Detroit River Bass

I grew up on the Detroit River in LaSalle – a small town near Windsor, Ontario. This river connects Lake Erie and Lake St. Claire and is a very popular and productive fishery. The most targeted fish here is easily the Walleye, but it is also teeming with Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass, Silver Bass, Northern Pike, Perch and it even has healthy populations of Musky and Sturgeon.

It’s the Bass that have always occupied most of my time here. My parents live on a canal that has proven to be one of the better Largemouth Bass spots (that I know about) on this river and I’ve spent countless hours fishing for them. Historically this has been with spinning gear, but more recently with a fly rod.

Last weekend I was down at my parents place and we headed out in the boat Sunday morning for some fishing. I was casting red and white buggers on my six weight with sink tips and it turns out the bass were into the flies moreso than my dad and brother’s lures and bait (I’m not bragging dad, really!). I landed a few smallies, with one particularly large fish surprising me when it smashed my fly as it hit the water just in front of a weed bed.

A nice Detroit River Smallmouth Bass caught on the fly

A nice Detroit River Smallmouth Bass caught on the fly

I certainly appreciate the local trout rivers that I now have access to living near the GTA, but I also miss the great fishing, boating and ease of access to rivers and lakes in the Windsor area.

Trout Hangover

I saw a tweet a few weeks ago that hit close to home for me, describing the time immediately after trout season closing as a trout hangover. That’s almost what it feels like when I put so much thought and effort into fishing at the end of the season. Since so much fishing is crammed into so few days, my fishing gear, tying gear and other related gear gets abused, pushed to its limits and in some cases, lost. During the active season, if any of the above were to happen, I would fairly quickly remedy the situation – otherwise I would not be properly equipped for my next outing. When the season ends however, there’s no immediate motivation to do so.

A few examples from this year’s end of season:

  • I lost my pair of $200 polarized sunglasses and broke my landing yet – neither has been replaced yet
  • I have yet to unpack my backpack / fishing pack
  • My fly tying gear is scattered everywhere
  • I still need to clean my fishing gear for storage

Basically, I sort of crash after all that buildup of excitement and anticipation ends and I suddenly lose the motivation to even think about it. So yeah, I’d say it feels a lot like a hangover.

Thankfully, it’s not permanent and the fact that I’m even posting this means that I’m recovering. I need to accept the fact that there’s still fishing after trout. It mostly comes in the form of Bass and Steelhead. In fact, I took my son out fly fishing for Bass a couple weekends ago and although we didn’t catch much, it was a refreshing change.

Bass definitely change their feeding habits in the fall and I’m not overly familiar with it. One effective and fun way to fish for them during the summer is with top water flies, but this is no longer true in the fall. Also, since most bass fishing is done in water that can’t be waded, it means I need to find a better way of getting at fish in deeper water. In the summer, I would use my float tube but I’m not too keen to jump in it with the colder waters of fall. What I really need, is a pontoon boat.

Steelhead are a different story and still something that I avoid like the plague. It’s not that I dislike them: I certainly have nothing against catching 10+ lb Rainbow Trout that can and do frequently take you into your backing. It’s just that I dislike the environments that must be endured to fish for them most of the time in Southern Ontario. Perhaps it makes me sound like an antisocial snob, but I don’t particularly enjoy sharing water with many other fishermen, especially the type that often lurk by the hundreds on small stretches of water during a good Steelhead run.

Surprisingly (or not), the number of productive resident trout rivers in Southern Ontario is relatively small in comparison to the number of productive steelhead rivers. However, though you might often find yourself enjoying a nice stretch of resident trout water by yourself, you’d be hard pressed to encounter such conditions when out on one of the many steelhead rivers. It’s a real dilemma for someone who is accustomed to the much more solitary resident trout fishing of this area. I also understand that this is not exactly the norm everywhere and when I complain about the conditions here, I’m only referring to Steelhead fishing Southern Ontario (though I’m sure the problem is not unique to this area).

On the plus side, our area boasts an extremely large number of Great Lakes rivers and tributaries that see large runs of Steelhead. I’m sure there are ways to experience more solitary Steelhead fishing in the area, which I have simply not discovered. One obvious way is to stay away from the more popular rivers: in other words, don’t try to fish the Credit River at Erindale Park. Another is to get out on a drift boat, but to be realistic, this means hiring a guide. While I’m all for putting money into the hands of fly fishing outfitters, at several hundred dollars per day, it’s simply not realistic to rely on drift boat guiding as a way to enjoy the sport. My only other idea is to fish when the weather sucks – but of course that means less enjoyment for me.

The long and short of it all is that I really do need to find a way to enjoy fishing into the fall and winter, after my trout hangover ends. My current stance on this is that I need to splurge and do a couple Steelhead guided trips, to hopefully get a better inside scoop on locations, timing and ideas on how to target Steelhead without massive crowds. At this point, I’m very much a novice when it comes to understanding this fish so anything I can learn will surely be useful.

Au Sable River Trip

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I took a well deserved week-long trip to a favourite destination of ours on the banks of Au Sable River in Grayling, Michigan.

Grayling is a fly fishing paradise.  I won’t go into detail on why this is such a great fly fishing town, but suffice it to say that it’s surrounded by several blue ribbon trout rivers, it’s host to river stretches with nicknames like the “Holy Water”, it’s got more fly shops than most towns have gas stations and it’s the birthplace of Trout Unlimited… you get the idea.

I made an effort not to spend too much time on the water this trip, since my wife doesn’t fish and we had other things planned for the week.  Most of the time I didn’t stray too far from the place we were staying.  Located on the Holy Water, one of (if not the) best stretches of trout water on the entire Au Sable, it’s just too convenient.

The main hatches for the week included Tricos in the mornings, terrestrials (mostly ants) in the afternoons and some sporadic BWO hatches in the evenings.  No overly large trout were had during this trip, but a nice assortment of brown, rainbow and brook trout were caught.  That’s one of the things I love about the Au Sable in this stretch… all three trout species are very plentiful and on any given day it’s entirely possible to hook up with trophy sizes in all of these fish.

Au Sable Brown Trout

Au Sable Brook Trout

Au Sable Rainbow Trout

And then there’s the night fishing…

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Floating for Bass

Took the float tube out tonight for a few hours hoping to get some good top water bass fishing in.  Arrived around 4:30 and fished to dark.

Things were a lot slower than I expected in the afternoon.  I was casting poppers for a good hour and a half without much luck.  The water was actually quite warm, probably even a bit out of the comfort zone for bass, so this was likely the issue.

I gave up on the poppers and went subsurface with an angora bugger and things started to pick up a bit.  Landed a pike, a couple largemouth bass and a few small overzealous baby bass.  Nothing spectacular, but better than nothing.

As evening approached and the temps cooled a bit and the sun started to set, I ditched the bugger and went back to poppers… again, no luck.  As a last-ditch effort, I thought I’d try tying on a smaller terrestrial fly and twitching it on the surface.  A few minutes in, I made a cast close to shore; I’m guessing in about a foot of water.  One twitch and I saw something subtly gulp my fly down.  I thought it was either another tiny bass or a bluegill – sure looked like it from the delicate take.  Then it ran straight at my tube… fast.  I was stripping line as fast as I could to keep tension on and I knew then that I was into a better fish.  This nice largemouth was the result:

My first Largemouth Bass of any considerable size on a fly rod. This fish was caught when casting terrestrials towards a bank from my float tube. It was sitting in no more than 2 feet of water. I had no idea this pond held Largemouth of this size and it wasn't until it bolted straight towards me into the middle of the pond that I realized what I had hooked into.

Nice largemouth bass taken on a little terrestrial before dark.

To be honest, I’ve fished this water a few times before and never been overly impressed with it.  Had I not caught this just before heading in, I likely wouldn’t have been too excited to come back.  I know they’re in there now though, so I’ll definitely be back to find more of these in the near future!

When It’s Too Hot For Trout

When it comes to fly fishing, I’ve traditionally been a resident trout only type of guy.  If I wasn’t able to fish for trout, I generally wouldn’t fish at all.  Although this might sound foolish, my reasoning was as follows:

  1. Steelhead and salmon fishing in any river within an hour drive in any direction of my house is generally a shoulder to shoulder meatfest.  Not my idea of fun, at all.
  2. Warm water fishing with a fly rod has often seemed impractical, or inaccessible, due to the difficulty getting into a river or lake without some sort of boat (most are not wadeable and/or have zero room for back casting).

Well, I’m happy to say that I’m a reformed warm water fly fishing enthusiast. This happened gradually over the past couple of years. The main triggers included a new float tube which made a bunch of new water accessible, as well as discovering a couple nice wadeable stretches of rivers I didn’t previously know existed.  Of course, the hot weather this summer helped push me over the edge a bit too.

First Carp on a Fly Rod

The net result was lots of fun warm water fishing this year.  In fact, I caught three species for the very first time on a fly rod this year: smallmouth bass, pike and carp.  Previous years had me dabbling with largemouth bass and panfish.

One of many smallmouth bass taken on the fly this summer.

Next year I’m planning to add a pontoon boat to my ever-growing inventory, so hopefully that will make things even more interesting!