Batten Kill River - Trout Fishing Profile

Browns and Brookies in Vermont
  |  Gorp.com

Excerpted from Trout Fishing Sourcebook by Mark D. Williams

Location: Southwestern Vermont, Eastern New York.
Section: Headwaters in Vermont, 25 miles to the New York border and another 24 miles to the Hudson River in New York.
Maps: USGS Dorset, Manchester, Arlington, Sunderland, Shushan, Cambridge, Salem, Schuylerville.
Type of stream: Spring-fed limestone, and not very big as great trout streams go.
Best seasons to fish: Opens second Saturday in April and closes the last Sunday in October. The best fishing is in the spring and fall, but if the river isn't too low in the heat of summer, the fishing can be good.
Species to be found: Brook trout in the upper reaches and brown trout throughout the course of the river.

Stocking/wild status: Except for some short stretches, the trout of the Battenkill are wild trout, and no trout stocking of any mention has been done since 1975.

Average sizes: The brook trout are average—big enough to fit in your palm so you can marvel at the potpourri of colors and the beauty of the little creature. The average brown trout will run 10 to 12 inches, with quite a few 12 to 16 inch trout in the river. The brown trout are heavy, strong-fighting, wily fish. There is the occasional 20 incher, but the days of those sizes are mostly past.

Regulations: In New York, the first 4.4 miles from the state line to the covered bridge at Eagleville is a Special Regulations Area, limited to artficial flies, lures, and a daily creel limit of 3 fish over 10 inches.

Well-known areas and places to fish along the river: Dutchman's Hole, George's Pool, Wulff's Pool, Eagleville Bridge Pool, Ledge Pool, Stanton's Pool, Dam Pool, and Dufresne Pond. The Batten Kill is an extremely clear river, but does not run fast due to its slow gradient. It has plenty of pools to fish, and they are connected by shallow runs, flats, mild riffles, a few rapids, and bends in the river. The river has a low temperature most of the time, and it owes a lot to the heavy canopy of willows and alder. The banks are conveniently littered with rocks, shrubs, fallen limbs, overhanging bushes, and so on, making for good brown trout cover. Always fish the pools deep, on the bottom, and move up if you are getting little action.

Recommended Equipment

The Batten Kill is a good river for both flyfishing and spinfishing. Spincasters will be well served by a an ultralight outfit with two-to-four-pound test line. Flyfishers won't need heavy tackle, a 35 weight outfit will be perfect. Bring along light tippet and long leaders.

Top fly patterns: Spinfishermen should try a Panther Martin or Rapala. Flyfishermen should expect to match hatches of blue quill, hendrickson, caddis, march brown, light cahill, blue winged olive, trico, and sulphur. The trico hatch remains the most dependable, but the hendrickson hatch is still predictable and solid. Stoneflies hatch but not in great numbers. Terrestrials like beetles, ants, and grasshoppers are excellent patterns to use in late summer.

Other patterns to use on the river: Weighted stonefly nymphs, Hare's Ear, Bivisible, Elk Hair Caddis, Midge, Black Ant, Hopper patterns, Woolly Bugger, Woolly Worm, Sparkle Pupa, and Wet Royal Coachman to name a few. Check in with the local flyshops for the latest hatch information.

Recommended Techniques

Think drag-free float. Think precise presentation. Think stealth. You often need to have the skills of the legendary names who made the Batten Kill famous, names like Wes Jordan, Lee Wulff, Lew Oatman, Ernest Schwiebert, and so on. The tricos obviously need long, light leaders, say 7X, and small flies, say #24. When using beetles or the tan Elk Hair Caddis, small, light leaders are necessary. These are tough fish to catch, wary of anglers, conscious of insect hatching stages. Night fishing is popular on the Battenkill, and because brown trout tend to feed at night, is very productive.

Best access points: There are quite a few access points for the 49 miles of fabled river, and some of the better are Benedict's Crossing, VT 30 Bridge, Route 71 through private land, 7A Bridge, Vermont State Department of fish and Wildlife Access near Arlington, several pullouts along Route 313, River Road, Eagleville Bridge, Hickory Hill Road, Camden Valley Road, Eagleville Road, Robinson Road, NY 29, Skellie Road, and County Road 61. There are many pullouts along the roads that run beside the river, as well as both marked and unmarked trails leading to various pools. Private land is usually marked, in fact, usually marked well, but most landowners are willing to grant permission to access the river if you are polite and not dripping water all over the front porch.

Quality of Angling

This river hasn't been put on the timeline of flyfishing just because it is another pretty river. It earned its way there by providing consistent wild trout fishing, dependable hatches, and smart fish. These trout are often finicky to the point of absurdity, turning down a #20 Blue Winged Olive for a #22 instead, turning away from a well-placed, match-the-hatch dry fly because of a 6X tippet instead of a 7X. The Batten Kill is one of those small, intimate blue-ribbon trout fisheries familiar enough that you can feel like it is your home river, yet mysterious enough that you never feel like you fully know it. There aren't many wild brown trout fisheries left in the East, and few can match the angling experience and challenge of the Batten Kill. At times, like more and more rivers everywhere, the stream gets crowded, and overall, the special regs areas get fished a lot more than some other more remote, unregulated areas. The river fights to maintain its pristine water, fending off waste, creeping population and overuse, but the conservation groups protecting the river are strong and determined. The river seems to have backbone and resiliency and continues to hold on.

Wadeability/floatability: Most of the Batten Kill is easy to wade, given the shallow depths and easy gradient, but some of it has a muddy bottom and can be slippery. The entire river can easily be floated, best done by a canoe. Canoe traffic in spring and summer can be heavy. The aluminum hatch can be thick enough to be disconcerting to the wading angler, but if you're the one in the canoe, you can reach the more remote waters and pools as you pass by disgruntled fishermen.

Fly Shops, Guides, and Outfitters of Interest

Orvis Company, Historic Route 7A, Manchester, VT, 05254, 802-362-3622
The Brookside Angler, P.O. Box 2324, Manchester Center, VT, 05254, 802-362-3538
Of special interest - American Museum of Fly Fishing, P.O. Box 42, Manchester, VT, 05254, 802-362-3300.

Lodging

Manchester and Arlington each have accommodations, and campgrounds can be had in Emerald Lake State Park, where the river originates.

Sources

Trophy Trout Streams of the Northeast, edited by Jim Capossela, Stackpole Books, 1990
Fishing Vermont's Streams and Lakes, by Peter F. Cammann, Backcountry Publications, 1992
The Battenkill, by John Merwin, 1993
Trout and Salmon Fishing in Northern New England, by Al Raychard, North Country Press, 1982.


© Article copyright Menasha Ridge Press and Mark D. Williams. All rights reserved.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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