Our Man In Canada
July 12th, 1999

Blue Ribbon Fly Fishing in Ontario, Part 2
Coastal Treasures

By Scott E. Smith

Excerpt from: Ontario, Blue-Ribbon Fly Fishing Guide
Published by: Frank Amato Publications, Inc.
P.O. Box 82112, Portland Oregon 97282 Phone: 503-653-8108,
email Frank Amato Publications

Considering that approximately three-quarters of Ontario's immense border is either the coast of Hudson Bay and James Bay, or the shoreline of four of the Great Lakes, a great deal of the available fly fishing in the province is within the catchment tributaries of these bodies of water. Numerous species of game fish and bait fish inhabit these waters. The significant species for the fly angler are of course the salmonids, both resident and migratory.

Nipigon River brook trout

Within the tributaries of Hudson Bay and James Bay - part of the Arctic Ocean - the premier species for the fly anglers is the brook trout. Actually a char (Salvelinus fontinalis), the brook trout in these rivers and streams are generally large and generally easy to take on a fly. In many of the long and large tributaries, such as the Winisk River, it is difficult to know whether or not the brook trout are resident or migratory (from Hudson Bay). It is generally felt that most spawning voyages of oceanic brook trout are not lengthy. Subsequently, if you are only miles from the salt, you may be indeed fishing over migratory brook trout.

"Brookies," the nickname for brook trout, does not seem to suit these specimens that often attain weights of five to eight pounds. A brook trout of this size demands respect and is a sight to behold, especially when adorned in fall colours. Few fish are as precious as the brook trout.

The brook trout in these tributary streams are totally wild. No stocking programs, no genetic tinkering: pure, wild fish.

Almost the entire southern border of Ontario is defined by the shores of four of the Great Lakes: Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. In contrast to the Hudson Bay and James Bay fishery, most of the salmonids pursued by anglers - except for wild brook trout and lake trout - were introduced around the turn of the last century. Steelhead, which thrive in all of the lakes, are the most sought-after species by the fly fisher. Although stocking programs still enhance the populations of steelhead in the lower Great Lakes, they have adapted to their respective regions and have become self-sustaining. On the Ontario shore of Lake Superior no stocking of steelhead has been done since the turn of the century. Subsequently, these fish are now considered wild and fight appropriately.

Tim Smith with a 24-inch Labour Day coaster

The fly anglers that frequents Ontario's Great Lakes tributaries will encounter numerous species of salmonids, including: Steelhead (migratory rainbow trout), Atlantic salmon, lake trout, brown trout, brook trout, and three species of Pacific salmon: Coho, Chinook and pink. In addition, many of these streams host resident populations of rainbow, brook and brown trout, as well as a number of warmwater species.

Having said all that, the successful fly anglers must still know which tributaries host which species of fish - and when. This is where the advantages of networking and the keeping of an accurate fishing log come into play. The fly angler must also know the the techniques, flies and lies, in order to be successful.

Subsequently, when fishing Ontario's coastal streams it is always wise to hire a guide. In face, when fishing certain wilderness rivers, to not hire a guide would be remiss, even foolhardy. Many anglers have travelled considerable distances and invested considerable fishing time only to find later that they had been fishing above a barrier to migratory fish, or fishing water that was otherwise barren for a number of varied reasons. These scenarios can be avoided easily with the employment of a reputable guide.

It is always prudent - whether you're guided or not - to ensure that you are fully aware of the fishing regulations applicable to the water you are fishing, and to abide by them.

Ontario Blue-Ribbon Fly Fishing Guide
Next time Techniques for Coastal Waters! ~ Scott E. Smith

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