Saturday, April 30, 2011

Friday Angler Interview- Clark Amadon

I have to apologize that this Friday Angler Interview is late. Things got messed up with my trip to Florida (hence the week off of for the Angler Interview) and I am still playing a bit of catch up. 
I was hoping to have this interview up last week but being in Florida made it tough. The Mad Dog Banquet is tonight and I had hoped to put it up last week to gather some attention.. the best laid plans....  so without further adieu...

I met Clark a couple of years ago while I was doing my teaching internship. We met at school one afternoon and started talking fishing. Next thing you know I was a board member of Mad Dog Trout Unlimited- the chapter that Clark has been president of for a while now. Clark is a very personable guy and enjoyable to spend time with. He is an excellent fly angler, even catching gorgeous wild rainbows on a horrible dump cast (I witnessed this last year). He has been a huge part of the work that Mad Dog has done in the past few years.

Clark chasing after the ever elusive Atlantic salmon
How did you get your start with fly fishing?

My father-in-law gave me my first lesson on the Lamoille downstream from Ithel Falls in Johnson back in 1977.  I don't think I caught anything but it is a place near and dear to me.  Bill was a great outdoorsman who loved fly fishing got trout and bird hunting.

What do you enjoy most about trout fishing in Vermont?

I love the challenge and the unknown..what's going to happen next, Vermont rivers have an intimacy that Western rivers I've fished lack.  I like the privacy since most VT rivers and streams are pretty uncrowded.  What's not to love about the beauty, gee whiz it's a lovely place to fish.  Sometimes I even catch a trout, that's fun, too!

As the chapter president of MadDog TU you have done a lot of work in the past few years to help out trout in Central Vermont. Can you explain some of the things that the chapter has done while you were at the helm?
Clark with a gorgeous Connecticut River brookie

We are active in riparian projects in the Winooski, Dog and some in the Mad River.  There are projects like these each year.  We've also been on the forefront with signage re "rock snot" ,a.k.a., Didymo (an invasive algae that has gotten into several Vermont streams and rivers).  We've lobbied around issues of habitat lose which could arise if small hydro dams or diversions are developed.  The Chapter also was a partner in removing a dam on a tributary of the Dog River- Cox Brook.  That was very satisfying in re-connecting a river system!  Many, many chapter members have been involved.  We like to do intimate projects working directly with local land owners.

Right now what would you consider some of the biggest threats to trout and their habitat in Central Vermont?

I think habitat lose is always a significant threat, which means poor riparian bank habitat.  The rivers and streams with good buffers are usually healthy systems.  Disconnected systems are significant as well, remove barriers and dams and rivers are healthier.  Poor hydro dam management contributes to warm water.  If we could even out water releases, which produce power, we could still produce power and keep rivers healthier and we'd like higher minimum flows, of course.  I could go on and on but I'm also concerned about "user conflicts" like the conflict between boaters and in stream fishers.

If the chapter was given a grant for $500,000 to do any kind of cold water work in our district, what project or projects would you?

Even out dam releases at Little River Dam, higher minimum flows there, too, remove dams, like the Warren Village Dam on the Mad.  Pay landowners who do riparian buffer projects.  Umm..$500K is a lotta loot!

At a recent public meeting about special regulations on a local trout river, you spent quite a bit of time talking to folks who fish with bait. I thought that this was a great thing. What do you see are the biggest hurdles for these two communities coming together to work to improve the resource and do you think it is possible to bridge that gap?

A real tough one...maybe the issue is somewhat related to "consuming" a resource.  TU folks generally practice catch and release and bait folks tend to keep trout.  However, TU do eat trout and bait fishers do release them.  I think there's an elitist issue, too.  I'd love it if folks who love to be in the outdoors and want their kids to love the outdoors could meet and agree and that so we could work together.

The annual MadDog Trout Unlimited Banquet is coming up quickly! Can you tell the readers where and when it is, and give a few snippets of what might be on the menu?

The MadDog TU Banquet is this Saturday the 30 at the Barn Door Restaurant in Waitsfield, VT.  We have fish, pork and a pasta options, unfortunately, we can't take anymore reservations.

Who is this year’s guest speaker and are there any “bonus” opportunities with him?

Fishy Fullum is the guest presenter!  A former outdoor writer from the Albany NY area and fly tyer of great renown!  He's doing a fly tying seminar at 3:00 on the 30th at the Barn Door!

Are there any work days planned soon for MadDog if any local anglers want to get out and help us out? What do we have on the books to do for boots on the ground this year?

I think we'll be on the rivers doing some riparian buffer projects either the Saturday of May 7th or 14th.  We'll be doing 2 projects on the Dog and one on the Winooski.

Let’s get back to something fun…. Do you have a go to fly for VT rivers?

Pheasant tail nymph, prince nymph, smallish 18's to 20's.  I've been fishing more wet flies lately, too.  It is a graceful and productive method.  When I can fish dries...elk hair caddis.

I know you have done some traveling and had some cool angling experiences. Could you share a story or two?

I fished the Sauk River in Washington one April Saturday many years ago and within 20 minutes i got my 1st steelhead, out west anyway and I got a bull trout!  I thought I got a laker out of a western river, they look alike, at least to me.  Catching my first brown, a fat bugger, on the Madison in the Park, it was magical. I used a small black soft hackle, so a wet fly caught that fish.  Later that night on the Madison shared a pool with a grizzly!  Scared the pants off both of us!  Also had a great day catching bonita off Catalina Island near Long Beach, CA.

What kind of fishing experiences, both local and travel worthy, do you hope to have in the coming year or years?

Man, I gotta get my first Atlantic salmon...hope to be on the Margaree this fall.  Some day gotta go to New Zealand, too!
Thanks a million Clark!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Florida Trip- Day 1

The canoe on the road
 The excitement had been building for a while for this trip and it was finally happening. I was heading to South Florida with Marty and Tim Sienkiewycz to fish with the Bonefish Whisperer- Cordell Baum Jr. The planning had been going on for months now: gearing up, tying flies, researching our target species- all the stuff you do before a big trip. And now we were on the road. And stuck in gridlock.

The drive the night before was fine. We left Vermont around 4:30 or so and drove until midnight to Delaware. We drove instead of flying because it allowed us to bring my canoe to fish with. Cordell fishes the flats of Biscayne Bay out of a canoe and the three of us are very familiar with that style of angling. I guide on Lake Champlain the exact same way. By bringing a second canoe we would be able to mirror what Cordell was doing. We were heading to Bonefish Bootcamp afterall!

The early Saturday drive started off alright but we got caught up in slow traffic on 95 near Washington, D.C. It seemed like half the population of New Jersey and New York were heading down to Florida with us. It was stop and go traffic on a road with a posted speed limit of 70 with no discernable reason for the slow down. It was frustrating. When we hit North Carolina in the afternoon it got worse. The skies blackened then opened up. Hail like I had never seen was coming down. It was nearly the size of golf balls. Folks were pulling off the road to get shelter underneath the overhanging trees on the edge of the highway. When traffic started rolling again we passed some melting hail that looked to be closer in size to a tennis ball. The fiberglass canoe would not have survived that.

We hopped off the highway shortly after that to try to make up some time on roads that parallel 95. This didn’t last long. Those roads were shut down. We had just missed the series of tornados that ripped through the Carolinas by about half an hour. It was devastation on a scale I had never seen before. Houses were torn apart and debris was strewn everywhere. After getting back on the highway we decided to drive to South Carolina and find a hotel for the night. We hadn’t travelled more than 450 miles in 14 hours of driving. Frustration was firmly entrenched.
A good dinner and a 2 am start to the last leg of the drive refueled us. The traffic was light but it was obvious that others had the same idea. We passed families with sleeping kids in the backseat frequently. By 7 am we had passed into Florida and made it to Miami by 12:30. Cordell was true to his word and waiting for us right by the road.
Cordell trying to hitch a ride into his driveway!

Cordell Baum Jr. is a true character. You can tell by your first look at him. Without question the first thing you will notice is his long blond hair, which is shorter than it used to be he would later tell us. He has a very rich face with skin that has definitely spent some time in the sun. His smile is infectious and his deep voice is filled with warmth and excitement. We felt welcome from the moment we stepped out of the truck. We took a few moments to unload the truck and get our gear stowed away in Camp Morningwood- the cottage Cordell has available for visiting anglers. It is a nice set up and perfect for a couple of guys. We were definitely going to be pushing it with three. One of us would be sleeping on the floor each night but the price is great and the hospitality was even better.
Cordell getting Marty rigged up for peacocks.

Since we were raring to go we all strung up 5 and 6 wt rods to head to the canals. The canals around Miami are home to a wide variety of fish: natives like largemouth bass and sunfish swim alongside intentional introductions like tilapia, grass carp and peacock bass. There are also a number of aquarium fish that are present- mostly cichlids like guapote, Midas cichlids, Mayan cichlids and a bunch of much smaller species that are of little interest to anglers but fascinate a fish geek like me. We were all pretty excited about some light tackle freshwater fishing to get ourselves psyched up for hitting the flats in the morning.
Marty's first peacock (of many)

Cordell got us on the highway and we started for an off ramp next to a lake in the canal system. He pulled off the side of the road into a grove of trees and Marty followed with much honking from motorists behind us. This is the only way to access this lake so it doesn’t get that much pressure. Within moments we were by a culvert looking at a bunch of fish. The huge blue tilapia want nothing to do with flies but the peacocks are another matter altogether. Marty got into the first one. Not a big one but any fish was going to work at this point.

The peacock bass in South Florida took a big hit in the freeze during the winter of 2009-2010. There were massive die offs because of the cold. Peacocks are an Amazonian fish that can’t handle temps below 60 for long. Miami had a three week period where the temperatures remained in the 40’s. Fortunately this past winter wasn’t as bad and the fish are recovering. Since it has not been long after the big freeze the population isn’t as big as it once was and there aren’t as many of the bigger specimens. This is going to change quickly however. The fish grow fast and are definitely starting to spawn which was going to work in our favor!
Tim gets in the game

Tim picked up a second peacock similar in size to Marty’s. Gorgeous colors on those fish. I could not get anything to stay on the hook. I got a couple of good takes but I was not sealing the deal. I was tired from all the driving and lack of sleep and it showed. A huge snook coming through the culvert got our attention. The fish was in the 15-20 pound range and Cordell explained that it was not unusual to see these saltwater predators stalking the canals. He also fishes freshwater tarpon in the same areas.

After working these fish for a bit we packed up and headed to another stretch of canal that Cordell haunts. There are lots of bigger peacocks in the area and other fish as well. It was a 20 minute drive (which is fairly quick by Miami standards) and we were parked behind some fast food joints. The fish were there though: much larger peacocks, some Florida gar and a variety of other exotics. I was having fun watching jewelfish, a small bright red West African cichlid, chase each other through the maze of limestone along the edge of the canal.
Marty pleased with another peacock- chartreuse and pink was the hot color.

After watching Marty and Tim both nail some nice peacocks I was getting ready to get into something myself. I had a couple of shots at good sized Florida gar but they were not interested in the least. None of the native sunnies wanted anything to do with my flies either. I had some half hearted swats at my fly by some peacocks. Mostly they seemed less than interested though. But along one canal something gold caught my eye and I pitched my orange and green Clouser minnow right to it. I watched the fish hit that fly hard and I knew I had a guapote! 

The guapote is a fish I am very familiar with- I have kept it and bred it in aquariums. The guapote (more properly Parachromis managuensis) is a fish that is primarily black with gold or silver vermiculations. This highly aggressive cichlid will readily attack anything that comes in the neighborhood of its nest- including a fish keeper’s hand. Considering the teeth that they have and that they can reach about 20” this makes a pretty formidable fish on a 5 weight.
My guapote! Like a smallie with teeth on steriods!

The fight was awesome!  It dug deep into the canal and peeled line off the reel. It took about 5 minutes to land. I got some great shots of it and then released it to get back to doing what it was doing- making more of these little terrors. Definitely looking forward to finding them there next time I hit the canals!

I never ended up with a peacock in hand that first day. I had a good solid take from a really nice fish but the fly popped from its mouth. Marty and Tim really outfished me. I will blame it on my lack of sleep and being overly excited but the reality is that they simply got the job done better. All in all this was a good warm up for what was to come in the morning- off to the flats of Biscayne Bay with Cordell!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I'm Back...

After a brutal 32 hours straight in the truck driving back from Miami I am back in Vermont safe and sound.  Lots of stories to tell, but I need some rest and recuperation first. Plenty to write about with this trip, but for right now I am going to put up a couple of pictures to get your attention.... Lots more on this awesome trip coming soon....


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Friday Angler Interview- Tim Sienkiewycz

Tim with a gorgeous Lake Ontario trib brown
Tim Sienkiewycz is a very good friend of mine and we have put a lot of time on the water together in the past few years. I probably should take responsibility for the fly fishing bug taking hold with him and Marty in recent years (sorry Priscilla and Tina...). Tim and I have had more than a few adventures in Vermont, Northern New York and Western New York.  Tim is a great guy to have in the boat with you and spins deer hair like nobody's business (which is great because I really don't enjoy doing it much- let me rephrase that- I suck at it).  

Since Tim, Marty and myself are embarking on our greatest adventure yet I thought it would be an appropriate time to interview him.

How did you get your start in fly fishing?
Sienkiewycz family friends Phil and Gordie with dinner

I grew up in a family of sportsman. I remember my uncles were big into muskie fishing they would often stop by to show off their catch. Of course back then there was no such thing as catch and release- it was all about putting food on the table.
Well, way back in the mid 70’s my good friend Jerry got a fly rod and I was not sure what it was all about. But after reading lots of Fur, Fish and Game, and Stream and Field magazine articles about fly fishing I got my first fly rod from Herter’s with money I made from running a couple of small trap lines. I got a 5-weight fiberglass set up. Jerry and I chased smallies and rock bass in the local northern New York rivers on our summers off. We even tried our hand at fly tying.
But other interests took over and I got into it again about 10 yrs ago.

It seems to me that it has become a pretty serious pursuit for you lately. What are some of the species you most enjoy chasing on the fly?

For me its all about warm water species, mostly bass, pike, and musky.

I met your brother Marty because of a mutual love of muskies. It seems to me that you share that love as much as us. Can you remind me of the story of your first musky?
Tim's first musky- he was a happy man!

Well, I have been muskie fishing for many years. My Dad would take my brother and I muskie fishing every chance he got and some fish were caught. But the fish of 10,000 casts eluded me for many years. I lost plenty and caught a few but my first muskie as far as I’m concerned I caught with you on a fly rod. Remember?
I can’t remember the name of the river but we were fishing the red horse pool and just as my Dahlberg hit the water underneath an over hanging tree there was the classic explosion of water and the game was on. After a nice fight with your help the muskie was in hand and high fives were in order.
What is it about muskies that get the angler in you so excited?
Tim with another gorgeous musky.

Musky fishing is usually a day or weekend long adventure floating down a river which makes for a good time with friends.
I like to fish surface flies and when a muskie hits your fly (and you usually get see it coming) it’s something you will never forget! It’s all about the explosion of water and the visual of a big toothy critter slamming your fly.
I also enjoy the art of casting big flies with pinpoint accuracy.

I have been very impressed with your musky flies. How long have you been tying and what do you enjoy tying most?

I started tying back in the 70’s and I still have my Herter’s tying vise and tools.  I hadn’t used them in many years until I met up with you and I got started tying again.
I like to tie all kinds of flies but my favorite is big 2/0- 5/0 Dahlberg Diver deer hair surface flies. There is something about spinning deer hair that I enjoy.

You and I have had some great adventures and awesome fishing on trips to Western New York. What do you like about fishing out there?

Well one reason I like going there so much is that my family has a hunting camp in Western NY. I do not hunt any more but when the guys are deer hunting I go fishing for big browns and whatever else I can find. At the end of a day of great fishing I can go back to camp and have my own stories to tell. It’s really the best of both worlds.

Do you have any memorable fish in WNY you want to share with us?

I have many great memories of lots of big fish- some caught and many lost. But nothing can beat the memories of days fishing with friends and my brother Marty. Really for me the fish are only a small part of the experience. It’s all about good times.

So, do you have any big trips coming up? I think I might have mentioned one on this bog already…

Won't catch any of those in the Everglades Tim!

Well I Have a GREAT trip coming up with my fishing buddies.
We are going to Florida to Biscayne Bay and the Everglades. We are leaving today to hit warm salt waters. This is truly going to be a trip to remember - good friends, good times and hopefully lots of fish.

What are you doing to get ready for the trip?

Well I have been tying lots of flies, including the secret Electric Dread (Cordell Baum’s awesome killer fly for almost anything that swims!). Also many shrimp and streamer patterns.
Let’s see I have new fly lines, shirts, hats, sunscreen, gloves and I’ve been watching YouTube videos and just getting fired up!
I can’t wait to meet our guide Cordell Baum and see how he operates and learn from a master.

Do you have a species that you really want to catch down south and why do you want to get into that fish so badly?

I do not know why but a big tarpon has always been my dream fish.
Oh and maybe a bone, snook, shark, permit, redfish, jack……..etc.
Other than that any fish that gets me into my backing would be ok with me!

Getting back to Vermont- what fish have you not caught yet that you would like to get into and why?
Tim with "bycatch" while musky fishing... His Dahlbergs really work!

I have never been much of trout fisherman and I would love to learn more about that.
But on the top of my list is a carp, I have hooked a few but never landed one. But my hookups were memorable.  Just being out on the lake on a hot summer day and seeing those big fish gets me going. And I understand they but up a great fight. Any ideas of someone who could help me hook up?

Do you have any goals as an angler in the next few years?

Catching and releasing a muskie over 20lbs, and to become a better trout fisherman are on the top of my list. Oh, and to work less and fish more.

Thanks a million Tim! Really looking forward with 9 days in the company of two of my best friends! And yes, there will be stories... lots and lots of stories....

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Headin' South

Hey sharky- I am comin' for ya!
The gear is packed and the canoe is ready to go. The flies are tied. Word is that the bones are on the flats and that there are loads of sharks around- lemons and blacktip reef, but mostly bullsharks. Bullsharks. The most aggressive fish that swims. Highest testosterone of any animal alive today. And we will be chasing them on flies out of canoes..... LOVE IT!!!!!!!!

Right from Cordell's camera on Monday.... anyone hearing the Jaws Theme?

WWW.BONEFISHWHISPERER.COM  You know you want to do it too and this is the man that can do it for you!

Here are some fly shots for ya....

Bleeding baitfish... yum yum in your tum tum sharky!

shark or tarpon fly- you decide!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Opening Day Weekend from the Orvis News Blog

I put together all my weekend happenings into one piece and sent it in to the Orvis News Blog. 

Check it out when you have a chance!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Opening Day

A great opening day!
I woke up at 5:45 this morning and I was pretty beat. I went to the Fly Fishing Film Tour in Middlebury last night (phenomenal!!!! Thank you Jesse and crew for putting it together!) and didn't get home until about midnight. I started running around trying to find everything that I needed. I felt like a chicken with its head cut off. With a trip to Florida just a week away, working in a long term substitute teaching position, getting all the ducks in a row for my guide service, tying flies for shops and folks, working another job, and having a life, I haven't had a lot of time to think about trout season. And something had come up that was pretty big for me that I had to do today.

In the net....
After rounding everything up, I headed out the door with a minimum of gear. I finally found the 3X leaders I misplaced 5 times this morning, got my rod rigged up and headed out to where I saw a gorgeous brown last Saturday. I was pretty sure I knew this fish. I caught him in this same stretch last year. He looked a bit different when I saw him this time. A little bit thicker, a little bit longer, and his jaw was jutting out a bit more- full kype effect folks.

Not a bad start to the season.... 23" Master Class brown
I got to the spot and I knew that I was the first boots in the river there this year. Fresh tracks are always good. The water was up a bit and slightly discolored. Perfect conditions. It was still a bit cold, in the low 40's. That didn't bother me. I crossed the pool down at its tail out and headed up to the bend where it began. I started out with one fly then switched to another one. The Toad Puppy Lite- a big rabbit strip streamer that is a bit smaller than its daddy the Toad Puppy. After swinging it a bit with no success I ran it through the inside of the bend like a nymph. At first I thought I had a snag until it moved and I got a look at the broad side of a good fish. A damned good fish indeed. I got the excess line on the reel and played it. I had cut off a foot or so of my leader and put on 30" of 3X Mirage so I knew I was in good shape. 

You can see the scar on the lower maxillary bone- Catch and release works folks!
I started hootin' and hollerin' as soon as I had the fish in the net. I knew it was the fish I had caught there last year and the same one I saw last weekend. He was bigger and had a nice kype too. I took pictures of him on the same patch of sand that I took shots of him on last year. He was in the Master Angler Program last year and he will be again this year- another first for me- the first time that a fish has been entered twice in two years in that program (by the same angler no less!). He was 23" this year- an inch longer than he was last time I held him. I had seen him several times over last summer and I knew he was doing pretty well. This has been confirmed. He has a scar on his left maxillary bone to show where I hooked him last year. I watched him swim into the depths of the hole a bit wiser than he was. Hopefully that helps to keep him safe this year.

It was just after 9am now and I needed to go. I was pretty nervous. Two nights ago I was asked if I could guide Peter Shumlin, Vermont's Governor, for a bit on the Winooski River in Waterbury for opening day. I jumped at the chance but that doesn't mean that I wasn't a bit anxious about the situation. I got there early to meet up with Tom Wiggins, the head of fish culture for the state, to take a look at the river and come up with a game plan. The water was a bit high and dirty but we were seeing flashes. We had a spinning rod for the Governor since he was not a fly angler.

Myself, Gov Shumlin and Com. Berry
The Governor showed up around 11 with worms he collected himself saying "like any good Vermont boy would do! You can't trust someone else's worms!". He tipped the Panther Martin with one of his nightcrawlers and I got him casting into likely spots. I had some help from Vermont Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Pat Berry (a former fly fishing guide himself) but he let me run the show. Unfortunately, as is the case with most opening day anglers, the fish just weren't interested. Governor Shumlin was awesome though and took it in stride. I offered to get him out later in the year when the fish would be more interested and he said he would be taking me up on that. Something to look forward to. 

I spent an hour fishing with Commissioner Berry after the Governor left and we talked shop a bit. Great guy and I think that Vermont is very lucky to have such a dynamic guy in the top spot for Fish and Wildlife- or as he likes to call it "the Commissioner of Fun". We will definitely be fishing together this year. I want to help promote Vermont fisheries, especially those that are underutilized like carp and other warm water species and he asked me to help him do just that. I will gladly do it!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Angler Interview- Lawton Weber

Lawton with a lovely wild rainbow in VT
With the opening of trout season tomorrow I thought I would hit up a very well known fly fishing guide in Vermont (and New Zealand as well)- Lawton Weber. For those of you not familiar with Lawton, he runs Pleasant Valley Fly Fishing and guides all over Vermont. He has near encyclopedic knowledge of Vermont's trout waters, how to fish them and the issues that surround them. On top of that, he winters and guides in New Zealand. I don't think that there are too many folks out there who can match Lawton in his love for trout. 

With that, here is the interview this week!

How did you get your start in fly fishing?

I started by casting my grandfathers old fiberglass rods in the yard; but at 15, my uncle bought me my first graphite rod; an Orvis Green Mtn. series.  I fished all over the Champlain Valley and the Winooski watershed for trout and smallies.
From the Orvis catalog this year- be a tripod Lawton!
You guide in both Vermont and New Zealand (that combo makes many people jealous I am sure!). What do you see as the biggest differences in trout fishing between the two areas?
 The size of the trout and the wind are the first two to come to mind.  You do need to have good eyes to be a guide in NZ; if you can't see or find them in NZ, you or your clients won't get many opportunities.  In Vermont, I do sight fish a bit, but most times we're blindly fishing good lies.

After fishing New Zealand in the winter, is it hard to come
home to Vermont?

 For the fishing, yea, a little bit.  But it’s good to get back and catch up with family and friends in Vermont. 

Are the threats to trout in NZ similar to those in our home

Not really. The biggest threats to NZ trout are floods and water removed for irrigation or dams.  While we certainly have issues in Vermont with dams and poor flow regimes, the bigger issue in VT is habitat loss thermal stress caused by the removal of buffer zones by folks.

You have guided for a long time now and have seen it all. If you were to give a piece of advice to someone that is being guided for the first time, what would it be?

The result of advice well heeded!

Don't be afraid to ask questions; a good, knowledgeable guide is happy to give you their best answer.  Also, if something doesn't "seem right"; don't be afraid to ask the tough question of the guide; i.e. "why does the water feel so warm and why are we out at 3pm in July?"  If I had a dollar for every time I've either heard from folks going out with certain guides about crap fishing in hot weather and not catching a thing; or seeing it myself....I'd be a rich man!  If the water is over 70, tell your guide you want to go somewhere else where it’s cooler.  If he/she does not have a cooler option, ask them why would they guide someone in such unfavorable conditions for trout?  Guides have a responsibility to protect the resource they make a living off of, simply put.

(Very well put Lawton, there are definitely some very clueless guides in VT- DP)

Can you give a story or two of a trip gone horribly, hilariously wrong (please leave out names to protect the “victims”)? 

While asking questions is a-ok, it did go overboard for me on one trip.  This client would literally ask after each time where I told him to cast, "Now, why did you have me cast...there?"  After around the 79th time (no kidding) in a row, I replied, "for the same reason as every other time, those are the lies trout prefer in this kind of stream.  It's their prime feeding lie..."  The minute hand literally went backwards that morning....

You have long been an advocate for trout and their habitat in Vermont. Right now, what do you see as the biggest threats for cold water fisheries in the state?

Protect your watersheds- this will be the end result!

Folks/politicians who don't understand river health and are willing to destroy it for short term gain by cutting trees off the riverbank, and supporting horrible ideas like "micro-hydro" development; which would dewater and increase water temps on many small streams that are the lifeblood of the larger trout rivers in the state.  These spawning streams and their summer time swimming holes would be destroyed just so one landowner can run a few light bulbs in their single home.  A lot of smart folks are selling their souls believing this is a cost effective means of power.  It's simply not, and the numbers when you actually look at them objectively, show it’s a joke financially and environmentally.

As a “champion of trout” what have some of your greatest successes been? 

I don't think I've ever single handedly done much, other than to be the unfortunate person to discover Didymo algae in Vermont.  Everything else I've been part of that could be considered a success could not have been done alone, and I've had some great teammates in the past that helped accomplish things like buffer zone restorations and the spring closure of vulnerable spawning tributaries on the Winooski watershed.  A team effort will always succeed over a voice of one, in my opinion.

What would you say is the best way for anglers to help out cold water fisheries? 

Get involved with your local angling group, and don't be afraid to speak up for what concerns you.  That may be a farmer with poor practices affecting the stream; or, it could be an area where you see folks breaking the law and taking over their limit.  Generally though, if we had better overhead cover and riparian buffer zones on most of our trout streams, they would stay colder, would clear quicker after rains, and provide valuable habitat for various ages of  wild trout.  Find a willing landowner who needs a buffer restored and plant some trees!

You recently purchased a raft to guide out of. How do you like it? 

It's great!  It only draws about 4 inches or so and being only 165 lbs, I can put it in and take it out of spots that a fixed hull drift boat simply can't.  As you know, Vermont has little to no areas to put in a watercraft larger than a kayak. 

What can a float trip offer anglers that wading cannot, and vice versa?  
Lawton at home on the Upper Connecticut

Well, I do a fair bit of guiding during the heat of summer on the Upper CT river as it stays cold all day, and on that river because of its size and remoteness in places, fishing out of a raft can get you places you simply could not wade to.  On the Winooski and Lamoille, there are some spots that a raft can be used to get to water that a wading angler could not reach, but mostly its just a great way to cover a ton of water without having to jump in the car 6 + times throughout the day.  You certainly get a different perspective when looking and fishing water from a raft.  We often get out of the raft to fish the productive riffles and runs before we row over them; that usually results in happier fish and better catch rates. 

Vermont isn’t known for super prolific insect hatches, but there are definitely a few. Do you have a favorite and why? 

A good March Brown spinner fall can bring out some big fish if flows are just right.  M.B.'s are big beautiful mayflies, and when they're dribbling off the water, there are usually other hatches occurring as well, meaning a good fishing day!  I used to love fishing Trico's, but with the "clean-ups" of some municipal treatment plants, the Trico hatches are 10% of what they used to be, which is a shame.  Perrier water doesn't make for good hatches. 

The Isonychia hatch is perhaps the most important mayfly hatch in Vermont, as it is a big bug and hatches for nearly two months.  Sulphurs are prolific on many waters too, but they often hatch when water temps are a bit too high to enjoy good fishing. 

How about New Zealand- are there prolific hatches where you fish or is there a terrestrial that pops out and makes things really interesting? 
NZ hatches are weak on all but the lowland, fertile streams.  The Deliteadium Mayfly is the single most important mayfly in NZ, and there are only about 5 other species in total and those are often very habitat specific.  Terrestrials like the annual Cicada emergence are what can make a 7 pound brown act as goofy as a 7 inch brookie.

Alright Lawton, if you could fish anywhere for anything, where would it be and what for? 

I'd like to try for Sea run brown in northern Russia someday.  There are Atlantics there too, but Sea-run browns are a different beast altogether.

If you are looking for a great match the hatch guide or want excellent instruction in stalking wild trout in Vermont or New Zealand, Lawton Weber is the man you want to talk to. Check out his website Pleasant Valley Fly Fishing.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Coming to a Fly Shop Near You!

Gettin' jiggy with the pike!
Snot Rockets for snot rockets!
Jesse at the Middlebury Mountaineer wanted to have some pike flies from me in the shop for opening day. He got his wish. If you want some of these head to Midd and get 'em while they last!  There will be a few of these as door prizes at the Fly Fishing Film Festival on Friday night too!  

For those of you further north, some flies should be heading out the door to GM Troutfitters later this week as well!

Tight lines folks! 
Big, tough, lots of motion, pike love 'em!

Rainbows- on the menu!

Some fish for them, I fish with them!  Rainbow Snot Rocket- get 'em while they last!

Eat me, I'm a jelly bean!