Fishing Report 4/12/23
Just a few days away from the IF4 and OCC15 and all things considered, I don’t think that we could be asking for a better set up into the weekend. Based on all my indicators this is looking to be one of the better fishing condition OCCs. If you’re still considering participating in the events, now is the time to get signed up because the fishing should be quite good this weekend. Don’t forget to join us on Friday night at the Town Hall Theater for the International Fly Fishing Film Festival. Tickets and information for registration for the OCC can be found here: https://mmvt.com/fishing/otter-creek-classic
As promised, I am going to break down the keys to your OCC15 success but want to give a quick overview of the weekend fishing and conditions. I know the past few weeks have spent a lot of time on forecasting what is going to happen this week and weekend, so I will refrain from that here, but call out the snowpack has diminished significantly and this week of warm dry weather is going to put the cap on that. The Otter is churning over 2k cfs. right now, but surprisingly hasn’t pushed much higher due to the cool off we had over the weekend. Its high, cold and dirty, but those who are experience and find fish on the edges. It will remain this way for the coming weeks, but don’t completely count it out as an option, just be careful should you decide to fish it, there is allot of water in it now and with low visibility, you should try not to wade much until it comes down or you get better clarity. I have not been over to the White yet this year, but based on the snowpack and usually being a few weeks behind, I assume it will be similar to the Otter. That being said I think given the length of the watershed, there are definitely upper stretches and tributaries to the White that will be fishable and could produce fish with far less pressure then what the West side of the Greens will be getting in the coming week. The Otter Creek tributaries however, are looking very good. On my trip up to Middlebury on Saturday the water flows were nothing short of exactly what I was hoping for. Good flow, a little bit of turbidity, but very manageable. The bug life has definitely been going as well. I would expect that to accelerate substantially over the coming week, with air temp climbing well into the 70s later in the week. The small brown stones and caddis have been seen with regularity, and I would expect the first of the baetis, blue quills, quill gordons and maybe even Hendrickson to show up in the coming week. It will be a crap shoot with bumps of water from snow melt making the water a bit higher in the afternoon and likely dropping the water temp down a bit as the snow comes off the hill. All of this just points to the quality of fishing picking up substantially. But it could start today, or start Saturday or slowly get better each day, but I feel pretty confident that we are going to get consistently improving conditions throughout the coming week. I do hope the weather holds as forecasted right now, but I am hoping for some rain next week to preserve the water levels we have and prolong the Spring conditions as long as we can. The best fishing will come from nymphing this week, but streamer fishing should also product fish if that’s your thing. As the water warms the fish should get a bit more frisky and depending on water flow and temp, fish could start occupying more of the “A” water and subject themselves to faster current should the food in the drift support that. Stonefly nymphs usually offer a hearty and motivating meal for those fish who are trying to put some weight on this time of the year. But knowing that all of these bugs are moving, having nymph patterns for the aforementioned bug species. There are allot of food options now and there will only be more in the coming days and weeks, so you have to experiment a bit to find out if the fish have started to key in something specific. Its also worth noting that the lake fish have been in the Champlain tribs an I have seen several good looking rainbows caught already. This should be good for a few more weeks until the bass start mobbing in which offers another great opportunity to fish a special event. That should get you a good start on the coming week of fishing and now onto the OCC15 tip.
With 14 years of events that have, for the most part, occupied the same time of the year we have a good catalog of data that supports some specific tactics that have routinely worked for anglers whom have been successful. Ill try to break down a few important categories for consideration when you strategizing how you want to attack the weekend. Note that all of these thoughts are just my personally opinion, and I am human and can be wrong. But they have not really let me down when I have fished the event, so take them all with a grain of salt.
When the Otter is fishable, it is hands down the waterbody to fish. But this year like 90% of the years of the OCC, its high, dirty and cold. While you should probably have a spot or two on the otter you can head to, it wouldn’t be my first choice to start. Given the change in regulations a few years back all of the water in the event is open already so getting some scouting in never hurts. If your lucky enough to some pre-fishing for the OCC in, if you find a fish, I would stop fishing that spot and mark as a place to come back to. Let those fish rest and come back during the OCC and fish it hard. The Otter Tributaries are going to be the key this year. To add to that, the valley fishing on the tribs are going to have the warmest water and have those deep pools that hold fish throughout the winter. Those are the spots you want to focus on. Typically, I like to get those spots and be the first person in a few of those lies earlier in the day. If the sun is high and bright, those pools seem to produce fish in the morning and get quiet in the afternoon. If I am going to visit the Otter ill either go right away because I have a spot I know would produce a fish or two from scouting or in the afternoon, hoping for some bug activity that will get the fish going.
80% of the fish caught in the OCC are caught before 10am. 75% of those fish are caught before 8am. I don’t know what it is about the early morning for those large brown trout, but they like to eat early and then seem to get lock jaw by mid-day. It probably a combination of lower light, the ability to the fish to see a bit better in the morning light, but not be leery of the bright day. I like to hit my go to holes right away in the morning and then start moving up the watershed. I am always thinking efficiency about maximizing my fishing time and minimizing my walking and/or driving to a point. I select an area where I will get several places in a short span, then move on to my next local. If I’m going to make a watershed switch, I usually wait until it gets crowded or if possible make my first big move after 10am. I like to focus on deeper pockets and dams in the mid day, trying to find places where the fish are still comfortable because of the water type even in the brighter light of mid-day. Streamer fishing during the mid-day lull, can be one way to help those lazy fish wake up.
I will typically nymph the entire OCC for a few reasons. The first is that is what the fish are eating most of the time and I want to give them what they want. The second reason is that I am more likely to get better and cleaner eats and hook sets with a nymph rig then anything else. I wouldn’t turn down the chance to cast at a rising fish, but I have yet to see it personally during the OCC. I have fished streamers in the OCC and several of the winners have won the event with. If you’re going to dead drift or jig streamers that would be an effective way to fish the streamer. Its stripping the streamer that concerns me the most. There can be short strikes, poor sets because of timing and a myriad of other things that knocks down my personal conversion rate, that I choose to avoid streamers most of the time. There are anglers that are far more proficient at fishing streamers then me and if you are in that category your chance at catching big fish go up substantially if you fish streamers. My fly selection is simple. I usually always run a stonefly nymph as my lead fly and then cycle through nymphs of bugs that are prevalent and some junk. Its hard to beat the Turd and Worm combo. Its has probably resulted in more fish in the OCC then any other nymph combo. I will also have caddis larvae, larger mayfly patterns like a Hot spot pheasant tail and smaller beatis/Blue Quill style nymphs if a hatch starts to trickle so I can match those natural subsurface. On one year, I had a blue wing hatch and caught 3 fish on #16 baetis nymphs(I think it was a beaded RS2). If you’re going with streamers. I recommend a small to medium White streamer. The #2 white Muddy Buddy was a perennial pattern for us a couple years in a row in the OCC. He smaller sizes makes it harder for the fish to miss the hook. Its also worth making sure you have healthy stores of flies in your box, especially of the patterns that you are hopeful will work or you know are catching fish. Its beginning of the season, better to tie or buy extra flies now, you’re going to use them. This is also the time of the year where you find that new stick that settled right in the middle of your run and end up sacrificing a few flies to it. I can attest to how much it sucks having to compromise which flies you are fishing because you didn’t have enough of a specific pattern.
I usually rig a few rods. Even though I don’t often fish streamers I’ll probably carry a streamer rod, so after I fish a zone, I can at least through a streamer quickly through it if I want. If I start to get feedback, I can stick with it, if not go back to the nymph rod. It does suck to manage more than one rod as you move through a section of water, but its also good should you break a rod. You have another rod around and can keep fishing. With that in mind it doesn’t hurt to have extra gear, either with you or in the car should something happen. That could be an extra rod, reel, flies, etc. Don’t forget water, food, and an extra set of clothes. Drink water! If you’re lucky enough to have an extra pair of beater waders, throw them in the car just in case. Not everyone is obsessive about as getting as many casts as they can in a day, but even if your leisurely fishing the day, its still nice not to lose time because you were prepared and ready to manage a kink in the day should it come.
- Game plan
I am definitely on the extreme side of this, but its smart to know what you want to do before you start out. Have at least a loose plan on how you want your day to go. When I move, I already know what I’m doing, where I am hoping to park, what pools I intend to fish, how I want to approach them and where I am going after that. I may choose 2 watershed I want to focus on during Day 1. Then based on how that goes, I adjust my Day 2 plan. The best competitive anglers have a plan, make adjustments and don’t look back. Having confidence in what you’re doing prevents second guessing your actions. I like to rig my rods beforehand, so I can pull up and go. Should something happen that makes you have to change your plan, take the time in the moment, think about what you want to do, then execute. As I said that is the extreme side of efficiency but even adding your decision making into the path to a successful day in the OCC15. Leverage your resources, if you have friends in the vent and you are sharing intel, keep in touch. I would also recommend you listen during Day 1 check in. There will be conversations about what happened, it’s a chance to gather some information about places you weren’t or tactics that worked or didn’t.
I’m sure there are several other things you may have already thought of to add to your overall strategy and tactics for the event but those should be a good place to start and improve your opportunity to having a successful weekend.
As stated, I think this should be one of our better OCC based on conditions, so we hope you will be joining us. Don’t forget to get tickets to the IF4 this Friday! You can also buy OCC support sticker raffle tickets for a chance to win a bunch of great prizes! Those are available on the store website!!!! We are all looking forward to seeing and enjoying what looks like a great weekend of weather and fishing.
Good Luck and Have Fun!!!