Most anglers don’t associate walleye with fly fishing. But over the years I’ve caught a lot of walleye while fly fishing our northern rivers and lakes.
As the waters we at Wilderness North fish are part of the Hudson/James Bay drainage, there is almost always some kind of current involved even when fishing a lake. Whitewater, Makokibatan, and Miminiska Lakes would be great examples of this. These waters have substantial current near pinch points along the main channels. Basically a virtual aquatic conveyor belt for feeding walleye, bringing baitfish and insect nymphs right to them. Swinging a streamer fly on a sink-tip line can be just as effective as spinning gear in capable hands. In fact the streamers I have designed, like the Green-Butt Monkey, Wounded Cheezie, and SS Minnow, rival live-bait for effectiveness. The reason they work so well is because their rabbit-strip tails have life-like action in the current.
Basically I fly fish for walleye using the same tactics I employ for brook trout. I find an area with some nice current adjacent to a pool or back eddy where fish can lay in wait for food sources delivered by the main current. I cast my sink-tip line across the flow and allow the line and streamer to sink as it is being swept down and across. While the current is sweeping the fly downstream, I impart action to the streamer by twitching the rod tip. You might say it’s all in the wrist. That rabbit-strip streamer pulsates and darts in the current with every twitch. If there is a hungry walleye within a few yards of that streamer it will be on that fly like a kid on ice cream. Once the walleye nails the streamer set the hook hard and hold on. Walleye in current fight valiantly and rival a good-sized brook trout.
I’ve also caught walleye on mouse patterns. These flies are constructed primarily of deer hair so they float quite well. The first time I caught walleye on a mouse fly was on the Albany River at the outflow of Miminiska Lake. I was fishing the base of the rapids right along a rocky bank where the water plunged into a hole with a circular vortex of current. The walleye weren’t actually hitting the mouse fly right on the surface but rather once the current sucked the fly down a few inches. Then they hit hard.
So next time you’re on a stretch of walleye-water with current, try the fly rod. You’ll be happy you did.