Early fall in Vermont. The sun rides low on the horizon. Clouds give way to cool breezes smelling of apples and pine. Rivers are laden with clouds of caddis. Gator pike make their way onto shallow shelves, laying wait in forests of cabbage and millfoil. Salmon and lake trout leave their subaqueous dwelling along the lake’s floor to run schools of alewife and smelt down shorelines and breakwaters.
The opportunity for a fly angler expands as these cool months push in. There are days when nothing is more alluring than a folded 9wt, the sounds of yelling friends and screaming drag drowning away any remaining ambiance. There are other days where it’s important to return to the tranquility of fly fishing. A boiling stream, a whispering fly line passing through the cool morning mist and the occasional slurp of a hungry trout.
We set out to capture these moments and further explore the placidity of the sport. We journeyed to one of the most productive wild trout streams in our area. This stream had a special draw, the water is always slightly clouded and the fish tend to be less timid than ordinary wild trout. They have a tendency school up in narrow channels. They’ll attack swung streamers like pods of bluefish, taking alternating swipes as your fly glides just below the surface.
Our favorite way to target these fish when they aren’t up for dries is a medium (size 6-8) black bead head wooly bugger tied with a pearl/black crystal chenille body and a few strands of flash in the tail. This combination makes a lot of noise and draws out hungry trout. We’ve found the fish respond better to a “skitter” as opposed to a traditional swing. It’s an erratic vibration stemming from your wrist. The movement sends what looks like a sine wave down your fly line and causes the streamer to dart and pulsate in the water.
This film was shot over the course of two mornings. We chose to shoot a stretch of river which highlighted the natural beauty of the area. The sun rose downstream refracting off the rippled surface and throwing shards of warm morning light omnidirectionally. It’s a gorgeous aesthetic which lasts a couple hours at most. We arrived before the sun had a chance to touch the water’s surface. There’s a stillness about this time, gentle and blue, the forest yet to wake. We shot until the sun began to creep high and the moisture burned off the water’s surface.
For any camera geeks out there we shot the film on an Arri Alexa Mini with Angenieux Optimo DP Rouge zooms, both the 30-80 and 16-42. These lenses have a lot of character and helped envelop the film in a veil of light and movement. Every flare/light leak was captured organically in camera.
In the end, this project was both an exercise in filmmaking and appreciation. As much as we’d like to, most of us can’t spend every day on the river. There are days I’ll return to this place and take a moment to sit. I’ll watch heron stand stoically on the banks, families of black bear bathe in the tranquil pools, wild trout rise to terrestrial insects. I learned the importance of taking a moment, in the serenity of these wild places to reground myself, to maintain sanity.
A collection of moments, paying tribute to the beauty and serenity of Vermont’s wild trout and the streams they inhabit.