I started early, but there were plenty of other people out already. I was working upstream through a stretch I'd fished in the past when I got my first strike of the day. It was a 16" rainbow and I struggled to land it with the light rod, and the somewhat rapid current. I was fishing a bugger with a prince nymph trailer and the fish took the nymph. A couple minutes later, I caught another fish out of the same hole. Hooked another. And then hooked another.
And then, the sun hit the water and everything just slowed down. I worked upstream for a while. Back down. Below my car. I drove downstream and fished a well known stretch there. Nothing was going on at all.
I went to the nearest town and had some lunch. I saw a warden's truck there and the clerk at the store told me they were stocking the stream again that day. By the time I was back on the water, the stretch I'd been fishing had been stocked with browns. Fishermen were everywhere. This is an odd river. It gets a lot of pressure every single day. But, it's mostly a retired crowd, often out-of-staters. Despite the stocking, fishing remained slow. I did see a worm slinger catch a fish. Another guy who I'd met and is a part time guide hooked a fish, but it snapped him off.
I met a nice man from NJ - a retired accountant who reminded me a lot of Lindsay Graham. We fished near each other and talked off and on. I saw him take a brown on a dry. In the afternoon heat (it was our first 80F day of the year), some fish were rising intermittently, and he'd gone to a hopper/dropper configuration, although it was actually a small Stimulator on the surface. After a very slow afternoon for me, the other guy told me he was taking off. The crowds were finally dissipating. He suggested I work the large hole he'd been working. So, I stepped in and started to fish where he'd been.
By now, I had on a big black/grizzly woolly bugger and a Batman Prince Nymph. Before the guy could even get to his car, I'd hooked a big brown on the nymph. After 10 minutes, he threw the hook beside the net with one final jump. And then, the fishing really started to pick up. The browns were starting to eat and they weren't being subtle. But, they were mostly in the 16"-20" range, fat, and strong, and my 3 weight just didn't have enough backbone. One fish took me into my backing and then slipped between two boulders, getting some slack just long enough to throw the hook. Another dove under a rock and got my leader tangled up somehow. I was using a Rio Euro Nymph leader and I was very surprised when the leader popped at the tippet ring. I assumed my tippet or my knots would fail long before the leader.
By 6:00, I'd hooked half a dozen fish in the last hour and landed none. My stout 5 weight was an hour to the north. I had a shorter 4 weight in the car, but I didn't want anyone to steal my hole, so I stuck with the 3 weight. I moved to the top of the hole and on my first cast, I got snagged. I tried for a while to release the snag with no luck. Finally, I pointed the rod right at the flies and pulled hard to snap them off. I noticed that my bugger was still there, so I assumed I'd lost my nymph. I was stripping in the fly to replace it when a big brown came out of nowhere and hit my nymph. Now, I was sure I was doomed. I assumed the knot was compromised, so I was careful with the fish. I was also starting to figure out that I needed to fight the fish by stepping backwards and getting them into shallow water, where they couldn't take off on long runs. This time, I landed the fish.
I immediately replaced that bottom tippet section, and went right back to it. I had been hitting the top and the bottom of the hole, so I went to the middle. On my first cast there, something slammed one of my flies, and this turned into an epic fight. I eventually landed the fish, which had hit the size 4 woolly bugger. It was 20" and fat - probably 3 pounds.
By now, sunset was approaching, so I started to wade downstream towards my car. I hooked 2 more fish on the way, but both were in fast water and I knew neither would ever make it to the net. Both managed to throw the hook less than a minute into the fight.
By the time I'd gotten to my car, I'd hooked between 15 and 20 fish on the day, and landed 4 fish in the 16"-20" range. Yeah, they were stocked fish, but a whole lot of fun.
Two nights later, I got out on the main branch of the White River - my home stream. I've had a very slow start on that river this year, and only got 2 hits that night. But, the first strike produced a small wild rainbow. The second snapped me off. I'll be fishing the White this coming weekend, most likely.
That night, a cold front came through and I headed west to fish with a guide for pike on Otter Creek the next morning. Brian Cadoret of Stream and Brook Fly Fishing is an avid pike fisherman and a great guide. The cold front had the fish acting a bit sluggish, but we spent 4+ hours sight fishing to pike anywhere from 2 feet long to nearly 4 feet long. I did get some fish to show some interest, but they just wouldn't commit.
Finally, at a place where we couldn't see the fish, I had a little bit of action. I briefly hooked one fish, but I didn't realize it was a fish at first, so I never really set the hook. That fish threw the hook immediately. A couple minutes later, I had another strike, and I set the hook hard. I was fishing an 8 weight rod, sinking tip line, 50 pound test mono, and a 9" steel leader. Somehow, this second fish managed to simply cut the mono above the leader. As I set the hook, after feeling the strike, there was no resistance at all. My fly was gone, the leader was gone, and the fish was gone. We finished the day fishing the confluence of the Otter and Lower Middlebury, but I was getting cold. I was standing in cold water on a cold day, stripping big streamers, and I was freezing everywhere. So, we called it a day, but it's something I really want to try again. I've got an 8 weight, although I need new line and backing, some strong mono, some steel leaders, and some pike flies. Oh yeah, a bigger net. as evidenced by the pictures above. That net isn't going to work for pike.
With warm days recently and lots of stocking completed, I'm expecting this weekend to be very fishy. I have way more places that I'd like to fish than I have time available to fish. Plus, there are thunderstorms in the forecast. But, I'll be out there as much as I can be, within safety limits.