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.

1 comment:

  1. Lawton is a fantastic guide, I thoroughly recommend him