fly fishing vermont at sunrise

Stream Dreams: Fly Fishing Adventures in Waterbury, Vermont

With the arrival of warmer spring days, the snowmelt in the Green Mountains of central Vermont begins rushing into our countless rivers and streams, ushering in one of the best times of year to cast a line and reel in stunning fish like rainbow trout, brown trout, and smallmouth bass. Within minutes of our Waterbury bed and breakfast, you’ll have easy access to world-class fly fishing Vermont waterways showcasing their beauty and bounty, whether you’re wading in the Winooski, joining a guided tour from a legendary local bait and tackle shop, or tossing in a line from the scenic shoreline at Waterbury Reservoir.

catching rainbow trout when fly fishing vermont
Fishing the Winooski River and Trout Aplenty

From downtown Waterbury, you’re always just a short distance from flowing water, from the Winooski River – a majestic waterway that stretches over 90 miles long and runs right through the heart of town – to the dozens of streams, brooks, and tributaries that feed into it. These diverse waters are teeming with brook, rainbow, and brown trout, some of which are “wild” and spawn naturally, and others stocked by the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation (VFPR). 

Rainbow trout – one of the most “classic” freshwater fish species and easy to identify with their black spotting – spawn between March and May, making springtime one of the best times of year to reel one (or several!) in. Brown trout, a non-native species like the rainbow trout, both introduced to Vermont just over a century ago, is another commonly caught fish in the waters around Waterbury. Brown trout can tolerate higher river and stream temperatures than rainbows, making them more catchable in shallower, warmer water areas and later into summer. Look for brook trout (easy to identify with their subtle and beautiful red spotting) in chillier water, more common as you climb higher in elevation, and along specific, smaller tributaries like Stevenson Brook. For excellent fishing on the Winooski River, choose a spot along River Road, which runs parallel to the river along the south side through town and then on the north side after you cross the Route 2 bridge.

Top-Notch Reservoir and “Trophy Stream” Fishing Just a Few Miles Outside Waterbury

Another world-class freshwater fishing spot is just three miles north of our location, along the pristine shores of the expansive 860-acre Waterbury Reservoir. In addition to brown and rainbow trout (wild and stocked), it’s also one of the most renowned places in Vermont for smallmouth bass fishing. These bass often congregate near rock pilings and sharp drop-offs, making it accessible and convenient to try your luck from the shore. The reservoir is also up to 100 feet deep in places, so if you head out on a boat, you’ll have good luck fishing the deeper areas for rainbows and bass, both of which love these colder depths. Boat rentals are available on-site at Waterbury Center State Park, which opens for the summer season on Memorial Day. Break up your fun-filled fishing day at the reservoir with a panini and hard cider just a half-mile up Route 100 at Cold Hollow Cider Mill, one of our favorite local cideries (they have six hard ciders on tap, plus non-alcoholic versions, so their menu has refreshing options for everyone).

A stretch of the Little River leading south from the Waterbury Reservoir is known as a “trophy trout stream” and a must-fish spot. The VFPR stocks these 10+ trophy streams with thousands of large trout, some up to 24 inches long. Open harvest season runs from mid-April through late October, allowing for two catches per day from these abundant stretches of rivers, where you’re most likely to catch a once-in-a-lifetime type of fish.

Learn from the Fly Fishing Vermont Experts at the Fly Rod Shop

Experienced anglers and newcomers alike, start your fishing adventure at the Fly Rod Shop, just 10 minutes north of downtown Waterbury along Route 100 on the way north to Stowe. Their assortment of rods, reels, lines, and flies will have you catching fresh trout and bass in no time, and their knowledgeable staff can give you up-to-date tips about changing river conditions and where the fish are biting best on any given day. In business for nearly 40 years, they aim to spread a love and appreciation for fly-fishing with unique and beginner-friendly events like their free weekly “casting clinic.” Held every Wed evening from 4-5:30 pm starting on May 1st and continuing through summer, you’ll get hands-on instruction at their private pond, learning the intricacies of various casting methods and how to adjust your technique to ever-changing river flow and weather (wind can significantly affect the action of fly lines mid-air, for example).

If you don’t have any fly-fishing gear or experience but want to jump in, join one of their guided fly-fishing tours, available in half-day (4 hours) or full-day (8 hours) options. After learning the basics at their pond, they’ll provide all the gear, bait, and transportation to their “secret fishing hole,” where you’ll likely reel in your first trout within minutes, fly fishing Vermont  best waters like a seasoned pro.

river in vermont

Helpful Info to Know Beforehand – Fly Fishing Vermont Licenses and Regulations

A state-issued license is required to fish anywhere in Vermont, so purchase it online before your trip or buy one in person at the Fly Rod Shop. Current rates are $28 for Vermont residents and $54 for out-of-state visitors, but kids under age 15 do not need a license and can fish for free. If you plan to fish in early summer, mark the calendar for the second Saturday in June, one of two “free fishing days” every year when you can fish without a license.

Before your visit, check the Vermont statewide fishing regulations limiting the daily catch for different fish, which vary by species and location (daily catch limits are different for rivers and streams versus lakes and ponds). Rainbow, brown, and brook trout harvest season runs from mid-April through October 31st, with 6 (lake/pond) to 8 (river/stream) allowed daily. Meanwhile, smallmouth bass harvest season doesn’t start until mid-June, with a maximum limit of 5 allowed per day, and they must be at least 10 inches long.

Baitfish are also strictly limited and enforced to prevent the introduction of harmful and invasive species to Vermont waterways, so research beforehand whether specific baitfish fall within the rules for the zone you plan to fish. It may be more convenient to use artificial lures to avoid confusion, especially if you’re new to fishing in Vermont.

Stay with us this spring and discover the thrill of fly fishing Vermont most iconic rivers, streams, and reservoirs!