Fishing Lake Superior Streams
By Scott E. Smith
As you travel east along the north-shore from the Canada-U.S.
border crossing on Highway 61, the first worthwhile tributary is
the McIntyre River, situated right in the middle of the city of Thunder
Bay. Primarily the McIntyre (known as The Mac by whose who know
her intimately) is a spring steelhead river. The first fish encountered
are right after ice-out in Mid-April. Often these are dark over-wintering
males wearing a wide band of red on their sides. The run in the
McIntyre is earliest along the west end of the shore and is relatively
short-lived. Generally the run peaks at the end of April or the beginning
of May, and only fishes well for a couple of weeks. In the years just
after the stocking of the Kaministiqua River, (a major tributary flowing
into Superior at Thunder Bay) with Chinook salmon, the Mac had some
exciting salmon fishing during the first week of October, however this
has not become an annual occurrence.
The McIntyre is a fun river to fish during the steelhead run. It is small
and spirited with lots of open water for fly fishing. Hooked steelhead
of any respectable size make long, exciting runs as the river's pools and
runs are relatively shallow and do not provide much refuge.
The picturesque McKenzie is situated 30 kilometers east of the city of
Thunder Bay along the Trans-Canada Highway. If you look directly
below the highway bridge you will note that the McKenzie flows a
staircase-like path through a rocky canyon as it tumbles down toward
Superior. Numerous pickets and pools created in these rock formations
provide good spawning and holding water for migratory trout and salmon.
The McKenzie gets a good run of steelhead around the end of April/
beginning of May; a run of coaster brrok trout and pink salmon in late
August/early September; a decent run of lake trout, coho salmon and
some Chinook later in September and October. It also fishes well right
up to freeze-up for fall steelhead. I have also taken some darkly coloured
rainbow trout in deep pools in late June. I believe these are resident fish
or, if not, at least fish that are taking a summer vacation in this charming
river. Some nice brook trout are also present in decent numbers during
the summer months.
It seems every fly-fishing mecca has a Wolf River. Our's is a lovely
medium-sized, tannic-stained stream that looks a lot like an east coast
salmon river. It has beautiful rust-coloured gravel throughout its length
with wide sweeping bends cleared of trees on the inside track allowing a
nice backcast. The Wolf is typical of streams that flow through gravel
eskers in that the high water in spring clears the banks of trees and scours
deep bend pools. These pools can exceed six or seven feet in depth and
harbour both migratory and resident fish. The steelhead run in the spring
is good but often cannot be fished effectively because of high turbid water.
When the Wolf is clear and moderate in level it fishes beautifully, especially
in the upper reaches of the river north of the highway. The lure of the Wolf is
in its fall steelhead and salmon fishery. Beginning in late September and
early October, Chinook, coho and steelhead move into the river. It is a
river that fishes very well after a fall rain. During the summer some nice
trout fishing (streamer and dry-fly action) can be had for respectable
rainbows and brook trout right from the lake to the falls, some 8
kilometers upstream from the highway. Sadly a lot of resident fish are
harvested each summer particularly those in close proximity to the
Black Sturgeon River
Like the Wolf River, the Black Sturgeon flows into Black Bay on Lake
Superior. The steelhead from Black Bay are large for Superior standards,
and the Black Sturgeon River is the water to work if you're looking for a
trophy steelhead. In the fall the Black Sturgeon is one of the best rivers for
large steelhead. Catches will generally not be large in numbers, but the chance
of hooking a steelhead in the eight- to ten-pound class are very good,
especially in November after the Chinook have completed their spawning
run. The Chinook run in October is substantial; some wide, shallow runs and
riffles providing some ideal fly-fishing conditions for Chinook. The Chinook
and steelhead in fall are accompanied by a small run of coaster brook trout and
pink salmon. When fishing the Black Sturgeon in the fall, I prefer a swimming
pattern like a Marabou Spider in Mickey Finn colours, swung systematically
through pools and runs on a sink-tip line. This river is one of Superior's
larger tributaries, and the wet-fly swing provides a practical method of covering
a lot of water. The steelhead in the Black Sturgeon will move nicely for a
seductively swung fly.
The Sturgeon also gets good spring runs of steelhead, but like all the
larger tributaries, your timing must coincide with low, clear water.
Also similar to the Wolf, when the Sturgeon is running high it is turbid
and virtually unfishable. To be frank it can be downright dangerious if
you are not careful where you wade.
During late spring and summer the Black Sturgeon fishes well for brook
trout and resident rainbow (in the 20-kilometer stretch from the dam to
Lake Superior). You will also encounter bass and walleye in the slower
stretches of the river.
The upper reaches of the Black Sturgeon system provide some excellent
brook trout habitate. There is much to be explored in this system if you
can read a map and have a reliable four-wheel-drive. The Shillabeer Creek,
detailed in Chapter 8 [of the book], is a fine example of the excellent
resident brook trout fishing in the Black Sturgeon watershed.
Next time, more recommended rivers! ~ Scott E. Smith
Excerpt from: Ontario
Our Man In Canada Archives
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