Our Man In Canada
April 1st, 2002

Northern Ontario
Canada's best kept fly fishing secret

By Canadian Fly Fisher Staff

This is a brookie?

The fly fisher from the south gasps as his eight-weight bends to the handle, reel screaming as the huge coaster brook trout tears into the backing.

The guide smiles enigmatically. He's seen all this before - many times - southern anglers, used to pan-sized brookies on their home streams overwhelmed by the sheer size and power of Lake Superior coasters.

Gradually, the angler coaxes the fish closer - it's runs getting shorter. Finally, it's close enough for him to slide his hand down the leader and touch the broad, flistening flank as he carefully removes the barbless streamer fly. He cradles the fish gently in the cold clear water of the Lake Superior tributary. It holds quietly, recovering the energy it expended during the long fight.

"About seven pounds," the guide estimates.

"Seven pounds!" the angler's hands tremble.

"They get bigger - fish in the ten pound class are taken here every year."

By the time they've posed the fish for a photo, it's ready to go. The angler from the south watches as it swims slowly out over the bright gravel into the deep water at the head of the pool. It is a moment which will be etched in his memory forever.

The guide looks at the sun. It's still well above the dark fir trees which line the boulder-lined river bank. "Time for another," he announces.

The angler from the south, quickly hooks his fly in a rod guide, tightens the line on his reel, and clambers hurriedly across the gravel bar to the bank. He's ready - more than ready.

As he follows the guide upstream, he finds it hard to believe that this huge brook trout and this pristine river on which they've encountered no other anglers all day are a scant one hour drive from a bustling city of over 100,000 souls.

"I can see why you find this so beautiful," he remarks.

"It's hard to share."

Yet this river is not unique: there are scores similar along the norther shore of Lake Superior which are haunted by double figure brook trout.

Most of the rivers and lakes see little pressure from fly fishers-world-class, largely unexploited fly fishing. And all this is just a short drive from southern Ontario and most mid-western and eastern US cities. That's Northern Ontario-undiscovered, affordable, and accessible.

World Class Brook Trout Quiet Water, Big Flies, and the Right Jive

Brookies in big water tend to be bank oriented, for this is where they find their food. Don't look for them out in the blasting current in the middle of the river, but near structure in quieter water near the bank-especially behind sunken islands, log jams, or gravel bars where they wait for food to come to them.

Current issue

Big brook trout also like big things to eat. Use large streamers that represent baitfish, sculpins and crayfish. Rabbit-strip streamers 3" - 4" long are particularly effective. It's also important give the fly some action. Forget the stiff-legged, stiff-wristed swing of the English wet fly; get into the groove and pump away. Flex those knees, loosen up those hips, and pump the rod to make that fly look like a live minnow. And, if you see a big brookie following, don't stop the retrieve. If you do, you'll see that trophy turn away and swim back into the depths, because something in his natural-prey-memory chip tells him that fleeing baitfish don't stop and wait for him to catch up. Instead, keep that fly moving-speed it up even-or give it a change in direction.

Heavy Gear

You'll need a steelhead-sized rod (eight or nine weight) with a heavy-duty, full-sinking line to help get the fly down deep and lots of backing on the reel to handle strong, heavy fish in big water.

Laid-back casting

Sinking lines are hard to keep up in the air. Use a side-arm stroke on the back-cast and an overhead stroke on the forward cast. Give it lots of muscle, but keep the cast slow and with an open loop.

We thank the Canadian Fly Fisher for re-print permission!

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