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General Fishing Report 4/5/19

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Its been awhile, but I thought I would jump in for a guest fishing report, OCC update and some overall thoughts for a successful early season on the water.  It is without a doubt a very exciting time of the year. With the winter months all but behind us, we are looking into the slow but sure entry into warm weather and good fly fishing ahead.  I have always felt that April was the most brutal month in VT. March brings hope and April enjoys squashing it a few more times, until we shift into the inevitable progression of the seasons.  That being said April can also be one of the most rewarding months to be out fishing. 

 Despite water conditions being less than ideal, some of the best fish of the year are caught and some of the easier fishing can be found for the next few weeks, depending on the day.  Most people would probably say that the high, cold water makes it very difficult, which is true, but if you can pick your days, especially towards the end of the month, you can be rewarded with some really good fishing. On all of the water that has been closed, fish have spent 6 months forgetting about being weary of food sources, and the though still not foolish, they are more easily fooled.  Without a progression of hatches happening, fish are more likely to take a well placed fly of most sorts, rather than seeking an exact bug.  Further, with a bulk majority of the bugs yet to start hatching the amount of food in the river is starting to grow.  This can cause some veracious feeding, with almost some reckless abandon.  As I stated, this isn’t everyday, but as the water warms and the conditions become more and more ideal, being one of the first people to getting to the water over the next month or two, you may be surprisingly rewarded with a excellent day of fishing.  In addition, VT’s stocking trucks have yet to make the rounds, so this gives you a shot a holdovers and certainly showcases some of VT’s beautiful wild fish.  A warm day with good water levels in April may be worth using some PTO.  

It’s impressive to see the level of participation in the OCC year after year.  This year is no different and is likely on tract to have the most participants ever. Steve and I cannot thank you all enough for committing to coming to this year’s 11thanniversary of the Otter Creek Classic. It has been such a pleasure to see this humble little event find its place in VT’s historic fly fishing culture. It’s only possible with your support and participation.   Still time to register for the event, you can do so at the below link. If you have, do not forget that the OCC11 meeting in the shop at 5PM on Friday the 12th. You won’t want to miss it.  Get your scorecard, gift, refreshments and talk with one of our several vendor partners who will be there showing off the new gear for 2019 and answer any questions. 

http://mmvt.com/fishing/otter-creek-classic

Further, the Friday the 12thwill also be the Fly Fishing Film Tour.  This event continues to be such a good time and we have a pretty substantial raffle bounty to get involved in.  It includes a fly rod, a car top rod rack, the customary Yeti cooler and lots of other great gear.  Even better, you can thank some of Vermont’s finest, as Game Wardens Wesley Butler and Asa Sargent will be running the raffle.  Grab some tickets and give some appreciation to those two for keeping a watchful eye on our fantastic natural resources.  Still a few tickets left for this party, so head to the link below to buy them online and don’t get locked out in the cold. 

https://flyfilmtour.myeventscenter.com/event/Middlebury-Vt-31403

Both the OCC11 and the FFFT will be donating all of it’s proceeds to the Vermont chapter of Project Healing Waters.  We are ecstatic to supporting such a great organization and its mission.  So your participation in this event will additional be helping a good cause. 

Speaking of donations, I just want to call out the many partners who have donated to the prize cache for the FFFT and OCC. Simms, Patagonia, Orvis, Thomas and Thomas, Fishpond, Scientific Anglers, River Quiver, Cliff, Umpqua, Barn and Brook Supply Co, Costa, Darn Tough VT, Midd-Fly, Otter Creek Brewing, Prana, Yeti, Zero Gravity Brewery, Trout sniffer, Finn Utility, Schacksbury Cider, Whistle Pig and Sadie Thompson.  

Otter Creek Classic Fishing Forecast

Predicting the weather in Vermont is a fickle thing.  Predicting fishing conditions on opening weekend is almost impossible.  Nevertheless, using some of the indicators I used for guiding in Middlebury for 7 years, I’m going to take a stab at how I think the weekend will shake up and what 10 years of OCC experience has taught me for planning and strategy. 

Looking at the long range forecast is a bit disheartening, but I am far from writing off some good fishing at this point. Current Vermont snowpack is a bit over average due to a below average temperatures.  It is worth noting that throughout the state; most of the valley snow is gone and will not be contributing to water levels.  The mountain snowpack is still quite strong and if we get allot of rain it could make for some challenges.  Its feels like last weekend’s rain and warm weather sent some of that snow down the rivers and then this week’s cool weather helped slow the runoff. With a bit of rain tonight and warm, dry weather this weekend.  I think the water should still be in good shape after the weekend, but there appears to be some decent rain coming and that could make for some higher water leading into next weekend.  I am not prepared to trust the forecast at this point for next week, but let’s hope for cool and dry and that some of the days of light rain turn out to be dry. If we keep getting cool nights next week, that should keep everything manageable. 

 With the Otter in Middlebury running at 2500, its still a fishable level, though challenging, and it’s going to be high and cold. The water turbidity will truly dictate the validity of it as a fishing option. No amount of dry, cold weather will bring the Otter down below 1000 by next week, as the fields in Salisbury are now full and it usually take a few weeks until they dry out. But, if the levels stay around the 2000 cfs rate, and the clarity is there, the Otter can turn some nice fish despite challenging fishing conditions.   Up the watershed, the Otter is showing signs of still fluctuating in Rutland, so with some weather help,  the Upper Otter is a still solid option opening weekend. 

The Otter Tribs fishing could be very good during the OCC.  One thing that is worth noting is all of those watersheds are not create equal. The longer watersheds, or ones that extend deep into the Green Mountains, are likely to have more snow to feed into them and additional tributaries.  Those longer watersheds are more prone to get high and stay high, where the shorter ones can recover faster.  Should we be dealing with high water, but we get a dry cool day on Saturday, some of the watersheds may recover for Sunday.  

If you are someone who is interested in putting your best foot forward in this event, here are a few thoughts to help you in your pursuit to be enshrined an OCC champion.  

Location:While I won’t spot burn, I can tell you the anglers who are successful are efficient in where they choose to fish.  Local anglers have a tendency to go to places they know hold fish, and even with high water they feel confident that the fish are present; they just need to get them to eat.  This is not to say that anglers who put their time in aren’t finding some fish in some areas that have surprised me, but some of the most fished spots are well known and have continuously produced fish every year in the OCC. Further, they strategize which watersheds they choose to fish and minimize their time driving.  Not everybody wants to fish every second of the event, and rightly so, its supposed to be fun! However, a plan that focuses on keeping your line in the water and not driving too much, will give you the most opportunity to get a few in the net. 

What water type to fish: Though I don’t know exactly what the water conditions are going to be, what I do feel confident in, is that we won’t have low water.  Only twice in 10 years did we have post runoff conditions.  The water will be cold and fish will be lethargic.  That will place fish in or near deep water.  With a trout’s cold-blooded metabolism, they will not want to be working very hard.  They won’t need to be in the fast water yet, but adjacent to it.  They look to the food that moves on that current, and readily grab a good meal when it comes by.  Focusing on the winter holding water will be the best use of your time. That doesn’t mean if it looks fishy, that you shouldn’t throw a few casts in.  Further, fish can be in pocket water.  Just because the water is moving fast in most of the area, doesn’t mean that deep bucket in the middle hasn’t been holding a happy fish all winter.  

To grind or not to grind: It’s hard to walk away from good water, but don’t get cement in your wading boots.  Fishing the same pool for hours is unlikely to bring a surprise fish to net.  If you have worked through a run and confidently think that you have fished it well, it may be time to move on.  This is probably one of the most difficult things to do. To leave a good piece of water to find another, especially if you don’t know where you’re going is a hard decision.  Be confident. If you did your job, you should move on to the next spot and go to work there.  Now, the great Patrick Joyce, OCC Pro Champ, found a great spot and had a good plan.  He would catch a fish, rest the hole and sit down, and then fish it again.  I believe he said he sat on that hole for hours. He worked through his flies and pulled 6-8 fish out of that one spot.  I also had a similar experience on the Otter the year before.  The odds were in my favor that year,  as a small Baetis hatch started and I switched between flies,  gave breaks in-between fish, and managed 3 out of that one spot.  Don’t waste allot of time in places that are only ok looking water. If your going to grind make sure its on water that should be holding fish. 

Scout: This is sort of the highest level of preparation and many will not do this.  But getting a chance to identify a few places to fish beforehand is never a bad thing. For those out of the region, rolling in a few hours early on Friday and just getting a look at the water isn’t a bad thing.  For the rivers that won’t be open until Saturday morning, leave the rod and just take your waders for a walk.  There will be plenty of people out there and the spot you planned to fish may have an eager angler in it Saturday morning.  Pick a few spots and adjust as needed. 

Fish Pictures I feel compelled to add this thought.  Dave Stanilonis had the winning fish in his hand last year, and the fish decided to ruin his day before he got the picture. That was probably one of the toughest things I have heard someone tell me in my years in this tournament.  He fished very well during the weekend and just got unlucky. No picture(and yes, we trust Dave) no points.  As the rules go, we do not need to see the tape on the fish. We just need a picture.  Take a good photo of the fish in the net to document, then measure the fish.  Of course we want to feel like the picture and the measurement look about right, but in what will likely be a low fish count year in the event, make sure you get that picture.  One fish will go a long way in the OCC.  Having a friend nearby to help makes a big difference.  Once you get that documentation picture, and the measurement, then get the photo for Instagram.  Don’t forget the hashtags! Be careful with the special fish that have survived another harsh VT winter.  Keep them in the water.  

Flies:  While we can all spend allot of time agonizing over what to fish, don’t over complicate it.  These fish are hungry, despite being lethargic.  If you get a food item in their window, they will likely eat it if they can see it.  When the water is cold, you need to get it in their face.  When the water is dirty, you need to hit them with it. I don’t think there have been any fish caught on dry flies in this events decade history.  I may be wrong, but I wouldn’t put too much stock into finding fish on top.  Big nymphs, streamers and junk flies have accounted for 90% of this fish in this event in 10 years.  Stonefly nymphs, large attractor nymphs, worms, eggs and streamers will be your best choices.  The shop is stocked with lots of this stuff, so make sure you have a few color options and don’t forget the split shot or tungsten. 

Gear:  The goal here is simply to make sure you have everything you need, and not much else.  If you’re fishing multiple rods it requires you always be bringing the 2ndrod along.  If you do not, then you need to spend time re-rigging if you change your preferred presentation.  I like to carry at least 2 rods, but at times have left it a few hundred yards behind as I move along.  Then I have to go back and get it.  I hope to be able to figure out how to do this better, but I have not figured it out yet. You should always have extra rods with you somewhere.  I have broken rods mid-OCC and had to go home to get another.  An extra rod the car makes your day a bit better should you snap a stick.  Make sure you have enough tippet, flies and any other necessary accessories.  The worst feeling is having the right fly, but only two.  Its well worth having a good stock of your go-to patterns.  Most of these rivers haven’t been fished in a half a year, so there has been plenty of time for new snags to settle in.  If you plan to nymph allot, make sure you can handle the “sure to happen” rapid depreciation of your fly stock over the weekend.  Keep some food and snacks on you and some more in the car.  Make sure you have a change of clothes in the truck too, because an early April swim will ruin your day.  Extra gloves, hats and socks can help make your time on the water more enjoyable, even if you need to go back to the car to put them on. 

Be Safe  With high and cold water this event can be challenging.  Make good decisions, and if you’re new to the area, fish with a friend. The last thing we want is someone to get hurt or worse.

Have Fun:  The reason we stared this event was to have fun.  We all love to fish.  Very few people who participate are ultra-competitive, most just want to spend some time with friends and hope to catch some fish.  Don’t forget what this is all about.  Be respectful of other anglers, nothing is worth being a dick over. Help other people out.  Hold their rod, take a picture of their fish, or even them just fishing in the picturesque Vermont countryside.  I hope that they will do the same for you.  Make some new friends.  There are sure to be many new faces this year, so introduce yourself, you may just make a new fishing buddy.  This event is responsible for connecting many people in New England, several of whom I now go and visit and fish with. What I most value about events like the OCC is the people I meet and the connections that make up the fabric of our fly fishing culture. The fish are just a bonus. 

I cannot wait to connect with you all next weekend.  I hope to meet all the new faces and see many old friends. Steve and shop staff can help you with any questions that come up, so feel free to call or email, info@mmvt.com, 802-388-7245.  Travel safely and we will see you Friday!