Our Man In Canada
June 10th, 2002

Upper Saugeen River
By Scott E. Smith

The upper Saugeen is arguably the next fly-fishing hotspot in Southern Ontario. The Saugeen River system is a huge watershed with an abundance of cold, ground-water-fed tributaries in its headwaters that ultimately flows into Lake Huron at Southhampton. These headwaters of the Saugeen boast resident brown trout (both wild and hatchery stocks) up to twenty-plus inches, and indigenous brook trout that run between six and sixteen inches. The prevailing water conditions of the upper Saugeen are characterized by clean, slightly tannic-stained flows, good boulder and bedrock structure, gravel-bottomed riffles and runs, and deep, slow, silt-bottomed pools where great hatches are born. Cold ground water seeps into the Saugeen and its tributaries from the many adjacent cedar swamps in this region of Southcentral Ontario. Watercress is common along the banks and speaks to the fertile nature of this water system.

Although there is virtually hundreds of kilometers of tributaries to fish and explore, the best and most readily accessed fly-fishing areas are contained in the section of the main Saugeen from the town of Durham upstream approximately 20 kilometers to Priceville; the Rocky Saugeen near Highway 6, and the main Saugeen from Paisley upstream to Walkerton - where presently 5,000 - 10,000 brown trout are stocked annually on an experimental basis. A recent dam removal on the Rocky Saugeen has enriched the lower reaches of this tributary and the stretch downstream of the confluence of the Rocky and main Saugeen near Hanover, by depositing silt throughout. Fly angler, Len Yust, explains that previous to this occurrence the brown trout in this portion of the Saugeen were rather concentrated and easily targeted. Now the trout are more evenly distributed in this area.

Both the rocky and main-branch Saugeen are quite manageable by walk-and-wade anglers, with the Rockey Saugeen averaging about twenty feet wide and the Saugeen River averaging around thirty feet wide. The main Saugeen boasts larger, deeper pools, with some pools reaching fifty feet in width and over five feet in depth. The main Saugeen can also be fished with a small boat or canoe.

Access points for fishing the Saugeen include the Durham Conservation Area in Durham, and the trailer park off Highway 6 for the Rocky Saugeen.

Presently the previously mentioned section of the Saugeen can be fished only during the regular trout season in Southern Ontario, which is from the last Saturday in April to September 30.

Hatches and Flies

The main branch and Rocky Saugeen are noted for good hatches of caddis, Hendricksons (Ephemerella), sulphers (Ephemerella dorothea) and invaria, March browns (Stenonema vicarium), and blue-winged olives. Brown drakes (Ephemera simulans) and Hexagenia limbata are found in the siltier regions of the main-branch Saugeen. ~ Scott E. Smith

Credits: This article is from Ontario, Blue-Ribbon Fly Fishing Guide published by Frank Amato Publications. We appreciate use permission!

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