Copyright 2018 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Battenkill In Vermont
Fly fishing the Battenkill is a truly unique experience.
The Battenkill is one of the most famous trout streams of
the Green Mountains.
The upper part near Manchester is small, with soft
bottoms, small pools and a few deep runs and riffles. It is
mostly brook trout with a few brown trout. The stream
turns from a southerly to a westerly direction near
Arlington and gets larger and stronger. There are a few
rapids but mostly long riffle sections joining long pools.
The stream gets wider as it gets longer before it crosses
the Vermont/New York state line. A few springs along the
way help keep the water cool during the hot summer.
There are some public access along the way but much
of the property the stream flows through is privately
owned. The trout in the Battenkill in Vermont are all wild
Fly Fishing Guide to the Battenkill
Fly fishing the Battenkill requires some skill for sure. The
river isn't overrun with trout; they are wild; and they can
become selective to certain insects at times.
The upper river is mostly the home of small brook trout
and a few brown trout. The soft bottom makes it a
heaven for the small Trico mayflies and of course,
difficult match the hatch conditions.
From Arlington westward, the trout are hidden in long
slow moving pools, some deep runs and a lot of riffles.
The countryside is beautiful with old dairy farms in the
background. The scenery seems to want to make your
mind go back into time.
The fish are not plentiful at this time so one must search
out the best areas to fish. This lower part of the
Battenkill in Vermont is by far the best area to fish but it
isn't a pushover by any means. There are some large
brown trout in the river but they didn't get big being
The state of New York stocks some brown trout in their
part of the Battenkill. There is a lower, downstream
special-regulations section there, and part of it is
stocked. It is possible to catch a lot of smaller stocked
trout in that area but other than that, it is all wild-trout
fishing. The wild brown and brook trout are what many
called "well educated". They can be very picky and
selective. There are a lot of highly skilled anglers that
fish the river and all of them will tell you the same thing.
The trout are not easy to catch.
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Photo Courtesy of David Knapp Photography
Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 &12 ft., 5 or 6X, Nymphing:
71/2 ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five
or Ultimate Six
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
One reason that the trout are difficult is that
most everyone releases their fish. When the
brown trout reach about the age of three they
have pretty well seen about all the trout flies
and techniques that could possible be used to
catch them. Many of them have been caught
more than once. When the browns get to
about fourteen inches long in the Batten Kill
(as with most other streams), they just about
stop rising to hatching insects. That makes
them even more difficult to pin point.
You must do things by the book fishing this
river. You want catch anything if you wade
sloppy, move the gravel beneath your wading
boots, throw shadows over the trout, make
poor presentations, line the trout, make
excessive false cast and any number of other
things that spook trout.
One situation that causes the fishing to be
tougher than average is the low gradient of
the river. The flow is generally slow in most
places. There are lots of slow-flowing, long,
smooth flowing, flat pools. Yes, there are
riffles between them but the trout are often
found in the pools. It would be much easier if
all the trout stayed in the faster water, but they
Most trout are situated along the banks, not
out in the middle of the stream. There is little
structure or cover for them midstream. The
trout have ample time to examine your fly just
about anywhere you cast it. You would think
the current would be stable and smooth. That
is not the case at all. There are many different
speeds of the current. That is caused mostly
by the pockets and undercuts along the
banks. It is sometimes difficult to read.
There are lots of conflicting currents in
the smooth water.By the time you figure
out the hatches and conclude which flies
give you the best advantage or
opportunity, you have to try to master the
slow currents and presentations that are
absolutely necessary to fool the trout. By
the time many anglers have worked out
these problems, things have changed
and the fish are reacting to a different
insect or have ceased feeding in a
I wish I could tell you the secret or outline
a few tactics or tricks that would always
work on the Batten Kill but I can't. It is a
big challenge to out smart the trout there.
Many anglers don't like that type of
fishing. When they cast, they want action.
Those are the ones that would not be
happy fishing the Battenkill. Others take
a lot of pride in figuring out what the
trout are eating, matching it with an good
imitation and presenting it in such a way
as to fool the Battenkill's wise brown
trout. I happen to be one of those guys. I
get more satisfaction out of catching a
few trout under these tough conditions
than I do a lot of them where the fishing is
easy. That makes the Battenkill one of
the top choices of Eastern Streams as far
as I am concerned.
The Spring and Fall seasons are the best
times for fly fishing the Battenkill.
There are many good hatches that take
place on the Battenkill during the spring.
The trout can become very selective but this
is the best time to fish the stream.
Battenkill Hatches and Trout Flies
The Battenkill has a lot of different types and
species of aquatic insects and of course, that
means a lot of hatches. A quick look at our
hatch chart will indicate that. I think one main
reason is the different types of bottom
composition ranging from the soft mud like
bottoms of the upper river near Manchester
to the gravel and small rock bottom that exist
in the middle and lower sections of the river.
There are lots of different species of clinger
nymphs as well as burrowers, both of which
require a completely different stream
makeup. There are also plenty of swimmers
and crawlers. The stream's PH level is
normally high, or certainly high for a
freestone stream, partly because of the
terrain the river flows through. The drainage
from the agriculture and dairy farms add to
the alkalinity of the stream.
I suppose the most famous of the hatches is
the Hendrickson and Red Quill hatch. It
usually starts near the opening of the season
or from about the end of April to the first of
May. As with most Eastern streams, the first
hatches are the Blue Quills and Blue-winged
Olives. Not long after that the March Brown
mayflies will begin to appear. Close to the
same time, Light Cahills show up. By the
middle of May, there is a dining table full of
bugs for the trout to eat. Figuring out which
bugs the trout are eating can be a problem. I
haven't yet mentioned the stoneflies or
caddisflies that also make their home in the
By the first of June both Yellow Drakes and
Golden Drakes will be near their hatch times.
So will the Sulphur and Eastern Pale Evening
Soon thereafter, the Cream Cahills and
Tricos will appear along the last of the mayfly
hatches. It is a mayfly menu from about the
end of April through the month of June.
On top of everything I have named, I
haven't mentioned much about the most
plentiful species or group of mayflies that
exist in the river - the Blue-winged Olives.
Baetis species along with many other
species that are called BWOs exist there
and hatch off and on just about the entire
There is also a huge diversity of
caddisflies. The most plentiful are the
Cinnamon Sedges. Several species of
these net-spinning caddis live there along
with their Little Sisters. The large Blue
Dark Blue Sedges are also present. In the
fast water sections you will find plenty of
Rock Worms or Green Sedges. You could
add to that a lot of minor caddisfly hatches.
It would be much easier to say which
aquatic insects are not present in the
Battenkill. You need to know your aquatic
insects well and make some careful
observations when you fish the river or
otherwise you may be making a lot of
wasted cast. If you can and do handle the
hatches well, you can be in for some
action when everyone else in complaining.
When it comes to trout fly selection, the
choices are simple. You must use flies that
look and act like the real things they are
imitating. The closer they come to that, the
better off you are. This is no place for
attractor or generic imitations. About the
only place they will work at times is for the
smaller trout found in the riffles. When a
hatch is underway, you need to match the
insects as close as possible. Naturally, we
recommend our own Perfect Flies. It was
this type of stream that inspired us to
develop the far better than average,
difficult to tie patterns. We have had a lot
of our customers report our flies are
helping them increase their catches on the
Battenkill as well as many other difficult to
The dog days of summer slows the fishing
down some but they are still there to be
caught by the skilled anglers.
Autumn comes early in Vermont, the water
cools down and the trout become active
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Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
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Fishing Report Updated 11/30/18
Battenkill River Fishing Report - 11/30/18
Note: Closed in Vermont but open in New York. The stream levels are very high at this
time but otherwise, the river in good shape. There are still some good hatches taking place,
7 Day Weather Forecast: There is a chance of rain through Thursday, otherwise clear for
the coming week. Highs will range from 58 to 72 degrees and lows from 42 to 55.
Recommended Trout Flies:
Strategies, Techniques and Tips:
We still think the best strategy is to fish a tandem Midge rig under a small strike
indicator with the midge lava as the bottom fly and the midge pupa as the top fly. Fish
the adult midge only when you observe trout feeding on the surface.
Brown Sculpin and White Belly Sculpin will work year-round.
Black and Olive Matuka Sculpin are great flies to use for the larger trout.
Blue-winged olives are hatching, especially on cloudy, overcast days.
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (email@example.com)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $100 are shipped via
Midges: Blood (Red), sizes 20/22, larva, pupa and adults
Midges: Light Green, size 20/22, larva, pupa and adults
Midges: Cream, size 20/22, larva pupa and adults
Brown Sculpin and White Belly Sculpin, size 6
Black Matuka and Olive Matuka Sculpin, size 4/6
Blue-winged Olives: size 16, 18 nymph, emergers, duns and spinners
Slate Drakes, size 10/12, nymphs and spinners