Field Team member Jeff Fisher is a traveling guide and angler. Every year he and his girlfriend pack their bags and head out on fishing adventures most of us only can dream of. With the fall of winter, Jeff has had some time to recount his journey from the past summer’s fly fishing road trip in what will be a multi-part story. Enjoy!
Hitting the Road
The time has finally come – I can practically smell the fish in the air, and I can barely contain my excitement. Winter was finally over and spring is here. This season, I will be going as far north as the Great Slave Lake area in the Northwest Territories, and as far west as the Skeena system in British Columbia, with many stops in between. I have spent the entire winter in anticipation of the upcoming fishing season and new adventures; preparing and packing gear, tying flies, researching maps, checking weather reports, etc…
First stop: The St. Marys
Leaving my home base in Southern Ontario, my first stop along the road northwards is the St. Marys Rapids in Sault Ste Marie. The St. Marys river drains Lake Superior for its entire length. It is an international border, separating Michigan, USA from Ontario, Canada. The rapids are just below the river’s exit from Lake Superior and this is where the best fishing is, and where I stop to wet my line. This place is great for all types of fly fishing, from nymphing with a single hand rod to swinging flies with a switch or full sized two-handed rod (aka spey rod). In the early summer anglers challenge themselves by targeting atlantic salmon which can be very rewarding when the conditions are right. Minnow/streamer patterns swing best in July.
Getting Away from the Crowds
The St. Marys is always a pleasure to fish, although it can get crowded at times. This is why I look forward to what lays ahead – the Lake Superior watershed, between Sault Saint Marie and Thunder Bay. The fishery here is wildly abundant, has excellent runs of salmon and steelhead, sees much less pressure than the rivers in Southern Ontario, and is definitely a lot wilder. You can target northern pike, walleye as well as bass. But what really draws anglers this far north in Ontario is the world-famous Nipigon River.
In Record Territory
The Nipigon River is in Northwestern Ontario. It’s about 48km long and flows from Lake Nipigon to Nipigon Bay into Lake Superior. It is a legendary brook trout fishery with quantity, quality and size. This is where in 1915, Dr. Cook was awarded the world record for the largest Brook Trout ever caught, weighing in at 14.5 pounds!! Unfortunately, the fishery has since declined due to the four dams that were installed between 1918 and 1950. There is still good fishing to be had here though; brook trout, lake trout and steelhead are the main targets, and a beautiful river to swing away from the crowds.
Here Kitty Kitty
Next stop along the road is the Red River in friendly Manitoba. The Red River originates at the confluence of the Bois de Sioux and Otter Trail Rivers between the US states of Minnesota and North Dakota, flowing northward through the Red River valley into Manitoba, Canada. It empties into Lake Winnipeg, whose waters join the Nelson River and come to an end in Hudson Bay…the system is massive! The main target species are channel catfish, sauger, walleye, bass, northern pike, and lake sturgeon. Non-game species such as the common carp and freshwater drum can also be found here.
My favorite way to fish the Red is with my 9 foot 10 weight fly rod. The catfish here can get over 30 pounds and they pull hard!! Match my rod with my trusty Islander LX 4.0 and the kitties haven’t got a chance. They put up a fight you won’t soon forget and will leave you wanting more. Big white streamers along with any dirty water pattern are a must for the Red River along with 30 pound tippet. Best area to focus around is near the town of Lockport, which produces some of the best fish in the entire watershed.
After the Red, it was northwest for me, but you’ll have to wait til part 2 to hear about it.