In years past the first weekend of October brought daytime highs from low 60s to low 70s. Overnight frosts were very atypical. Saturday the 5th was a chilly affair at the outset with temps just below freezing. A light film of frost coated the grass, not enough to make it crispy or blot out the still-green of the blades. The predicted high was low 50s. Autumn seems to have come early this year.
I put in two and half hours in the morning, bundled up in my stand as if it were opening weekend of regular season. I watched a doe and fawn walk by 50 yards away. Ten minutes later they walked back the same way and ten minutes after that they made the rounds again. That was it for stand activity that morning.
I settled into my evening stand location around 2:30 for long sit. It was a bit breezy with a few robust gusts but not the sort of wind that puts you at the precipice of sea sickness. Fifteen yards away a dilapidated platform stand, built among a tight cluster of large maples, creaked and yawed, shedding rotted fragments of two by four. About an hour and a half before sunset a healthy looking spike horn walked within range. If I really wanted to shoot I probably could have. But I don’t have much interest in shooting a spike. I’d much rather let them go and see what may become.
Sunday morning, my last sit of the trip, was more active. I was back in the tree by the old platform stand, the wind worse than the night before. The platform was making plenty of noise in the wind. I’ve never worried that one of those loud, stiff creaks would spook a deer. Long as that stand has been there, the deer must be used to it. The continuity of tree stands always amazes me. That stand had been built there no doubt because it was an active deer location. We’ve always had a stand there for the same reason.
I watched a doe and fawn creep through the edge of the brush behind me, then hook down to my right and turn to walk toward me. Just when they were on course to pass less than 20 yards in front of the stand they turned and walked away. 15 minutes later a buck with medium to small antlers and a good-sized body eased along in the brush following the same track as the doe and fawn. I lost sight of him behind a pair of large beeches and never laid eyes on him again. I called it quits at ten. At least the weather had improved. And I saw deer. Not the worst hunting trip I’ve had.
Fall weather has arrived in Southern Vermont and with the change trout fishing should get exciting soon. The browns and brookies will be going into spawning mode soon if they haven’t already and that means some aggressive fish willing to hit big streamers.
The temperature is dropping but unfortunately so is the water level. With these conditions the Manchester stretch of the Battenkill was a bit tough to fish. There was some rise activity from 6:45am until at least 8, but no obvious hatch that I could discern. Finding deeper pools and runs was the best bet due to the low water levels. On a positive note the cool daytime temperatures and overnight lows in the mid-40s to low 50s have kept the water temps cool. Water clarity was better than I would like. On the Battenkill a little bit of stain goes a long way to putting the odds in favor of the angler. After the next rain I think the fishing will improve significantly.
I tried a little of everything. Dry flies, terrestrials, nymphs and streamers. The only thing that got any action was a #8 brown and grizzly stimulator. I heard on good authority that flying ants were hatching earlier in the week and the trout were loving it. It was an overcast morning so large or bright dries were the only option if I wanted to actually see where my fly was.
The fishing season may be winding down but it’s not over yet. If you’re one of the people lamenting that you didn’t get out as much as you wanted this spring, make up for it now. The Battenkill has some big browns in it and once the spawn starts the fishing will be great.
At the start of August I spent a week on the coast in Downeast Maine, about an hour north of Bar Harbor. The fishing was a bit lackluster but clear skies and minimal wind helped make up for it.
I caught several pollack, the small “harbor” fish that often stick to the bottom along much of Maine’s shoreline. The very first saltwater fish I ever caught was a pollack. That was 20 years ago and when I landed it I had no idea what it was, nor had I heard of a pollack. I’ve been educated since then and, on this trip, put in some time targeting this species. The mackerel weren’t running so I tried fishing my trusty diamond jig on bottom. The rule in these waters is that if you fish on bottom you’ll get pollack, fish higher in the water column and you’ll catch mackerel. Jigging on bottom worked well and pollack, even small ones in the 12 inch range, put up a decent fight on a medium action spinning rod. I caught several in an afternoon and kept some to fillet. Most of the fish took the jig in spite of also fishing a piece of pogy (Atlantic Menhaden) on bottom. I only caught one pollack on bait.
My wife and I put in an afternoon of fishing and somehow she managed to pull out a pair of mackerel, one of which was probably close to 16 inches, the longest mackerel I’ve ever seen. I had no luck until the last few minutes when I took a pollack. When I got these fish dressed out for the freezer I took a look at the stomach contents. The larger of the mackerel had recently eaten a sand eel of approximately three inches in length and the pollack had a small shrimp.
Regarding the pogy I’d used for bait, this was a new experience for me. According to Bub Johnson, our contact at the lobster docks, this was the first time the pogy had run since the 1990s. The first morning, when the tide was in and the water was calm, I saw the water boiling near shore. I put in the canoe thinking it was mackerel but quickly discovered it was pogy. I cast to them for a bit and even tried some flies but couldn’t get anything to bite. I learned later that day via internet search that pogy are plankton feeders and won’t take lures, bait or flies. The only way to catch one is to snag them. I figured that out on my own and hooked one for the express purpose of using it for bait. It’s too bad they won’t take a lure or fly because they put up a terrific fight even when hooked near the mouth, as mine was. I found that with the canoe I could ease up the school to within 10 feet. Watching them feed and go about their daily routine was quite a sight. A school of thousands of fish, about 14 inches in length apiece, slowly rotating in an orderly circle, in a column extending from the surface where their backs broke the surface down past where my polarized sunglasses could see. The only drawback is that apparently when the pogy run, the mackerel don’t.
Given the time away from the daily grind, the time with family, the good weather and bucolic coastal scenery, the lack of fish was hardly detrimental.