Fly fishing education comes up often in my blogs, but this year I am really excited about Calmwaters Fly Fishing School.
Our year to date has been extremely busy. We have had anglers of all ages come in search of fly fishing education – from 10 years old to 85. In addition, they have come places near and far – local, out of province to overseas.
Calmwaters focuses on all aspects of fly fishing here in Fergus, Ontario. The Grand River has been fishing well with lots of opportunities for all types of fly fishing – dry fly, nymphing, streamers…
It’s pretty hard to fly fish if you can’t cast, therefore the first thing we concentrate on is casting. This is the easiest part of the fly fishing education for me. Teaching a customer to cast usually takes about an hour. By the time our day is over the cast for most people is very natural. Hence we can move to on-the-river education such as mending the line, presenting the fly and general river maintenance.
Take a drive up to Fergus, Ontario. You’ll find the Grand River a delightful river to fly fish. After Calmwaters Learn to Fly fish course, you’ll be ready on your own to wander our glorious rivers that Ontario has to offer.
Let’s face it, fly fishing is not all about catching the “big” one.
I love everything about this silent sport. Activities such as tying flies, organizing my fly box, popping into my favourite fly shop for some much needed fish chatter, plus purchasing some new gear keeps my blood rolling. Even the quiet 2 hour drive at 4:00 in the morning, sipping on my medium regular Timmies and munching on some unhealthy timbits (oh so tasty) is a treat. The sound of the fast moving, cold water hitting my waders as I step into my chosen Steelhead River is music to my ears. The surroundings, the wind, the rain or the sun all feel good on my skin. I say to myself that I don’t need to catch a fish to enjoy my day, yet the little voice in my head chirps up and says “ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND”!
I quickly regroup and dig deep into my Chest Pack and pull out my favourite fly. I’m sure everyone who fishes for Steelhead has that “favourite fly” in their arsenal. The one that seems to catch most of your Steelhead throughout the season. Why does it work? Because you fish it with confidence. That’s why.
I have a different “chosen fly” for each system I fish. Silver and purples for the Toronto area tributaries. Black for the Collingwood area streams. Pink and Green for the Huron rivers. I’m sure other people have their own favourite fly patterns and colours for our Ontario tributaries. Yet fly fisherman who connect with Steelhead time after time, fish with confidence with their special flies. They’re focused on its swing, depth and movement throughout the current. Watching every subtle change that occurs in the river. If you believe that your fly will produce, then that fly will. Confidence is the key.
I have been down on the Gulf Coast in Florida for the past couple of weeks.
Pretty much have fished everyday. Sometimes in the Canals here in Cape Coral and other days waist deep in the chilly ocean.
Lake Okeechobee has been releasing 1,000’s of gallons of fresh water, along with the sludge from the sugar cane fields into the Caloosahatchee River which feeds into the ocean by Sanibel. The water here now has a dark copper look and is to fresh for most of the fish to stay in the area. Hence the fishing is mighty tough!
I have spoken to a few fishing guides in the area and needless to say, tempers are high. Their business has plummeted. My acquaintances down here who are not guides or fisherman have mentioned on numerous occasions that the guiding community must be so upset at not being able to make the money that they usually would.
This is not the case.
It is the health and well being of the ocean inhabitants that concerns them the most.
As a fly fisherman I understand this. In fact you don’t have to be a fly fisherman to truly care about the fish that we love to target. There has been much chatter about catch and release for Steelhead here on our rivers in Ontario. Our yields of Steelhead have been dismal. I have stayed out of many of the conversations on Social Media this past year, yet seeing what is happening here in Florida I have decided to throw in my two cents.
I understand the argument regarding the science behind our river systems. Help prevent run off from farm land and factories that may be a detriment to our spawning fish. Fix up our tributaries making it is easier for the Steelhead to spawn. I understand the argument that it is a persons right to be able to harvest a fish for their own consumption. I understand that some years we will have smaller runs of Steelhead.
I also understand that humans can annihilate a species within no time at all. Trying to figure the problem of low yields through Science makes sense. However sometimes we need to back away from logical solutions and listen to Mother Nature and regroup. It is us that has created the problem. It is up to us to fix it.
A total ban on harvesting? No. A smaller amount of fish taken per season? Yes. A total ban on Roe? Yes. Certain areas of a river for Catch and Release only? Yes. We know where the fish are greater in numbers. Increase that area for Catch and Release. Not the whole river, but certain sections only. Portions either farther upstream or downstream closer to the Lakes. Implement positive changes to help our fish Spawn.
Most of our rivers are within a two hour drive from Toronto. Very accessible. Extremely enjoyable for every type of fisherman.
To me a true naturalist is a hunter and/or a fisherman, as they understand the philosophy of the game. The game of life. Change is needed on our River Systems here in Ontario. It is time to speak up. I for one do not want to stop anyone from fishing. I am willing to do my part to help implement any changes. I strongly feel our river systems and the lakes that house them need our attention.
My early Steelhead years were tough years. Like most fly fisherman who are new to the game we look at the river and have not much confidence as we slip into the rivers and begin our fly casts. Like everyone, I bought the Steelhead flies that all the experts used. Yet for the first 2-3 years these flies remained untouched by our Ontario chrome beauties.
Frustrated and yet determined I persevered through the tough first few seasons. I loved the drive up to our many Steelhead Rivers. It was my time alone and the usual 2 hour drive to the river was extremely enjoyable. Like most of us I enjoy the country roads. It was a game to see how many small quiet roads I could take in order to stay off the main highway or the main county roads. Easier, and most times quicker.
This brings me to my main point. Many new fly fisherman will jump into the rivers and fish along their fellow anglers in the common runs. Other fisherman are there so there must be fish there, right? Yet Steelhead are not unlike us humans. They too are going for a journey. The main rivers here in Ontario are their highways to their destinations.
Like us, the main channel can sometimes be not the desired route for our fishy friends. When I’m guiding a new Fly Fisherman I try to explain that these fish also like to take the easy route. Closer to the banks of the river are quiet areas to rest. More commotion in the main channel will also divert these Steelhead to quieter and slower currents.
These are the country roads for our Ontario gems. If you’re lucky enough to be fishing a run by yourself, don’t hit the main channel first. Move your Fly in and out of the soft current close to the bank. It doesn’t need to be that deep. You’ll probably find some fish lazily feeding or resting in the calm water. Or more realistically, resting and travelling the quiet country roads to their own destination.
Is it a good idea to enrol in Calmwaters School of Fly Fishing? You bet! To pick up a fly rod and give it a go by yourself or with a friend can be a daunting task. This is what I hear almost every time I begin our day with new fly fishing pupils. The Grand River in Fergus Ontario is a terrific River to not only learn to fly fish but as a guide, it is a great River to teach on also. It has everything that a Trout River has to offer. Rapids, slow pools, streamer fishing, dry fly fishing and nymph fishing.
Your day will start with an hour of dry land training, learning the fly cast and some very basic information about fly fishing. This is the easy part of the day. Most clients feel quite comfortable with their cast as we begin to prepare to walk into the river for the first time. However, and I do stress this, all clients seem to forget absolutely everything they learned on land as they enter the “real world” of fly fishing and the water begins to rush past there legs and the wind begins to take over. Yet, because of our dry land training it is quite easy to recapture the muscle memory of the fly cast and begin to put it all together on the stream.
Casting is the simple part of this sport. Learning about keeping a tight line between the fly and the “trigger finger” is a simple exercise but a very difficult task to master. Mending of the fly is a must, yet most people do not do this nearly enough. Through this “on the water education” you will learn these and many other aspects of fly fishing. Guiding people as they progress is very rewarding. Both myself and my clients feel excited with every accomplishment.
Calmwaters Fly Fishing School will help you with with the physical part of this sport but we also focus on the mental aspects of fly fishing. Helping you to become closer with the river and its inhabitants are as important as mastering the cast.
Take a guide day with Calmwaters Fly Fishing and see how our education can bring you closer to nature as well as yourself.
Since I’ve been lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time kayaking the mangroves in the Sanibel/Pine Island area of Florida I have found that the leader and Tippet set up is not as technical as some may think.
When I first started roaming the eerie heavily foliage of the mangroves I purchased all the best Leaders that the suppliers had to offer. I used all different lengths and strengths. Bought the best that money could buy. I came to the conclusion that I was wasting to much money and I wasn’t really in control of my own fly fishing destiny. I was told that you needed heavy strong tippet’s so as you could pull the fish out of the tangled brush that these fish will wind themselves in. Made sense for a bit. However the more I fished, the more I began to understand that I needed to back off and use shorter leaders and lighter tippet’s.
Why? About 6 years ago I hooked a Snook the size of a freight train. I had 30lb test on and as this fish dragged me back and forth in and out of the mangroves I couldn’t break the line fast enough. There are no breaks on a kayak. About a long minute later I was able to break free. My face was cut, my hands were badgered and I lost one of my favourite fly boxes. I’m decided that it was time to stop being a hero.
These mangroves have sharp thorns and very hard vines. Lots of snakes, spiders and who knows what else live in them. My set up now is as follows. About 3′ of 30lb, 3′ of 20lb and about a foot of 1X tippet. All of this fluorocarbon. Total length about 7 feet. Plus easy to break off if you hook onto a monster. The mangroves are not like fishing for Steelhead in one of our Ontario rivers, or even Smallmouth bass in some heavily wooded river.
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!