Fall Land locked salmon run
Vermont hosts a plethora of fishing opportunities for landlocked atlantic salmon. Every fall they swim out of the cool, depths of Lake Champlain, Dunmore, and Memphremagog up these lakes many tributaries to spawn. One amazing thing about these Atlantic salmon in particular is that they can spawn multiple times in their life versus their pacific counterparts that end up slowly rotting away and sacrificing themselves as nutrients for the next generation of fish. While things have started off fairly slow this fall, we have been having luck finding fish from shore on Lake Champlain and in several rivers.
Our preferred method to target Atlantics is by stripping sparsely tied streamers or using small nymphs. We recommend using a tapered, fluorocarbon leader anywhere from 9-12’ in length and depending on the conditions you might have to size down all the way to 5x tippet to get leader shy or pressured fish to eat. With streamers the lightest we will generally go is 8lb test since fish eating streamers are not leader shy. Nymphs both fish best and will be presented the most stealthy by downsizing your tippet accordingly. If there is one tip I can give you it’s to not use too much weight. These fish are willing to move for flies whether they’re streamers or nymphs and they’ll generally rise up off the bottom, eat the fly, and sink back down. After all their ocean run ancestors have no problem eating dry flies. Basically, just remember let the fish move to the fly and be confident in your presentation. Unweighted flies generally present a more natural action and you can add split shot 18-24” above them if you want to get them down further. If you add split shot, try to use colored ones as they can see very well and will visibly move away from any shiny tin or too much flash.
Flies that have been working best are classic salmon flies like the black ghost, grey ghost, and the magog smelt. As an intermediate, white or black woolly buggers tied sparsely tend to produce with or without a beadhead. In regards to nymphs you really don’t need much aside from black stone’s, pheasant tail’s, hare’s ear, BWO’s, and prince nymphs. I’d recommend purchasing or tying these in sizes 12 and 16. Experiment with these sizes while you’re fishing and don’t be surprised if a size 16 or even smaller works better for you. With both styles of flies, I recommend casting directly across the river and letting them gently swing down. Look for deep holes or pools to fish and keep your eyes peeled on tailouts where you can see the transition to shallower gravel and hopefully fish.
With several inches of rain in the past 24 hours in theory the fishing should really heat up once things flush out. This could be the push of water they’ve been waiting for. Time spent on the water will tell and we will be sure to report back to you soon, but in the mean time good luck and if you’d like to learn more about targeting these fish you can book a trip with myself or one of the amazing guides at Stream and Brook.
P.S. Don’t discount by-catch, like this beautiful Lake Champlain steelhead that slammed a partridge and orange soft hackle fly. If you would like to replicate the fight, just tie your line to a Ferrari and tell the driver to step on it!
– Ralph Kucharek