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...