There’s never a dull season fly fishing in Southern Ontario, for better or for worse. This year began with moderate temperatures, average water levels and lots of bug activity – just about perfect conditions for fly fishing. I was casting to big Brown Trout rising to large bugs on the surface and our local streams were teeming with native Brook Trout. Unfortunately, a severe lack of rain (the worst I can recall in recent history) and high temperatures led to low water levels and few insects for the second half of the season. My beloved Brookie streams were reduced to mere trickles, where the only signs of life were leftovers from the tens of thousands of hatchery raised Atlantic Salmon juveniles that had since taken over. Even Smallmouth Bass were struggling on many rivers.
Still, on the upper Credit River, solid numbers of both large and small trout were being caught throughout the season. Cool evenings and the many cold springs that feed the Credit kept temperatures safe for much of the season. Of course, in extremely low, clear water with little bug activity, fishing becomes difficult during daylight hours. More often than not, the fish are completely inactive – hiding in undercut banks, vegetation and under logs, waiting for the cover of dark. This is especially true for Brown Trout and it happens to be ideal conditions for night fishing.
Fishing past dark on a brighter than normal evening, thanks to a near-full harvest moon.
For the most part, my night fishing has become less intentional than in years past. Aside from a few planned late-night outings with friends, most of my night fishing has simply been the result of fishing a couple hours before dark, then refusing to leave after that magic half-hour window when the action just starts to pick up. Some years are better than others and I can recall a couple seasons ago spending a significant amount of time fishing past dark with little to no results. This has been no such year.
A large Brown Trout caught after dark on the closing day of trout season.
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
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.
June turned out to be a busy month both on the water and on the fly tying bench. The rivers are now teeming with bug activity and you just never know when that epic day on the water might arrive… where everything comes together to produce those perfect conditions that bring even the most wary of trout to the surface.
This is the time of year where our fly boxes need to be the most diverse. Depending on the time of day, river and hatches, you might be casting streamers, nymphs, wet flies, emergers, tiny dries, large dries, or even huge topwater patterns. Consequently, I’ve been hitting the tying bench a lot lately, trying to cover all my bases. In what has been an increasing trend of mine, I’ve concentrated more on sub-surface patterns this season to up my odds when fish are either not rising, or when they’re rising but refusing dry flies. Below are some flies I’ve been tying and fishing on some of my local waters.
If you fish the Grand River, you know how frustrating it can be if you rely on dry flies to match the hatch. Although I don’t spend as much time on the Grand as I do other rivers, I’ve come to realize that it’s a largely sub surface and emerger river. In response to this, I tied a bunch of the following emerger patters in various sizes, mainly for caddis and blue winged olive hatches. I’m sure that by simply swapping out different colors and materials, these could be used to imitate a much wider variety of caddis and mayflies.
Caddis or BWO emerger, loosely based off a Snowshoe Emerger pattern
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.
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:
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.
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!