With a population of less than 700,000 and only 9,000 square miles of total real estate, Vermont is the sixth smallest state in the union. Despite the small size, Vermont is the largest producer of maple syrup in the United States. One home to these massive forests is the Green Mountain Range; a series of wooded peaks towering at around 4000 feet. Lake Champlain, one of the larger freshwater fisheries out east, also finds part of its home in the state.
There have been efforts over the past several years to increase Vermont’s population. It’s growing at half of the rate of the rest of the United States. This lower population is okay with fly anglers. There are some fantastic streams all across the state that provide fishermen with ample opportunity to snag a trophy fish.
Here is the list of the nine best places to fly fish in Vermont:
1. The Battenkill River a Vermont Classic
It will surprise no one that the Battenkill is at the top of the list. Housed amongst the Green Mountains, this stream is home to all wild brown and brook trout. There are long riffle sections that lead to small pools. It truly is a fly anglers dream. The challenge the wild fish provide, the soft bottom and enticing eddies can almost be overwhelming. This is a difficult stream for beginners. The trout expect perfection. They’ve seen enough flies that sloppy presentation won’t produce.
Where to Fish on the Battenkill:
The sad part about the Battenkill is that quite a bit of the river is private. However, there are some public access points that give you a chance to try your hand at this Blue Ribbon fishery. Fish up along the banks and in the pools. The trout rarely are in the faster moving water. The upper river near Manchester has a soft and muddy bottom.
The lower sections of the river are full of gravel and small rocks. As far as flies are concerned, there are many options. The Hendrickson and Red Quill hatches in early May lead to a lot of fun. Blue Quills, Blue Winged Olives and March Brown’s follow closely behind. Brown Sculpin and Belly Sculpin are great choices year round. Also Black Caddis and Dark Midges size #18-24 will work.
Use a 4 or 5 weight rod with extremely light tippet. And don’t worry, you can easily wade through the river.
Public Access Point:
This link will help you find public access points on the Battenkill. You can start fishing here:
2. Mettawee River in the Green Mountains of Vermont
The Mettawee River is another great option for trout. Like the Battenkill, the Mettawee can be found in the Green Mountains. Only 16 miles of the river is in Vermont. The rest is found in New York. Similar to the Driftless Region in the Midwest, a lot of the river flows through farm land. There is limited pocket water on the Mettawee. It’s mainly riffles that lead into pools. Anglers can find wild brown trout, native brook trout and some wild rainbow trout.
Where to Fish on the Mettawee:
Access can also be a bit tough on the Mettawee, but asking for permission from farmers usually works in the favor of the angler. Lower Hollow Road outside of Dorset gives access to the upper stream. The main stretch can be accessed from bridges along state highway 30.
Tricos, Blue Winged Olives, Isonychia and Caddis flies will all hatch on the Mettawee. Anything from size 10-24 will catch fish. Pay close attention to what is hatching and do your best to match. There are quite a few hatches that occur so be aware.
Using light tippet and a 3 or 4 weight rod is plenty. Finesse is key! It’s important to be stealthy when you are wading. Watch your shadows.
You can Access the Mettawee here:
3. White River for Fly Fishing in Vermont
The White River is one of the largest rivers in the state. There are tributaries all along the 60-miles. There are wild populations of brown, brook and rainbow trout. There are also stocked brown and rainbows. Atlantic Salmon also use the White River when they are returning to spawn in the Connecticut River. It’s a freestone stream with ample opportunities for anglers. Beginners will have the chance to test their skills and learn new techniques.
Where to Fish on the White River:
The river can be broken up into three sections. The first and second branches intersect in the town of Royalton. Rainbows and browns can be found here. State highway 110 will provide access points. The third section is at the town of Bethel. This is stocked with rainbow trout. Follow highway 12A for the access points.
Also, from Stockbridge down to Royalton there are numerous access points along state highway 107. This section is the deepest and wading often becomes too difficult. In the summer, this water warms up and smallmouth bass can be caught!
Your most success will likely be found in the fly fishing only section between Cleveland Brook in Bethel to Linnieville Brook.
If you’re targeting salmon, bring along the 6 or 8 weight. Otherwise, a 4 or 5 weight should be plenty for the White River. In the early spring, nymphs are the way to go. Otherwise, Caddis and Mayflies are great. Hendrickson, Sulphur, Cahill, BWO’s and Trico flies all size #18-24 are going to work best.
Here is the access point for part of the fly fishing only section:
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A FREE NORTHEAST HATCH CHART
4. Clyde River Vermont Fly Fishing Variety
The Clyde River is one of the more unique fisheries in Vermont. The variety of fishing opportunities can lead to a day of experimenting. It’s a great river to practice new techniques. The upper section holds the brown and brook trout. The middle section near East Charlestown are home to rainbows and salmon. The lower section also has rainbow trout and salmon. Fishing for the salmon during the spawn with streamers is wonderful. No matter where you’re located, this experience is highly recommended.
Bring one set of gear to the Clyde one day and fish for trout. Bring the salmon gear the next day and give it a try. It’s difficult to pinpoint one place to fish on the Clyde. The tributaries, ponds and dam all present different opportunities. If you want salmon, try the section in Newport from Lake Memphremagog to Clyde Pond. Brookies and browns can be found downstream of Island Pond. Bring heavier rods (6 or 8 weight) for salmon and the lighter rods for trout.
Identifying the proper fly is a chore. Quill Gordons, Little Black Caddis, Hendricksons, March Browns and Golden Drakes are all going to find trout. Find flies that match the smelt if you are salmon fishing. Finally, if you want to fish for both on the same trip, bring along some bigger streamers. The trout and salmon will both be equally frustrated by their presence.
5. Lamoille River
The Lamoille River is 85 miles long and as unique as they come. It begins in Greensboro and flows towards Lake Champlain. You’ll find the usual brown, brook and rainbow trout. The Lamoille also has a population of landlocked salmon. The upper portion along highway 16 is a smaller freestone style stream. Below East Hardwick, the river widens out. Rainbow and brook trout are prevalent throughout it. In the summer, the water temperatures rise so stick to the tributaries. While the temperatures are cool, fish the tailwater near the dam in Morrisville. It will harbor some large fish.
If you think chasing brook trout on the Lamoille River sounds like fun. Read this article to understand my techniques for catching brook trout on a fly. How to Fly Fish for Brook Trout: a Complete Guide.
You can carry a 5 or 6 weight and fish for both salmon and trout. From mid-May to late-June you will have the most success. For nymphs, go ahead and use Copper Johns, Pheasant Tils and Prince Nymphs. Anything from size 12 to 18 will work. Parachute Adams, Elk Hair Caddis and Hoppers will work for dry flies. Wooly Buggers and Zonkers are great options for streamers.
6. Black River a Connecticut Tributary
There are two Black Rivers in Vermont. This Black River is a tributary of the Connecticut River. It is a part of the Trophy Trout Stocking program that Vermont has implemented. It is best fished along Route 131 in Weathersfield. The section between the covered bridge near Downers Corners upstream to Howard Hills Road is going to hold some nice trout. Go ahead and use a 4 or 5 weight rod.
Bead Head Woolly Buggers, Bead Head Hare’s Ear Nymph, Bead Head Stone Flies and a Gray Ghost streamer will work best early in the season. Parachute Adams, Hoppers and Elk Hair Caddis will work for the dry flies. For the heavier nymphs and streamers, 3x tippet should work well. When you’re throwing dries, use 5x tippet.
7. Walloomsac River if Chasing Trophies
The Walloomsac River is another Trophy Trout stocked stream. Over 750 fish about 14 inches in length were put into the river. The Walloomsac isn’t like any of the other rivers on this list. It isn’t the pristine mountain stream that many desire. This stream is for the person that doesn’t want to go far to find fish. It’s easy to hop in in North Bennington near the Henry Bridge. It’s not uncommon to find one of those trophy fish.
Bring along the 5 weight and be prepared for a genuinely entertaining day. Since there are big fish in this stream, don’t shy away from the big streamers. Cast up along the banks and into the cover and see what strikes. Woolly Buggers and Zonkers are a great option. It can be frustrating if the fish aren’t biting because the views aren’t nearly as quality as the others on this list. But the beauty of the Walloomsac is that you rarely get skunked.
8. Otter Creek Miles of Vermont Water
Otter Creek is the longest river in the state. It stretches 112 miles from the Green Mountain National Forest all the way into Lake Champlain. Similar to many over rivers on this list, there are many different ways to fish it. It all depends on the location that you choose. The Upper Portion of the stream is made for brook trout
Tributaries of Otter Creek like the New Haven River, Middlebury River and Neshobe River all offer great trout fishing. The Lower Otter Creek is where the diversity begins. There are both warm and cold water tributaries. The creek holds bass, pike, carp and trout. The lower section can be fished year round because of the warmer temperatures.
For the lower section, use 1x tippet. For the upper sections, go ahead and use 5x tippet. Use a Foam Park Hopper, Bead Head Prince, Woolly Bugger, White Zonker or Copper John for trout. A White Zonker or Muddler will attract the pike or bass. Bring along the 6 weight and you can catch both trout and pike.
9. Lake Champlain and Tributaries
This is obviously a broad recommendation. However, it’s not a fishing trip to Vermont without a visit to Lake Champlain. You can catch pike, bass, trout and salmon. It’s best to hug the shore. Wetland areas and rocky points are going to be the most successful. If you have a canoe or kayak you can fish the shallow waters and lower tributaries. You can launch in Missisquoi Bay or Whitehall. Use streamers and crawfish flies to attract the larger fish. With these flies, use the 7 or 9 weight rod. If you’re searching for smaller fish, something between a 3 or 5 weight rod will work just fine.
Recommended Gear For Fly Fishing Vermont:
Fly fishing in Vermont can be expensive because of all the gear that is necessary for the variety of fish. If you only want to target trout, something between a 3 and 5 weight rod will work. However, if you want to target salmon and warm water fish, bring along something between a 6 and 9 weight rod.
I’ve written about my favorite fly rod in many other articles, I highly recommend the Temple Fork Outfitters DRIFT 3-Weight Fly Rod. (Link to Amazon to check prices and reviews) What I really like about the DRIFT is that it converts from 9 feet for delicate dry flies up to 12′ 3″ to use as a mini trout spey fly rod.
Many of the streams/bodies of water mentioned are easily wadable. Some breathable waders and wading boots will keep you the most comfortable. However, there are some decent canoeing/kayaking options.
Numerous fly options are key for successful fishing in Vermont. There are many hatches all year round so pay close attention and be in contact with fly shops. Large streamers, egg patterns, beadhead nymphs, caddis and mayflies will all catch fish. Vermont is going to stretch your fishing abilities. However, it is as pure of fishing as you can find. It’s a true battle between the angler and wild fish.
Official References for Fly Fishing in Vermont:
- The New Haven River Anglers Association- https://www.nhraa.com
- Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department- https://vtfishandwildlife.com/fish