Sunday, July 9, 2017

Tromping Around VT Looking for Toothy Critters

Northern pike have evaded me for a pretty absurd number of years considering how frequently I target them and how often I fish areas that have them. I decided that maybe it was a CT issue, so when the opportunity to go to Vermont and fish a particularly good pike river came up I jumped on it. Otter Creek is part of a watershed that constitutes the easternmost extent of the Esox lucius native range in the U.S.; it has a thriving population and exceptional average size. So I was pretty confident.

On the way up on Saturday we drove through some pretty rough weather, which turned out to be a hint at what I would experience later in the day.

We got to the place we were staying and it was nice and sunny out. I wasted no time, I geared up and hiked to the river. 

Otter Creek is a cool place, but it is far from optimal for walk-n'-wade fishing. I one regard I was fairly luck with the flow the riverwas pushing while I was there. It was around 450cfs, which meant the normally tall mud banks were not as tall as normal. Unfortunately the rain that day and the day before had made the water a bit turbid and that really did prove to be challenging. 

I don't jump into a new fishery uninformed. I had a pretty good idea about how things would go down from reading reports, watching videos, and spending a few hours on google maps. I knew I would have to focus on tributary mouths and field ditch outlets. I knew that red and white had been the most productive colors during the week before. And I new what kinds of natural bat would be present. Knowledge is key, but luck helps. I got fairly lucky and found a creek mouth that feed from a large flooded area where pike spawn in the spring. It was both relatively clear and full of bait fish. It did not take long. I cast my big white and red pike fly up into some heavy downed trees and ripped it along the cut bank, long fast strips interrupted by abrupt pauses. The fly got trashed, I strip set, and after an epic but short fight I had my first northern pike on the fly. Not a big pike, but you have to start somewhere and it was pretty much a perfect specimen. 

Not long after that in the same winding cut I had a take from a bigger fish. Once again it was sitting underneath the cut bank, this time under a tree's root ball, and it absolutely trashed my fly. It trashed it so hard it knocked about three feet of slack in my line and ruined any chance I had at getting a reasonable hookset. Unfortunately that ended up being that last pike take I'd get all weekend, but that doesn't mean the excitement was over, so stick around. 

As I was walking through some meadows on the way to the next spot I had map-scouted, I could hear some rumbling to the NW and see big crisp white towering cumulus with a dark broad base. This was not looking good. A quick look at the radar confirmed my fears. I like seeing thunderstorms but I don't like being stuck out in the woods in them quite as much. I got to the end of the meadow and looked north. 

I've rode out a few storms in the woods, this one was the scariest. I watched it approach from the end of the field, big dark curtains of rain moving left to right under a dark roiling leading edge. When it was getting too close for comfort I ran, cutting through a row of trees, the next field, and then down the dirt road. I got on the leeward side of a small bluff, chose a leaning tree that would sufficiently shelter me from the rain, and prepared myself and my gear for a good drenching.

About 10 minutes into the heavy rain and frequent ground shaking cloud to ground lightning strikes, a bolt struck a tree just a few hundred yards away on the other side of the bluff. It was one of those lightning strikes that was so close and so violent that there was no time between the bolt and the thunder, and the noise was just an insanely loud pop. I jumped, and could not get comfortable again until the rain stopped. My mind was running through scenarios that mostly ended up with my lying on the ground with my clothes smoking and my boots busted open at the toe. Fortunately none of those scenarios played out and the storm passed, leaving me a little soggy and a lot relieved.

I spent the rest of the afternoon hiking around not catching pike. It was a blast.

This morning I was back out hoping for one more pike. I tried for the one I had missed the day before but he either wasn't there or wouldn't eat.I poked around in that cut for a while before going to find a culvert outlet into a marsh.  found it, and there were some little pickerel there. Not really what I was looking for, so I moved on. 

I ended up following railroad tracks an fishing a number of different spots, none of which produced. Though a 38-40 inch pike would have made it a really good day, I enjoyed every bit of it. I saw lots of wildlife out and about, including a small snapping turtle that somehow got itself stuck between the rails. How he got himself there I have no clue, he was way too small to get over the rails without help. Fortunately I was there to help. 

What a weekend. It's so great to live in a part of the country where you can drive three hours and be in a totally different environment with a wildly different fishery. Eventually I'll revisit Otter Creek, preferably when the water is lower and I have the kayak with me.  


  1. That was a great adventure! That pike was a good size and worth the catch. That storm was a teeth grinder, been there and done that. Glad the soles are still on your boots. Fantastic photos and story Thanks for the adventure. It made my day.
    Tie, fish, write and photo on...

    1. Thanks,
      Hard to beat the veracity of a pike take even if it isn't a huge one.

  2. Awesome photos of the scenery and those toothy creatures. Nice job.

    1. Thanks Pete.
      Vermont has some beautiful scenery!

  3. So glad you weathered the storm. Considering that the pursuit of Pike was his favorite adventure, I think your Great-great Grandpa Earl was with you.