I have tied many different Steelhead flies in the past. I’ll continue to tie many more with different colours and materials. That’s what a Steelheader does. It is a passion.
However the more I guide for our Ontario Chrome I find I am struggling with tying these flies either with a Stinger/trailer hook or just tying the conventional way directly on the hook shank. Don’t get me wrong, the Stinger hook style works like a charm, but so do the others.
This year my clients have had much better luck on the conventional style hook with very little “bumps” or non takes. As a swinging fly moves across the current our feisty Steelhead snap at the fly. Sometimes chasing it from behind and sometimes from the side. Many people believe the Steelhead mostly attack the tail, hence the stinger hook will hopefully catch these quick nips. They are not wrong, however they are fish. There is current and with the high waters these fish will attack the body and the head of the fly also.
For a conventional fly, I like a a full, but short rabbit tail. Lots of movement to entice a strike. Movement is the key to success. The Rapala is probably the best lure in the world in my opinion. Not because it looks like a minnow but because it has incredible action. When ever I see a Steelhead that has crushed this bait it is always farther up towards the head of the lure. Therefore, like the Rapala, a furious moving fly will also bring on an intense hit.
Have both styles of flies in your fly boxes but when the going gets tough, bring out your most “dance like” flies to entice these fish.
When searching for migratory Steelhead there is nothing better then taking a Drift boat tour down a beautiful remote stretch of river that is void of other anglers. The Drift boat can take you to areas that are not accessible by foot. When you hit an area with fish, there is nothing better!
However, these fish are on the move. Unfortunately because of this you could virtually be on a stretch of river that has very little or no fish at all. This is where you have to trust your fly fishing guide. This season here in Ontario I have Walked and Waded with my customers about 70% of the time. The rest has been on the Drift boat. Walking allows you to skip from concession to concession moving from upriver to down river on different stretches within 15 minutes. When you find the fish you stay for a while. If you haven’t found them you move quickly to your next destination.
This has produced more fish this year then Drifting. Both options are a great way to find fish but if your guide recommends walking rather then a Drift, take his or her advice and start hoofing it!
I hired Jeff for a day of steelhead fishing. This is a species I’ve had a lot of trouble dialing in over the last couple of seasons, but in less than an hour of being on the river with Jeff I soon realized where I was going wrong. With some minor tweaking of my tactics and approach, Jeff had me hooking some beautiful steelhead. Jeff is not only a great guide who puts you onto fish, he’s an even better teacher. His keep it simple and no nonsense attitude is both refreshing and welcoming, but most of all his methods work!
Jeff is friendly, knowledgeable and most of all a lot of fun. He makes you feel comfortable with your abilities, compliments you along the way and most of all corrects you when it matters most. He wants you to be successful and is just as excited as you are when that fish is on the end of your line. He’s the best fly fishermen I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the river with.
When the rains have not filled up our rivers, and the Steelhead are far and few between, take this opportunity to scope out your favourite stream.
Every year a river changes. Great pools may have been carved away from old man winter. New runs are created and old ones may lack the flow they once had.
Take advantage of the dry weather and hike up and down some of your Steelhead haunts. The water will be low, which will enable you to see where potential hiding spots will be for these silver bullets.
Ontario Steelhead are strong but they need to rest. The skinny water will allow you to find these quiet spots. Map them out. Take pictures of trees or stumps to remind you where they are. Once the water rises it will be difficult to remember these hiding places. Photos will help. When the rivers are full of water and Steelhead you will be much more prepared to find fish then your average fellow fly fisherman.
Less then 3 weeks from now and we will drifting our awesome rivers for Ontario’s trophy sized Smallmouth Bass. We all love our resident trout and large migratory Ontario Steelhead, but I can safely say that Ontario Smallmouth fishing is by far my favourite fish to fly fish for in our fresh water systems.
Many anglers shy away from these Bronzeback’s as they feel they are to easy to catch and do not provide a challenge compared to our Brown Trout here on the Grand River in Fergus. In a way these people are correct if you are targeting the smaller 8″-14″ Smallmouth Bass. This size will always provide a fun and busy day on the river without to much skill. However, should you be interested in hooking on to our many 18″-22″ Ontario Smallmouth’s you will need every bit as skill as you need for a 22″ Brown Trout.
The key is the way you make your fly move in the column of water. Luring a large Smallmouth out from under a log or from behind a large rock is all in the movement of the fly. When we teach and educate our clients on this subtle action we speak more about a small tap then a short or long strip. I know a small tap and a short strip sound like the same movement but there is definitely a difference. A strip is done by pulling the line in towards you. However a tap is done with your rod tip. One or two short “taps” will provide the necessary movement of all the feathers and fur of your fly. This tapping movement will trigger more strikes then a short or long strip will. Plus you will allow your fly to sink closer to the bottom and get into the strike zone where these larger Ontario Smallmouth Bass are lying.
Do not under estimate our trophy Ontario Smallmouth Bass. They always provide an action packed day!
I speak to many of my clients who come to me for a learn to fly fishing day and most say that they initially took the fly rod out to the river only to walk back off the stream with utter frustration.
Receiving some quality education to begin your career as a fly fisherman is an absolute must. Four to six hours working through the fundamentals with a competent guide will be an investment that is well worth your time and money.
As we educate our new fly fishers we speak constantly about the rod tip. Wherever the tip is pointing the fly follows. Important in so many ways from your back cast to the front cast. Should this rod tip be out of sync your length and accuracy of your cast will be hampered.
You need energy with your cast along with rhythm. Working alone on this is next to impossible. Your fly fishing guide will be able to work with you on creating a solid cast with some length which will then enable you to move to the river with confidence. For myself, educating a customer on the basics of the cast is the easiest part of this great sport. There is much to know and learn once you master the cast but trying it alone can be a tough venture.
To recap. Take a fly fishing lesson and educate yourself with a competent fly fishing guide here in Ontario.
As a Fly Fishing Guiding Company, we love the Ontario Rivers. But we are based on Puslinch Lake and there is nothing wrong with casting out here either.
Calmwaters Cottage & Fly Fishing owners Kellie & Jeff Parks are 3rd generation Lakers. We encourage catch&release to maintain the fishing health of our Lake. For more information on the fish of Puslinch Lake, or for the fishing on all of Southern Ontario’s pristine rivers contact Jeff directly at 519-658-1158 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are 16 species of fish present in Puslinch Lake; with some of them being introduced. One of the most abundant fish in Puslinch Lake is the Largemouth Bass. The bass are literally everywhere in the lake and are readily caught fishing with spinnerbaits and stick baits in the shallows. Early morning is the best time to catch bass, with top water lures being most effective. At one time muskellunge were stocked by the Department of Lands and Forests between 1953 and 1955, although today this fish is now assumed extinct in the lake. The last known muskellunge catch from Puslinch Lake was in the early 1970’s. Smallmouth bass where also stocked by the Department of Lands and Forests between 1947 and 1964, although today smallmouth catches are considered rare in Puslinch Lake.
The most sought after fish in the lake is the walleye. The walleye have been stocked on and off for many years, as early as the late 1940’s and as recent as 1997 by the Puslinch Lake Conservation Authority. Recent studies conducted by the ONMR indicated successful natural reproduction of walleye in the lake. Generally the Puslinch Lake walleye are on the smaller size, about 1 lb. Most anglers concentrate their fishing efforts in the deeper sections of the lake as well as around the shoals. Fishing with worms on the bottom or trolling with worm harnesses especially in the evening hours produce the best catches.
The northern pike population in Puslinch Lake is thought to be the result of an inadvertent introduction in the 1950’s. The pike are now quite established in this water body are commonly caught. Although most pike are on the smaller size 1 lb, some larger pike in the 5 lb plus range are caught annually. Pike fishing is best in the shallows, especially in the spring. Spinnerbaits in dark colours can be very effective.
Black Crappie also inhabit Puslinch Lake. They were stocked in 1957, although it is unknown if the existing population is a result of this stocking or a naturally occurring population. Puslinch Lake crappie are most commonly caught in the spring, fishing small jigs under floats. Trolling with small spinners tipped with worms can produce some nice crappie as well as the bonus walleye on occasion.
Of interest, Puslinch Lake supports a population of banded killifish, which is one of only a few known populations in the entire Grand River watershed.
Puslinch Lake is located in Wellington County, just northeast of the City of Cambridge, Ontario, and is the largest kettle lake in North America. The surface area of the lake is approximately 156 ha, and 2.012 km by .805 km. The lake is relatively shallow, most of it being less than 2 m in depth; the maximum depth is approximately 5.5 m (The deepest area only represents 0.4%, thus yielding a rather shallow mean depth of only 1.4 m). There are five islands on the lake, the biggest of which measures 2.4ha. There are a few shoals and one main deep area located off McCormick’s Point. The Puslinch Lake – Irish Creek Wetland, is adjacent to the lake, and is a provincially significant wetland area.
There are no permanent inflow streams into the lake, and the lake is normally fed seasonally by a combination of local surface runoff and underwater springs. There are no predominate outflows on the lake, with the exception of several small streams discharging into Mud Bay. Although, during high water conditions, the lake discharges into Puslinch Lake Creek. a tributary of Irish Creek. Irish Creek discharges into the Speed River, which is part of the Grand River drainage basin. A dam on Irish Creek near its mouth prevents the upstream migration of fish from the Speed River into Puslinch Lake. There is a channel connecting Puslinch Lake to Little Lake, located to the northeast. However, it is devoid of moving water, except for high water conditions.
Happy couple learning to fly fish on the Grand River in Fergus, Ontario, Canada. Searching for Brown Trout with wooly buggers and caddis emerger flies. Calmwaters Ontario Fly fishing school was extremely effective for this happy couple.