Vermont is one of the smallest states in the US, but that doesn’t mean the fly fishing opportunities are lacking! This little state has spectacular scenery and hundreds of lakes, rivers, and streams to choose from. And with a population of just 700,000 in Vermont, you won’t be battling with other anglers for the top spots!
Here’s our guide to Vermont fly fishing at its best. We’ll let you in on the top fly fishing rivers and lakes, as well as info on licenses, local regulations, and the gear you’ll need.
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Top Fly Fishing Vermont Rivers and Lakes
Whether you’re a Vermont resident or you’re just visiting, there’s plenty to keep you busy in the Green Mountain State. Narrowing down where to fly fish can be the hardest decision, so we’ve put together a shortlist of the best locations. Here’s where to fly fish in Vermont:
1. The Battenkill River
If you’re up for a challenge, head to the Battenkill River. Starting in the Green Mountain area and stretching for 59 miles through Vermont and on into New York, this river is full of wild native brook and brown trout. These trout are wily, fussy, and easily spooked, but nothing beats the feeling when you haul in one of these big beauties.
The best public access points are at Red Mill, Wagon Wheel, and Waterworks Bridge. You can wade the Battenkill (pick up a fishpond wading staff), but be careful not to scare the fish off with your movements or even your shadow. If you want to know the best flies for the Battenkill, visit a nearby fly shop to find out what works best and stock up on some local fly patterns.
2. White River
The White River is one of the most popular rivers for fly anglers in Vermont. On this freestone river, you can throw bugs for wild and stocked rainbow and brown trout, as well as the occasional native brook trout. Atlantic salmon also travel up the White River in the approach to spawning season.
It’s a great place to go fly fishing in VT, with a dedicated fly fishing section from Cleveland Brook to Linnieville Brook. The White River is split into three main branches, and has lots of tributaries which also offer superb trout fishing opportunities. You can even fish for smallmouth bass on the first branch of the White River when water temperatures rise in the summer.
3. Mettawee River
While the Mettawee River only runs for 16 miles through Vermont before entering New York, this entire stretch is ideal for Vermont fly fishing. Regular stockings along the lower part of the river boost the wild trout populations. Some of the best spots are where the river branches off into smaller tributaries, creating cool pockets of water that the trout seek out.
The main access point for the Mettawee River is from Highway 30. However, the locals are friendly and sympathetic to anglers, and may let you fish on their private property. (Just make sure you ask first!)
The best gear for the Mettawee is a 4 weight fly rod teamed with plenty of caddisfly patterns and BWOs. Keep your eye out for what’s hatching, and you’ll be set for success.
4. Clyde River
The Clyde is another river that offers a huge amount of variety. You could spend days fishing on and around the Clyde River and the local tributaries and lakes, and no two days will be alike. If you like to keep your options open, this river is where you need to be! The only downside is that you’ll need to carry a wide variety of flies to suit every situation, and possibly even two different rods.
Higher up, you’ll find brown and brook trout reaching lunker sizes. Further down, there’s the chance of catching salmon and rainbow trout. The salmon go crazy chasing after big streamers on the Clyde River! It’s worth planning several trips to this area, so you can cover all the options and fish for both the trout and salmon.
5. Otter Creek
Otter Creek begins in the Green Mountains and flows through 112 miles of Vermont countryside, until it empties into Lake Champlain. Along the way, there are some great spots to fly fish Vermont waters.
Otter Creek is a diverse waterway, divided into several sections. The best sections to head to will depends on the techniques you like to use and what you want to catch. If you’re gunning for big brook trout, you’ll need to set up on the upper portion of the creek.
Lower down, there’s more variety, with the opportunities to catch pike, trout, bass, and carp. You’ll find both warm-water and cold-water streams, making this an excellent spot for Vermont fly fishing all year round.
6. Lamoille River
Lamoille River is the best spot to head to if you want to fish for both trout and landlocked salmon. Pack a versatile 5 weight rod, and throw flies for rainbow, brook, and brown trout and the Lamoille salmon population.
The top months for fly fishing on the Lamoille River system are from May to July. Stick to the cooler streamers when the weather hots up and the water temperatures rise. During the colder months, the tailwater section under the Morrisville dam is productive. You can reel in some big beauties there! Go for classic dry flies and streamers like the Woolly Bugger, Elk Hair Caddis, and Parachute Adams.
7. Lake Champlain
You can’t plan your Vermont fly fishing trips without fitting in at least one outing to Lake Champlain and the surrounding tributaries. One of the biggest freshwater lakes in the US, it’s also one of the top places in Vermont to fish for salmon, trout, bass, and pike.
You can fish from the shore, casting your flies along the banks and in the wetland spots. If you have a kayak or a canoe, hop in to cover more of the water and explore the promising streams branching off from the lake.
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During the spring and fall, the trout fishing is excellent. If you visit in the warmer summer months, turn your focus to the smallmouth and largemouth bass that this lake is so well-known for.
Vermont Fishing Report
Any experienced angler will know how important it is to check the fishing reports before heading out. You can find out how the fish are behaving, what’s hatching, and how deep the water is, so that you can take the right gear and flies. Check out the latest Vermont fishing report here.
Vermont Fishing License
Every angler aged 16+ needs a fishing license to fly fish in Vermont. There are two options:
Resident and non-resident licenses are available for shorter durations such as 3 days or 1 week. Or you can go for the annual license, which costs $26 for residents and $52 for non-residents. Youth and senior licenses are also available.
Vermont Fishing Regulations
It’s essential that you’re up to date on the Vermont fly fishing regulations before you hit the water. From daily bag limits to fishing restrictions, you can get informed on the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department’s website.
They also have a cool online fishing regulation tool so you can check the rules on the go, wherever you are.
Top Gear for Fishing in Vermont
The first step to kitting yourself out in the best fishing gear for Vermont, is deciding which species you want to fish. Generally, a 3-5 weight fly rod is perfect for trout fishing, but you’ll need to bring out a 6-9 weight if you’re targeting Vermont salmon.
You can fish most of Vermont’s streams, creeks, rivers, and lakes from the shore or by wading. But there are some fantastic opportunities for kayaking or canoeing, too.
The Vermont fly fishing scene is diverse, something you should keep in mind when selecting your flies. Pick out a range of streamers, dry flies, and weighted nymphs, plus those egg patterns that the salmon go crazy for. Then, you’ll be well prepared, wherever you head to in the Green Mountain State!
When to Go Fly Fishing in Vermont?
There are excellent fly fishing opportunities from spring through fall in Vermont, depending on where you go. Certain spots are only open from April to October, but you can fish on Lake Champlain all year round. It’s catch-and-release only for largemouth and smallmouth bass from December – June on this great fly fishing lake.
During the summer, water temperatures rise, so the prospects aren’t as good. If you want to fish the warmer summer months, head to the cooler mountain streams to try your luck at the native wild trout. Otherwise, you can target bass and warm-water fish in certain locations during the summer months.
The best time to fish the Battenkill River is during the spring and fall. You’ll find consistent hatches providing plenty of forage for the trout, so you can catch lots of trout (so long as you nail your presentation!)
The Wrap Up
Now you know everything there is to know about fly fishing in Vermont! This little state has plenty to offer to fly anglers, with wild trout in abundance and gorgeous scenery as a backdrop. You stand the chance of catching a trophy-size fish among the forest and meadows in this northern state.
So, where will you head to first with your fly rod and flies? Let us know your chosen spot, or fill us in on any top locations that we missed off! Just drop us a comment or send an email – we love hearing from you guys.
And don’t miss our other location guides, designed to fill you in on the top fly spots across the US and further afield.