In the early and late parts of the open water season I use a 5-weight to 8-weight
outfit. For surface and near surface fishing a weight-forward floating line and
lengthy leader (more than 9 feet) are usual. Tippet size does not need to be overly
light, with 3X to 5X being the normal range. When fish are deeper, a sinking tip
line, sinking shooting head or full sinking line may be necessary. A sinking tip line
is most common and will generally be effective. The leader length should be shorter
(5 to 8 feet). Fishing for lake trout once they have gone deep will likely require a
full sinking line or a very fast-sinking shooting head.
While there are places where fishing from shore is practical, most lakes are best
fished by boat, canoe, or float-tube. One effective method is to troll the flies. While
this may not appeal to purists it is, nonetheless, one of the most consistent ways
trout are caught on the ponds and lakes. However, my favourite method is to move
to a likely fish holding structure and to cast to it. In the clear waters, it helps to be
stealthy and quiet and cast to fish from as far away as possible. One of the most
difficult things for most stream anglers in making the transition to stillwater fishing
is to be patient enough to let the line get down to where the fish are. Most anglers
start retrieving line way too soon and too quickly. Remember, you are trying to
imitate insects, leeches and scuds moving through the water. They do not move
like a speeding bullet! Slow and steady usually proves to be the best method. Short
little strips for wooly buggers, damsels, and dragons, work best. Long pauses
followed by a few short strips work well for scuds, and a steady, moderate
stripping method for leeches is always productive.
Stillwaters: when to fish
The stillwater fishing in Blue Lake country tends to be unpredictable from one year
to the next and from one week to the next. However, you can usually count on the
following general patterns of behaviour.
Of the three species, rainbows are the most active regardless of the time of year.
Rainbows can be caught right after ice-out, even while some of them are still up
the tiny freshets spawning. Late spring is the best time to catch a big rainbow, as
they continue to feed in the forage-rich shallower water long after it has become
too warm for brookies and lake trout. Summer sees them drop deeper by day,
but still rise to the surface on overcast periods and at the extremes of the day.
In the Fall they're the first species to return to the shallows, where they can be
caught right up to the end of the season.
The best time, by far, to take lakers on flies is first thing after the ice has left. This
is the only time that they are within easy striking range of fly equipment. Gradually,
they move out of the shallows, and by June they've moved so deep that they're
inaccessible to all but the most determined fly fishers using the heaviest of sinking
lines. Unfortunately, by the time they return to shallow water, near the period of
their fall spawn, the season has already closed.
Brook trout are probably the most enigmatic of the three species. I gladly invite any
fly fisher who believes that these are easy to catch to come here for three years in
succession and hit the jackpot each time. As anyone who has ever fished for
brookies in lakes knows, there is no more unpredictable fish in freshwater.
Sometimes, they seem to hit everything that passes by them (all too rarely, it
seems), yet at other times the lake can appear to be devoid of fish. And it's
not just the mid-summer period that produces these doldrums: it can happen
at any time of the year. There are just three things you can be sure of: they're
more likely to be active early in the year (from ice-out to early July), they tend
to become increasingly more difficult to catch through mid-summer (as they
will move to depths below 20 feet and become sporadic feeders), and, finally,
they become more active again at the end of summer and into early fall (as
the time of their spawn approaches).
The streams and rivers of the Blue Lake area tend to be neglected by anglers in
favour of the lakes, but this doesn't mean they don't offer excellent fly fishing. In
fact, they offer brook and rainbow trout up to three pounds and even the occasional
Unlike most rivers in the south, those in the Blue Lake area are mostly crystal
clear with a characteristic greenish tinge. They tend to be deep-channeled and
choked with shrubs and trees along their banks, which severely restricts wading
and bank fishing opportunities. This means that a boat or canoe is needed to
cover them thoroughly. One good thing about river fishing here–you're not likely
see anybody else!
During late May and June, there are good daytime hatches of both mayflies and
caddis flies, but in the summer the prime hatches occur in the evening and early
morning. Because the area is largely roadless, this makes it difficult to fish the
prime hatch periods due to the distance and difficulty in getting back to a camp
or cabin-unless you pack your camping gear in the canoe.
The rivers and streams provide two main opportunities: excellent early season
fishing for rainbows and brook trout (occasionally lake trout), and consistent
stream fly fishing during the heat of summer.
The rivers here are so rarely fly fished that there are no hatch charts available.
Therefore, attractor and impressionistic patterns are more useful than specific
imitations. For dry fly fishing, bring Adams, Irresistibles, Humpies, Wulff's, BWOs,
and hair–wing caddis in sizes #10 - #16, plus hoppers and beetles in sizes #10 - #6.
For fishing wet or in the surface film bring a variety of emergers, impressionistic
beadhead nymphs, soft hackled wet flies and attractor wet flies in sizes #10 - #16.
A good selection of Woolly Buggers should round out your arsenal.
The Blue Lake area has been recognized and protected during the recently released
proposed land use strategy known as Ontario's Living Legacy. This document, the
result of more than two years of intensive public meetings and citizen input, proposes
setting aside Crown lands across northern Ontario where primary resource
development will be prohibited. The unique nature of the multi-species trout lakes
and the high density of trophy brook trout lakes here played a key role in convincing
the many Crown land users that such long-term protection was called for.
Consequently, the Blue Lake area should continue to offer some of the best
trout fishing in Ontario for generations to come.
Opportunity for Innovation
Because fly fishing has traditionally played only a minor role in the Blue Lake region,
there is tremendous potential for fly fishers to experiment and explore, especially in
fly tying. New patterns and techniques are being developed every year by those who
are willing to do the research and use a little imagination. What is needed is a group
of concerned fly fishers who are up to a challenge. This area provides a wonderful
opportunity for experienced and talented fly anglers to develop some truly unique
patterns and methods.
Essential Stillwater Fly Patterns
Because so many of the things which trout eat in these lakes are dark green, leggy
and large, the most useful patterns are:
~ Geoff Bernardo
Olive Woolly Bugger #2 - #6
Hammill's Killer #2 - #6
Edson Tiger #2 - #6
Olive Marabou Muddler #6
Zonker #2 - #6
Matuka #2 - #6
Partridge and Green #10 - #12
Partridge and Tan #10 - #12