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Archive for April, 2011

Finally, a fish!

I spent a few hours today where the Saxtons River empties into the Connecticut River. The lower sections were fairly crowded with fisherman on a Sunday afternoon, so I started up beneath the Rt 5 bridge and cast into the tailwaters of a small waterfall spilling over the remains of an old dam. I was hoping to wade out into the middle of the river, since the shores are fairly thick with trees and the far (south) side of the river looked more promising, but the water was just a little too high for me to be comfortable. And the water was cold. I bought a thermometer yesterday and the Saxtons River registered a chilly 42 degrees at about 3 pm.

The fly of choice today was a black woolly bugger, and that’s all I used at the falls — no success. I suppose I should have given some nymphs a try, too, but by then a spot had opened up just downstream over a deep, overhung hole, which seemed a little more promising.

Casting was a bit of a challenge here for me, so most of the technique was letting fly and line drift down through the hole, and then retrieving through the hole in hopes of a fish. To start I put a couple of small split shots on the line to help the bugger get down a little, but I noted that, on the retrieve, the fly was staying within a couple of feet of the surface. While I was noting this, there was a flash of gold in the depths and the unmistakable wiggle of a fish returning to the bottom. This, my friends, was the first fish I had even seen during the sum of my fishing experience so far this year… and it had actually come up to take a look at my fly! On the next retrieve, I hooked the fish, but lost it after a couple of seconds. But I had a smile on my face.

Figuring I had spooked him a little, I switched to a black ghost and gave that a try. Absolutely nothing. Except the black ghost hanging from a nearby limb with a good part of the leader. Sigh. So back to the woolly bugger. If you’re a beginner like me, changing flies takes long enough for most fish to forget that you are there.

The next try was more split shot, and I tried hard to get the bugger deep before starting the retrieve. And it worked. I never saw the strike, but was able to set the hook and land what I estimate to be an 11-12″ rainbow. It definitely put a smile on my face. The first Vermont fish I’ve landed with a fly rod. Shortly thereafter, I landed my woolly bugger in the exact same branch where my black ghost was twirling in the breeze, and decided to call it a day.

On the wing, again, were a small number of little brown stoneflies, and I also noted the first yellow-rumped warbler of the year. Some goldfinches and a flock of cedar waxwings as well.

The take home message so far – cold water and fish still holding in deep pools near holdover locations. Success with a small streamer fished deep.

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The weather has been miserable around here lately… cold and rain. Today some snow to start the day. But yesterday was a glorious sunny day with light winds – i couldn’t help but give fishing another try. The destination was the Williams River, which flows through Chester and near Rt. 103 until it meets the Connecticut River at a fine bay called Herricks Cove. Research indicated that Herricks Cove is decent fishing, and that there were fish as one moves up the Williams. But did it have fish during a cold April?
Late afternoon found me tying a bead-head brown woolly bugger on and trying the deep water beneath the I-91 bridge at the Williams. Didn’t take me long to find out that I had a pin hole at the left butt cheek of my waders. Ah well.
And, as usual so far, no luck under the bridge.
As the Williams turned more into a proper river above the bridge, I switched to a rubber leg brown stonefly nymph with a red copper john dropper. Some promising water there, but no fish. Plenty of tangled line, though, especially as the wind started to pick up a bit. No bites, and not a fish to be seen. The rivers have been high and brown lately, and the only way I was in the water yesterday was because of the start of a cold spell. So maybe the fish are still holding elsewhere. Or maybe I’m just a terrible fisherman.
The Williams looked promising, though.
I’ll be back.

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Well, here in Vermont the fishing season opened yesterday, and with the temperature breaking sixty degrees and the sun shining, I took an over-ambitious trip to the upper end of the Saxtons River for some early season nymphing practice. As has been the case for me so far in Vermont, there was nary a fish. I’m new to fly fishing, and a late taker on fishing in general, so please don’t take this entry as anything like professional advice. But, if you’re fishing the area, it may still be helpful.

Where – the Saxtons River above Grafton, VT… Rt. 121 from the “swimming pool” to the next upstream bridge

The gear – 6 wt 9′ rod… tapered 5x leader with 5x tippet

The flies – bead head, rubber leg brown stone fly nymph with midge dropper

The good news is that, as I parked, there were a fair number of little brown stoneflies in the air (see picture above), so the April hatches have already started. I saw quite a few on a warm afternoon a week ago or so on the Connecticut River as well. The Saxtons was deceptively deep and flowing well, but no problem to wade. I fished without any weight on the line and without a strike indicator, which had the nymphs just about right, it seemed… touching bottom fairly regularly with occasional snags on rocks, but not enough that I thought they were too deep. ┬áThe river and branches required short casts. No fish. No bites. But a pretty stretch of river with some promising spots. With a little research, I realize that I am probably fishing too far from holdover locations (the Connecticut River, lakes, ponds) for this early in the season. This will be remedied soon.

One thing of note is the power of scraping ice on a river like this. Many trees along the banks had bark stripped from them on the upstream side – looking as though there had been an outbreak of hungry porcupines along the river’s edge. Remnants of the river ice still remained in many places, like a receding ice wall backing slowly from the river and shrinking. A fair amount of snow in the shaded places as well. And the water was cold. I don’t own a thermometer (yet), but retrieving rock-snagged flies left my hand tingling after less than a minute. So probably a bit cold still for fishing.

In sharing this, I am by no means complaining. The sun was shining, the river was singing, and all in all the world seemed like a pretty good place. And casting nymphs without split shots or an indicator was quite a pleasure. I’m just saying if you want to catch fish, this stretch of the Saxtons might not be the place to do it this week. Or maybe it was just me…

So, no fish for me yet here in New England. I’ve caught fish on a fly rod in Washington, New Mexico, and Colorado — soon I hope to add my home state.

Commentary is welcome – suggestions, insight, or even if you want to tell me I’m an idiot for picking this place at this time of year… have a go. I have a lot to learn about fishing, trout, and eastern rivers.

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