2022 Trout Season Recap

Well, here’s another lengthy post as I continue work through content from this past season. This year turned out to be quite a bit different than seasons past. While I still spent time fishing my usual haunts, especially for the major hatches, I spent considerably more time than usual fishing different rivers (and lakes), in different ways. Below is a recap of much of my 2022 trout season, roughly organized by time of year.

Early Season: Brookies & Backcountry

As is typical for me, opening week and most of May was spent pursuing Ontario’s jewel of the north: Brook Trout. This is the time of year when the water is the cold and high – a perfect combination for fishing brook trout. While there’s certainly a group of likeminded anglers out there with the same idea, the vast majority of them are either fishing the tail end of spring steelhead, or off to their favorite Brown Trout rivers.

I fished mostly smaller streams for brookies this year (not including Algonquin). In fact, I may not have made a single trip to the Credit for brookies all season, which I think is a first for me. Regardless what I’m chasing, I always go out of my way to escape the crowds – and I managed to do just that.

These first few small stream outings produced some unusually colorful little brookies for early season, which was a real treat. I especially enjoy the very different coloration from different streams and habitats – brookies, more than any other trout, seem to really adapt their colors to the water they’re living in. Fishing with a 2 or 3 weight, they’re always a joy to catch.

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Early Season Backcountry Brookies

With resident trout season now wrapped up, this will be the first of a series of posts I’ll be writing as I work through a backlog of content from 2022. This particular trip happened in May of this year.

It’s been several years since my last backcountry trips. Although I had full intentions on returning to spend more time exploring and fishing in recent years, my plans were ultimately derailed by a major knee injury, a canoe partner moving away, COVID and… several other poor exuses.

With my knee repaired, rehabbed and stronger than ever – I decided to scrap the excuses and head out on my own solo backcountry adventure for the first time this May. This wouldn’t be your Average Joe’s first solo backcountry adventure though – but a 6 day, ~70 km loop (closer to 100 km with double carries and detours) with 12 portages, one being the longest in the park (5.5 km). The goal, aside from enjoying the scenery and peace and quiet, would be getting into some brookies.

You could definitely argue that I overdid it for my first solo trip – my family certainly thought so. But, what I lacked in experience, I made up for in (a lot of) planning and preparation. I poured over maps, created detailed day by day trip, time and meal plans – and attempted to perfect my gear/load as much as possible. However, try as I did, I simply could not find a way to cut it down enough to allow for single carries on the portages.

My route would be : Opeongo ➔ Proulx ➔ Big Crow ➔ Lavieille ➔ Dickson ➔ Opeongo (with a bunch of smaller lakes and rivers in between). With double carries, I would be covering a total of 30 km on the portages alone. I’d start off on a couple lakes that I visited in the past, continuing on to some of the more picturesque areas of the park, with some opportunities for casting a fly rod. Given I was doing this solo in May, when the water was still cold, I again opted to use Algonquin Outfitters’ water taxi service to bypass Lake Opeongo.

What follows is a fairly detailed recollection of my trip. It’s going to be a long one, so grab a cup of coffee before diving in.

Day 1: Opeongo to Big Crow

I left home early AM and arrived at the Algonquin Outfitters Opeongo access point plenty early to set off for the north arm of Lake Opeongo by 12:00 noon. I picked up a couple last minute items in the store while they strapped the canoe I rented (a 15′ Swift Solo Keewaydin) to the water taxi. As I had come to expect from previous backcountry trips, the weather was predictably cold and rainy on my first day. I think it’s a way for mother nature to prepare you for what’s to come… if you can survive and enjoy the first day, the rest of the trip will probably be a breeze!

Finally back to Algonquin, with predictably cold and rainy weather to start the trip.

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Humbled by the Silver King

I should probably be writing about this year’s trout opener, but I couldn’t bring myself to write another post before wrapping up this long overdue one. I hope you’re up for reading, because it’s going to be lengthy.

It’s been almost 10 months since our family vacation to Florida last July. It was a trip largely planned around my daughter’s visit to Disney. We’d spend a few days on the Atlantic side, where my kids would enjoy the big waves and breeze of the ocean, followed by a week on the Gulf side, relaxing on the calmer white sandy beaches. Fishing wasn’t even a consideration at the time. I was clueless to saltwater fly fishing… I’d heard about it and seen pictures of it, but being a resident trout purist from Canada, it’s not really something I ever thought about pursuing.

That is, until about a week before our trip, when some last minute reading prompted me to throw my fly rod in the back of the truck, just in case. I also packed a tying vice and a small selection of tying material, again, just in case. What little research I did left me with images of Tarpon and Snook (along with a few other species) ingrained in my mind. Embarrassingly, the only thing I really knew about these species, was that they were often targeted by fly anglers. I was surprised to read that Tarpon were apparently plentiful on the Gulf, in the Tampa area (which was just south of where we would be staying near the end of our trip). In addition to that, our timing seemed to align with the tail end of Tarpon season.

To be honest, the thought of catching any fish on a fly rod in a great big ocean was overwhelming and seemed hopeless – at least without a lot more information than I had thus far found online. So a couple days before leaving and during the drive up (while my wife shared some of the driving), I started emailing some guides in the area, trying to get an idea of what I could expect or where I could start.

The drive through the scenic mountains of Virginia helped scratch my fishing itch.

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Early Season Brookies

It’s been far too long since my last post. Fall and Winter have come and gone and another new trout season is finally upon us. If it weren’t obvious from my lack of updates, I did nothing spectacular (from a fishing standpoint) during my annual resident trout layoff. October to May has become the busiest months of the year for us, mainly due to three children becoming ever increasingly active in sports. It happens to work out perfectly though… the sports wind up as trout season is finishing and they wind down as the next trout season arrives. It helps keep the mind off fishing, when there’s no fishing to be had.

Unlike the rivers, this season has started off pretty slow for me (due the the winding down part mentioned above). In the time I have found to get out, I’ve stuck close to home – repeating my tradition of avoiding the more overcrowded rivers in favor of small stream brookies.

Fishing small streamers for brookies on a frigid opening day.

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Big Water, Big Flies, Big Fish

It’s been a season of big trout for many fly fishermen in southern Ontario this year, at least according to those I’ve talked to and (to a somewhat lesser degree) my own experiences. It makes sense though… the rivers have had an abundance of water, keeping big trout holding in water that might otherwise be warmer, shallower and clearer. High dirty water has also kept dry fly purists at home, reducing fishing pressure on many rivers.

I won’t say it’s been a record season for me though, as I had an especially difficult time keeping big fish on the line earlier in the season. I’m not sure if I’ve finally shaken the dust off my streamer fishing skills, or if the trout have had a change in attitude (or both), but hook-ups with big fish have picked up somewhat over the last month for me. I suppose I can also attribute this to the arrival of warmer weather and the corresponding increase in night fishing success.

A big wild brown from last week, caught just past dark.

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Green Drake Hatch, 2017

Over the last several years, Green Drakes have been making a welcome comeback on the upper Credit River. Last year’s hatches were some of the best I’ve seen in recent years and it came with some pretty fantastic fishing as well. So, it only makes sense that this year’s Green Drake hatch would be met with lots of anticipation.

The weather hasn’t exactly been ideal for mayfly hatches this season, though it’s given us some really nice water levels going into the end of spring. We did get a good run of weather in time for the drake hatch though, which started promptly on the first day of June. A number of anglers and “bug watchers” were out eagerly awaiting the beginning of the hatch and all saw good numbers of Green Drake duns that evening.

A Green Drake dun from the beginning of the 2017 hatch on the Credit River.

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Catching Up

It’s hard to believe there’s only a couple weeks left of spring. I’ve spent quite a bit of it on the river this year, albeit with a somewhat different focus than normal. Some of this can be attributed to the excess of high, dirty water we’ve seen this spring – although my knee, my (sometimes stubborn) sense of exploration and Atlantic Salmon can all take part of the credit (no pun intended).

Early spring was largely spent pursuing brook trout on small, quiet streams. The MNR dumped an undisclosed number of adult/broodstock Atlantic Salmon into the upper Credit this year, including some previously brook trout only sections of river. This drew an unprecedented number of new anglers to the river – some with good intentions and others, not so much. The fact that these fish were dumped into some of the smaller brookie-only waters (which were already sensitive to over-fishing and predation) had me pretty unhappy about the state of things on the Credit, so I stayed clear of that area for a while.

A small stream brook trout from early season.

I never get sick of the colors on these fish.

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The Wait is Over

Another winter has come and gone and the 2017 trout season is finally here. It’s been a quiet off-season for me on the blogging front, but otherwise one of the busiest of my life. I had ACL reconstruction on my knee in October of last year (just after my last post) and the recovery and physiotherapy nearly consumed my life for the last 6 or 7 months. I knew it would be difficult, but I did not appreciate the commitment and length of time it would require. It’s hard to believe I didn’t plan the timing of the surgery to coincide with trout season though… but it certainly worked out.

My leg and knee have gained back most of its strength, though I feel there’s still a ways to go before it’s completely normal. At least I’m walking without a limp, back to jogging and bike riding and most importantly: ready to get back to hiking and river wading. Physio has dwindled from several hours a day (at its highest) to an hour or so every other day, so there’s finally time to get back to the other things I enjoy.

Sadly, I don’t have a lot to report yet on the fishing front. We’ve had a lot of rain leading up to opener, which surely put a bit of damper on many peoples’ weekend as lots of rivers were still blown out. It looks like the Hendricksons have started though and with the rivers dropping a bit and calming down, this week should be pretty fantastic in comparison.

I picked up a new toy last weekend – one that I’ve been wanting to acquire for a long time. I was very close to purchasing a new Outcast pontoon before coming across a used Streamer XL-IR in decent shape for a fraction of the cost. It still needs some cleaning up, but it seems to be in great working order and I’m excited to use it this season on everything from river drifts to still water to (small) lakes.

My new (used) Outcast Streamer XL-IR.

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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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The Night Bite

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.

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.

A large Brown Trout caught after dark on the closing day of trout season.

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