The Lamoille River is a Classic Trout Stream
Along with the Batten Kill River, which is a must in any guidebook on fishing in Vermont, the Lamoille is a classic trout stream that has deservedly earned the reputation of being one of the state’s premier pieces of rainbow trout water.
Rainbow trout swim along the river
The Lamoille runs from its headwaters in Greensboro down through the township of Johnson, and before I go into great detail about the river, I would first like to give you an idea of what this stream is like as it ends. This may seem like a backward way to introduce you to the Lamoille, but bear with me. What I will give you in return is a location for a very pleasant family outing on the water.
The river runs very slowly down at the mouth, and there are several state fishing accesses available to boaters. In addition the winds that sometimes howl along the outer edge of the river’s mouth are rarely a problem once you duck a couple of hundred yards into the stream. This means that even the most novice of paddlers or boaters will be able to fish here safely.
The fishing is good, especially for small and largemouth bass and panfish like pumpkinseed, perch, and rock bass. The water is usually about 6- to 10-feet deep, although there are some large, deep holes which run closer to 30 feet. Because the current is so light, it is easy to drop your lure or bait down into these holes and fish along their ledges. The rock bass are fond of these sudden drop-offs, and you should make use of a depth finder to locate the likely spots where they will be lying.
Amy did particularly well on our trip, catching two nice largemouth which she kept for dinner and about twenty-five panfish of varying sizes. I had two good-sized fish break off my 6-pound-test line after violent strikes, and Lauren caught a fair number of medium-sized fish. John had a tough day, losing many fish and missing scores of others. But then, John was having too much fun with his new boat to notice. If you pack up a nice picnic lunch and the family and drive to one of the state accesses, where you could launch your craft on the bottom of the Lamoille some weekend, you will have at least as good a time as we had.
If your pleasure runs more toward wading through small streams in search of native brook trout, then you must begin your journey up in Greensboro where the Lamoille starts. Technically, the Lamoille’s source is the outflow of Horse Pond, located right at the eastern corner of town.
It flows down into Wheelock where it is met by Page and Morrison brooks before it turns back toward and into Greensboro again. About a mile after it reenters Greensboro, the Lamoille is met by Mud Pond Brook and Paine Brook right next to the intersection of VT 16 and Fontaine Road. This part of the river is very narrow and is best fished with a small, 3- or 4-weight fly rod. You will need to cast into some tight places to get to the brookies that live here.
After the river leaves this intersection, it flows south past two more tributaries, Edson and Flagg brooks. VT 16 runs parallel to the river on its western side. Access is not bad along here, although you will frequently have to bushwhack through some thick brush in order to get to the river. Most anglers find it easiest to start fishing at a small access right where Flagg Brook enters and to wade north to where Fontaine Road crosses the river. This is roughly a two-mile hike, so come prepared for a good, long trip if you decide to wade this stretch.
A little bit farther downstream from the mouth of Edson Brook, Gonyaw Road crosses the river. You are also within sight of another road crossing which occurs just a few hundred feet below at Young Road. Either of these bridges is a great place to take to the river. About a half-mile farther downstream, anglers will find another small bridge which also affords good access, as does the small bridge another half-mile downriver.
This grouping of tiny bridges and the one at Greensboro Bend offer anglers lots of opportunities to get at the very best fishing locations on the upper Lamoille. You will find some rainbow trout in addition to the many native brook trout as you work your way down into the Greensboro Bend area. During the fall there is also a brown trout run along this part of the river in southern Greensboro, although the real attraction still will be the brookies.
The river now enters the town of Hardwick. For its journey south until the river is met by Haynesville Brook, the Lamoille remains small. It is still populated by brook trout, with some rainbows, and is best fished with very light gear. I found that my 7-foot,3-inch Fenwick Iron Feather rod was perfect here. It is a stiff little 4-weight rod that allows me the luxury of a little extra power when the wind kicks up, while at the same time giving me the ability to cast into those tight spots where brookies like to hide.
The Lamoille turns to the west and begins its steady path toward Lake Champlain as Haynesville Brook enters. The river becomes wider and more exposed. This is where anglers would be well advised to break out some heavier gear, as the brown trout are here in increasing numbers. The whole stretch that runs alongside VT 15 and into Hardwick village is good, fast-moving water. You will find some very good-sized rainbow trout in here as well.
As VT 1.4 and VT 15 meet in Hardwick and head up to the north, the river flows into Hardwick Lake. The lake is formed by a dam that holds back a substantial amount of water. Hardwick Lake is 145 acres spread out over a two-mile-long valley. Anglers will find the lake populated by warm-water species like yellow perch, pickerel, and various panfish.
As the Lamoille heads west through Hardwick and into Wolcott, VT 15 and side roads cross it several times, providing excellent access. You will also come across a very important tributary as you enter the village of Wolcott. The Elmore Branch feeds in here, offering you the opportunity to fish its mouth for migrating trout during the spring and fall spawning seasons.
Another important feature found in the area is the Lamoille Valley railroad line, which runs parallel to the river. Railroad bridges can give you a unique access to any river if you are careful. The railroad bridges on the Lamoille will also allow you to get at large brown trout by fishing around the submerged structures after the sun has gone down in the evening.
Just to the east of Wolcott village, you encounter a dam. The dam here and the one downstream from it in Morristown provide anglers with some interesting opportunities for tailwater fishing. However, some of the best fishing on this whole stretch of the river occurs just downstream from the Morristown dam near Cadys Falls.
Bill Knight is a guide who specializes in canoe fishing trips down the six-mile section of the Lamoille from just west of Morrisville through Hyde Park and into Johnson. Bill is a spin-angler, although his knowledge of this part of the river will serve fly-anglers well. He and I put his long canoe into the water during one beautiful June afternoon and set out in search of the Lamoille’s famous rainbow trout.
The river is very wide along this six-mile run, although the productive pieces of water are often separated by stretches of shallow water which may extend for several hundred yards. In these shallow spots, the water is rarely more than a foot deep, and fishing is next to impossible. However, if you fish under the tree overhangs that line the shore, you can sometimes get a stray rainbow or brown to hit.
But there are plenty of good-sized holes along the way to toss your line into as well. Most of these are found along the river’s many bends, and they are filled with healthy rainbow trout. Bill and I anchored his canoe at one such hole, located right at the top of the famous Ten Bends area.
The Ten Bends
The Ten Bends, a private fishing reserve, has existed on the Lamoille for many years. The owners and their members have maintained a strict catch-and-release policy along this stretch of the river. According to Vermont law, while a private landowner may restrict access to any given piece of water that runs through his property, no landowner may block or impede the travel of boats or canoes through a navigable stretch of river. This may seem confusing, but the rule of thumb is that no one may own a river itself, just the land around it.
Therefore you are allowed to keep the fish you catch in the Ten Bends area, providing you are fishing from a canoe or have reached the area by wading and do not cross the association’s land at any time. Still, I recommend that all anglers comply with the catch-and-release policy. The association has created a wonderful fishing reserve on the river by enforcing the policy among its members. It seems a little bit rude to pass through and violate it as a guest. Bill and I caught seven rainbows at the top rapid at Ten Bends, all over 12 inches in length. Bill had convinced me to try fishing the rapid with a spinning rod, and I caught all of my fish using a red-and-white Mepps lure.
After exhausting this pool, we pulled up the anchor and continued to drift through the Ten Bends. The edges of the shoreline held lots of smaller fish, mostly rainbows, and they all seemed to prefer to stay under the many tree overhangs during the heat of the day. The Ten Bends has many small twists and turns in it, all holding fish that fall in the 12-inch range.
Still, I was a little disappointed. While the Lamoille is a good piece of rainbow trout water, it is also well known for its large browns. We had seen none of these beautiful fish and as we left the Ten Bends, I began to wonder if we ever would. We were approaching another one of those long, dead stretches in the river, and while the water was about three-feet deep, there were no signs of fish life. There were plenty of overhangs on the southern shore, though, so I started casting at them. After several minutes, I got the strike I had waited all day for.
The fish began a furious run upstream toward Bill’s end of the canoe, while also moving steadily in the direction of the southern shoreline. Bill was very excited and grabbed the landing net, hoping that he might be able to land the fish as it trapped itself between us and the shore. He used his free hand to feather his paddle in the water so as to cut off the fish’s upstream angle of escape.
As we slid stern-first toward the shoreline, we got our first look at the fish. It was a good-sized brown, around 16 inches. The reason why we were able to see the fish at all was because it had quickly changed direction, having sensed the presence of our canoe blocking its path. It was now headed downstream and was streaking past the canoe, only four or five feet away from us.
Bill tried to hand me the net, but I refused it. I had enough problems on my hands as it was. My fish was now about ten feet off the bow of the canoe, and it was no longer running. Instead it had begun an odd bobbing motion in the water. It would lie quite still for a second and then abruptly charge a few feet straight down. After completing this movement, it would allow itself to rise back up to its original depth and repeat the surge once again.
By bouncing up and down in this way, the trout was slowly twisting my line around and around in the water. This movement was going to cause a weakening in the line and could eventually break it, unless I could put sufficient pressure on the fish to distract it from its very effective strategy. The irritating point was that I had already allowed the fish to stretch my line quite a lot, and it was showing some sign of strain. I made one last effort to turn my fish, and it in turn made one more lunge to the bottom.
The line broke. The fish slowly began to rise back up toward the surface. After a few seconds of lying gently to one side, it flicked its tail and was gone. I had to admit I was not terribly disappointed. I had finally seen the good brown trout that made the day complete.
Bill and I continued down the river into Johnson. The fishing here for rainbows is also quite good, and we caught and released several more. The river, as it moves downstream from Johnson into Cambridge, Fletcher, and Fairfax, is much like the section we had floated. From the Fairfax Falls Dam down through the crossing VT 104 makes in Fairfax village, anglers are restricted to keeping only two trout per day. However, once you get near the Fairfax/Milton town line, the river changes drastically. There are three dams in Milton, the first of which creates the Arrowhead Mountain Lake.
This artificial reservoir is over 700 acres in size. It is a warm-water fishery and features some good fishing for smallmouth bass and northern pike. As the river feeds out of Arrowhead, it moves through the two other dams and finally empties out into Lake Champlain at the Sand Bar State Park area. From the third dam (Peterson Dam) to the downstream side of the next bridge, known as the West Milton bridge, fishing is prohibited in the spring before June 1.
Upper Lamoille Map
Lower Lamoille Map