Our Man In Canada
November 17th, 2003
By Chris Marshall

The Country North of Belleville
There are a number of small lakes between Highway #401 and Highway #7 to the north which are well worth exploring for pike and bass, but the two major lakes are Stoco at the village of Tweed and Moira at the village of Madoc. Besides bass and pike, these also hold substantial numbers of musky, which can run over 40 pounds. While, like all musky fishing, the chances of success are rather unpredictable, they can be taken on huge streamers from mid summer into the fall. However, a guide is essential. There is little shore access to these lakes, but good boat access is available in Tweed and Madoc.


The Moira River
The Moira River and its tributaries run through the heart of the Quinte region. The gradient is low, and much of the river consists of long, deep sections where the flow is virtually non-existent. Consequently, these are best treated as narrow lakes, and a boat is essential. The shores are hung with willows and lined with lily beds and cattails, which provide excellent fishing for bass (predominantly largemouths) and pike, and there's always the chance of a musky.

However, there are also a number of rocky, streamy sections of riffle and pool. These have huge populations of smallmouth. Most are under 9", but bigger fish up to around three pounds are not infrequent. In the deeper pools and runs, a big Woolly Bugger fished close to the bottom will also pick up walleye, pike, longnose gar, and the occasional channel cat or musky. It's also possible to sight fish with a weighted nymph for redfin suckers up to seven or eight pounds around the margins of the pools and in the shallow runs and limestone flats. This is challenging fishing as redfins are shy to take a fly and put up a powerful fight, often making multiple leaps.

One of the most interesting streamy sections is right in the middle of downtown Belleville, from the point where the river interfaces with the Bay of Quinte upstream to the first of a series of ice control dams. Here there is a greater variety of fish. In addition to the species found in the upper reaches of the river, there are walleye and the occasional rainbow to be taken in the spring - some of the walleye hang around all summer. In June, sheepshead (freshwater drum) up to 15 pounds or more move in to spawn. In the summer, there are largemouth bass and the occasional mooneye. Then, in the fall, there is a run of naturally reproducing chinook salmon and lake whitefish, plus a few rainbows, browns and lake trout from Lake Ontario.

For everything except for the fall run of chinooks, a #5 or #6 weight outfit with a floating line and a variety of weighted poly leaders is ideal. For the chinook, an #8 or #9 weight is best.

The Trent
The Trent is big water. From its outlet into the Bay of Quinte at Trenton, it winds north and west to Peterborough and beyond. What makes it attractive to the fly fisher is the number of dams, with large plunge pools and extensive riffly tailwaters. The dams were built in the early 19th century by the British military to provide access by canal for warships between Lake Ontario and Lake Huron via the Severn River, which empties into Georgian Bay. Today, the canal system is a Mecca for recreational boaters, and many of the ams are used for generating electricity.

Besides the numerous dams upstream, there are eight in the 15km between Trenton and Glen Ross around 15km to the north. The smallmouth fishing in the tailwaters is superb, and, because the flow is so much greater than the Moira, the average size of the fish is much bigger, and specimens over 3lbs. are not uncommon. While there's plenty of action with smaller fish in the shallower, streamy runs just downstream from the plunge pools, the bigger fish are found in the deeper runs downstream, especially where there are gravelly drop-off and other structure. These are best fished with big, buggy flies (such as Woolly Buggers) on a dead drift close to the bottom, using a sink-tip line or a weighted poly leader. In the evenings, poppers and other bugs can be effective cast just upstream and skated across on the swing. This is also a good time to try poppers in the plunge pools. The tailwater below the first dam in Trenton runs into the Bay of Quinte. This provides access for a variety of species which run up from Lake Ontario. In the spring, there are walleye and a few rainbows, although the water is usually running too high for safe wading, and the dam is lined with anglers fishing with bait and lures. However, there are runs of Pacific salmon, rainbows, lake trout, and lake whitefish in the fall. At this time the water is low enough to allow easy wading.

The Trent has a number of coldwater tributaries which feed it from the west. Many offer fly fishing for wild browns and brookies, although none are easy, especially after the middle of June. There is public access at conservation areas operated by the Lower Trent Conservation Authority.

Non Fly Fishing Attractions and Activities

The Quinte region offers a wide variety of things to do other than fly fishing, both indoors and outdoors. This makes the region a perfect destination for the fly fisher to bring the whole family.

Some of the finest inland sand beaches in the world can be found on the Lake Ontario shores of Prince Edward County. These are located in provincial parks at The Sandbanks, The Outlet, and North Beach, where there are changing facilities, lifeguards and plenty of parking spaces. The first two have overnight camping facilities. The water is crystal clear and the beaches have long, gentle gradients, which allow the water to warm up to over 70 degrees. When the wind is blowing strongly from the south or west, there's even surf!

The Bay of Quinte offers excellent sailing from marinas in Belleville, Picton, and Trenton, and there are numerous public access points for windsurfers. For those fly fishers who stoop to golf there are over a dozen first class golf courses in the area.

Professional summer theatres in Stirling just north west of Belleville and in Picton in Prince Edward County, offer seasons of mainly light comedy appropriate for lazy summer days. The whole region is home a wide variety of artisans, including artists, potters and weavers, and, for those who like to shop, there are plenty of interesting boutiques in the region, especially in the villages of Stirling, Bloomfield and Wellington. Belleville has a huge mall complex at Highway #401. The Quite region produces the best cheddar cheese in the world, which is available in shops right at the cheeseries, and Prince Edward County is Canada's newest wine growing region, with a number of wineries offering tasting and tours. Gourmets will be delighted with the range of restaurants offering everything from home-made produce to fine dining, some of which are listed in Canada's register of fine dining.

Guides and Fly Shops

There is only one location for fly tackle in the area, Quinte Outdoor Sports in Belleville. This is a large store with an extensive inventory of outdoor gear and clothing, hunting supplies and fishing tackle, but the fly fishing section is small. However, one of the staff is, Dan Evans, is an experienced fly fisher and can provide information on local fly fishing opportunities. There are two local guides who cater to fly fishers.

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The Quinte region is well-known for its B&Bs, especially in Prince Edward County. There are major chain hotels in Belleville and Trenton, and plenty of smaller hotels, motels, and waterside cabins throughout the region. Details of these, as well as other information, can be found at the websites listed below.

Getting There

The hub city of Belleville is located on Highway #401 just two hours from Toronto, 2 from Ottawa, and three from Montreal. All three cities are served by international airports. Visitors driving up from the USA should cross at the Thousand Islands Bridge in upstate New York. Belleville is just a short 1 hour drive west from the Canadian end.

Open and Close Seasons

These are quite complex. However, except in Lake Ontario where there is no close season for all species but lake trout, the trout season runs from the end of April to the end of September. Pike and walleye open in early May, while musky and bass open at the end of June. Visiting anglers are advised to obtain full details from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources at www.mnr.gov.on.ca


Topographical maps of the area are available from Greenley's Bookstore on Front Street in Belleville. Phone (613) 966-9760.

Boats for Hire

Check out www.quintefishing.com.

Other Useful Information Websites

For more general information about activities, accommodation, and dining, visit the following websites:

    Belleville & District Chamber of Commerce www.chamber.belleville.on.ca
    County of Hastings www.hastingscounty.com
    Bay of Quinte Country www.quinte.on.ca
    Prince Edward County www.pec.on.ca
    Municipality of Tweed www.twp.tweed.on.ca
    Trent-Severn Waterway www.trentsevern.com
    Quinte Conservation Authority
    Lower Trent Conservation Authority
    ~ Chris Marshall

Credits: This article is from the October/December 2003 issue of the Canadian Fly Fisher. We appreciate use permission.

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