Dunlop Lake Loop

A few weeks ago, I did a short 3-day backcountry trip to the Dunlop Lake area in Algoma. This was a combination of an exploratory, fishing and unwinding trip. Being the second week of July, it wasn’t the ideal time to be trout fishing lakes, especially with a fly rod. We were also still under a fire ban, so there would be no campfires to help ward off the hoards of mosquitoes.

It was another super enjoyable trip. Despite the overall slow fishing, I still managed to get into a couple nice trout. Check out the full trip report below.

July 2023: Dunlop Lake Loop
A 3 day loop through some Algoma country back lakes

Mid Summer Update

While early season started with plenty of water in our rivers thanks to a good snow melt and plenty of rain in April, May and beyond brought some near drought conditions. As a result, most of our rivers in southern Ontario have had some of the lowest water levels I’ve ever seen. Local creeks and even the Credit River have been almost unrecognizable. Ontario was also under a fire ban for most of the summer (which has just recently been lifted). Things seem to be returning to normal now, with some more frequent rains and storms. Hopefully it will top the rivers off to provide some stable late summer and fall fishing opportunities.

That said, there are still plenty of rivers and lakes with more than enough water, even in dry years such as this one – and that’s where I’ve spent most of this season. They aren’t particularly close by for me, so it does mean some extra driving. Sometimes I’ll try to make the most of my trips though and stay a night (or, a week, or more…).

On the longer trips, I’m in the back country with a canoe and tent (or hammock). I’ve got a new trolling setup for the fly rod this year with the new(ish) universal Scotty rod holder, which works well for pretty much any rod type – casting, spinning or fly rod. Of course, I’m not only trolling from the canoe. I’ll also cast (mostly streamers) when I’m not travelling or trying to locate fish – but it’s nice to keep a line in the water even while travelling.

Trolling with a fly rod from a canoe on a back country lake.

Closer to home, trout fishing has been mostly done while drifting in the pontoon, on rivers with plenty of water and where covering ground is easy and quick.

A super enjoyable and convenient way to access otherwise unreachable water.

I’ve got two Scotty fly rod holders on my pontoon (the red XL-IR above), but they’re used only for transporting my rods. I bring two with me, so that I can rig them up with a different setup and easily switch between them. That’s one great thing about pontoon boats – you can load basically everything you would ever need and not have to worry about carrying it on your back or hip.

Sunset on the river during a float.

I haven’t exactly had the most success with the browns this year, especially when it comes to big browns. A combination of timing and losing fish – but that’s how fishing goes, especially when learning new water. It’s about time to start thinking about getting out for some night fishing though – and that will surely change my luck. There’s also the hope of hitting a good late Hex hatch (Hexagenia Autrocaudata).

I’ve had a couple nice browns hooked up, only to be lost on a jump or poor hookup. Still, there have been plenty of 10-14 inchers, which are never a disappointment.

One recent trip float also netted a decent Rainbow Trout that put a nice bend in the 4 weight.

A decent rainbow from a float down a southern Ontario river.

And let’s not forget the numerous brookies. Suffice it to say, while no trophies were caught this season (in the front country), the trout trifecta has been a common occurrence on outings. Can’t complain about that!

For hatches, Stoneflies have been in a great abundance this year. They began showing up earlier than normal and they’re still sticking around in good numbers.

A southern Ontario golden stonefly. These have been on the water in good numbers this year.

You may have seen the top of these flies (as pictured above), or you’ve seen them fluttering over the river. But there’s a good chance you haven’t seen the bottom side of a golden stone, which is what the fish see from below! If you tie your own flies, that’s a pretty important part of the fly. So, here you are…

The underside of a golden stone from a local river.

The other hatch that has been fairly abundant on some rivers this year (aside from the usual Isonychia) is the Brown Drake. This is a good sized mayfly that can bring some solid fish to the surface. It seemed to stick around for quite a long time this year. At least twice already, a good month after fishing them earlier in the season, we saw some size 10-12 mayflies in the air before dusk and mistakenly thought they were Isonychia. It wasn’t until catching one much later that we realized they were actually Brown Drakes. We thought for sure they’d be done by now. That might explain our snubs from some decent fish those evenings.

A brown drake from later in the season than anticipated.

Hard to believe it’s the end of July already. There’s only two more months of trout season left, with just a couple major hatches to look forward to. Smallmouth bass will be getting some attention as well, along with at least one more late season backcountry trip for trout.

Algoma Headwaters Backcountry Trip

Last month, I embarked on my most ambitious solo backcountry trip to date. This time around, I chose a nine day, 30+ portage canoe trip to Ranger Lake and the Algoma Headwaters region in northern Ontario.

Some of the main trip highlights included some beautiful native Brook Trout and Lake Trout, no bugs (still too early for them!), great weather aside from some below freezing overnight lows, a couple injuries, taking a swim in some muck and some seriously challenging (and confusing) portages.

You can read the full trip report on the page linked below:

May 2023: Ranger Lake / Algoma Headwaters
A 9 day solo trip to an infrequently travelled northern Ontario canoe route

And here are a few photos from the trip (many more on the full trip report)!

2023 Trout Season Opener

It’s hard to believe we’re a month into trout season already! If I haven’t completely missed the Hendricksons yet, then I’m surely on track to – thanks mostly to my relatively new tradition of doing a big spring backcountry trout trip each year. Most of late winter and early spring was dedicated to planning that trip, which I’ve now wrapped up and will be posting a trip report on soon.

On our local rivers, we were finally blessed with an abundance of water this spring. Those levels seem to be dropping fairly rapidly, but I have to imagine that there were lots of opportunities to entice some big old browns with big streamers or nymphs in those high waters.

As for myself, brookies are always at the top of my mind in spring, so I explored some small streams for them on opener. The water was cold and the fishing was slow, but a few small fish were caught nonetheless.

A small stream brookie from opening weekend.
Another small brookie from opener.

I did also manage to get out for steelhead with a couple buddies for the first time in many seasons. We fished a section of river close to home, on a particularly cold and rainy day. All I had to show for it was a small 10″ rainbow trout. I’ll blame it on the high water and wide river with difficult to reach pools (equipped only with my 9′ 6wt) – but, when it comes to steelhead, I’ll always find an excuse. My buddy, who happened to be float fishing, managed a pretty nice steelhead as well as an 18″ brown. Though they didn’t come to my net, it was nice to leave having seen and netted a least a few fish.

A good steelhead caught by a friend on a section of river close to home.

With the weather getting warmer and the month of June fast approaching, we’re almost upon some of the biggest and best hatches of the year! It’s time to top off the fly boxes with patterns that should have been tied during the winter months.

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

In May of 2022, I embarked on my first solo backcountry trip, doing the Lake Lavieille / Dickson loop through Algonquin Park. Read the entire trip report on the following page:

May 2022: Lake Lavieille / Dickson Loop
A 5 day trip to Big Crow Lake in the Algonquin backcountry

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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