Two things converged in my life which allowed me to spend two enjoyable days on the water with 3rd Alarm Charters and Captain Matt Trombley:
1) I decided I needed to get out of the office more and try different things, and
2) I had a conversation with Matt earlier in the year and he suggested I try fishing.
The last time I caught a fish was about 15 years ago when Wanda and Cosmo, my kids’ betas, went belly up and I had to “fish” them out of their bowls. Prior to that, it had been sometime… last century. I had spoken to Matt in February, and he suggested touching base after Memorial Day. It took a while to schedule because I had two companions coming with me and had to coordinate their work schedules, Matt’s, and my own. It turned out to be early July before we could coordinate everyone.
Matt’s full time job involves neither rods nor reels. He works full time for the Burlington, VT Fire Department. His schedule is typically 24 hours on and 48 hours off, which allows him to turn his passion for fishing, into a fun and busy “part-time” job. His “part-time” job, 3rd Alarm Charters, usually has him on the water 100+ times a year. That’s a lot of fishing!
GREENIES on Lake Bomoseen
My fishing partners were my 18 year old son BK, who’d never gone fishing in his life, and my daughter’s good friend Shea, who liked to fish and had recently gone fishing with her dad (she caught a rainbow trout on Father’s Day at Townshend Reservoir). We met Captain Matt at Castleton Health Center on Route 4 around 530pm. Matt had been to Lake St. Catherine the day before, and said the fish weren’t biting. One of the upsides of going with someone with plenty of experience on the local waters is knowing when and where to go and NOT to go. Since there was only a port-a-potty at the boat launch, we stopped at a gas station to use the restroom before following Matt, towing his 19ft StarCraft, to Lake Bomoseen.
Matt had told us the only things we needed to bring were sunscreen, bug spray, something to drink, and our Vermont fishing licenses. Buying a fishing license is easy online. Useful tip: look at the options before you buy. I purchased the annual adult in-state licenses, not realizing I could have just purchased a 3-day license. Rates depend on your age, residency, current military status, and term period. Kids under 15 are FREE in Vermont. In addition to paying unnecessarily for a full year, I also printed the licenses out and forgot them on my desk. Matt said that if we had been checked by a game warden, all we’d have to do is show proof of purchase within 48 hours, so we were fine.
It was hot when we met Matt, and in addition to BK and Shea, I was accompanied by a borderline migraine and stiff neck. How was I going to get thru this evening? First of all, hot on land is not necessarily hot on the water. The sun was strong but there was a cool breeze on the water. Secondly, fishing in a drift boat can be quiet. Matt’s boat was equipped with a 90 HP motor, that can go 30-40mph. Once we got to our destination though, he switched to a very quiet, electric Minn Kota trolling motor. The motor had a cool feature called “spot lock.” Matt could program it to tell the boat where to go, whether staying in the same location, or slowly moving along the river bank. This keeps his hands free to help. When you’ve got a boat full of “greenies,” like us, his help was very much necessary.
As Matt explained, on a hot day, fish look for cools spots, so they either go to deep water, or they find shade along the shore, under trees or decks. Going late in the day as we did, is when the fish are more likely to be biting on a hot day. Matt showed us a couple of different methods. First, we tried a drop shot. You cast out, let the bait drop, then start reeling it in. How long you let it drop depends on the depth of the water.
In addition to the trolling motor with lock spot, Mat had all sorts of cool technology like fish and depth finders, to help out. Matt uses artificial lures almost exclusively, it would be cost prohibitive to use live bait when you are on the water 100+ times a year. Once you’ve hooked a fish, don’t fight it. Let it fight and tire itself out, when it quits fighting, then reel some more. You reel steadily, always keeping the line taut. If the line goes slack, it’s easy for a fish to get free of the hook. We had our first fish within 30 minutes.
After trying the deep water, we headed to the river bank, casting among the trees and docks, targeting the fish trying to cool-off in the shade. We used different rods and lures for this method. One of the lures looked like a mouse. Worms and small fish all seemed normal for lures, but a MOUSE! (I had a flash back to the time I had found a dead mouse floating in our hot tub. When I looked down, I noticed the entire bottom of the tub was covered with mouse skeletons. Lessons learned: hot tubs make excellent, though overly large, mouse traps AND, consider draining your hot tub if you are going to be gone for long periods.)
This is a very active kind of surface fishing, and the technique we used around the docks was called “walk the dog.” Cast the lure out, leave it a few seconds to drop, then reel it in with a slight jerky fashion so that the lure looks like wounded bait fish (or mouse). We fished late, catching a few more fish. Casting along the bank, you are likely to also cast into trees and docks. Matt explained that when that happens, you let the lure stop swinging, then give one gigantic jerk backwards. Another option, and the one we chose, hand the rod back to Matt. He had a 100% success rate, and he got to demonstrate this technique with us many, many, many times. He has the patience of a monk.
There are many factors that affect your fishing success: time of day, time of year, body of water, moon phase, air and water temperatures. Matt said that avid bass fisherman may use 15 different kinds of rods and bait to adjust to the different conditions. This was a “catch & release” trip, and I was surprised at just how much fun it was to watch the kids concentrating on their casting and reeling and really surprised at how much they enjoyed it.
We didn’t get off the water until almost 9pm, and though we offered to help Matt get his boat cleaned up, he said, ”No,” and insisted that we were there just to have fun. (My guess is what was going to take him about 15 minutes to do himself, probably would have taken 45 minutes with our “help.”) It was a very enjoyable and relaxing evening. My headache was gone and probably the most ringing endorsement of the trip, was how excited the kids were to go out again the next day, even though we were going to have to get up at 5am to meet Matt in Vergennes to spend the next outing on Lake Champlain.
Our trip was in the summer, but Matt said that the fish are especially active and hungry in the fall, as the water cools off and they need to prepare for winter.
Matt offers trips in Rutland and Addison Counties as well as float trips on the the Otter Creek from Rutland to Vergennes. Casting trips on Lake Dunmore, Lake St. Catherine, Lake Bomoseen and Lake Hortonia as well as many other smaller lakes and ponds in the Killington and Rutland Region, providing a unique way to have fun while you experience Vermont’s beautiful Fall Foliage.
You can find contact information for Captain Matt and 3rd Alarm Charters here. He can even recommend some great inns that offer overnight stays with a discount if you book a charter with him.