In the past quarter century I’ve fly fished a lot of places: The Florida Keys, the California coast, the Hawaiian Islands, and most of the Canadian provinces and territories. But my favorite place remains the far north of Ontario. There is something about casting a fly to the edge of a weed bed where (you know!) a pike as long as your leg is lurking.
If big brook trout is your game, then look no further than Northwestern Ontario. It’s one thing to catch a 20-inch brook trout but it’s another to catch a half-dozen, or more, of that size in one day on a fly rod. I guess I’m spoiled because a 20-inch brook trout to me is a “nice fish”- not a trophy of a lifetime like it is for most people.
One of the things I really cherish about fishing the far north is the solitude. It’s a special experience to be fishing on a lake or river system with not a boat or other angler in sight. You actually have a better chance of seeing a bear or moose than another human being, because – as I wrote in my book, Ontario Blue-Ribbon Fly Fishing Guide – the population of these animals far exceeds the population of humans in the far north.
Fly fishing these remote waters also means that the fish are not “educated.”This term is bounced around a lot in fishing circles, but it simply means that the fish are not habituated by human interference. A lot of people planning trips to one of Wilderness North’s many lodges and outposts ask me about the necessity of live bait. My answer is, “Heck, you can catch fish on bubble gum if you like.”In other words, leave the live bait at home. It’s not necessary.
One of the things unique about the northern environment is the insect life – something fly anglers are always interested in. What is interesting about insects (mayflies, stoneflies, and caddis particularly) is that most of the species you are familiar with in the lower 48 or more southern areas of Canada are present in the far north. But get this: they are larger! For some reason insects, such as the Hexagenia family of mayflies, are larger in the north. Their population may not be as prolific and the season for hatching may not be as long – but the individual insects are larger. So you can have more fun dry fly fishing. No need to fish minuscule size 16 and 18 flies. Just tie on a size 8 Stimulator or Royal Trude and let the games begin.
I’ve always enjoyed tying my own flies. But now that I need “progressive bifocals”to see very small things, the flies I tie are generally large and fairly simple. So it’s a good thing the fish here aren’t fussy – and like big meals. Heck, I like big meals too. (Yet another thing I like about Wilderness North.)
I’ve also caught walleye on the fly. Most, if not all, of our far north lakes are part of one of several river systems. This means there is current in most narrows and channels between lakes and various bays. Subsequently walleye are not as deep as you’d expect in more southern waters. I’ve caught many walleye in these areas with current. I’ve even caught walleye on mouse patterns, which is really an unusual treat.
The combination of big, eager, prolific fish, and the solitude of the north means that you can enjoy a full nights rest, have a great breakfast, and then head out on the water when you’re good and ready – without having to compete with the masses. This is an awesome way to spend a vacation.
Don’t forget your camera because over and above the many fish you’ll catch – you have the best sunsets, the northern lights, and all kinds of northern wildlife to photograph on your trip. I’ve seen caribou, moose, bear, timber wolves and many other interesting animals on my northern travels. Fly fishing at Wilderness North in the far north of Ontario really can’t be beat.
Scott Earl Smith,
Canadian Regional Editor: Fly Fish America