It’s a 10-minute boat ride from the dock at Miminiska Lodge to the mouth of the Freestone. Pulling up to the mouth, you’ll find a rushing rapid that descends into Miminiska lake. River right (looking downstream), there is a hidden footpath that takes you above the drop to a wide open bay completely devoid of features. There sits your chariot.
It’s a fantastic trip up the freestone to what is known as canoe pool. Canoe pool is named so, because of a dilapidated canoe that rests half submerged pointing downstream of the river, the only sign humans have been here. I’ve heard various stories of how it ended up there; however, no two are alike. Every time I see the canoe, my mind races with questions of how it landed there, and more importantly, how the occupants got themselves out to safety. I hope it was a multi-canoe party that fell into this situation. Nevertheless, canoe pool is where the fishing part of this adventure begins.
The freestone is a wonderful tributary of the Albany River. To the top of the Free, is a 10-12 minute beaver ride and the entire float can take as little as 10 hours or as long as you make it. This story; however, shares our experience hiking up to Canoe pool. It marks the halfway point of the system. The fish are generally ravenous and often don’t hesitate to take their aggressions out on dry fly offerings.
This day, I was fishing with local guide Keith Missewace:
Our first stop landed Keith a beautiful brook trout. Not a giant, but a fish to be proud of. It ate a Chernobyl ant from the surface and dogged Keith into some timber. Keith expertly angled that fish out of trouble and brought it to hand.
Not too shabby for the first fish of the day. Look at those colors. We are fishing in early june.
We continued down river and came upon an open area with what seemed to be some serious still water just before a narrowing of the river and a slight riffle. Keith asked me to pull over to the bank as he wanted to have a poke to see if any fish were home. I looked at him like he was crazy. “No trout in their right mind would choose to hang out here!” I told him. His response was “I know, but watch this.” He started casting to a big boulder in the middle of the quiet water…
I moved downstream to start fishing the head of the riffle and immediately lost 5 or 6 strikes. I set hooks into these fish, so I know they weren’t the same brook trout attacking my fly. Suddenly, feeling extremely frustrated, I hear Keith quietly state, “there you are!” I look upriver to see his rod doubled over and a froth of whitewater where there once was none. He started giggling and was battling a wonderful brook trout. I slowly walked up to his side and patted him on the back offering my full congratulations. I was proud to scoop this fish into my net and set eyes on a truly magnificent fish from the Freestone.
The river taught me a lesson that day. On wild Ontario tributaries that rarely, if ever see another angler throughout the year, take your time and fish every single piece of structure you can. These fish have probably never seen an angler, let alone a fly. Keith felt that spot was “fishy” and found angling success by catching (and releasing) his biggest brook trout to date.
We fished the rest of the river releasing fish after fish, all caught on dry flies. (Chernobyl ants and mice) The day was idyllic! We floated down to the mouth of the river and decided not to shoot the drop, but rather leave the canoe up at the end of the trail and began walking out to our boat. That canoe? It’s still there, hasn’t been touched, waiting for the next Freestone day trip adventure. Waiting for you.