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!


  1. Should have told the governor that any self respecting Vermonter would have learned to cast a fly before he or she hit puberty. ;)

  2. you still got a bit of brown left on your nose... hehe. well done sir!