Our Man In Canada
February 3rd, 2003

Prince Edward Island's Brook Trout

By Paul Marriner


While Prince Edward Island (PEI) offers limited fishing for rainbows, steelhead and Atlantic salmon, its native brook trout are widespread, both resident and sea-runs. The island bubbles with cold springs, and some amazing fishing can be found by merely dropping a fly beside many roadside culverts. Larger streams like the Morell and Dunk Rivers are also productive.

"You've done a tremendous job here," I said to Dave Biggar as we walked along Trout River in May. Digger logs, deflectors and overhead cover structures were in evidence in every section of the stream. In addition to habitat rehabitation, Dave and his volunteers must cope with a perennial Prince Edward Island problem: bank erosion and runoff from agricultural operations.

"You'd catch lots of small trout if you fished today," Dave said, "but our reason really begins when the sea-runs start arriving in a month or so."

Tom Corcoran had voiced these same sentiments when we fished the Morell together, so off Dave and I went to the estuary to search for bigger brookies in the salt.

Although "salter" is one of several colloquial names gives to sea-run brook trout, I'll co-opt it for the quarry in salt water. On Prince Edward Island, a combination of flat countryside and rock-free soil resulted in the formation of extensive, relatively shallow inlet bays. These are often spanned at a narrows by a combination of causeways and low bridges, which create significant tidal currents. Salters congregate in these flows and the nearby shallows.

As is true for virtually all inshore saltwater fishing, knowledge of the tide is critical. On the Island, the hot time at the bridges is the last three hours of the ebb tide. Once the tide turns, the flow quickly becomes heavily loaded with vegetative debris. Near high tide, while the water is clear, it's too deep for effective fly fishing.

At other tide times, it's more productive to fish in the bays themselves. This is best done from a boat, but there are a few places where cruising trout are regularly found along the shorelines that are suitable for wading. Such spots are best found by conversations with local anglers or by watching the shoreline closely while exploring an area.

Fly Fishing Canada

Most residents fish for salters with bait, the favorites being a sand shrimp and a local minnow known as "gudgeon" (the proper name is mummichog). The few local fly fishers try to match these species with shrimp imitations like Lester the Lobster [see below] (taken from the Squamish Poacher pattern originating on the West Coast) or an orange Whiskers, and with a variety of small streamers. Archie Clark, and experience island fly fishing, doubles his odds by tying a streamer on the point and a shrimp imitation on a dropper about 18" (46 cm) up the leader. "While I catch most trout on the dropper," Archie told me, "enough take the streamer to make me keep it on."

Just at dusk one evening, I saw dozens of sand shrimp leaping across the surface of a shallow beach area. The occasional splash and wake confirmed that they were under attack by trout. A half-dozen casts before the action stopped yielded nothing. Later, over after-dark coffee, an experienced local angler told me that this is a common occurrence, but that no fly fishers he know of had ever solved the puzzle. Sand shrimp are about 2" (5 cm) long, and a little research turned up the interesting fact that they exhibit bioluminescence.

Armed with this knowledge, I hope to return to Prince Edward Island with several new patterns, including a few tied with phosphorescent materials. If the meantime, if you happen to get there before me, bear this information mind. It could make for some memorable fishing.


Lester the Lobster (originator Joe Kambietz)
Tied by Bob Jones

    Hook: Mustad 9672 No. 8 - 2.

    Thread: Fluorescent red.

    Eyes: Black 15-lb monofilament melted at ends; tie in directly above hook point and wrap body material around the eyes so they extend from head.

    Beak: Fluorescent red thread or copper tinsel.

    Feelers: Two to four strands of orange Krystal Flash and orange bucktail.

    Rib 1: 4-lb test clear monofilament (wound after all other steps complete.)

    Back: 1/8 - 1/4" (3-6 cm) wide orange surveyor's tape or scud back (body size determines width), pulled over body after hackle and rib.

    Rib 2: Oval copper tinsel.

    Body: Orange wool, tapered down toward eye.

    Hackle: Orange, palmered over body.

    Tag: Fluorescent red thread with a V-shaped tail extending over hook eye. ~ PM

Credits: Excerpt from Fly Fishing Canada written by Outdoor Writers of Canada, edited by Robert H. Jones, Published by Johnson Gorman Publishers. Used with permission.

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