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Thursday, March 27, 2008

The cure for cabin fever - fly fishing for early season steelhead in ontario

Cabin fever…..oh yes, it sinks in very heavily come March. Most areas in Ontario are closed to fishing this time of year, but there are a select few that are open year round for migratory steelhead and other species.

Ontario steelhead fly fishing

It had been a few months since I was last out……sinceNew Years Eve in fact! I really needed to get out and get the arms and shoulders working again. A couple of friends and myself decided on a location, and headed first thing in the morning to the river. The water had a beautiful green tinge to it, and it was running at a perfect level tosneak up on a few steelhead.

Initially, I had been dead drifting a stonefly pattern and had one take……which I very quickly lost in the fast water. I was pleased though…..first trip of the year and hooked a nice steelhead within the first hour……I wasn’t going to complain!!

As the day went on, the fishing was rather slow……the sun was beating down on the river now, and many of the fish we had seen earlier had disappeared into some of the deeper holes.

Ontario steelhead fly fishingIt was at that point that I decided to tie on a small bead head nymph with a single, bright orange glow bug made of “Mcfly Foam”, and about feet above that an indicator to make things a little easier.

Within just a couple of drifts, the indicator stopped dead in the current. My first thought was that I had hooked up on bottom and I’d have to shorten the distance between indicator and fly. A gently tug on the line proved otherwise. Just as I raised my rod to free my hook, a giant silver torpedo (read steelhead) shot straight out of the water, and
took off like a bolt of lightning downstream.

Fighting an Ontario steelhead

Amidst all this, as I fumbled with the drag on the reel, I found myself fighting a massive knot in the fly line. I had so hastily grabbed my gear that I hadn’t even checked to see that everything was in order. My last trip with this reel would have been salmon fishing last fall……and the know was probably caused by the last salmon I hook after it peeled out line and caused a terrible mess within the reel that I failed to notice.

So of I went, running like a madman downstream chasing the fish……while disassembling my reel and trying desperately to untangle the mess. It was at about this time that my fishin partner showed up to lend a hand. He got himself about 60 feet downstream of me while I tried to
manouver the fish towards shore.

After a wonderful battle and many long runs…Tim landed her for me. A beautiful shiny steelhead to start the season.

A fresh ontario steelhead

We took a moment to inspect for tags, fin clips or anything. None of either were found. She was wild! A couple of quick shots and she was back in the water to continue upstream to fulfill her
instinctive desires.

Releasing a nice ontario steelhead

For more great fly fishing information visit: www.flyfishontario.ca


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Small Stream Fly Fishing Techniques

Most of the small streams we have in Ontario see far less pressure than the larger, open rivers we have. Casting, accessibility and frustration probably play a large role in why these streams see so little action from fly fishers. Generally, these streams will be about 15 feet wide at their widest, will have terribly overgrown banks and plenty of log jams to hang up on. It takes several trips and many, many lost flies to perfect your ability to fish these streams successfully.

In fishing these streams, you’ll find that casting is virtually impossible….so DON’T do it!! I can’t stress that enough…Do Not Cast like you would fishing larger rivers. Instead, there are a couple of tricks you can master to make fishing these streams a success.

Initially, I like to place myself upstream of potential lies, rather than downstream of them. Use extra caution when manoeuvring through the stream to prevent muddying up the areas downstream of where you are. Move slowly and deliberately. Next, strip out some line, and gradually send your fly downstream, peeling more line out as the fly drifts downstream with the current. Twitching the fly, as well as raising and lowering your rod tip will give the fly some extra motion as it drifts. Guide the fly down current seams, through pocket water, along undercut banks, and most importantly…..straight into log jams! That’s right….with a little practice and patience, you’ll be able to drift your offering straight into a log jam without hanging up every time. Sure, you’ll go through your fair share of flies in practicing this technique, but you will develop the necessary skills to perform the manoeuvre without losing a fly and spooking the hole every time.

Another simple method is dappling. Dappling is similar to High Stick Nymphing, except you have the option of tossing a dry fly around using this method. To begin, position yourself in the stream facing either upstream or down, depending on where you’d like to place your fly. The trick is to have just enough line out to deal with the pocket or riffle you want to tackle. Gently raise your rod, and place the fly ever so gently where you’d like the drift to begin. If using a nymph, twitch the fly around a little as you allow it to settle in a pocket where you think a trout is waiting for a meal. Gently raise and lower your rod while adding the twitching action to mimic a struggling nymph. If using a dry, allow the fly to settle on the surface, and gently twitch and bounce the fly in an attempt to tantalize what lies below the waters surface.

The equipment you want to use on these tiny streams is far different from what you’d likely use on larger rivers. Sure, you could take your 10 foot 7 wt in there, but you’ll likely find more frustration that fish! I like to take along my 8 foot 4wt for these missions. Partly because of the unique situation that these streams present, where light tackle is far better, and partly because a ‘trophy’ fish in these areas will likely be no larger than 16” and rarely over a pound or so. Light tackle makes fighting these tiny gems more enjoyable, as opposed to using a heavier 6 or 7 wt and simply lifting the fish straight out of the water once hooked. I tend to stick with 6x or 7x as my tippet, coupled with a heavier leader in the 6 to 8 pound range. Leaders do not need to be overly long at all. A 5 or 6 foot leader with 1 or 2 feet of tippet material added on should be sufficient for these types of streams.

Productive flies for small stream fishing are plentiful, and you will likely find a couple that suit you just fine after you’ve had a chance to play around out there a little bit. Some of my flies of choice, and some that you should consider starting out with are listed below:

· Nymphs

o Bead Head Hares Ear

o Pheasant Tail

o March Brown

o Small Stonefly

· Dries

o Wulff Patterns

o Elk Hair Caddis

o Any high floating, high-vis hair wing patterns

· Micro Streamers

o Wooley buggers (tied on a size 10 nymph hook)

o Clouser Minnows (tied on a size 10 nymph hook)

o Zonkers (tied on a size 10 nymph hook)

So, there you have it. Small Stream fly fishing techniques simplified. Get out, and get practicing . One last note……fish every inch of any particular lie before moving on. Be sure you have covered every singe inch of water!

Find more info at www.flyfishontario.ca


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Day Dreaming

I'm not sure that having a digital camera is such a great thing anymore. You see, at this time of year, with intense cabin fever firmly grasping the weary fly fisher, all you can do really is inspect what you were up to last season. That usually requires that you check out those great photos you took.....when it was warm, the birds were chirping, and winter seemed like it could never possibly happen. Well, here's a few to tickle the old spring funny bone and get the anxiety pumping even stronger!!!

"The Special Spot"

"Beaver Steelie"

"Grand Sunset"

"Grey/Bruce ~ Beauteous"

"Grey/Bruce ~ Beauteous"


Monday, March 3, 2008


The Barrett Hex

This large nymph pattern is excellent for still water fishing, but don't steer away from fishing it in moving water, especially on the swing!

Hook: Streamer Fly #8-12
Thread: uni Camel 6/0
Hackle (legs): short cock, one or two palmered wraps
Wingcase: turkey feather segment folded forward
Back: turkey feather folded forward
Body: tan hares ear plus dubbing
Underbody: short cock (webby section folded forward)
Rib: gold wire
Tail: 2 wild boar fibres
Weight: 1 layer of lead free wire


Saturday, March 1, 2008


Ahhhh, lovely! The sun remains on the horizon for a little longer now, and appears again a little earlier the next day. March is here. It's panick time if you tie your own flies and have been a little lazy over the winter. I have about 30 patterns that I use all season, and I like to start with about 10 of each one...to be safe. Sure, throughout the year you'll be tying flies as hatches occur and you somehow misplace all of the inventory you tied in the off season. But, when you hit the water for the first of the hatches of each species, you probably want to be prepared for whatever the bugs may throw at you at any given time. Fly fishing in Ontario can get quite technical when it comes to 'matching the hatch' due to our diverse population of Mayflies, Caddis flies, dragon flies, etc. This is why I have about 30 patterns that I like to make sure I am well stocked with. Some species may be present on one stream, but not on another. Many species will be present in all systems, and thus you'll go through many more of those patterns than others.

Some of the patterns I keep myself well stocked on for fly fishing in Ontario are:

Dry Flies:
Blue Winged Olive #18-24
Hendrickson #12-16
Grey Fox #12-16
Pale Evening Dun #12-16
Hexagenia #6-10
Grey Drake #12-16
Green Drake #12-16
Brown Drake #12-16
Yellow Stone #8
Black Caddis #14-16
Tan Caddis #14-16
Green Caddis #14-16
Trico #20-26

Small Stone #10
Large Stone #6-8
Caddis #10-16
Shell Back Caddis #10-16
March Brown #10-16
Maggot #12
Northern Casemaker #10-16
Hexagenia #6-10
Spring Wiggler #10
Parasol Emerger #12

A great place to find recipes is Fish Finder ~ Ontario Fly Fishing.


About This Blog

Steelhead Fly Fishing, Ontario Fly Patterns, Free Fly Fishing Videos. What ever Ontario Fly Fishing information you are looking for, you are bound to find it with the help of Fly Fish Ontario. Don't forget to check out the full length online fly fishing video series Bingo Bango Fly Fishing.

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