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Fall changes in Vermont worth noting

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Posted on September 17, 2009 |
By Matt Dickerson



The gifted songwriters Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist (collectively known as the band “Over The Rhine”), begin their song “Changes Come” with the simple observation, “Changes come / Turn my world around.”

Changes do come. I find the changes especially noticeable in the autumn. Weather changes. Daylight hours change — and in September they change rapidly. Our daily routines changes as vacations end and kids head back to school.

The routines of the wild animals around us also change, as they work more frantically to store food (or fat) for the winter, or (in the case of larger mammals) begin their fall mating behaviors. Fields that are ripe with corn become fields of stubble, almost overnight it seems. My garden, with the exception of the squash and my fall lettuce and pea pods, ceases it production.

Fishing conditions also change. My report from two weeks ago about August fishing is already out of date. As air and water cool, and the sun starts to set earlier — and we’ve gotten some rain after a dry August — the fish are getting more active throughout the day (and not just in the early morning or late evening). Last weekend, I had some good success fishing mid-afternoon on Otter Creek, surrounded by a hatch of three different mayflies (in three different sizes and colors) as well as some stoneflies.

Leaves also change. Especially leaves change. And that is the glory of Vermont.

I was going to write about some favorite hikes, canoe trips, biking trips and fishing locations for autumn in Vermont. But then, as I started thinking about that topic, I realized that just about every one of my hikes, canoe trips, biking loops, and fishing locations become especially enjoyable in the fall. It is difficult to find some place that does not have its own peculiar or particular beauty in Vermont in late September and early October.

But I’m going to write that column anyway, or part of it. At the risk of making my favorite locations overcrowded with the thousands of readers of my column who religiously follow my suggestions, I’ll share my favorite fall fishing locations.

In the autumn, I especially enjoy the upper New Haven River in Lincoln. For one thing, it is brook trout water; brook trout, especially males, are stunningly beautiful in their bright fall colors. Of course the upper Middlebury River in Ripton is also brook trout territory. But, by and large, the upper New Haven provides better views of surrounding hillsides for an angler thigh deep in the water. And the hillsides of Lincoln, especially the slopes of Mt. Abe, loaded as they are with maples, really are about the most beautiful hills in all of the state.

I also like to hike into Goshen Dam (a.k.a. Sugar Hill Reservoir in Goshen) in the fall. I admit that I don’t like the unnatural look of the dam itself. It’s not exactly ugly, but it is out of place. And the fall fishing can be really spotty and unpredictable. But on a very calm and warm fall afternoon, the fishing can turn on. Whether it does or not, the hills around the pond have a wonderful mix of hardwoods that make for beautiful foliage — though folks from the Champlain Valley need to remember that fall is a week or more ahead up there, and plan the trip earlier rather than later in the season.

Closer to home, there can be some very good fishing in Otter Creek right in downtown Middlebury, or a few miles downstream at Beldon Falls. Block out the distractions of the uglier of the human edifices, and the settings can be quite lovely. I’m often sharing those fishing locations with great blue herons, kingfishers, or even osprey. And big spawning brown trout moving upstream will stack up under the falls in both locations, making for some good sport.

Which brings me back to Over the Rhine and their song “Changes Come”. A little later in the song, they add the line, “Changes come / Bring the whole thing down”. I don’t think they were talking about leaves. But what begins at the start of the song as a seeming observation about the nature of change, and how it can turn our worlds around, by the end of the song has become a prayer and a plea for change — an acknowledgement that sometimes we really do need change.

I like fall in Vermont because it reminds me that change is possible; it does happen. As I grow older, I find myself simultaneously more content with the seasons I am in, but also more enjoying of the changes of those seasons, and more eagerly anticipating them. I certainly anticipate, over the next few weeks, hooking into a monstrous fall brown, or a gorgeous bright red brookie while surrounded by the best that Vermont has to offer.

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