[DIY] Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Vermont

When you think of Vermont, you may picture quaint little towns and a rustic, rural lifestyle.

While this is true to some extent, there are also plenty of activities to keep residents and visitors alike entertained and on the move.

The tiny little state may rank 49th in population among the 50 states, but it is packed with thousands of bodies of water – from lakes and ponds to rivers and streams, fly fishermen will find plenty of waters in which to indulge in their favorite sport.

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Lake Champlain is no secret, even to those from other areas of the U.S., but this mammoth natural wonder isn’t the only game in town as far as water sports go. Vermont is divided into six geographical areas, each with their own aquatic gems:

  • Northeast Highlands: this area is punctuated by incredible granite mountains, and is cut through by rapidly flowing streams.
  • Western New England Upland: also known as the Vermont Piedmont, the northern portion features an abundance of lakes.
  • Green Mountains: the center of Vermont tourism, this area provides rich natural resources like marble, talc, slate, and granite.
  • Vermont Valley: hosts the Battenkill and Waloomsac rivers, along with a bevy of other small rivers.
  • Taconic Mountains: just as it sounds, mountains populate this area, along with stunning lakes and vigorous streams.
  • Champlain Valley: the fertile land of the Vermont Lowland borders the state’s largest lake, Lake Champlain.

While the options are virtually limitless, you’ve got to start somewhere, so let’s take a look at a few of the most desirable fly fishing locations in Vermont.

Vermont Fishing Access Sites and Boat Launch Map

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Best Places to Fish in Vermont

Depending upon the level of challenge you’re looking for in your angling experience, you have a number of choices that will take you to striking locations, each with their own quirks and requirements.

Battenkill (Batten Kill) River

This 59 mile stretch of water begins in East Dorset, VT and meanders across the state and into New York, with its mouth at the Hudson River. It is known for its unique challenges, requiring anglers to stick to stringent fishing practices in order to avoid scaring away the wise, native brook and brown trout. These fish are all wild, and the larger ones have lived long enough to have experience with virtually every fly and technique known to fishermen.

There are public access points, particularly along routes 61 and 313, but rumor has it that landowners along this freestone stream are generally friendly and willing to let a bug chucker try their hand on private property. If you’re feeling bold, knock on a door or two and you might just get lucky. If you’re not so sure about going this route, you can use public access points like the Waterworks Bridge, Red Mill, or Wagon Wheel.

So what makes these waters so fussy for fishing enthusiasts? The current at the bank is slower than in the middle, so drag can pose a problem. There is a high ratio of catch and release in the Batten Kill, so the larger browns become well-educated in the art of dodging the angler. Something as innocuous as casting your shadow the wrong way can alert the fish to an intruder – never mind if you’re sloppy in your wading movements. To add to the difficulty, hatches are unique to the area and the fish are very finicky about insect pattern. Local experts recommend matching the seasonal hatch as closely as possible to up your chances of success.

The Battenkill, despite its intimidating factors, is still a favorite fly fishing destination in Vermont, and if nothing else the scenery is almost worth the trip just on its own. With clear pools and riffles throughout, surrounded by picturesque meadows filled with hemlock, it’s a sight that’s tough to beat. And for the bug chucker who thrives on a good contest, the Batten Kill is the ideal foe.

Mettawee River

Based in the Green Mountains near Dorset, this freestone stream runs for 16 miles in Vermont before passing into New York. The surrounding dairy farms make this a scenic location to cast your line, while the waters are home to brown and rainbow trout, with browns being stocked in the lower portion by the state.

The main access points for the Mettawee can be found along state highway 30, at bridges and one official access point. Again, feel free to ask farmers for permission to use their land, as the people have a reputation for being exceptionally easy-going.

With moderate currents, and plenty of long riffles and pool, this river is a pleasant and popular fishing spot. Your best bet is to find a place where it meets up with a tributary, as the waters are colder and if trout love anything, it’s frigid water.

Clyde River

If you’re gunning for salmon, the Clyde is for you. You’ll find these critters in the mile and a half section between Lake Memphremagog and the Clyde Pond Dam. Go above the dam and enjoy a 35-mile stretch that houses brown trout. Travel to the Pherrins River, a tributary of the Clyde, and you’ll find lucrative brook trout angling – the brooks here can reach a hefty three pounds.

Along the Clyde you’ll enjoy a variety of conditions, including riffles, pools, pockets with conflicting currents, and deep runs. Due to the surrounding ponds and lakes, plus the tributaries, the water types differ depending upon where you are. This variety has its drawbacks, however, as you’ll need to carry a wide selection of flies and gear unless you plan to stay in one spot.

Best Time to Fish in Vermont

Fishing season is Vermont is restricted to the time period between mid-April and late October in some areas, so you’ll want to check the regulations for your specific destination. There is no closed season for trout and landlocked salmon on Lake Champlain, or for rainbow smelt anywhere. Catch and release for smallmouth and largemouth bass on Lake Champlain runs from December 1 through June 10, and April 9 to June 10 everywhere else.

From April to mid-May nymphs are a great way to go. Mid-May to the first of July is ripe for hatches of Caddis and Mayflies, and dry flies yield decent trout opportunities. Summertime means the East Coast’s cold mountain streams give up wild trout, making it ideal for the beginning angler. As fall approaches, some skill and patience will be required as the water is still quite warm, but further into fall the fish start to bite prolifically again, offering the chance to enjoy the stunning foliage while you cast your line.

If the Battenkill is your destination, spring and fall are your best bet. While the trout are picky during this time, the hatches are plentiful which means better chances of success. Summer is not ideal on the Battenkill but skilled fishermen who want to hone their expert techniques may find this an invigorating challenge.

Vermont Fishing Tips

Due to the incredibly wide variety of water and weather conditions you may encounter, you’ll want to bring plenty of typical gear – waders, rain poncho, first aid kit, and of course snacks for yourself. As for your actual fishing gear, plan on:

  • 4, 5, or 6 weight rod for trout and 6 to 8 for salmon
  • Leaders of 9 and 12 feet with 5X or 6X tippet for dry fly, 7.5 feet with 3X or 4X tippet for nymphing, and 0-2X for streamers
  • Accessories – forceps, nippers, retractors, etc.

You’ll want a large selection of fly patterns as well – nymphs, streamers, minnows, pheasant tails, eggs, parachutes, and gnats. The more you can carry the better, particularly on the Battenkill where hatches can be specific and the fish are fussy about patterns.

There are plenty of fly fishing guide services in Vermont, and places to get custom-tied flies that closely match the local hatches, so do some research before your trip so you can get hooked up with the right resources when you’re ready to stock up.

Vermont Fishing Regulations

Fishing licenses are available through the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. A resident license is $26, and non-resident $51. You can also choose a five-year license for $124 and $249 respectively. Non-residents may choose a one-, three-, or 7-day fishing license for $21, $23, and $31. Children under age 15 do not require a license, and prices for youth licenses (ages 15-17) are $8 for residents and $15 for non-residents. Vermont residents may purchase a lifetime fishing license, but this can only be done at the Montpelier office. Other licenses may be purchased online. Vermont hosts a free fishing day in mid-June as well, which gives the beginner a great chance to dip their toes in the water, so to speak, before committing to a full license fee.

Vermont Fishing Has Much To Offer

Whether you’re a novice or an expert with years of fly fishing under your belt, Vermont has much to offer. On top of the native brook and brown trout, salmon add variety into the mix and the landscapes are absolutely breathtaking.