Sunday, May 26, 2013

Going stir-crazy from rain

This relentless rain has put a big dent in my 4-day weekend I had planned.  The girlfriend and I had plans to go camping but wanted to cancel because of rain.  After finally getting ahold of someone on Wednesday, we find out that not only can we NOT switch our camp dates, but we can't get any kind of a refund.  Feeling obligated to at least try to go in the rain since we paid a good chunk of change,  we packed the car and left Thursday after work.  Got setup in a few hours, gazebo, food and other items in plastic rainproof bins, then came setting up our brand new $200 tent.  It was relatively easy, and very spacious.  We could stand in the tent wherever we were, and it was huge!  We were happy, but a bathroom trip late at night lead to disaster.  Before exiting the tent I stepped in a puddle.  I shined the light on the spot, and realized it was pretty big.  I then scanned throughout the tent to find that almost every seam was leaking!

Needless to say, I spent an hour throwing a tarp over our new "waterproof" tent in a heavy downpour.  After I cooled off mentally, and warmed up physically, we decided to promptly leave in the morning, rain or not.

It was ruthless packing up everything while it was pouring, but we did it and headed home.  It was Friday afternoon and I was hoping to make plans for the weekend to finally chase some brookies or small stream trout.

The weather obviously had other plans.  By Friday night, the rivers started to blow out.  I knew it would be a slow, boring, wet, fish-less weekend...agh!!

So what can one do in such a predicament?  Sit at the tying bench of course!  I decided to tie up a few clousers and pike flies since it's been a while.  I've had the most action on red and white so I'll probably keep tying up some red and white variations of clousers and other patterns until I'm satisfied, then switch to another color.  I also took advantage of the downtime and did some cleaning of my two larger reels, my Evo LT, and my Loop Opti as you can see in the background (they're sealed drag systems but the bearings can be pretty gritty after being submerged so much which I have a bad habit of doing).

Depending on how things are looking tomorrow, I should have either a post with rbookie pics, or pike.  Fingers are crossed!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The tale of smallie-zilla

After a successful steelhead outting with my buddy Spencer, I hit the same area of the river a few days later after work with my 6 wt Switch rod in hopes of finding fish that hadn't left yet.  I was out of luck and spotted no seems as though we hit them just before they left (at least that area of the river).  But oh well, I had a few deep pools in mind to fish.

I was running a 400 gr Skagit line on my 11' 6 wt Switch rod, with about 10' of t11 and 3' of 3X Mirage fluoro tippet.  I was swinging mostly buggers to see if I could get a take from a steelie hiding in the depths, but ended up switching to a big Mickey Finn instead.

I waded across the river for a better angle to swing, and was swinging over this big drop off into a huge pool around a giant logjam.  I knew there had to be fish in there, but what kind?  This time of the year it can be quite a few things, smallie, landlocked, steelhead, pike, big fallfish?

Boy was I in for a treat....second or third swing through the pool, my line goes tight.  I gave it a tug thinking it was snagged but what I got back was a HARD pull.  I set the hook a second time which was followed by a leap by what I'd like to nickname smallie-zilla, a MONSTER of a smallmouth bass.  Easily 7 lbs, and the biggest smallmouth I'd ever seen.  It jumped half a dozen times in under 30 seconds and I thought it was a huge brown after the first jump, but the second jump I had realized it was a monster smallie . I don't usually get too excited about smallies, even ones in the 17-20" range, but this thing was in a class of it's own!!

It had inhaled my Mickey Finn at the very end of my swing, right before my retrieval.  It was putting my 6 wt to the test, and I was even worried about my 3X tippet.

The fight was relentless, and I've never had a smallie take me into backing - until now.  I actually chuckled out loud as my orange dacron zipped through my guides.  Man, what fun!!

10 or so minutes had passed, and I had moved about 30 yards away from where I hooked the fish, having been chasing it downstream.  I had the fish within rods length and could see my Mickey Finn in the corner of it's freakishly huge mouth, along with a full profile of this thing, up close and personal!  My heart was pounding, and just as I reached to my side to pop off my net from my sling pack to net this behemoth (I doubt it would have fit anyway) the fish turned, almost in slow-motion and darted downstream, jumped out of the water, did a backflip of sorts....and my line went slack.  UGH...WHY!!??

I'm completely convinced the fish would have went 24" and over 7 lbs.  I'd never seen a smallmouth so huge, ever!

I fished the rest of the evening with nothing to show for it. Even without a fish to hand, the evening was well worth it.  I got to witness and fight a truly massive smallmouth. 

Til next time....

Putting another friend on fish!

After getting Jerry on fish - a very good High School buddy of mine named Spencer had made plans to hit the Winooski with me after reconnecting and talking for about a week via texts and phone calls.  He hasn't fished for about two years and just got home from being, "away" for being young and stupid.  But everyone deserves a second chance, and it was good to hear from him after so long - and even better to hear he's changed for the better.  Before he went away for almost two years, we had been on the water together weeks prior to his departure, which was around Aug of 11', and all we had caught were huge redhorse suckers but it was still fun to fish with such a close friend.

After he went away, I had one of the best Fall fishing times and after we had talked and I showed him pictures and told him stories about my fishing experiences, he wanted to fish with me ASAP!  It felt great to have someone want me to take them fishing so bad.

He had nothing in terms of tackle or even a rod and reel.  I rigged up one of my spin rigs for him the night before, got a small box of spinners and lures I knew would catch fish and picked him up around 10 AM, bought his fishing license online and hit the water shortly after showing him my "fishing cave", which is a room full of fishing gear.  He thought it was awesome - and so do I!

We hit a spot I'd always wanted to check out for Spring steelies.  I knew it was a major hotspot for landlocks in the Fall, so I assumed it would attract at least a few steelies.  It was pretty late in the year, and the smaller steelhead rivers around here had already started filling with smallies - meaning the steelhead were pretty much gone.  The water was low for this time of the year, but it would be to our advantage - I spotted fish right as we arrived at the spot.  They were further out than I would have liked, but they were fish nonetheless.

I kept thinking they might be just suckers, but the movement I was seeing did not match that of a sucker.  Quick darting movements and just high speed overall told me these fish were either steelhead or salmon.

I helped him get rigged up with bait to start off, gave him a quick lesson on casting and where he should cast to and how to hold his rod during his drift - he learned quickly.

Less than 10 minutes after putting a rod in his hands, he was on a fish!  I was so pumped to get him on a fish so quick.  The fish put up a great fight, and since he had quite a bit of line out it was a lengthy fight in pretty fast water.  When the fish got close enough for me to see - I was filled with disbelief....a sucker!  A big redhorse, over 5 lbs.  Still, a fish is a fish!

I was puzzled as to how he hooked into a sucker when none of the movement I saw in the water resembled a sucker.  I shrugged it off and was still confident there was some chrome lurking in the water in front of us.  He kept casting, getting good drifts - it didn't take too long to hook up again.

This time the fish went aerial right away and I knew it wasn't a sucker!  It peeled line off the reel in his hands and he got nervous pretty quick.  I could tell he was enjoying it and enjoyed the fight even more after I told him it was a steelhead.  I grabbed my net and slid down the bank to net his fish - a healthy looking steelhead in the 18" range!  Once the fish saw me approach, he made one final leap out of the water and that was goodbye.  Bummer!!

I helped him rig up again and got him back out there right away, I knew there were more out there, and could see them.  I stood and watched the fish as he kept drifting in the area they were in.  The fish were hard to see because of the distance, but I tell they were in the general area he was fishing.

"There's one!" he said after setting the hook.  A slight pause followed by...


Another steelhead for sure.  This time it stayed on long enough to be netted - but was hooked deep.  I pinch all the barbs when I spin fish now (which isn't too often nowadays!) so I put the fish back in the water in the net for a while and got my camera ready for Spencers moment of fame (after a fish fumble as you can see by all the dirt.  After one quick pic, I cut the line close to the size 12 hook and sent the fish on it's way.

Beautiful Spring steelhead on the Winooski!

Spencer was happy about releasing the fish too - I could tell all my C&R stories had rubbed off on him and I really don't think he'll be keeping any future steelhead or salmon which is great.  The more C&R the better, regardless of method.

After his fish, I whipped out the 11' 6 wt Switch rod and tied swung a white bugger - I couldn't get it as far as I wanted.  The bank I was fishing from was really difficult to fish from, even with a Switch rod and Skagit casts.  Eventually I managed to swing a few white leeches in the general area and my swinging line came to a dead stop!  The first split-second was me beleiving I was snagged, but that disappeared as I began to feel tugs.  Shortly after, the fish jumped and shook first steelhead(I think) on my Switch rod and it was short lived.  Oh well...

I let Spencer have at it again and it wasn't long until he was into another steelhead!  This time he didn't even want pictures, he was happy with the fight & release of the fish!  Since it was quite difficult to safely get pictures of fish without waders on, I could tell he was caring more about the survival of the fish than the bragging rights the pictures would have brought.  I thought it was awesome of him.  We high-fived and it felt awesome to help him get into fish...truly awesome.

After that fish, our short day on the water came to an end - he had to be back at his home before a set time and it was quickly approaching.  We left the river and I felt very accomplished, and glad my good friend got into some Spring steelhead!  I was in shock to be honest, the water temp was 65 when we had arrived in the morning, so I am sure we just barely made it in time for these steelhead.  I bet within days they were back in the Lake with all this warm weather we got.  

It just goes to show that checking out spots you aren't totally sure will have fish sometimes pays off - BIG time!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Putting a friend on fish

After a successful NEK trip with my friend Mike, my other good friend Jerry was pumped to head up to the NEK with me.  With Chris's permission again, I took him to the Stream of Dreams the following weekend.  After signing a, "no spot burning" contract(I trust him completely with any spot I show him), we met up at 4 AM at my place, filled our coffee mugs(ahhh, breakfast blend), loaded the jeep with our gear and snacks for the day, and we were off!  Jerry is a spin fishermen (so far, but he's witnessed the magic of getting fish on flies and wants to try it, so the seed is planted) but thoroughly enjoys the outdoors as much as I do, and appreciates and respects fish just the same...he really has become a great angler over the past few years we've fished together. 

Like every trip I take, the excitement gets me jittery, and it was hard to sleep the night before, so I was running on maybe 3 hours of sleep.  We stopped to get a quick breakfast on the way there, and before we knew it, we hit the "Stream of Dreams."

He was amazed when we were in sight of the water.  "Those HUGE rainbows come out of here?" I grinned with excitement.  We scaled down the steep bank and fished the big pool first.  It was still cold, humid and dark.  I couldn't see fish because of the angle we were at, but could see light spots in the riverbed, which were redds.  I was hoping the fish hadn't finished and left yet.  The forecast was rain all morning so we had the rain gear on (He put his gear away so I had him use one of my rain jackets and my G3 vest which he thought was sweet)

We crept up behind the fish and kept a low profile and walked slow.  I put my rod down in the bushes and told Jerry, "You get one first."  With a smile on my face.  I sat and waited as he rigged up in anticipation.  As I sat on the bank watching him, I could see a glimmer of disbelief in his eyes, like it hadn't kicked in that he was about to get into a huge wild rainbow and was about to wake from a dream.

I grabbed his line, pinched his barb and told him have at it!

His first cast was dead on, it landed at the top of the pool and his weight was just enough to have the current drag his bait without hitting bottom.  5 seconds after hitting the water, with rod pointed at an angle toward the fish (he's a great learner) he set the hook perfectly and kept tight on this fish.  It was another one of those BIG rainbows, not just some 17-20", this was one in the 22-23" range.

His disbelief vanished as the fish jumped the first time and we both hollered in excitement.  While the pool the fish was hooked in was relatively small water, it was darting all over, jumping, rolling and rubbing on the large boulders on the side of the pool.  A lengthy fight ended with me netting his fish.  This was Jerry's biggest rainbow ever, and a wild one at that!!!

 My day was complete as I slid my net under this fish, I got a friend into the biggest rainbow he's ever caught.  I could have gone home right then without getting my own fish and the trip would have been totally worth it.  I love putting people on fish.

We sat and chatted about his fish and all things for a while until I felt the hole had settled a bit.  We saw other fish darting as he was fighting his, so we knew there were more.

It took a little longer for me to get into a fish, but after changing flies quite a few times my line went tight and zzzzzzZZzzzZZZZZ fish on!
Beautiful bow!

After my fish, we let the hole sit again and Jerry went back at it.  He had a few takes but things didn't work out in his favor.  His hooksets were fine but lady luck wasn't on his side.  After a few missed fish I gave a whack at it again, this time landing yet another beautiful chunk of silvery pink chrome.

Just immeasurable excitement!!  The hours had passed, and it was time to leave the big pool and head upstream to see what we could do.  The water was VERY low, but pools still held fish.  Conditions were far from ideal since the low water made for an impossible drift on many holes.  We had to walk past a dozen fish before we could find a fishable hole without overhanging trees and logs.

The next few hours were full of grief!  We were seeing fish, but they were all hiding underneath downed trees and it was just impossible to fish for them.  The first fishable hole was holding one big bow, who seemed to be already spooked.  He took a look at my fly, got scared and hid under a rock.  We shrugged it off and hit the next spot.  For the next hour we both tried getting fish to even take a look at what we were offering, but they all had lockjaw.  We approached a set of small waterfalls with small pools in a ladder-like arrangement.  In the middle of the falls in one of the bigger pools, an absolute MONSTER rainbow was surrounded by smaller fish.  The smaller fish were all riled up, chasing eachother while the behemoth of a rainbow just held the same spot.  I was utterly amazed at this fish that was at least 8 lbs.  I tried to get a picture of it in the water, but the pool it was in was eye level with us since we were standing on lower ground.  I told Jerry to have at it, and he got on his knees and blindly casted to the top of the pool this fish was in.  The first drift looked good, but no takes.  His second cast wrapped right around an overhanging branch directly above and in front of the fish.  He noticed right away and decided it was time to go.

tsh tsh tsh tsh tsh tsh tsh the monsters tail swishing through the water....the sound resonated throughout the valley this stream was in..this fish took off upstream and flew threw a few waterfalls and pools like it was nothing.  He stopped under about 6 trees laying on top of eachother, now a lost cause not only because he was spooked but because of the location.  The smaller fish acted differently, and just stuck their noses under rocks.  After we got over the disappointment of seeing the big one take off, we got a good laugh at the smaller ones and their tactic for hiding. 

A little while later, I spotted a few active fish above us in a pool and told Jerry to have at it again.  After 5 or so minutes, he got a good drift in front of them and set the hook on a big one again!  It was about 5 seconds before the fish realized he was hooked, and then tsh tsh tsh tsh tsh!  A crazy fast run upstream right into a colossal pile of trees underwater.  I tried to run on the side of the stream to get in front of the fish so it would turn back downstream but it was too late.  The fish lodged itself in the mass of trees and was a lost cause.  I held Jerry's rod while he wiggled the big trees and sticks the fish was hiding in to see if it'd spook back downstream. After a few minutes - a fish darted out from underneath it and I reeled up his line with an empty hook.  This fish had won fair and square,but I could tell Jerry was humbled.

The rest of the afternoon at the Stream of Dreams was the same way.  Spooky fish and very tough conditions...we took our leave around noon with smiles on our faces.

Our next stop was the lake spillway, which I actually think is a tributary of one of the bigger rivers in the NEK.  Ater a 45-minute drive, we arrived and hopped out the jeep.  The water was much lower than I'd seen it on previous trips.  I could now see bottom of about 60% of the pool, and immediately spotted a few perch, and a rainbow about 14".

Again, I let Jerry fish first but he just couldn't get a good drift through the pool and was getting hung up quite often.  I grabbed my rod tied on a double bugger rig and began to dead drift the pool with a bit of weight, making sure to get down deep.  It didn't take too long until Jerry was netting this beautiful rainbow!

I still can't get over how beautiful this spot is.

While fighting this bow, a monster smallie came out from undernear a huge log to the left of this picture.  I was amazed to see a smallie in this water...must be it's in here for the Spring spawn.  Makes sense that these bows are in here to spawn from the river this one runs into, and not fish from the Lake that Chris and I originally thought  Although both is possible, I'm convinced this river has a Spring run of bows and smallies.

I released this light-colored bow and watched it swim off and disappear into the riverbed.  It was Jerry's turn again, and he was determined.

20 or so minutes later after letting the hole cool for a bit, we both started fishing.  Jerry had made the huge mistake of casting out, setting his rod down and then running to the jeep to grab his phone.  "Shouldn't leave your pole here Jerry!" I told him.  He hadn't gotten a take for a while so he felt comfortable leaving for 2 minutes.  Shortly after he left, I set the hook on a chunky bow in the 12-14" range.  At the same time, I could see a much bigger rainbow struggling in the shallower clear water...huh??

I look over, and Jerry's rod is going nuts.  I landed and released my fish as quickly as possible (sacrificed my fish pic!) and picked up his rod - but it was too late.  The fish had broken his line.

He came back and didn't believe me (I still don't think he does) but that's how things are when you leave your gear unattended!  I hope he learned a valuable lesson there.

We made the decision to hit one more river - the Barton, on the way home.  So we took our leave from the spillway and headed to the Barton.   10 minutes before arriving at the spot, it started to downpour, HARD.  We almost had to pull over.  I pulled out my phone and checked the weather which said 0% chance of rain, and partly cloudy.  Hmmm....what should we do?  We got the spot and sat in the jeep for 10 minutes in pouring rain.  We decided we didn't have the time to wait for the rain since we only had a few hours of daylight and the drive home was over 2 hours.  We left, but miraculously, the rain stopped and the sun came out just minutes after pulling out.  We looked at each other with, "Lets go back." faces, and before we knew it we were heading back. 

We geared up, walked a little bit to the river and just as we were about to walk downstream to the holes we were going to fish, Jerry saw a fish rise at some water that was less than ideal looking.  I thought it was something falling into the water but when we got close enough to the water we were amazed.  There looked to be about half a dozen fish - all BIG near the top of the water column.  Must be the heavy rain just a few minutes prior that turned these fish on, and they were feeding.

We walked down the bank to the water and I suggested to Jerry he threw a spinner.  He put on a silver spinner and ran it across the pool in all different spots. It seemed like every retrieve was followed by a fish, but it just wouldn't commit.  It was awesome to see them follow it for 10-20 feet and then turn at the last minute!  He tried different colors, but they seemed to stop chasing after a while.  He switched to bait and hooked up almost right away.  I was convinced they were light colored browns since that's what the Barton is known for, but I was wrong.  This fish looked like it was possible a steelhead from the Willoughby that made it up some really difficult water to get to this area. 

After releasing this fish, we witnessed a pair of browns stroll up into shallow water for a few minutes....MONSTERS!  At least 24" each.  They turned and slithered back into the deeper part of the pool.  We were psyched to see those fish and kept fishing.  I was standing behind the pool drifting over it, and jerry was standing quite far away from the pool behind and to the side.  We did what we could but I think the fish were spooked after the steelhead.

We didn't have time to let the hole cool so we opted to fish the water below this.  We made the sketchy descent to the holes downriver without breaking any bones.  We fished half a dozen good looking holes without a single hit or even sign of any fish.  I was surprised since the first hole we fished (the first hole after Jerry's steelhead) is the same one I landed 3 nice browns in on opening day.  Maybe all the fish moved upstream into the slower water since the temps were rising?  Or maybe they just didn't like what we had to offer.

We fished for a good hour and ended up calling it a day.  A very successful day in my eyes and Jerry's as well.  The ride home was long, but sweet.  We were both exhausted - and drenched in water and sweat.  The air temps were in the low 70's, but with chest waders on and rain gear along with very high humidity.....walking miles along the rivers really made me pump out the sweat all day.  I need to invest in some wading pants! 

I'm so happy I could bring Jerry up there to get into fish, he doesn't get out on the water much, but thoroughly enjoys it when he does.  Like most people, he has a hard time finding free time, especially for an entire weekend day.  I'm glad I was able to spend it with him, and even more glad he got into such nice fish.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Another great day in the NEK

The week before last, a good friend of mine, Mike, wanted to see what all the fuss was about in the Northeast Kingdom.  So with Chris's permission, I was able to show Mike the, "stream of dreams".  I literally just came up with that while typing - but anyway....

I was up at 3:30 making final preparations to the day.  GoPro+spare batteries, wallet, shades, fly boxes, rod and reel, enough tippet, Keurig machine heating up, plastic bag for my phone in case I take a spill (Which I did on this day by the way).  Ahhhh, how I love the smell of coffee early in the morning prior to a day-long fishing trip.  I get so excited the night before that I rarely sleep on such occasions.  I was in Mike's car before 4 AM and we were off with the GPS set to our first destination - the stream of dreams!

I knew the Spring run of wild bows was still going strong since it had just started a few weeks prior.  We arrived and parked the car, geared up and hiked to the spot.  The look on Mike's face was full of disbelief when we arrived.   After looking at the first and biggest pool on the whole stream he turned and said, "dude, really?" "What?" I said.  "I thought it was WAY bigger than this!" he replied.   I laughed it off and while he was thinking this was some sort of sick joke, we headed down the steep decline to the water below the pool.  The light hadn't touched any of the water yet, so it was hard to see if any fish were in the pool.  We took turns drifting all different patterns through the pool until I decided to flip over some rocks.

  I noticed right away an abundance of black and golden stones on the bottom of this rock.  I also caught a glimpse of a few midges squirming around in a specific color - which I had tied a few weeks prior in the same size as well.  I tied on the midge below a little black stone and began drifting through the pool.  Within minutes I found myself in disarray.  I'd hooked up with a big rainbow and had forgot to tighten my drag from the 0 position.  The first run the fish made from one side of the pool to another sent my reel into free-spin mode and line tangled right away.  Luckily the fish didn't run any further away, and I was able to free up my line and get the fish back to my reel.  Another run ensued and even after tightening my drag a few clicks the spool spun, this fish was FAST!  I tightened down even more and got the fish back on the reel yet again.  What a blast on a little 6'6" 3 wt!!

Mike pulled my net off my sling pack and slid it under the fish, a beautiful rainbow!

(No that's not some wacky tattoo deal on my heads, it's from my GoPro)

We decided to let the pool settle after landing this fish, there were more fish in it and they were really spooked after that heated battle.  We learned quickly that the fish wouldn't settle back down, so we opted to fish upstream in some different pools.  Right away we spotted fish, but the dense tree cover and the fact that there was a downed tree laying across the river every 5 yards made it literally impossible to get a fly in front of these fish.  We were forced to skip a bunch of spotted fish, but eventually found our way into an open stretch of water.

Without even seeing the fish, I could see some kind of commotion upstream.  It looked like the males were chasing each other around, splashing all over....real aggressive!

I told Mike to cast to them and he blindly landed his fly at the top of the pool and within seconds he was into a fish!  It was a BIG fish and it took off upstream in the skinny water like nothing.  A few minutes after the hookset I realized my GoPro was off and turned it on just in time to capture the netting of this huge wild rainbow of Mike's. We got a few pics of the fish and released it...what a gorgeous fish, and BIG too!  I'd have to say it was in the 23" range.

I threw together a short clip of the netting of the fish and the celebration afterwords which I'll post at the end of this since it includes pictures of other fish we got that weekend!

Mike wasted no time hooking up again later on in another pool  This time a smaller one, but still a big, wild rainbow!

After Mike's fish, we couldn't seem to find anywhere open to fish, and when we did the fish wanted nothing to do with us.  We took off downstream and I decided to sneak back up on a few holes that I knew had a fish or two.  I made a few blind drifts and was quickly into another fish.  After a few sweet-looking runs upstream from pool to pool, he was netted, photographed and then sent on his way.

Soon after, we headed back to the car to hit the next spot - the Willoughby River.  I was hoping we'd run into some steelhead post-spawn but we had no such luck.  We even checked out the closed streams in the upper sections just to see if the fish had made it in yet, and we didn't see any!  The water was low and visibility was good, but we just couldn't find any fish - or even spook any.

I got to witness something awesome, which was the sucker run on the lower Willoughby.  I was amazed to see HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS of white and redhorse suckers (mostly white though) in shallow water.  Mike and I actually fished for them for a little bit, landing a couple.  I was suprised to see that some of these white suckers were HUGE!!  I'm talking 5-6 lbs easily.  Even some of the redhorse were quite large, above 7-8 lbs.   I'm sure we could have stayed for hours and landed dozens upon dozens of these guys but we didn't have much time left before dark. 

Our next destination was the lake outlet, one of my favorite spots in the NEK - so far.  I gave Mike first whack, and told him to drift a big bugger through the huge deep pool.  Sure enough after tying on a big black coneheaded bugger, he was battling it out with a gorgeous rainbow!!!

I netted his fish, snapped a few pics for him and we sent the fish back on its way...

Unfortunately since we had just got there minutes prior, I didn't even have my camera on or even on my head yet, so no footage of the fish only pictures! 

After a little while of me fishing the pool, Mike headed up to the Lake to poke around and see what was going on.  Not too long after he hooked into and landed another rainbow that was patrolling the shallows!  We didn't get any pictures of it because the fight was long and we were unsure of the water temp, so a quick release was in order.

After that, Mike's day was complete and he headed back to the car to relax.  I opted to fish the big pool for a little while longer.  I decided to try a simple egg pattern below a bugger and hooked up immediately with two respectable rainbows back to back, in the 14" range.  Must be they're in this water making a false Spring run to spawn?  In any case, my phone was in the car, and the GoPro was no pictures of those beauties were taken, bummer.

I walked back to the car and the only thing I could think of was, "what an awesome day...."

The NEK hasn't let me down yet, and I have a feeling I'll be eagerly coming back every Spring for action like this!  Another remarkable day on the water...the drives back home after a day of fishing are so much better when you've got a head and camera full of great memories...

(Video of Mike's huge rainbow in the stream!)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Weekend after trout opener

I was so psyched about chasing fish in the beauty of the NEK that my friend Chris and I (thanks again Chris!!) headed back the weekend after!  We first stopped at a tiny little stream that Chris keeps quite secret (and so will I)  It's a bit away from the NEK, but nonetheless it has a prolific rainbow run in the Spring in a beautiful setting that I found challenging to fish, which I liked. 

Since it's quite a long drive there, we didn't arrive until around 9 AM.  We opted to fish the upper part of the stream first, in hopes of stumbling upon a few feeding fish.  The first fish I spotted was too little too late.  I was already in his field of view and could tell he was spooked.  He dropped back into the pool below and although I drifted in front of him a few times, he didn't want any part of it.  Next we stumbled upon two fish sharing a pool.  It was like trying to fly fish while standing inside of a huge tree - that's how much room I had to work with. We did what we could, but the fish just were not interested.  They weren't spooked, just too busy romancing eachother.  We left them alone to find some loners that were feeding.  We walked for what seemed like a mile or so but saw no more fish.  My guess is, is that it was a bit too early for them.  Sure it was mid-late April, but in the NEK Spring arrives a little late.

We hiked back downstream and hit one last spot - the biggest pool on the stream that was definitely holding fish.  We snuck up behind them and began to cast toward them.  We tried the stealthy approach, and the fish didn't seem to spook at all.  But once again - they weren't interested in feeding.  I changed flies a few dozen times, tried different approaches but couldn't seem to get one to be interested.  Just when things started to look up....I put on a tiny white indicator and drifted a few nymphs over the pool....plunk goes my indicator.  I wish a Guinness World Record rep was there, because I set the hook on this fish so fast I was just dumbfounded.  Was it because I'd been waiting for a tug all day or something?  It was truly an awkward feeling to set the hook on a fish 1/100th of a second after it dipped.   I felt the hook pull right out of it's mouth....ugh.  They wouldn't even take Chris's crawlers or even look at them after that (and most of the day)  That's when we knew it just wasn't meant to be.  We were humbled, and took our leave.  I gave a nod to the fish as to say they won, and off we were.  By the time we left, we hadn't had much daylight left so we opted to fish an outlet of a small lake in the NEK that Chris often visits which is gorgeous and has crystal clear water. 

It was the same spot I had landed the laker a week before!  I remember saying something along the lines of "I'll give you a head start to get one", to Chris.  He laughed it off, but when I got rigged up and started fishing...zzzzzzzzzzzz!!!  Fish on!

A few pictures and it was back into the water.  Less than 10 minutes after landing the first, I was in again!  This fish broke the surface right after the hookset!  I absolutely loved how this fish looked.  The maroon color and the well pronounced spots were intense!  Not to mention the girth!

I remember Chris saying "Are you serious?????" after the hookset of the second fish, but within 10 minutes after landing the second fish, I hooked up again....woo!

Chris must have been full of envy, because when the fish ran towards me and then booked it downstream, his netting skills suddenly vanished(just kidding, he did what he could for sure).  The fish ran hard downstream and after turning, the hook popped out.  Chris seemingly netted it right after the hook popped out, but the fish seemed to vanish from the net!  We could have sworn it was definitely in the net.  Who knows what happened, but I do know that it was another big colored up rainbow that was beautiful.  At least I got to see it!  Unfortunately Chris couldn't find his way to a fish, but I think he got a kick out of letting me get a few myself.  I sure love to watch friends catch fish, and I'm sure he's the same way.  We'll go back for brookies and maybe rainbows again soon and he'll get into some, I just know it!

We left before it got dark since it was a long ride home.  I remember seeing a, "moose xing" sign and saying to Chris, "moose? Yeaaaaah right!"  10 seconds later on the side of the road drinking from a puddle....a moose!

Another great weekend in the books!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Some guys just don't care

I had made plans this weekend with an old friend who hasn't fished in years, but wants to get back into it.  We headed to my home waters on the lower Winooski in hopes of finding steelhead as they dropped back into the lake post-spawn.  Either way, he just wanted to catch fish!

I took him to a section of river that I thought looked like prime water for steelhead spawning(I'd always wanted to check out this area in the Spring).  The water was lower than it usually is this time of the year, and a little cloudy from the dozens of boats cruising all over.  On our way to the spot, trash littered the banks.  Mostly beer much for green up day?

When we arrived at our destination, one boat came flying upriver at top speed right next to the side of the river we were about to fish.  They then proceeded to travel beyond the closed fishing waters on the Winooski.  What a joke!

Not long after they came flying up, another bigger boat tried coming up in shallow water.  Even though I warned them they would NOT make it, they decided to try anyway.  A few minutes of their props destroying the bottom of the river (and the bottom of the river probably destroying their props) later and they too were headed into closed waters to fish.  I was amazed to see such blatant disregard for the regulations on the river...

A little while later, the same boat came floating downstream, apparently they thought the water somehow got 3 feet deeper than when they came up?  Once again, both their main and trolling motor slammed into the bottom of the river, which is mostly rocky and not soft by the way.  My friend and I couldn't help but laugh.  These guys were so eager to head upstream to fish closed waters for walleye(I assume) that they risked destroying their motors, and now they're in such a rush to get back downstream they're risking destruction again!

Once they finished their dredge through the bottom of the river, they slammed into a few big trees sticking out of the water.  Maybe they weren't out to fish, but to see how tough their boat and motors were?!  I never looked at it that way!

Unsurprisngly, their motors didn't start back up, and they just drifted downstream.  Serves them right, honestly.

Like I've said in a previous post, I have no problems with any kind of angler(s) as long as they're respectful and obeying the law, which we didn't see much of while we were out there.  After the comedic actions of the previous boat, a guy fishing solo in a small boat slowed down right in front of us, proceeded to grab one of his FIVE rods he had in his boat (I think the limit is 2 per angler?) and fished pretty much right in front of us.  I don't get why this behavior seems to be the norm with some anglers this time of the year, but it's just sickening to watch and have to put up with.  They can keep their walleye they got illegally, I'm happy with steelhead I got and the 2 steelhead I helped my buddy catch and release...I'll save it for another post.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Spring fishing at its finest!

I had the opportunity to meet up with a friend of mine, Chris, who recently moved to the Burlington area from the Northeast Kingom.  We started talking on YouTube about fishing in VT, and I found out that he didn't actually live too far from me.  I ended up taking him to a nice steelhead run on a  LC trib where he got into some fish!  Come to find out, he loves to fish just as much as I do - and had big plans for the opening day of trout season!

I stayed up half the night tying and watching fishing clips to get me pumped.  We were in the car Saturday morning before sunrise and on our way to make the 2 hour journey to the Northeast Kingdom.  It had rained HARD the night before and we were worried the rivers would be blown out.  But that rain in the Burlington area turned into snow up in the Northeast!  We were in luck, and the rivers hadn't gone up much, but instead had great color to it.   It was my first time up in the area - and it was b e a u t i f u l!  Our first stop felt like NY.  The fishing at a well-known hotspot below the Falls at the Willoughby River was shoulder-to-shoulder.  We decided to not even grab the gear from the car.  We stood on the bridge and watched for a while - nobody had hooked up.  We jumped back in the car and headed upstream to fish the upper section that was open to fishing, hoping to find some steelies that had made an early Spring run up the Falls. 

When we pulled off and got out of the car, not a single person was around for miles.  It felt good to be alone, but I was also worried that they were not fishing higher up in the river for a reason.  That worry soon disappeared.  My second drift through the first pool yielded a great wild steelhead and just an awesome experience altogether on new water. 
After a great start to the morning, things didn't seem to follow that trend and we soon realized that there wasn't many steelhead above the falls in big numbers yet.  We cut our time on the Willoughby short to avoid the NY-style fishing and he decided to take me to his secret wild brown hotspot on a different river.

Just like with the Willoughby, right after arriving at the first hole I hooked up!  A beautiful brown, a bit on the small size but still beautiful nonetheless. (I had to keep my phone in a baggie since I was standing in water and paranoid of dropping it)

A little while after releasing this brown, a nice chunky brown was making my reel scream....ah what a beautiful sound it is.  A wild brown in the 18" range...awesome!

Not long after releasing this guy did I get another fish - about the same size as the first and very acrobatic.

We fished about half a mile of nice looking water but downed trees and logjams made it pretty tough.  We left that spot after a few hours and we were on our way to fish an outlet of a small lake that was still frozen solid!

We arrived and I immediately noticed how beautifully clear the water was.  I'm talking 8 feet of visibility easily.  It was probably around 8 feet deep in this awesome spot he brought me, but it was just turbulent enough to where the fish could not see very far and luckily we were able to fish from behind the pool.

After Chris had got done telling me about how lakers drop down the outlet in the Spring, I was into a fish!  What do you know? It turned out to be a laker!  It's not too often you get to catch lakers in rivers!

After that fish, I checked out downstream solo and while the water was crystal clear, I couldn't spot any fish so I headed back and Chris did what he could to get one on but no luck for him.

After leaving the outlet of the Lake, he decided to bring me to Lake Willoughby to show me how beautiful it was.  I was no disappointed at all - it was stunning, yet scenic.  It was still frozen solid, but the little streams that flowed into the Willoughby were already starting to see good numbers of spawning wild steelhead as you can see in this underwater footage!

Of course the streams are closed to fishing - and for good reason...look at how many fish occupy this tiny pool!

After leaving the very scenic Lake Willoughby we had time for one last stop on our way home.  This was Chris's, "hot spot" of the Spring and I was super excited.  I had watched his videos and viewed his pictures of the rainbows that occupy the small creek-like tributary of a much bigger river and I was excited to see if they were in the creek yet!  It's been a dream of mine to catch huge trout in streams where you can touch both sides with your hands at once.

Unfortunately, the snowfall and snowmelt had caught up to the tributary, and it was high and muddy.  We opted to fish the mouth of the trib and it sure didn't take too long to hook up into this wild rainbow that made a few drag-screaming runs. 

 After that fish it was starting to get dark and we had a long drive home.  I felt absolutely amazing, and I can't thank Chris enough for letting me tag along with him (even though I hogged all of the action!)

It was my first REAL trout season opener(previous years I wasn't really committed), and I am definitely looking forward to yearly Spring trips to the Northeast Kingdom from now on. 

A quick look back

I've seemed to have decent luck these past few years fish wise.  I haven't gotten out as much as I'd want to lately - but work is a pain like that and I've usually only been seeing water once per weekend.
Last Fall was almost all on the Winooski, with a few trips over to some other LC tribs.  The Fall fishing for landlocks was great!  I found quite a few fish in some shallow water that were willing to play, even a laker(who almost beached himself chasing a streamer seconds after he saw it....crazy!) and some steelies mixed in!  I caught salmon in the river all the way until mid December!

My usual spot, the Salmon Hole, wasn't very kind to me (although I didn't fish it that much in the Fall and Winter as usual) My first 6 landlocks were all long-distance releases...even one pig I'd say was easily over 8 lbs.  When I finally did bring one to the net, it was a nice 26.25" hen that I ended up getting footage of!

Throughout the Fall, I didn't land as many steelhead as I thought I would, but I did end up getting a few as you can see in these videos.

I only managed to get one "big" steelhead at the Hole last Fall but it was a real fat healthy fish...I wish I could have gotten more time on the water like I did in 2011 but things just seemed overall slow at the Hole compared to the year prior.

As things started to get colder, and anchor/shelf ice started to form all over, I did what I could to bring a few more steelhead to my net but it just didn't happen.  I had many fishless days, walking to the car in below freezing temps barely able to feel my feet, nose or hands.  Fishing in blizzards, downpours....leaving home without even a memory of fighting a fish or even getting a take either swinging or nymphing.  But when I finally did hook up, even for only a few was all worth it!!

I ended up visiting some other Lake Champlain tribs in search of steel as the Salmon Hole closed and the ice started to melt.  It seemed like every trip I was able to bring fish to the net!

Every person I went with usually got into fish as well(I love taking/going with people and helping them get on fish!), so it was a good transition for me into Spring of 2013.