The Unsung Heroes of Fly Fishing

I spent the duration of the 2016 trout season fishing without an ACL in my right knee. It took nine months after injuring it last January to get an MRI, be referred to a specialist and have reconstructive surgery scheduled. If any good came of the long wait, it was that my surgery was scheduled for October 5th – just five days after the end of trout season.

For the last week, I’ve been confined to a couch in my living room where I’ve relocated my computer and enough conveniences to keep me entertained. The first couple weeks of post-op will be mainly resting and icing my knee in between physiotherapy, leaving a lot of time to waste watching Netflix and messing around on my computer. It’s a long healing process, but if all goes well, I hope to be back on the water for trout opener next May, not missing a beat.

With lots of time to waste, I’ve been going through and organizing some of my old photos. As I browsed through my mess of fishing pictures, I realized how much we favor celebrating larger fish, with the smaller ones rarely making it into the spotlight. It’s understandable how we’re all drawn pictures of large fish, but it’s the rest that keep us entertained on slow days. In fact, we spend the vast majority of our time on the water catching small fish, helping us learn and fine-tune our fly fishing skills so that perhaps one day we’ll come back to catch grown-up versions of the very same fish we release.

So this post is dedicated to this season’s smaller, often overlooked unsung heroes of fly fishing. Without these little guys, fly fishing would a whole lot more dull. As it happens, these fish by and large inhabit the most picturesque environments that can be found. In Southern Ontario, our Brook Trout are the real gems of our cold water rivers and it’s no surprise that most of the fish here are Brookies.

Colorful small stream brook trout caught on a new budget Echo Carbon 2wt rod.

Colorful small stream brook trout caught on a new budget Echo Carbon 2wt rod.

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Sneaking Out

For some reason, everyone in my house was awake at 6:30 am Wednesday morning. That may sound normal for a house with working parents and school-age kids, but it’s certainly not the norm here. The combination of flexible job hours, a night owl for a wife and kids who really like their Zzz’s keeps us all snoozing closer to 7:30-8:00 am on a normal day. Actually, who am I kidding… it’s a rare sight to see me awake at such a time, unless it involves fishing.

I’ve been itching to break out the 3 weight on my local stream this year, but early spring steelhead makes it too risky until they drop back out to the lake. With everyone awake early, the sun shining through the bedroom blinds and birds chirping, it seemed like a good morning to sneak out for a couple hours before work.

I love small streams and all the perks and challenges that come with them: solitude, stalking wary fish, light gear and technical casting. Sure, fish size generally correlates to stream size, but when you’re casting a 2-3 weight rod with 6-8x tippet on a small stream, an 8 inch trout can be just as exciting (or more so) than a 12 inch trout on a larger river.

A wider-than-average stretch of the stream I fished Wednesday morning

A wider-than-average stretch of the stream I fished Wednesday morning

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2013 Trout Closing Weekend

Last weekend marked the end of the 2013 trout fishing season here in Ontario for most inland rivers and streams. It’s hard to believe it’s come and gone so fast and we have a long 7 months to wait until we can fish for local resident trout again. It still irks me that nearly all of our rivers here are special regulations (catch and release only, artificial, single point barbless hook), yet we still have such short fishing seasons. Not only does it mean we’re stripped of our favourite pastime for more than half of the year, but it also means money lost by both small and large businesses related to fly fishing: fly shops, big box stores, tourism, etc. Yes, there’s bass (until December) and Steelhead fishing opportunities – and I appreciate that. But for many, including myself, it’s just not the same. Using many of the top resident trout fisheries in the US as an example, it’s easy to see that it can be very viable to keep special regulations trout water open for a much longer season, if not the entire year.

This is my favourite time of year to fish. The scenery is at its peak with the fall colours and fish are becoming more aggressive as they beef up for the coming spawning and winter seasons.

I love fishing small, quiet water like this during the fall

I love fishing small, quiet water like this during the fall

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2012 Trout Closing Weekend

Well, trout season is officially over here in southern Ontario, which means my fishing days are going to be limited to some remaining warm water fishing (bass, pike) and possibly some steelhead fishing if I can manage to find a place and time where the crowds aren’t too bad.

My wife graciously agreed to let me spend way too much time on the water this past weekend, to finish off the trout season. I took Friday off work and managed to get out for three consecutive days, all of which were spent on different sections of my favourite local river. By the way, you’ll notice that I rarely mention river names or locations. This is on purpose, in an effort to avoid random lazy people from typing a couple words into Google and going away with sensitive and hard earned fishing locations. If you really want to know where I fish… well, I probably won’t tell you unless you’re family or friend 🙂  But, you’re more than welcome to ask.

Anyway, on with the report!

Friday, September 28th

Friday was supposed to be a full day of fishing, but I slept in a bit more than I would have liked and as usual, I needed to do some last-minute fly tying to top up my box. The main ties included a bunch of Red Humpy dry flies (which are always productive on this river), as well as a number of Simulators and a couple Gartside Gurglers for a bit of night fishing.

Lots of Stimulators in sizes 12-14 would be the main go-to fly during the days

Gartside Gurgler (size 6) for hopefully enticing some hungry Browns at night

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Season Recap

I thought I’d do some catching up and give a quick recap on this past spring and summer of fly fishing on my home waters.

It’s been the hottest and driest fishing season I can ever remember here in southern Ontario.  With virtually no snow last winter, there was little to no melt to top up the local streams and rivers, so they started out lower than normal.  On top of that, with the extreme heat and little rain this spring and summer, water levels continued to drop and temperatures soared.  This meant that most of my local trout fishing was limited to the spring, with most of the summer spent chasing warm water species on the fly.

One evening early in the season, I was fishing a favourite local river and decide to wade up a familiar stretch of water that leads to a nice hole, which I had known to hold some nice browns. This stretch of water is generally not overly productive.  Some riffles and runs where you will usually find a few small fish, but not many holding spots for larger fish until you get further upstream – needless to say, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot during my trek.

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