Saturday, March 31, 2012

Master Angler 2011

I just got my pin from the Vermont Master Angler Program yesterday... sweet pin! The program has been in existence for 2 years now and I have a pin from each year. I still have the most entries in the program. I had the second most entries last year and I entered 16 different species. 8 of those were species I had not entered before. With any luck I will have a few new species to add in this year as well. 

I also got a copy of the Annual Report for the Master Angler Program. Kinda cool... I made the cover... twice! Nice big carp and my personal best gar right underneath it!

Congrats to all those who earned their pins last year! Definitely an awesome accomplishment! Get out and get one for this year too!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Pike Half and Halfs

Perhaps my favorite pike fly of all time... I have a few ready for this weekend...  Sorry about the poor quality... just wanted pics up fast for this morning!

Monday, March 26, 2012

March Pike

Kevin is looking pretty happy about the first launch of his new boat!
My buddy Kevin just got a new boat and was itching to get out in it. He tried last weekend and despite the warm weather he could not find an area near him that was ice free. So we talked yesterday morning and his words were “This puppy is going in the water somewhere today”. We knew that the weather wasn’t going to be as pleasant as it was last week when I was out on the lake in a t-shirt and comfortable.  He and I had both talked with Ken Capsey, the pike madman, who had warned us about the wind. There was a flurry of text messages between us trying to figure out where to go. It all boiled down to “Be at my house at noon”. And at noon I was there.

Nice little pike!
The lake was a bit rough. The wind was coming from the south at 10-15 and there was a good chop on the water. Kevin’s Lund was up to the task. We had to cut across the waves which got us rocking a bit, but it wasn’t bad. We anchored on the outside edge of a weedbed in about 4 feet of water. There were still some remnants of plants around. It didn’t take too long before I was into a fish. Not a big pike by any means, but any pike on the fly in March is something special!

We moved the boat to another spot. I kept getting takes without getting a hook set. Either they were too small or I wasn’t fast enough on the draw (or both).  The action was pretty good. I got another pike then a decent pickerel.  It didn’t seem to matter what direction we were tossing; they were in the shallows and in the depths. Neither of us had a thermometer with us and both of us were expecting the water to be cold. That was wrong though. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that it was in the low 50’s. Not too bad for March on Lake Champlain!

23" chain pick... very nice indeed!
We would fish in a spot for a while then move to another spot, anchor and fish. The weeds look like they are going to get sprouting soon. I suspect that this year we are going to see a lot of weed and algae growth on the lake. With low, warm water and all the nutrients that were washed in by Irene we could have some pretty soupy conditions on the lake this year. Warm water fishing should be excellent too!

The total for the day was awesome- 6 pickerel (including a 23” fish), 3 pike and 4 or 5 largemouth. Nothing huge, but a whole lot of fun to be had! I did feel badly though. Kevin was fishing just as hard as I was and with similar flies but he got blanked. He said he was just as happy to finally christen the boat with some snot rocket slime but I sure would love to see him get into some fish… Next week Kevin? You need to get a fish or two with that gorgeous new Rise rod you got (I cast it a few times and I was definitely impressed!).

Friday, March 23, 2012

March Madness (and its Not Basketball)

The unusual spring continues here in Vermont… two days in the 80’s has things happening well before they normally do. I spoke with Shawn Good, a Vermont fisheries biologist, yesterday and he told me that in many places the pike spawn is indeed over. He also told me that in some survey work they have found spawned out female largemouth bass. Spawned out bass in March… totally insane! That should not be happening for at least another 2 months. This is another indication of global climactic change happening. I won’t get into an argument about it, but I will say that scientists and industrialists all agree that it is indeed happening and it is just a few politicians that lead the charge that it doesn’t exist. But hey, remember, it was similar people that once told us that the world was flat and that the Sun orbited the Earth.

Of course I have been taking full advantage of this weather and hitting a few marshes near Lake Champlain for the early risers that are out. Big pike are on the prowl; I mean BIG ones. I had a 40+ inch fish looking at my fly before it spooked. I also had one on that took the fly and went gangbusters through a bunch of floating muck and dead weeds. I kept letting it run as I pulled the line out of the crud that got caught on the line. Unfortunately during one of these episodes the line wrapped around a stripping guide and the fish popped off. C’est la vie!  I have had another couple on so I am confident that I should be landing a pike before too long.

I saw a fish sitting in a clump of weeds and I suspected it to be a small carp. I put a nymph in front of it and got it to take. It ended up being a tench. I am seeing a lot of tench this year. They are becoming more and more numerous. They are interesting fish and a tough fish to get to take a fly so it is a shame that they are an invasive.  I will be putting up more information about them soon.

Bowfin are doing their thing now too. Good told me that they are finding males in their turquoise spawning dress already. I am not surprised. The backwater areas are 65 degrees right now. Yes, 65. That was not a typo. I am finding a lot of them around and I managed to get into my first one of 2012 yesterday. Not only the first of this year, but the first time have I ever caught a bowfin in March. I predict it likely won’t be the last with the climactic changes we will be seeing over the coming years.

Here is the weird thing about this bowfin: when I saw her (it was a female) I saw another fish beside her. It wasn’t another bowfin, it was a northern. Never before have I ever seen anything like this. It is like the Ghostbusters line I quoted in my last post “Cats and dogs living together”. Were these two fish involved in some cross species love affair? Highly doubtful since they are in two separate genera. Not only that, they are in two completely different Orders of fish (the bowfin are in Amiiformes and the pike in Esociiforms). The final nail in the coffin is that they have completely different spawning styles- the pike are a scatter spawner while the bowfin are nest spawners. But I must admit that the idea of a stocky, highly aggressive pike that can breathe air is rather appealing. Come on Sci-Fi channel, there is an idea for you… the pikefin is born (or should it be the bowke?).

The largemouth are in full swing too. I found dozens in this one area. They were rather spooky but more than willing to take a fly. Definitely the earliest I have ever caught one myself. Now to get one of the REALLY big ones that is out there…

One last thing- I am available for anyone that wants to get out. I have decided to get my guiding season started. Things are happening at a rapid rate. I am free on weekends and in the evenings for anyone interested. I will put up some specials soon too!  Please let me introduce you to warm water fly fishing and possibly to a new style of fly fishing!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Looks like March, but you can't see the 65 degrees!

80 degrees in Vermont during March… I never would have thought it possible but here we are. Things are happening rapidly. Very, very rapidly. I have been out and about as much as humanly possible and these conditions are making for some incredible early season conditions!

Most of the larger tributaries to Lake Champlain are quite high and unfishable with flies at the moment but the smaller tribs are in great shape. Stoneflies are coming off in droves and temps are in great shape for migratory species. I haven’t chanced into one yet but I feel pretty confident that it will happen shortly, especially after watching two get hooked.  Very odd to be working steelhead in March and to see butterflies flying around…
Sunset on Lake Champlain by canoe in March, no complaints here!

The ice is off all but the most sheltered and shadowed small coves on Lake Champlain. This was the case on at least one area on Monday, but that may have changed since much of the ice I saw was quickly breaking up. In shallow dark bottomed areas the temperatures were in the upper 40’s to low 50’s. This is incredible for Champlain in March. Huge schools of perch were everywhere, as were mammoth schools of minnows and mixed aggregations of panfish, including some real corkers.  I was a bit surprised to see a 14 inch largemouth at one point, but the real shocker was to follow that. I am not normally one to get excited about largemouth. Seeing an 8 lb or bigger bucketmouth… yea, that gets my attention. Especially when that sighting is followed up by a smaller one of 5 pounds or so. Remember that the catch and release season for bass doesn’t begin for another month or so…

Backwater wetland areas are on fire! I found temps yesterday to be in the upper 50’s, maybe even warmer. There were a couple of places that I felt I could have wet waded if the ground was solid enough. Yes, I am serious. Completely insane for March. The fishes love these temps! Not only the fish; painted turtles are everywhere and are performing their mating rituals already. I have never before seen a bowfin this early and yesterday I saw several. They are in pre-spawn mode and I am hoping to get into one or two today. More big bass showed themselves and the toothy critters are on the move. It is actually pretty amazing to see how fast a 40” northern pike swims when you accidently touch it with a paddle… I was not happy about that, but it was nice to see lots of pike this early. The panfish were willing to play but they are also in their schooled-up, pre-spawn, spooky mode that they get into early in the season. Long casts with unweighted soft hackle nymphs did the trick for me. Pretty funny to see a delicate cast spooks a group of pumpkinseed. There were a couple of players in those groups though.
What month is this anyway?

I am going to make a few predictions with these current conditions and the long range forecast that NOAA has made which shows the next month or so to be mostly dry and warm. Expect everything to happen much faster and much sooner than normal. It is quite likely that the pike spawning on Champlain is happening now or may be over in many areas. This could lead to an early bite. Walleye will be in and out of the tributaries before the season opens. Bass will start their spawn in April, as will bowfin, gar, panfish, and a variety of other species.  Cats and dogs will be living together and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man will start warm-water fly fishing this year. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 2012 Fishpocalypse!

I have been fishing out of a canoe in pants and a t-shirt and have been comfortable. It is pretty incredible. Having said that, if you do get out please be careful. The water in many areas is still very cold. A dunking could be deadly.  Be sure you have a life vest on when you are in deeper water. Use common sense. Be safe!

Get out and fish. Take time off work if you can. You are in the midst of unprecedented early season in Vermont. Go chase some fish that you normally can’t this time of year. I certainly am! Warmwater fly fishing is off to an amazing start. If this weather pattern holds for the summer (and we all know it could change very rapidly) it could be a tough summer for trout. Please keep that in mind when planning your fishing outings. I know it is very early to be saying this, but don’t fish for trout when the water is over 70 degrees. Instead, support your local warmwater fly fishing guide!

So was I bummed out that I only caught a few sunfish during this weather? Nope. The season is early, I am in my canoe on Lake Champlain already and never before have I ever caught a pumpkinseed on a fly during the month of March. 

What is with the dead fish picture? It is a tench, a recent invasive on Lake Champlain. It is now in all segments of the lake. I found this yesterday where I was fishing. Its demise was apparent- the lamprey was still on it when I found it. Be on the look out for tench. They were first found here in 2002 by a buddy of mine and I identified it and we turned it into the NYSDEC. They are here to stay, so for what its worth- they are fun to catch!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Musky on the Fly Part 2

Hey everyone, check out the latest issue of Fishing Headquarters Magazine for part 2 of my Musky on the Fly series. It is on page 86.