretty fish, but nothing worth noting based on its size.  At the second spot I fished, I had another 4-5 strikes, but couldn't seem to hook the fish.  Finally a hail squall, followed by rain and snow chased me off the river.  On my drive home, we had accumulating snows and sub-freezing temperatures.  My snow tires are not yet on the car, so I took it easy.

I did hear from a friend who fished in the White River system on Saturday and Sunday.  Despite the cold nasty weather, he got 2 big browns to the net over the weekend, along with a few other fish.  So, there are fish in the White River drainage.  Maybe I just don't know what I'm doing, but my friend is a very talented fisherman, and I don't want to take anything away from his results.  He also caught a big rainbow while we fished together on the Dog earlier this year.

I might get out next Sunday, or I might be done.  Between my illness and my surgery, I fished about 1/3 of the number of days I usually fish.  Rivers that completely shut me out this year include the Middlebury, the Otter, the New Haven, the Wells, the Black, the Third Branch of the White, Ayer's Brook, and the Dog.  Last year, I caught fish in almost every single one of those rivers.  Time on the water is key to catching fish, and I simply didn't spend enough time fishing this year.

Next year...

Monday, July 27, 2015

Finally out fishing again

I think it had been about 5 weeks since I'd been fishing.  Regretfully, I've been dealing with anemia that has left me so tired that even wading is a chore.  I simply didn't have the energy to fish.  I'm hopeful that we are about to a solution to the anemia issue, and I'll be back to normal energy levels soon.

A friend was heading to far northeastern VT for an entire day on the upper Connecticut yesterday, and I managed to rally for a day of fishing with him.

I had last fished the upper Connecticut on a float trip in 1997, which is an absurd amount of time to not fish such a great river.  That float trip in 1997 was perhaps my best fishing day ever in Vermont, and the biggest brown trout that I've ever caught in VT was caught on a bead head muddler minnow that day.  I also managed the rare rainbow/brown/brookie combo that day, something that's hard to do in VT on a single river.

So, why so long between trips?  To be honest, getting to the northeast corner of VT is a challenge.  There are no direct roads, or even close to direct roads.  I can honestly get to Fenway Park faster from my house than I can get to the northeast corner of VT.

I got up at 4:15, on the road at 4:30, and and my partner was a bit late for our 5:30 meeting time, but we were on the water before 9:00.  My partner was fishing woolly buggers - olive - and mostly stripping them.  He was into fish quickly.  I was fishing a 3 fly rig of a muddler minnow, prince nymph and pheasant tail.  I let my partner have one section and I headed upstream.  I worked down through a long riffle, fighting to get a nice dead drift with my nymphs.  But, that turned out not to matter too much.  The fish either weren't deep or they were really looking up, because my strikes all came near the end of the cast, as the flies finished their final swing and started moving to the surface.  I managed to hook 5 and land 4 fish in an hour or so.  They were all beautiful wild trout, basically underneath a bridge, with very easy car access to this spot.  The water was a bit chilly (overcast day) at 62F, wading waist deep, but many of the locals were wet wading.

I headed back to where my partner was fishing and he was still getting into some fish.  He wanted to adjust my rig a bit.  He didn't like my float indicator and replaced it with a Thingamabobber strike indicator.  I have to say that these are probably my least favorite strike indicators, and I didn't keep it on very long.  But, after removing it, I tried a different tactic.  I started fishing my nymphs by stripping them.  And, in half an hour, I had at least 10 strikes and landed 4 more fish.

And then, the fishing kind of died down.  My partner caught one fish where I'd been to start, but it was slow.  We explored some other water a few miles upstream, but never found anything promising that offered safe wading. This really looks like a great stretch of water to float, simply to learn the best fishing spots.  A trip on a boat with a GPS unit to set waypoints would be invaluable.

So, we returned to where we'd fished in the morning.  Things were pretty slow.  I hiked about half a mile upstream to some nice looking water.  It had been cloudy all day, and suddenly the sun popped out for a bit.  In the small pool that I was about to fish, a sudden hatch of BWOs appeared.  A few fish started coming to the surface.  And, for 15 minutes or so, every cast I made resulted in a strike.  I only got 2 of these fish to the net, and missed a bunch more, but it was amazing.  Then, the cloud cover came back, the BWOs disappeared, and the fish stopped biting.  It was like I was fishing in barren water, but I knew that water was full of fish.  They just weren't biting any more.

Overall, we got about 20 wild rainbows to the net.  Nothing was really big.  My 2 biggest fish were the last 2, and both went just over 12".  I think Paul got a 14" fish.  But, in a area with easy access and lots of pressure from locals who keep every fish they catch, I was amazed at the number of fish in this water.  This river is simply full of fish.  I know there are some browns and brookies in there too, but we didn't catch any.

I just wish it was closer to home, but I need to make the effort to fish there more often.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

New Waders

My waders have been leaking and it's simply been getting worse and worse.  I have had a few days this season where my feet have been soaked for 8 hours or more while wading.  What's the point of even having waders?  And, waders full of hot water are not comfortable at all and they make wading much more difficult.  They are heavier and compromise your safety while wading.

The waders I've been using are the Orvis Pro Guide (or is it Guide Pro) model that was discontinued around the end of 2012.  I bought them as closeouts in February of 2013.  I have probably fished in them 80-100 times (max) and it just seemed amazing to have 6 or more leaks per leg.  Some of the toughest leaks are where the wader leg is sewn to the neopene bootie, and I've had no luck at all repairing these waders.  It's pretty well understood that when waders start to leak at the top of the bootie, they are very tough to fix or use.

I figured I had a handful of options:

  • I could try to find someone local to fix the waders.
  • I could try to have Orvis fix the waders.
  • I could continue the losing battle of fixing them myself.
  • I could get new Orvis waders.
  • I could buy other new waders.

I think it's worth noting that most wader companies have changed their construction techniques in the past few years.  My older waders used much more stitching, with glue to seal the stitches.  Those stitches tend to be areas where leaks occur most often.  The newer waders have much less stitching, if any.  Everything is multi-layered and glued together.  Allegedly, this reduces leaks, but we will see.

So, I looked around locally and didn't find anyone who advertised that they repaired waders.

Orvis wanted my waders for 4-6 weeks, during trout season, to try to repair them.  The idea of giving them up for most of the rest of the summer made no sense, especially because I assumed they'd have new leaks by the fall.  Although, we are getting close to wet wading season, so perhaps I didn't need them for the next few weeks.

I'm not going to fix them.  I think that is simply established at this point.

So, I found myself thinking about new waders.  I have an opportunity to purchase one of the major wader brands at a nice discount.  My thought for a couple years was that my next waders would be that other brand.  But, Orvis truly does have amazing customer service, and they came through again.

As I talked to the Orvis support rep, I told him that 4-6 weeks was simply too much time.  I told him that perhaps it was time to take advantage of a discount and switch to another brand.  Suddenly, he had an upgrade option for me.  For an upgrade fee (it depended on the model I wanted), I could upgrade to the latest Orvis wader models.  When I considered what I paid for these waders originally (on close-out) and that I'd gotten 2 year of use, and I realized my total cash outlay would be less than the current price of a new pair of waders, I took that option.

I am not really into zippered waders; I simply don't see the need.  So, I chose the Silver Sonic Guide Wader.  I did tell the customer support rep that if these guys leak anything like the last waders, they will be my last Orvis waders.  He told me he's heard of very few issues with the newer models leaking, and he was confident I'd be very happy.  I hope he's right.

To prove that I wasn't scamming them (I might have sold the waders years ago, I suppose), I had to cut an Orvis label out of the waders.  I also makes the current waders a lot less useful going forward.  As soon as they had the label in VA, they'd send the new waders.

I was planning to go to the post office today to send in the label, when I got an e-mail from UPS telling me that a package from Orvis would be arriving today.  So, I guess they shipped them right away.

Now, if I'm really, really lucky, the rain will back off some this week, and I can go fishing with dry feet this coming weekend.  I'll post a review after I've had them on the water a few times.

Friday, June 26, 2015

This time, I'm going to name the river

I swear I fished in a theme park yesterday.  Maybe my reaction is jaded by the fact that 7 hours on the water didn't result in a single strike.  Two companions each caught one nice fish and lost another.  But, I don't think that's the reason.

The river was the Black River, between Cavendish and Weathersfield.

I understand the appeal of this river to so many.  The water is beautiful - lots of nice pocket water plus some deep holes.  I was able to fish in shaded water until a few hours after sunrise, and even mid-afternoon, I could find deep water protected by shade.  Access is great.  So great, that it seems the 4 mile stretch is bordered by pull-outs and parking areas almost the whole way.

There is even a hole called The Freight Train Hole along this stretch.  How do I know it's called the Freight Train Hole?  Signs on both sides of the rivers, attached to trees, told me that.  I don't think I'd ever seen anything like that before.

I wouldn't say the river was crowded.  The parking lot where I initially parked usually had 3-6 vehicles parked at once.  Every car but mine was from out of state.  Some people were fishing spinners but most were  fly fishing.

This stretch of river was stocked this season with approximately 7000 trout, over 4 distinct stocking days.  Many of those fish were larger 2-year old fish.

Early in the season, those fish are easier to catch, and I've heard stories of people catching 50-100 fish per day.  Fishermen may keep up to 2 fish per day.  Apparently, by mid-June, a lot of those fish have been removed from the river, and the remaining fish have learned a lot.  I know a lot of fishermen who love this river, and I think it's one of the most fished rivers in the state.  I saw more fishermen yesterday (a Thursday) than I'd ever see on the White on the weekend, or the Dog, and maybe more than I'd see on the Winooski.

One of the guide services who works this river ends their guiding by 6/15.  I think that's a sign that there are simply fewer fish and the fish have been fished hard.

This honestly isn't sour grapes.  Yes, I failed to catch any fish, but enough people caught a fish or two that I should have been able to do that.  I think it took me a while to get the right fly configuration, and by the time I did that, the sun was high and things were warming up.  One small change earlier (putting a small PT nymph as my dropper rather than the middle position in a 3-fly rig) might have led to a very different outcome.

I grew up fishing trout streams that were filled with stocked trout, the trout were caught by Memorial Day, and the streams were deserted by mid-June.  Sometimes, we would stand elbow to elbow to try to catch stocked trout.  We killed what we caught.

It's always fun to catch a trout, especially a big trout.  I will return to this river, probably very early in the morning, mid-week, in mid-May.  I'm sure I'll catch fish and have fun.  At the same time, I'm glad this isn't my home river.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with this river and how it's managed.  It simply isn't what I'm looking for in a trout stream on a regular basis.  To each his own.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Almost a repeat of last Saturday

This time I fished Saturday morning rather than Saturday evening.  I didn't get out until 9:00 a.m., on a bright sunny day.  I fished a different White River tributary, but on the advice of a friend, I went upstream a few miles (although not as far as he'd recommended).

I managed to stay in the part of the river that still has rainbows, rather than getting up to the brookie water.

I found a place to park and worked my way down some steep hills into a beautiful meadow.  I still had a size 20 Parachute Adams on my line from last Saturday, so I started with that.  As it turned out, I never changed flies.

My first 5 casts brought a fish to the surface.  There were so many fish that I assumed, at first, that they were brookies.  I hooked  a fish, after the fly sank, a few casts later, but the fish got off.  I finally caught a fish about 20 yards downstream.  A few casts later, I took a beautiful 9" wild rainbow.  

I simply kept working downstream, and there were plenty of deep holes with wild rainbows willing to come to the surface.  At one point, a fish about 12" came up to the fly and then rejected it.  That would have been a huge fish for this little tributary.  I had about 2 hours to fish - too much work to do at home, so I had to move fast.  By the time I got to a bridge (someone's driveway), I was about out of time.  I did put my fly right on the surface by a big rock, and a fish came up immediately.  This was the 5th and final fish I got to the net.  I probably hooked 10.  I brought 30-40 fish to the surface, although fewer fish hit the flies this week vs. the tributary last week.

Later that day, I got a chance to look at the Winooski River.  It was completely blown out - bubbling chocolate milk would be a good description.  More rain on Saturday night pushed the levels higher and I never got out on Sunday.

But, even when people are complaining about too much rain, about rivers being blown out, about tough wading conditions, there are fishing opportunities out there.  Change your expectations.  The little tributaries might not be full of huge fish (although you can certainly be surprised on occasion), but the fish make up for their size with their enthusiasm, creating a fun fishing experience.

We may see a bunch of rain this week again.  If so, I have a different White River tributary that I plan to fish next weekend.  And I'm sure I'll have fun.  The White and the Dog and the Winooski and the Otter and the New Haven will be there once the water levels drop some more.  I am wondering if those rivers may be too warm to fish by the time the water levels drop.  If so, I'll just have to wait until later in the summer to fish them, and I'll stay in the cooler tributaries until then.

Friday, June 19, 2015

More rain just before the weekend

It rained hard overnight last night.

The flows on the White River have been increasing all day today, from about 1400 cfs to 2100 cfs.  It does look like the increase has stopped, but it's hard to imagine the river dropping a huge amount before first light tomorrow.  So, for the first part of the weekend, it looks like I'll be limited to smaller streams again.  This is starting to get old.

If I get lucky, maybe the main branch of the White will be fishable by Sunday evening.  If I'm lucky.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Lots and lots of rain recently

My Facebook feed taunts me.  I follow a number of local guides.  A local teen who is a great fisherman with lots of time to fish.  I have local friends who simply have way more free time than I have, and they fish more than I do.  I follow the feeds of lodges out west, lodges in the northeast, and fly shops all over the country.  Pretty much every day, I see a fish or two on Facebook that would make my entire season.  It's hard not to get jealous at times, to be honest.  It also messes with my expectations every single time I head out to fish.  I'm always thinking about that big brown or rainbow I'm about to catch.  And, it rarely ever happens.  I need to constantly remind myself to relax and enjoy the experience, and not tie my enjoyment to ideal outcomes that rarely happen.

Right after the White River Open, which was held under very low and warm water conditions, the rain arrived.  We've had a number of very rainy days over the past 2 weeks.  One week ago, the Winooski was high and off color.  This past Saturday, it was even higher and more off color, to the point where I wouldn't even consider wading it.

The northern half of the state seemed to get more rain than the south, so the Winooski and Lamoille have been tougher to fish than the White or other rivers to the south.

Still, I prefer the water flows in Hartford, VT (USGS measuring station) to be no more than 1400 cubic feet per second if I'm going to wade the main branch of the White, and I really prefer 1200 cfs or less.  It was just over 1400 cfs this past Saturday.

So, I hadn't fished at all the previous weekend (my wife's birthday, work to do around the house, blown out rivers, etc.), and I was determined to get out this past weekend.  It was another busy weekend, but I managed to secure 3 hours of time Saturday evening.  So, then I had to decide where to fish.  The Dog was an option, but I'd fished there just a few weeks ago.  The Third Branch of the White was an option, but I've honestly not caught a fish there yet this year, and some other friends have reported similar (lack of) luck.  The Winooski wasn't an option.  The upper main branch of the White was an option, but that's a longer drive.  I finally settled on a White River tributary that will remain unnamed here.

I'm not trying to be elitist by not naming the tributary.  I've told a few of my catch and release friends where I fished.  The tributary is easily located on maps and it's easily accessible.  But, it is small water with wild fish, and if someone were to fish this tributary and keep the fish, the local population could be adversely affected fairly easily.  I really, really dislike Vermont's 12 fish per day bag limit.  There is no reason any fisherman needs to keep 12 fish in a day, especially wild fish.

This is a stream where I tend to do well with dry flies, even when fish are not actively working the surface.  Not knowing what insects I would encounter, I put on an attractor pattern to start - a size 14 humpy.  I know this fly isn't fished as much on the east coast as the west, but it's still a favorite of mine after all the fish I caught on humpies in the Sierra Nevada when I lived in CA.

This creek is really just pocket water and the first few pockets yielded nothing.  Finally, about the 4th or 5th little hole I was fishing, a trout came to the surface and rejected the fly.  A few casts later, a fish hit the fly but evaded the hook.  This happened a couple more times.  I had been watching for insects in the air, and so far, I'd see a few small caddis flies and my first yellow sulfurs of the year.  I decided to switch to a size 16 elk hair caddis.  In the next 10 casts, that fly was hit at least 5 times, although I suspect it was just 1 or  2 fish.  I cast further upstream in this hole, and a fish hit the fly hard as soon as it hit the water.  It was a wild rainbow, about 8".

It was interesting, as I worked upstream, that some pockets that usually yield nothing at all, contained willing fish.  And, the two pockets where I tend to always catch fish had no rises at all.  I took 2 fish out of a pocket that had never yielded a rise before.  It seemed like the fish had simply changed locations.  As I missed more and more fish, I kept trying smaller flies.  I eventually moved to a size 18 yellow sulfur comparadun and then a size 20 parachute Adams.  I hooked fish on every fly except the size 14 humpy, and every fly brought fish to the surface.

As I moved into the final stretch of water, I was surprised when a German Shepard Dog came running at me.  I had never seen a dog in this area, and the closest house to me was never occupied.  It turned out to be a house owned by tourists, and I got a chance to finally meet the owner.  I asked his permission to fish through his property, explaining that I'd wanted to ask before, but there was never anyone home.  He was happy to oblige, although he did warn me about some downstream neighbors who seem to have a habit of pulling out a gun on people they think are on their property.  Good information for the future.

The landowner was surprised when I told him that he lived on a great stretch of the stream.  He asked me how I was doing, and I told him that I'd hooked 4 fish in the previous 5 minutes, but got none of them to the net.  I hooked another while he was standing there, and also failed to land that fish.

As I called it a night, there was a quick blast of March Browns, but I resisted the temptation to tie on a new fly in the fading light.  I still needed to hike back to my car in near darkness.

In the end, on a stream where no fish were actively working the surface, I pulled at least 30 fish up to look at or hit my fly.  At least 20 of them (some the same fish, I assume) had hit the fly.  I'd hooked over 10 fish, and I think I got 4 of them to the net.  While there are some bigger fish in this stream, the biggest fish I caught was about 9", and the smallest was maybe 5".  All were wild rainbows within walking distance of a paved road.

It's always a successful day when you catch a big fish.  But, there are other experiences that make fly fishing fun and this was one of them.  I hope this stream remains undiscovered.  I only know a few people who ever fish there and I've never seen another fisherman on this water.

We are expecting rain off and on this week.  If the main streams are still high next weekend, I have two other White River tributaries in mind for a little bit of exploration.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

White River Open

We knew it was going to get hot, so it was important to get an early start.  I had picked my starting spot well in advance - a spot I'd fished three times already this season.  It's a series of 4 holes, where the lower hole is rarely productive, but the second and top holes are often very productive.

Keeping in mind what I wrote in my last post, I got to the river about 5:15, rigged up with a strike detector, a leading Prince Nymph, a middle Pheasant Tail, and a trailing green caddis emerger.  We were allowed to start fishing at 5:30 and I was standing in the river ready to go at 5:28.  As soon as my watch switched to 5:30, I made my first cast - a close cast designed to get a nice clean dead drift, and I started intently at my strike indicator.

For 4 or 5 casts, I saw nothing, but then, I noticed my strike indicator move upstream just the smallest amount.  The fish was a native rainbow, about 12", and it fought hard.  It had taken the prince nymph.  My first fish was recorded on my score-sheet at 5:39.  I had to untangle a bit of a mess (the fish had hit the top fly but was tangled a bit in the trailing tippet material.  I finally got everything done and cast again.  This cast - close in - brought a quick strike from a stocked fish.  I landed this fish quickly, and I had 2 fish by 9:45.  Last year, it had been at least 11:00 by the time I caught my second fish.

And then, things slowed down for a while.  No more strikes in this huge hole/seam.  It just seemed to go dead.  Eventually, I moved to another hole maybe 30 yards upstream.  I usually have good luck in this hole early in the year, but nothing at all was happening.  I thought I had the right flies and good drifts, but nothing at all.  By now, I was glad the morning was overcast.  This was going to give us a little extra time before the river really got hot.

I did lose my bottom two flies, and I made a slight change.  For my middle fly, I switched to a Montana Prince Nymph, and for my trailer, a different green caddis emerger with a bit of red and a soft hackle.

And then, I started to work upstream to my favorite hole at this spot.  I worked things thoroughly on the way up, taking advantage of the low water and the strike indicator to put my flies on as many fish as possible.  At the top of the hole, I got one stocked fish on the caddis emerger.  That was 3 fish before 9:00.  Last year, it had taken 16 fish to win the amateur division, so I had no dreams of winning, but I was just hoping to beat my 50.5" of fish from last year, and maybe finish a little higher in the rankings.  Eventually, I gave up on the upper hole and started working back downstream.  In the middle hole, still nothing.

But, the lower hole was exciting.  Early on, I hooked a wild rainbow.  The fish was jumping like crazy on the way in, and as it got closer to me, I noticed that it was flanked by two large rainbows in the 20" range.  Very odd.  I wasn't sure if they wanted to rescue the fish or perhaps eat it.  Either way, it seemed that the combination of being hooked and being trailed by 2 big fish was too much excitement.  Inches from the net, the fish managed to get off.  I know that doing things the "right" way - barbless hooks, in particular - is going to cost me fish.  But, sometimes in tournaments, I wonder if I'm doing myself a disservice with barbless hooks.

When the fish shook loose, one of the big rainbows disappeared with the little guy.  The other settled onto the bottom of the river, about 5 feet in front of me.  For 5 minutes or so, I drifted my flies right past that big guy, with no response at all.  Finally, that fish took off as well.  On my next cast, I hooked a stocked fish, and it also shook free right at the net.  It was now 9:30, and I had 32" of fish on my scorecard and it could have easily been 50".  Next, is where I might have made a mistake.

I'd hooked 4 fish from one large pool/seam, seen 2 other large fish, but I was guessing it was time to move on.  I wonder now if I would have simply moved around a bit and stayed in the area if I might have picked up a few more fish.  Instead, I went to my car, got a quick drink of water, and drove downstream half a mile.  I was surprised that no other tournament fishermen were on this water.  It starts out with some long slow pools that hold stocked fish.  Then, some fun pocket water.  And way downstream, there is a railroad bridge that results in 3 distinct holes that can produce fish.  It's a long hike, but I decided to give it a shot.  It was now almost 10:00, the sun was high, the clouds were gone, there were no hatches, and it was getting hot.

I fished quickly through the upper deep pools, knowing that lots of local fishermen hit this spot with bait and spinners as well as flies.  By the time I got to the pocket water, I slowed down.  I was far enough from the bridge that I was in water that rarely gets fished.  Most people simply won't wade downstream for half a mile for a few small pockets of decent water.  I worked these pockets carefully, and at 10:15, I hooked and landed my 4th fish of the day - a 9.5" stocked rainbow.  This caused me to slow down and work the water more carefully, hoping that perhaps there were more fish in these little pockets.  But, I had no luck and I eventually headed for the railroad bridge.

Here, the wading to a bit more treacherous, with the risk that a misstep would lead to be being washed into a very deep pool.  I was very cautious, and while I got some casts into the limited shade, my casts were probably not to the ideal locations.  But, safety comes first and I did as much as felt safe.

From the bridge, I headed downstream to a stretch of water that I used to love.  It's where I caught my biggest White River trout ever.  But, two winters ago, the river flow, split by a nearby island, had changed and the majority of the flow moved to the other side of the island, essentially strangling a great stretch of water.  I fished through this water quickly, and then exited the river.  It was now 12:30, hot, sunny, and I hadn't had a strike in over 2 hours.  I had a 30 minute walk back to the car.

By the time I got to the car, I was hot and exhausted.  I needed some water, but I had one more little stretch of pocket water to fish.  After no luck there, I drove downstream to the nearest convenience store and got an ice cream bar and a drink.  I sat in the air conditioned car, contemplating my next move.  Finally I decided on an area of the river where I'd done well late in the day last year - lots of ledge dropping off into deep pools.

I got there about 1:30, leaving me with about 90 minutes to fish.  A group of 2 men and 2 kids pulled up beside me and I was pretty sure they were heading to the same spot as me.  But, we talked a bit and they just wanted to drown some worms, so I pointed out a good spot for them.  They had caught 3 fish in deep water on worms before I had fished around the corner.

Despite my best efforts, the heat seemed to be in control.  I fished almost 90 minutes without a strike before calling it a day.

The largest fish this year was only 15" - smaller than last year.  Either of the big fish I'd seen would have won that category easily.  Also, the winning total in the amateur division was just over 60"  If I'd simply landed the 2 fish that escaped beside the net, or gotten lucky with the 2 big fish I saw, I might have won.

Next year, I guess.

While this was my best fishing day of the year, I am still averaging less than one fish per day of trout fishing.

We've had lots of rain this week, so streams may not even be fishable this weekend.  It may be time to work on some projects around the house and take a weekend off fishing.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Have I been getting lazy?

My fishing companion made a comment to me on Sunday that really took me off guard.  He said "You aren't really nymphing, are you?".  What he meant, was that I am spending a lot of time with the flies on the swing rather than in a dead drift.  I've been thinking about this all week and thinking about my fishing the past couple years.

I do know that in my initial response to the comment, I got a bit defensive, talked about some topics from the book Dynamic Nymphing, which I've been reading recently.  But, I never really answered the question.

I remember two years ago, in the autumn, I caught some really nice fish, including the 2 biggest rainbows I'd ever caught in VT.  I was using strike indicators a fair amount, doing lots of high sticking, and really working on a nice clean dead drift.  My success rates were going through the roof, and I remember telling a guy at my gym, who also fly fishes, that I felt like I was finally "getting it" with nymphing after all these years.

Early last season, I had a lot of success with fishing buggers on the swing.  I do remember the first half of the day of a local fly fishing tournament, when the fish were being picky, I had to really go for that dead drift with a high stick.  But then, I caught fish through most of the season without having to use the high stick or a strike indicator.  I completely stopped thinking about strike indicators, to be honest.

In the autumn last year, I took 12 days off work to fly fish.  My success rates were pretty low.  I had one really good day on the Winooski, but other than that, I had lots of days of zero or 1 fish.  I was fishing on the swing quite a bit by then.

This spring, I've fished 11 days so far and landed 5 fish.  At this point in time last year, I'd probably caught 60 fish. There is no doubt that we had a more "normal" spring last year, and conditions were easier last year.  But, all spring, I've felt like something else was up.

Maybe I got the answer on Sunday.

"You're not really nymphing, are you?"

I can't fish until Saturday, but I guarantee that I'll be on the water with a different mindset, and most likely, a strike indicator, this weekend.  Fly selection this weekend should be easy - a 3 nymph rig with a Prince nymph, a PT, and a green caddis emerger.  If I can get the presentation right, maybe I'll find out that it isn't about luck so much as presenting the fly properly.  Maybe I won't forget it this time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Lots of fishing time over the holiday weekend

Friday night, my daughter had a lacrosse game.  I was glad to be able to go to the game, although she is less than 100% after taking a stick to the wrist and thumb a couple games ago.  But, going to the game gave me another option.  When the game ended a little after 6:00, I had time to sneak out to fish for a couple hours.  It was cold and windy and I headed for the main branch of the White, in the Royalton area.  I fished the same area where I caught a wild brookie a few weeks ago, but I expected different results this time, because the river had been stocked a week earlier.

Because of the windy conditions, I pulled out my older Sage RPL+ (5 weight) and rigged it up with a 6 weight line.  This was my go-to rod for many years, but I simply don't fish it much any more; it's just too stiff.

It didn't take long before the stocked fish started to strike at my flies.  I was fishing a 3-fly rig - olive woolly bugger, Montana Prince Nymph, and a small attractor soft-hackle nymph.  Over the next 2 hours, I hooked fish on all three of the flies.  I probably had about 20 strikes, I hooked 5 fish, but I only got 2 of them to the net.  That is one of the big disadvantages of the super stiff rod, especially with barbless hooks and smaller fish.  It's hard to maintain the right amount of pressure on the fish and they are frequently able to escape.  No big deal though.  It was a fun 2 hours, even if I only caught a couple fish.

The next evening, I headed out on the Third Branch of the White, looking for browns.  This river had been stocked just days before, and I deliberately avoided the logical stocking spots.  I was looking for wild fish.  I did a good job of avoiding the stocked fish, but I also managed to avoid all of the fish.  I fished two normally production stretches of water, although one still isn't the same since Hurricane Irene.  That stretch, by Camp Brook, will likely never be what it was just a few years ago.

Sunday, I met up with another local fisherman to fish the Dog River.  The other guy, Jack, has been fishing the White River for 28 years, and fly fishing for 40 years, but he had never fished the Dog.  We worked 5 different stretches of water over 8 hours.  This is an un-stocked river with a reputation for big browns, but I honestly catch more rainbows than browns in this river.  It's been a few years since I last caught a brown.  I even catch more brookies in the headwaters of this river than browns.

We were only 30 minutes into fishing when I briefly hooked a beautiful rainbow - probably 16" and brightly colored.  I turned the fish when I set the hook.  It then jumped and threw the hook.  And then jumped once more to laugh at me, I assume.  It was a pretty fish and I know where to look next time.  After that, things were quiet for a few hours.

The water was low and clear and we did sight fish to a few nice browns.  One even took a bug off the surface, but we couldn't draw them up.

Finally, after almost 8 hours on the river, I think we were getting tired.  But, I suggested we still had one "must fish" spot to go to - a spot that was also damaged by Hurricane Irene, but one that still produces nice fish on occasion.  Because I was playing tour guide, I let Jack take the first casts in the nicest part of this stretch.  He had decided to try a dry fly, and he enticed a fish to take it.  It ended up being a really fat, beautiful rainbow, about 18".  That was the nicest fish I've seen out of the Dog in quite a while.  The Dog is a wild and challenging river, and we managed to hook just 2 fish in over 8 hours on the water.  But, both of the fish we hooked were beautiful wild fish - the kind of fish that most fly fishermen dream about.

Next weekend, I'm fishing in the White River Open - a 1-day fly fishing tournament with over 90 miles of river to choose from.  I really have 2 choices.  I can target stocked fish and try to compete for the overall title.  Or, I can go to more obscure spots and target bigger, wild fish, knowing that I might easily get skunked for the day.  I'm still not sure how I'll approach things.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Slightly better results

I got out last Friday night on the main stem of the White River, near Royalton, VT.  Water flows were down to 1400 cfs downstream in Hartford, meaning I could safely wade one of my favorite stretches of the White.  And, for 3 hours, it was just like every other day this season.  By the time I'd wandered upstream to the best of the four large zones I was fishing, I was desperate.  At the top of this last hole, there are 2 rocks and it's very rare not to get some strikes here.  But remember, until this point of the season, I'd had zero strikes at all in a month.

On my 4th or 5th cast, I got a strike, but failed to hook the fish.  As often happens in this pool, it was a hard strike.  Somehow, the fish here seem to have some superpower where they can slam a hook and not get pierced.  A few casts later, I had another strike, and this time, I made contact.  Due to the water conditions, this turned into quite a battle, and I had to wade downstream to net the fish.  It turned out to be a female brookie about 13" or so.

It was the first time I've ever caught a brooked in the main stem of the White, below Bethel.  I've caught them in the higher reaches of a number of tributaries, but never in the main branch.  It was very surprising.

I fished another half an hour or so, and had one more very hard strike, but I failed to hook the fish.

On Sunday, I headed north and east to the Waits River, a river I'd never fished before.  I focused on a stretch about a mile long between Flanders Brook and the East Corinth General Store.  I hit three distinct "fishy" looking stretches, but I had absolutely no luck at all.  This was my first time on the Waits, but it's close enough that I'll return, hopefully with more success the next time.

Yesterday (Thursday), I worked half a day and then arrange to meet a local Trout Unlimited friend on the upper part of the main branch of the White.  I will be honest.  The water had been stocked the day before and I was well aware of this.  The day after this stretch was stocked last year, I caught 34 fish (3 wild, the rest stocked).

I got to our designated meeting spot and I was slowly working my way downstream.  I was trying to avoid the best water until Paul arrived.  Around 12:30 or so, I heard him yell to me.  Before he could gear up, I'd landed 2 stocked fish.  When he got to the water, we moved down into the zone were I tend to catch the most fish.  I got one more.  And then, the fishing just died.  About 2:30 or so, we gave up and headed to another spot.  Here, I was disappointed at how high the water flows were, and also how cold the water was.  What a change the last week had brought us, especially the heavy, cold rain the previous Monday night.  We couldn't even get close to the best hole here.  At this spot, my standard technique is a strike indicator with a couple nymphs, trying to get a nice dead drift.  The water was way too fast to have any chance with this at all.  At one point, Paul was using 4 (non-lead) split shots to try to get his flies deep.

About 5:00 or so, we bailed on this spot and grabbed a quick snack and a drink.  We had a few options, but the higher water ruled out a few.  I suggested we return to where we had started, knowing it would now be shady, and perhaps the fish would be less cautious.  Paul focused on the slower pools below me, hoping a fish - any fish - would respond to the Hendricksons on the surface.  He had no luck at all.

I stayed with my flies from earlier in the day.  After maybe 30 minutes, I had a strike, but failed to hook the fish.  Fifteen minutes later, I hooked a fish, but failed to land him.  Finally around 7:30, Paul, who had a long drive home, had had enough, and we called it a day.  I had three stocked rainbows to show for the day (photos only - the fish were released), and Paul didn't even have a strike.

It's now mid-May and I've caught 4 trout.  We've had really, really weird weather, starting with a very cold winter.  Our hatches are all out of whack.  I've talked to a lot of fishermen who are also struggling.  Things will get better.

But, it's mid May and I've caught 4 trout so far this season.  That's terrible.  The only way to fix that is to fish some more.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Still no fish

I usually get my first trout of the year somewhere around the first of May.  I never seem to catch anything in the Otter Creek Classic, and after the opening weekend, I frequently don't fish again until the water warms up and levels drop after snow-melt run-off in late April.

So, I got out this past Friday.  I hate to say it, but having caught no fish this year, I targeted stocked brook trout.  Earlier in the week, the upper reaches of the Third Branch of the White River had gotten 400 brookies.  But, those 400 fish were distributed over a stretch of water at least 12 miles long, meaning a very low fish density.  There are wild fish in this stretch as well, but I rarely catch any of them, to be honest.  I think the last time I caught a trout through this stretch was 3 or 4 years ago.

I assumed the fish would have been stocked in places where there is easy access to the river.  I fished at a number of bridges, while heading upstream from Randolph towards Roxbury.  I didn't have a single strike, despite nice water clarity and water temps.  I am still fishing a sinking tip leader, given that the water is still cool and I'm assuming the fish are deep.  With our current warm weather, I'm thinking I'm likely to abandon the sinking tip in the next week or so.

The next evening, I headed out on a White River tributary.  This tributary sees very little pressure,  I have never seen any signs of another fisherman there.  No footprints, no other fishermen, and no litter.  Well, I did find a lime wedge in a pool of water last Saturday, but that was not a usual find.  There are a few houses upstream of where I was fishing, and one in particular has a deck that comes almost to the water.  I assumed the lime was the remnants of a cocktail, tossed casually into the water.

I really like this tributary in the summer, especially when the main branch starts to heat up.  This is a stream where I can fish dries when no fish are rising, and catch 10+ fish in a couple hours.  I had never been shut out on this stream.  That is, until last Saturday.  Not one strike.  Nothing.

I did see my first caddis flies of the year and my first BWOs.  I still haven't seen any Hendricksons or March Brown's, but I expect to see them shortly given how it's warmed up the past few days.  And I've heard the bigger stoneflies are starting to show up in places.

When I got home Saturday night, I told my wife I was selling all of my fishing gear.  If I can't at least catch fish some of the time, why bother?

Of course, that was frustration talking.  It seems like I've put a lot of time into fishing already this season, and I haven't had a single strike.  I'm sure that will change shortly.  Right around this time last year, I had a 30+ fish day (mostly stocked fish) and the fishing just took off after that.  I'd rather catch wild fish, but right now, I'd settle for any fish at all.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Otter Creek Classic 2015

First things first.  My streak remains intact.  I have still never caught a fish in this fly fishing tournament.  I've never hooked a fish.  I'm not even sure if I've ever had a strike.  This was the 7th edition of the tourney and my 3rd time there.  To be fair, the last time the fishing was decent and a lot of fish were caught was the 4th edition - the year before I started fishing here.  Even 2 years ago, when the fishing wasn't horrible (the winner had 6 or 7 fish), it wasn't close to the year before.  I also had very limited knowledge of the streams in Addison County at that point in time.  By now, I'm pretty familiar with the waters in that area.

We were allowed to fish 6 bodies of water - Otter Creek, the New Haven River, Lewis Creek, the Middlebury River, the Neshobe River and Furnace Brook.  I have fished all of those waters except for Lewis, and on Friday, Lewis looked high and unfishable as I drove past.

I checked in on Friday night and got my scorecard.  I picked up some tippet material, a few leaders and a few stonefly patterns that I haven't yet mastered tying on my own.  My wife and I had a drink before heading to the Fly Fishing Film Tour movie.  This movie is a lot like Warren Miller's "ski porn" movies, except it's about fly fishing.  Each year, the movie is a series of vignettes set in different locations, targeting different fish.  I have to admit that I found a couple of the more overtly political segments the least interesting.  I don't disagree with the points they made, but it's just not what I'd prefer to see.  There were some segments about big browns (somewhere way south of Montana), a couple Alaska segments, and a segment on steelhead in Canada that I really liked.

By the time the movie was over, we had a late dinner and headed to the hotel, where I had some last minute set-up work to do.  I got to bed after midnight and we were allowed to start fishing at 5:00 a.m., although, there really wasn't enough light to fish until closer to 6:00.

Without a lot of sleep, I was a bit slow to get out of bed on Saturday morning.  I knew that the water was cold, it was going to be a cool, grey day, and I saw no point in being the first person on the water.  I headed to the Upper New Haven River - way above any spot I'd ever fished on that river before.  The first spot I'd hoped to fish really didn't have any safe parking spaces, so I continued up the river.  About another mile upstream, near the town of Lincoln, I finally found a spot that looked promising, there was a spot to park, and no other fishermen were nearby.  To be honest, I hadn't seen any other fishermen this far up the river on my drive there.

The water up in that part of the river holds wild rainbows and wild brookies, but there are none of the browns that populate the lower river.  I also knew that the fish here tended to be smaller than the fish typically caught downstream.  So, it was a calculated risk that I might catch multiple smaller fish and somehow get lucky in the standings.

The water was very cold - 33.5F.  I had to deal with some ice shelves to get to some prime water that I wanted to fish.

The bottom picture is the area that I wanted to fish.  I had also fished downstream a bit, but this was my primary target.  After about 45 minutes standing in the water and catching nothing, my feet were so cold that I had to abandon the spot.

I headed downstream to a popular fishing hole at a bridge.  There was only one other car in the parking area.  The reason became obvious when I saw how dirty and swift the water was.  After only 15 minutes and 4 lost flies, I headed downstream even more.  At this point, seeing practically no one on the New Haven, I headed for Belden Falls on the Otter.  I talked to a couple fishermen on the near side, but my goal was to cross and fish the other side.  There is a bridge across the top of the dam here, so I was able to cross safely.  Over the past few days, some warm temperatures had pushed the Otter from about 2000 cubic feet per second to 2200 cfs.  I really enjoy this stretch of water best when it's about 1200 cfs.  So, wading and casting were difficult, but I fished for about 90 minutes.  In many cases, I was not even able to cast out as far as I would wade in lower water flows.  As I worked downstream, a family of three showed up and positioned themselves at the next three holes I was going to fish.  So, I left the Otter.

I drove by the Dog Team Tavern corner on the New Haven, but as expected, it was packed.  I then opted for some lunch so I could re-think my strategy.  I called my wife to see how she was doing.  And, I decided to fish the Middlebury near our hotel.  Moments before I got to my first choice of locations, a car pulled into a parking spot and a fisherman jumped out and headed to the water.  I opted to go downstream and not crowd him.  The Middlebury sees run-off from Middlebury College's Snow Bowl ski resort.  The water was high, there were still ice shelves to deal with, and the wading was dangerous.  After about 90 minutes, I decided I'd had enough for the day.

I headed to the hotel room, took a nap, took a shower, and then returned to Middlebury to turn in my blank score card.  There were 89 entrants (no idea how many actually fished), and when all the score-sheets were returned, a total of 5 fish had been caught, all on Furnace and the Middlebury.

My wife and I had a cocktail at The Lobby in Middlebury and then headed back to our hotel for dinner.  After a nice dinner, I got to bed fairly early, intending to fish right across the street from the hotel in the morning.

Because it would be cold overnight, I didn't want to start too early.  With warmer temperatures in the forecast, it seemed likely that fishing would improve on Sunday.  I got out as the sun was coming over the spine of the Green Mountains, happy to discover no one else was at my intended fishing spot.  I was happy with how the water had dropped and gotten clearer overnight, but it was still very cold.  About 15 minutes after I got there, a well-known local guide (2 time winner of the pro division in the tournament) showed up to fish the same spot.  We agreed that I'd stay on the lower end of the stretch and he could have the upper water.

We fished in silence for a while, talked for a while, and after about 90 minutes, he headed to another spot.  I stayed on the water until about 10:30.  No strikes and I bet I lost at least 10 flies.  One rock alone took 6 flies from me and the water was just a bit too steep to wade out and get them.  Another fisherman will likely harvest all of them in the next couple weeks.

I took a shower, had some coffee to warm up, and we checked out of our hotel.  I then drove to Middlebury again to turn in a blank score-sheet.  Fishing had been better on Sunday, but not by a lot.  The big result was someone who had caught three rainbows, two of them fairly large, in a short period of time on the New Haven Sunday morning.  With those three fish, he easily won the amateur division.  Only one other fisherman had at least 2 fish, and he won the pro division.  After that, there were 8 other fishermen with a single fish - 13 fish in total over 2 days.

We headed to the barbecue and raffle after the score-sheets were turned in.  This year, I won a fly box and a nice scissor/hemostat tool.  And then, it was over.

I'm hoping to fish some this coming weekend, and I think I've got a good idea for a small stream that won't be too high or dangerous to wade.  If I'm lucky, I may even pull off my goal of catching a trout and skiing in the same day.

I typically catch my first fish of the season around the first of May.  From there, fishing is usually very good until the end of June or so, before warmer water starts to become an issue.  But, we are just getting started, and there are plenty of fish still to be caught.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The final countdown

My license is purchased.  My new Orvis Sling Pack is packed and ready to go.

I completely re-organized my fly boxes last weekend.  I have a dozen fly boxes, and 7 of them will be on the water with me this Saturday.  I have 5 more boxes (dry flies, baetis, isonychia, and salmon flies) that will just sit in the car.  And, I still have a couple hundred more flies that aren't in any boxes at all.

I need a couple new leaders, some tippet material, and a couple flies, but I'll get those on Friday afternoon at the Middlebury Mountaineer.

The Otter Creek Classic fly fishing tournament starts at first light this coming Saturday morning.  We are expecting a little bit of precipitation between now and then, but the river flows shouldn't be too bad.

I have a rough strategy for the tournament.  I think I'm going to start high up on the New Haven on Saturday.  From there, I'll work my way down the New Haven through the fishing day.  On Sunday, I'll probably start right outside my hotel room, and fish the Middlebury upstream to the entrance to the gorge.  After that, if I'm having a tough weekend, I'll drive south for a while and see if I can get lucky with one of the big browns in a river I'm not even going to name right now.  If things are going well, I may head north to some of the more popular spots on the New Haven, or even the Otter if flows are low enough.

I'm still a bit torn on what rod will be my primary weapon.  My favorite rod is a Hardy Zenith 4 weight.  And, some of the spots I'm fishing will be small water with small fish, where that rod is appropriate.  But, I'll also probably hit a couple spots on bigger water, where my old Sage RPL+ 5 weight would be more appropriate.  I'm sure I'll rig both of them and just choose as I get to each spot.

I do know that my first cast of the weekend will be a white woolly bugger up front with a San Juan worm dropper.  I may mix some black stones in there as well, and some attractor nymphs, but those first two flies are about the best bets there are for early season high water here in Vermont.

And, maybe, just maybe, I'll finally catch a fish in this tournament.  Just one.  In another 6 or 7 weeks, when I fish the White River Open (the White is my home river), I know I will catch fish.  When I fish the OCC, I never have any idea.  I think that 80 or so anglers took about 12 fish over 2 days last year.  This year's weather looks to be better, so I'm guessing the numbers will be better.  But, one fish would make me happy.  Two would have me thrilled.  Four might have me in contention to win.  But, let's not be silly here.

On another note, I was contacted about a fishing job today.  It's a short gig - 5 hours per day for a week at a youth camp.  But, the agenda looks like fun - fishing in lakes and streams, talking about laws and ethics related to fishing, going after panfish, bass, trout, and other species.  Even a segment on fly tying.  I don't have the job yet.  I still have to apply and be interviewed, but the program director came to be to talk about it, so I'm hopeful I'll get it.  I will just take a week of vacation from my primary job and spend those days teaching kids about fishing.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

It's getting closer

I've now tied 70 woolly buggers this winter.  I still have about 40 more to tie.

Then, it's on to tying Juju Baetis flies in very small sizes.  I had to buy some UV-cured resins and a UV light to tie those flies.

I will get my license shortly.

I've ordered a large number of flies from The Catch and the Hatch in CO.  I'm expecting them shortly.

I ordered a new ceramic bobbin and some lead wire from Cabela's last week for my tying.

I need a couple new fly boxes.

My entry to the Otter Creek Classic is done.  I have a hotel room for the weekend and 2 tickets to the Fly Fishing Film Tour.

I think I'm going to go see the Hank Patterson movie in 2 weeks.

I have 2 more weekends of teaching skiing, but it's getting close.

It was close to 50F yesterday, but a business trip killed any chance of actually fishing.

I saw a post on Facebook from a guy who landed a rainbow here in VT this week.

It's getting close.

I'm so excited.

I still really, really want to buy a float boat to use in the White, the Winooski and the Connecticut.  I will probably still be debating this idea a month from now.

I'm going to PA in 2 weeks, and I'm trying to figure out how to sneak in a bit of fishing time.

It's apparently an obsession.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

It's still winter, but I'm getting ready to fish

I really love reading stories about people who get out fly fishing in the winter.  I wish I had the time to do that, but my passion to teaching skiing pretty much eats up all of my spare time in the winter.

But, I'm tying flies - mostly still working on woolly buggers.  I ordered some Muddler Minnows from a guide I've fished with a couple years ago.

I also bought a sling pack from Orvis at a great closeout price.  I've wanted to try fishing with a pack rather than a vest for a while, but the cost seemed too prohibitive.  I got an Orvis gift certificate for Christmas and they had great closeout prices on their packs.  I guessed correctly that they were in the process of unveiling a new line of packs, but I'm fine starting with the old line.

The Fly Fishing Film Tour and the Otter Creek Classic are on my mind already.

And, I've been working on a list of flies I need to either tie or buy for the upcoming season.  Amazingly, the list contains about 200 flies, split over 15 or so patterns.  Those 15 or so patterns make up 90% of what I use for wet flies here in VT.  Considering that I caught fewer than 15 fish on dries last year in VT, I don't really need to do much tying or buying in that department.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Oh yeah

My birthday was last week, and my wife got me one of those fly fishing tools that I'd love have, but would never be able to justify buying on my own.  I haven't actually ordered it yet, so I don't know what color I'll get.  Essentially it's an Abel hemostat/pliers hybrid that I can use when tying flies to pinch down barbs and then on the water to unhook fish.

Not enough time, but I'm getting some flies tied

I wish I was getting more flies tied, but I just never seem to have enough time.  My first goal for the winter is 90 woolly buggers 10 each in white, olive and black/grizzly, in sizes 4, 6 and 8.  This the start of the size 4 batch - the easiest of the bunch to tie.  I guarantee the white size 4 buggers will be on my line on the opening day of the season in the Otter Creek Classic.