Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Good times!

My girlfriend and I usually go camping later in the Spring, but we couldn't get a site reserved where we wanted to go, so I threw out that we could go to the Northeast Kingdom to fish and I was surprised when she obliged.

In the days prior to last weekend, the weather was looking pretty crappy.  Heavy rain at times...even thunderstorms!  We opted not to reserve a hotel room in case the rain was just too heavy and the rivers got blown.

The night before, we decided rain or shine, we were going!  We called a few potential Hotels only to find out they were full.  Then I remembered where Chris and I stayed last Fall for salmon I called and we struck gold!  They had ONE room left with a King sized bed, sweet!  It was only about 20 minutes away from where we'd end up fishing last, so it worked out great.

I threw all my necessities together Friday night, 3 rods, 4 reels and 6 fly boxes later...I was covered for any situation.  We were on the road by 5 A.M., making the almost 2-hour drive to the honey hole that very few people know of.  The Spring spawn was over, and the rainbows were all dropping back into the main river (or so I was hoping)  It rained off and on on our way there, and I had my fingers crossed the relatively small river was not too dirty to fish.  Lucky for us, it was unaffected by the rain prior to us arriving!  As we got there, the sun was actually starting to come out and the call for rain diminished swiftly.

We loaded up with gear, and hiked through the woods to the first good hole.  We struck gold, and found willing fish all over.  We snuck up on a pool with quite a few bows putting feedbags on.  Katlyn sat on the bank and watched.  After landing the first fish of the day almost right away, I think she has a better idea of why I love to fly fish so much.

It took a few more takes and missed hooksets to hook up again, but this guy went airborne and the size 16 pt popped out.

In the next few hours, and moving spots...I ended up with 6 or 7 fish on, while managing to land 5.  Nothing huge, but nothing small either!

While fighting one of these fish, a truly massive rainbow came out from some deep water and started to chase the one I had on!  A fish that was honestly well over 6 lbs was coming 10 feet from me, chasing a fish half his size.  After landing the one I had on, I tied on a big tungsten olive muddy buddy.  Hard to throw with an 8' 4 wt, but I got it out there. The first few retrieves had follows, but no hits.  After the 5th or 6th retrieve, the big guy finally came out to give it a whack.  After following it onto some shallow gravel and whacking the fly, I set the hook, and POP.  A bad knot lead to a lost potential monster rainbow....UGH!!!

Before noon, we decided to take a lunch break and made our way back to the car.  As we got to the car, it started to sprinkle.  I wanted Katlyn to feel the tug of a feisty wild rainbow, so I dug the spinning rod out of the trunk.  This river was not an easy one to fly fish.  Overhanging trees and very tough currents made for very difficult drifts.  I wasn't going to burden her with trying to get one on a fly, so we took her a spinning rod. 

We headed to the first pool where there were still feeding fish.  I set up a tiny barbless hook and some weight with a crawler and gave it to her.  It took a long time, but a fish finally decided he'd give in.  She set the hook like a pro after the grab, and the fight was on!!

After quite a long fight, I netted this beauty.  This guy was skinny, but surprisingly long.  I'd guess 23-24".  Beautiful colors as well!

Definitely her biggest rainbow to date, so awesome!!  She did a great job steering this guy away from the rapids downstream from us. 

 After this guy, the few other fish sharing the same pool were definitely spooked, so we headed upstream.  That's when things got tricky.  The woods in this stream are so thick we couldn't just freely move from pool to pool, it had to be done along the bank of the river, sometimes having to go knee-deep to travel upstream.  Having no waders or adequit boots, Katlyn was having a tough time.  I felt bet and didn't want her to take a spill, so after just a few 100 yards, I decided it was best to turn back and call it a day on this river.  I knew there were plenty more fish upstream holding in pools, but having her fall just wouldn't be worth it.

It was, however, good timing.  As we started to leave the woods and get back to the main road it started to rain, HARD!  Luckily we had rain gear on, but we still got a good soaking!  We both had an awesome time though, and were even giggling in the rain. It was definitely one of my favorite fishing days to date.

After we got back to the car and dried out, we still had plenty of time to scope out some other rivers.  I drove us back toward the Hotel and had a spot in mind that was a quick fish where I'd landed some beautiful bows and even a laker last year.

The rain finally settled as we got the spot.  I was hoping the Lake that fed this small river was calm and clear to see if there were any cruising trout along the shoreline.  Just my luck though, it was so windy that there were whitecaps!  We started to fish the big deep plunge pool below the Lake.  The water wasn't crystal clear as usual - instead it had a little tint to it which wasn't bad at all.  I threw streamers and drifted bugs for a little while before noticing something moving near bottom.  Something HUGE!  I drifted everything I had by and near it, but it showed no interest. 

It made its rounds half a dozen times around the pool before disappearing into the deepest part.  After a while, I had to call it quits and admit defeat.  We headed out to the Hotel to unpack, relax and eat!

We woke up late, around 6.  Took us a while to get going, but we were packed and out of the room by 7 to eat breakfast.  After a quick breakfast, we decided to go take a peek at the Barton and Willoughby.  The barton was surprisingly low and clear.  I could see no signs of fish, and it seemed like the Spring run was pretty much over.  Upon leaving, I noticed some fish laying on bottom, side-by-side.  I knew right away they were white suckers.  Typical behavior from them.  I had a nymph rig already setup and dredged bottom in front of them before hooking up into a small one.  For some reason, I saw no big ones in the area, just smaller 15-16" ones.  Must be the big ones spawned and left.  I caught a couple of them and we headed out to the Willoughby to see if the mass of suckers were still in the lower section.  I wanted Katlyn to see just how thick they were in there in the Spring.  Must be we were just a tad too late!  The river was empty, and the suckers were gone.

On to the next one!  Our last stop was the Clyde, which after talking to my buddy Kenny who fishes it regularly had told me about how he had an awesome few days with the Spring salmon run that were feeding heavily on the Hendrickson hatch mid-day.

The river was high, but clarity wasn't too bad.  Def higher flow than I'd like to fish, but I found some good holding water.  I noticed right away they must have just stocked it with smolts, because they were everywhere.

Kenny recommended a white streamer with a hares ear dropper, so that's what I started with.  Dead-drift to swing is my usual atlantic tactic to start with.  5 minutes into fishing, I started to swung the white bugger and hares ear I had on when my indicator stopped dead in it's tracks.  I set the hook and felt a tug - wow fish on already?  I was pleasantly surprised, but it was short-lived!  After about 5 seconds, the salmon surfaces, shook and popped off.  Def a big fish!  I was stunned...I was hoping that would set the tone for the day!

I fished for another hour before deciding it was lunch time.  Katlyn and I hit a local Subway for an hour and returned to the river.  We trekked upstream, trying to find some decent water that was fishable during the high water.  It was hot and humid, and I wasn't feeling it.  We headed back down to the first pool that I'd lost a fish earlier.

I went downstream about 10 yards and watched a little smolt rising right next to a deep bank.  After about 10 seconds, a bigger salmon, 3-4 lbs pushed him out of the way and made his way upriver.  I was hoping I didn't spook him but it was too late, he'd saw me and took off.  I fished the run hard, and even witnessed the life cycle of the Hendricksons during it, but couldn't get another hit.  We decided it was time to head home and relax.  I was O.K. with not landing a fish after such a great day prior.  I had my shot at a nice salmon, but couldn't seal the deal.

Overall, the trip was a huge success, and I'll never forget it.  I had a great time, and hope we can make it a yearly trip!

Out of the ordinary

Having had a day off in the middle of the week a few weeks back, I took advantage of it and hit my home water, the Winooski.  It was still running high, but it finally went from full blown chocolate milk to off-color.  I wanted to run into some steel before they left, but the water was too high to wade out to get to the good water.  I was forced to fish some slow, deep water.  There were steelhead smolts rising everywhere, which was fun to watch.

I decided to check out some water I usually don't fish, so I took off and finally ended up at a spot with a little bit of room for a backcast.  The sun came out every 20 or so minutes, which allowed me to see some dark shapes in about 5 feet of water right above a run.  I was hoping for steelhead, or even salmon.

I threw on a tandem nymph rig with a weighted black stone and a hares ear dropper and was surprised to hook up so quick into one of the dark spots.  I knew right away it was not a salmonid by the way it fought directly after the hookset.  I had a hunch what it was and it was confirmed when I got it near surface.

A big redhorse!

A fat 28" redhorse, I was happy!

Although not as fat, almost as long...27"

I was definitely not bummed by catching these big guys.  They make for a great fight on a fly rod, and are actually hard to get to take a fly.  Honestly, I'm not sure how I managed to get these two guys, but all the other fish in the area wouldn't even sniff my flies.  Maybe I spooked them, or maybe they just shut down. 

As for my salmon and steel quest - I was lucky enough to watch a massive salmon porpoise way out in the middle of the river a few times.  One of those, "hey man, why can't you get a fly out 150'?" kinda fish...

Poking around

With such high water this Spring, I've had a hard time finding fishable water, thus having to, "poke" around more. 

A few weekends ago, I was pleased to hear that my girlfriend wanted to get out on some water with me, even if she didn't fish much.  It had rained overnight, and bumped most of the rivers up even more. The first stream was high and dirty.  I tried throwing every bug I had, but I think the fish were hunkered down closer to bottom.  Still having spin gear, I set a rod up for my girlfriend to drift a crawler.  Within 5 minutes, this brookie was  jumping all over the place - on the end of her line!

A few other fish showed interest, but refused to stay on the line.  We left that stream and headed for something a little bigger.  We arrived to find out that the river was blown, and full-on chocolate milk mode...bummer....I knew there wouldn't be anything else worth checking out after seeing this one so bad.  We headed home, happy with at least one fish.

The following weekend was looking better, so we headed back out.  This time, I managed a little colorful brown on the small stream.  After that, we headed to some bigger water.  The water was still off-color and high.   There wasn't much I could do with flies.  I tried big streamers low and slow, then nymphs.  The conflicting currents made things difficult.  Katlyn had no problem though, and started out by landing this beautiful rainbow!
Alright, not the best picture...but we had a little fumble and we couldn't get a grip'n'grin of her and her fish.

A little while after, she hooked up again, and this time there was no mistaking the fish was big.  It took a hard, long run and then popped off.  We were both bummed!

Of course, it happened yet again probably 20 minutes later, this time a fish just as big as the first.  Getting ready to net it and it turned and waved goodbye.  A simple roll and the size 14 barbless hook popped...argh!

I was outfished but was really happy she landed such a great fish!

Slow start

A week after I put away the ice fishing gear, it was trout season!  Unfortunately, things were still frigid....couple that with high water, it was real tough finding fish for alot of people.  I tried searching out smaller tribs and streams without any luck - even they were blown and dirty.

I tipped my hat to Mother Nature and was humbled.

I had hopes of fishing a well-known steelhead trib in April, but it seemed like it was permanently dirty and above average flow, which made finding fish harder.  I'd heard of quite a few nice fishing being caught in the usual spots, but having to share one hole with 4 other anglers isn't really my cup of tea, so I opted to try elsewhere for the most part.  One of the few times I fished for steelhead, I had hookups but none landed.  One trib was full of spawning suckers, which was pretty fun to get to take flies.

Since last years opener was so great, my friend Chris and I had plans to head over for the opener, but after looking at snowpack levels and the weather forecasts, we decided to give it a few weeks.

Eager to see what was going on in the area, another friend, Mike and I headed over to check things out.  We were disappointed to find that fish weren't in their usual Spring spots, and the water was still icy and flows were still high.  Don't know until you try, right?  

The following weekend, the snowpack was gone and the water levels didn't look terrible.  Chris and I headed back over with plans to have sore arms by the end of the day.  Turns out, the fish and rivers had other plans.  Surprisingly, most of the bigger water we wanted to fish was still just too high and dirty.  It had rained the night before we headed out and turned some of the smaller rivers into mud as well, so fishable water was very limited.  One of my favorite spots, a spillway of a small Lake was looking fine.  We both fished for about 30 minutes before Chris switched to a spinning rod and hooked up right away into a fat, dark maroon rainbow...sweet looking fish! We ended up on a secret little Connecticuit river trib out in the middle of nowhere, which always produced BIG wild fish in the Spring.  We were in luck, the water was average flows and clarity was great.

I started things off with a bang and had an 18" bow in the net right off.  A feisty guy though, he made it back into the water before Chris could snap a pic.  Chris kept things going by landing his own rainbow of the same size.  He was happy with the memory, so no pictures were taken.

We worked out way up the river and found some super aggressive fish willing to chase down almost anything drifted or stripped near them.  The obstructions on the river made it really difficult to set the hook on fish without getting tangled in trees.  I had probably 6 strikes, 3 hookups and none landed! Chris had better luck with his spinning setup, and landed a few more chunky 18" bows.  We decided to head out of the woods before dark to avoid getting lost. 

I'll admit, I was pretty bummed.  I was prepared for a double-digit fish day but ended up with one landed out of the potential 8~ fish that wanted to tango.  That's why they call it fishing, right?

We did, however...find a nice little pod of suckers in a remote lake that were more than willing to take a few san juans!  I was happy I got to break out my 3 wt and my old clicker reel.  Boy did it purr....

Hard to tell by the picture, but this fish was actually bright orange.  I've never seen such a vibrantly colored sucker before.  It also lacked the usual well-pronounced dark lateral line that you see on white suckers.

Chris was lucky enough to have some great friends in the area that let us crash at their place for the night, so we could get back out there in the A.M.  They even cooked us an awesome dinner!

Great view as we woke up in the morning (late start)

We started late and decided to try the Willoughby river for steel.  It was muddy the day before, but the flow dropped quite a bit overnight, so we had high hopes.  We'd heard that the fish started running just a week before we got there, so we were eager to get on the water!  After getting there, the usual spot (waterfall) was pretty full.  We didn't really have any interest in fishing it anyway, it's always a crapfest with all the guys and their flyrods and reels with mono line instead of regular fly line and leader (can somebody tell me the purpose of this?  I cannot see an actual reason to use that setup other than to LOOK like you're fly fishing when you're in-fact not.)

We headed upriver, to open water that's produced for us before.  The clarity wasn't too bad, and flow was great.  If only there had been fish......We spent hours fishing and hiking next to the water in search of fish.  I really don't think we even walked by a fish.  Certain holes I trampled through to see if any fish took off, but I couldn't spot a single fish.  My guess is they'd already moved into headwaters to spawn....seems like we missed our chance.

Having regretted not fishing the hot river the day before(Why didn't we go where we knew there was fish?! Is what I was thinking.  Chris brought up a good point though, we probably would have wished we tried the Willoughby if we didn't go...), we packed up and headed out late-afternoon to get home before 4.