Much of my adult life has spent coping with the fact that I never have enough time to do the things I want to do. With that in mind, the stay-at-home order here in Vermont is more of a blessing than a curse.

There are several spots I’ve been wanting to scout out for hunting in the Green Mountain National Forest¬†for several years and now I finally have the time. I’ve primarily got turkeys on mind with opening day being May 1st, although the spot I recently checked out showed no sign of them and in spite of being out early in the morning I never heard a gobble. It does, however, look highly promising for grouse and snowshoe hare. Tracks were abundant in the thin but persisting snow. And there was another set of tracks made by an entirely different animal.

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A mid-April bear track. It’s not well-defined but you can just make out the spaces between the toes at top right.¬†

Vermont has a healthy bear population and I would love nothing more than to tag one come fall. I’ve dabbled in bear hunting before but, as was noted at the start of this writing, time as always been in short supply. Taking advantage of scouting opportunities like this, right now, allow for more productive hunting later. And later, there may not be as much time to work with.

Conditions on Lake Shaftsbury Tuesday, 4/14/20, were mostly overcast, cold and windy. The lake was recently stocked with 1 and 2 year old rainbows. There were several cars already there when I arrived around 6:30. I’d never fished this lake before so it took some exploring to get sorted. Having a boat helped me cover more water and avoid the other anglers. The first fish of the day came as a surprise. When I set the hook and saw the long body I thought I had a nice rainbow on, although it didn’t fight like one. Once I got it to the boat I discovered it was a pickerel, about 16″. I had a few other strikes before I connected with a rainbow. After a short fight I got it in the boat. It was definitely a stocked fish of 12″ with the stubby fins and blunt nose I’ve come to equate with hatchery trout. I don’t know if the rounded nose is truly a characteristic of stocked trout but it seems many of the hatchery fish I’ve caught have it.

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First trout of the season. I’ve come to think of the rounded nose as typical of stocked trout.

I got a few other strikes, including one that felt like a solid fish. Sadly, the knot connecting tippet to fly had taken a beating between hooking fish and snagging bottom. The line quickly went slack and tippet end showed the tell-tale corkscrew curl of a failed knot.

The wind was the primary spoiler of the day. Even with the anchor down each gust pushed me closer to the shore line, the anchor leaving a plume of mud as it dragged along bottom. Without it I would have managed about two casts before having to reposition and start drifting again. By 9:15 my fingers were chilled to the bone and I headed for shore. Freshly stocked trout aren’t as rewarding to catch as ones that have been around for a few years, and certainly nothing like wild fish, but they’re a fun way to get the season started.

I put in a few hours with the fly rod this morning on the Vermont side of the Battenkill. It’s no surprise that the water is still pretty chilly. The light frost over night had me putting on the knit hat and pocketing a pair of hand warmers before I left the house. We’ve had significant rain and there is still snow in the mountains, particularly the Taconics. I fished a section with long, deep runs and pools, dragging nymphs along bottom. Unfortunately the banks are high and the bottom a very soft mud. It’s hard to get in and out and walking becomes a fight to free your boots from the viscous mud. Once you pick a spot, you have to commit for a time. I don’t mind fishing like that with warmer water or with warm waders but I had neither to work with.

After an hour or so on that stretch I hit up a spot I’m more familiar with where I’ve hooked into some browns up to 18″, albeit later in the season. The wading was easier but the fish still elusive. After a few hours of breaking off flies and tippet on bottom I called it a day. In the next week or so I think the fishing will improve as the water warms.

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