Vermont Guides Since 1998

River Report; 2/29/20

River Report; 2/29/20

River Report 2/29/20
Winter fly fishing can be cold and miserable like any other outdoor adventure this time of year but it can also be a super fun way to spend a few hours. I got out yesterday and was targeting Steelhead in Lake Champlain tributaries. 


Here are a few tips to make your next trip out more successful. Be prepared to be cold and have extra clothes to add if needed. I usually gear up at my house so when I pull into my first spot I’m in waders and have two fly rods fully rigged up and ready to go.  One fly rod is set up for nymphing and the other for streamers. It’s much easier to change the leader, tie all the knots and add on the flies in the warmth of your house rather than siting on a snow covered rock along the river with frozen hands. Which you will be forced to do after a bad tangle or losing a set up on a snag.

Do research before you go. Know what rivers are open to fishing year round as apposed to the regular trout season. Most Lake Champlain tributaries in VT and NY fall under Lake Champlain laws up to the first natural barrier but not all of them are open year round.
Just because it’s allowed to be fished doesn’t mean it’s fishable. Often the rivers totally freeze over making spots you routinely fish in the Summer look totally different. So fish after a big thaw when the ice breaks up and the river drops. This can trigger lake run fish like Steelhead to be more active and head up rivers. Also fish below a large waterfall and in fast water. Those spots tend not to ice over because of the constant current. 
Yesterday I didn’t find the Steelhead I was looking for but did catch two nice Brown Trout on nymphs and a large colorful Brook Trout on a streamer. So still a very successful day for fly fishing in February.

For flies I like to keep it simple this time of year. You don’t need any dry flies or hoppers taking up room. Some folks primarily use egg patterns and worm patterns in the Winter and do very well. I have one box just for Winter fly fishing trips.
 I like to have various Golden Stones, Prince Nymphs, Copper Johns, Pats Rubber Legs, Caddis Pupa’s and Batman’s for nymphing. I usually fish two at a time and tie the larger, heavier one on first. Then in the bend of the hook I tie on approximately 12 inches of tippet and drop off a smaller nymph. It’s key to get down deep this time of year so I usually use flies that have a bead head or even a mini jig to help get them near the bottom. Using an indicator can help get long drifts and detect subtle takes.
For streamers I like the Muddy Buddy, Wolly Buggers, jig style Leeches, Muddler Minnows, Mickey Finns, Sloppy Seconds and other Sculpin patterns. I often also fish these two at a time as well ,and sometimes also use spilt shots or a sinking fly line to help get them down quickly. I tend to use a 12 pound 5’ fluorocarbon leader to the first fly them tie on a 24” piece of 8 pound tippet in the bend of that hook. Then tie on another streamer. Usually I choose one of the streamers be be a natural color like Tan, Olive or Black. Then the other one is White, Chartreuse Yellow or Orange. Give the fish different options and see what they’re hungry for. 

Also I’m the Winter it’s usually below 32 degrees outside and water temperature are also in the 30’s. So your line, rod eyelets, flies and hands will freeze up. I tend to hit a few spots and stay closer to the car. By moving to a new spots you get a chance to warm up along with your gear. 
Be safe and have fun! Brian C 

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