Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Fear of Flying?

  One day at work my boss, John, approached me saying he'd heard that I frequently went fishing, and would I mind if he tagged along to learn a few things. John's company was well established and no longer needed his daily input so he was interested in finding new ways to occupy his increasing free time. Hmm... lets see... a newbie fisherman with a vehicle and unlimited finances... Challenge Accepted! Over the next few months we explored dozens of new areas and styles of fishing.

 I guess it really didn't surprise me too much when John suggested we learn to fly fish. From the very beginning I was resistant to the idea, being the die hard tackle junkie that I am, but John was adamant. Having just viewed "A River Runs Through It", he'd envisioned himself wading a quiet pastoral brook, gracefully casting to unsuspecting trout with the accuracy of a marksman and the technique of an artist.
Murray's Fly Fishing School

So we booked a day at Murray's Fly Fishing School  just north of the city in Shelburne. Here we both received a half days classroom instruction on basic set ups, knots and fly selections followed by a half day practical casting instruction on stocked trout ponds. Within a week of that day we were both totally hooked on the concept and purchased the first of many complete fly set ups.

John on The Credit River

 That was 7 years ago. Unfortunately John and I have parted ways professionally and socially since then, me finding other employment and him finding other interests. The one thing I will always thank him for was pressuring me into doing something I had no previous interest in.

 In my first year, after catching a few largemouth bass and a 24" carp in a local reservoir, I started to realize that with proper research, equipment and a little luck, you could catch almost any fish on a fly.

These days a fly rod is my first weapon of choice except during the winter, when I'm either out on the frozen lakes or replenishing my depleted fly boxes at the tying bench. I love the subtleties of casting. There have been many fishless days on the water where I'd spend countless hours playing with the line and the flies, working on distance, accuracy and presentation, rarely accepting my limitations, only the limitations of the water I'm fishing. I have to say at this point that I consider a fly rod, for the most part, to be no better or worse than spinning gear, just different.

Crappie on a Streamer
First Carp Ever


Bullhead Catfish
 A few years ago in mid May, a group of us made the rounds east of Lake Simcoe and I had decided before hand to only bring the 4 piece Sage.  Where bait had failed, a subtly presented fly proved highly effective in culling a school of skittish crappies hiding amongst the emerging  weeds.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Later in the afternoon we had worked our way down to Pefferlaw, where on the first five casts of a full sized tube jig, my friend pulled out over 10 Lbs. of spawning bullheads. I figured this was a good opportunity to try something completely different and it took nearly half an hour of trial and error before I'd gotten the fly, weight and drift just right. What traditional flyfisher would ever believe you could consistently hook into a bottom feeder like a catfish one drift after another? The really crazy thing is that in between the catfish, suckers and occasional rockbass, I was also catching gobies!  

Round Gobie
  Anyone who knows me is aware that I'm a little obsessive compulsive in some ways. I like to keep lists. To date I figure I've caught 24 species of fish with a fly rod with at least another 50 native species on my hit list. Some of the more common, and yet elusive species on my list are: gar, musky and walleye.

 Over the last four years salmon have been a great source of entertainment during the fall. Getting them to bite isn't difficult at all, it's getting them to shore using a reel that is little more than a spool for your line!

 I've come to the conclusion that trout are basically smarter than me, and the few that I've caught must have had something wrong with them. One of my biggest problems with trout is that I don't know anyone who regularly fishes them and there aren't any concentrations in my backyard. All the same I will keep plugging on.
Dry Flies

 As mentioned earlier, I also enjoy fly tying. Just like the fishing, when I started out, I mostly concerned myself with learning the basic tying practices and patterns. Since then I've basically "thrown out" the books of fly patterns, and now prefer to tie what I call free style.  
Assorted 3" Hairwing Streamers

7" Pike Flies
For more info, check out:

Monday, November 13, 2023

The Don is Dead ? 1970-2010


Don River Estuary

  I remember back in the late 60's and early 70's the public outcry that Lake Erie was officially declared "dead". No surprise there considering more than a century of unrestricted industrial dumping, near non-existent controls on agricultural runoff and free flowing sewage. Closer to home, the story was the same with the Don River. Even today, a drive along the Don Valley Parkway south of Bloor St. shows a tired old river beaten into submission with controlled banks and an industrialised estuary. But things are not what they seem.

 Last month on an outing just north of the Toronto city limits, my friend and I noticed several youths on a resdential street carying fly rods. Having grown up in the general area, I assumed they were in pursuit of the "mighty" Don River chub. On our return trip, out of habit, it was decided to check out the water to see if there was anything interesting going on. What a surprise, the dirty old Don had a full blown run of salmon!

 As with boyscouts and most fishing fanatics, we were prepared for all possible situations. The back of the vehicle contained just about any type of tackle you would ever need. So within minutes of our discovery we were actively trying to outwit these migratory visitors with a variety of baits ranging from spinners and spoons to roe bags and flies. 

Chinook Salmon
 So.. who says the Don River is dead? Not me!
What other commonly held beliefs are full of crap? Carp are a garbage fish, sunfish and catfish aren't worth eating, pike and musky lose their teeth during the summer. 

  I learned these "fish tales" as a youngster from my "enlightened" peers and it's taken half a lifetime to re-educate myself on the pure joy of angling. No longer will I be victim to good-old-boy fish snobbery. Any fish is a worthy fish, they can't all be trophies. I'll take my opportunities as they come and keep an open mind when it comes to my expectations.

Coho Salmon

 The main reason for this posting is for you the reader to keep an open mind. The most common fishing myth is that you have to travel great distances to find productive water (unfortunately, most people don't know what's in their own back yard). In recent years my most valuable fishing equipment has been my collection of Backroad MapbooksGoogle Earth, and the MNR's Guide to Eating Gamefish. These publications have allowed me to find hidden hotspots in my area and given me an idea of what can be caught there.   

 By the way, salmon are not the only species available in the Don River. It has healthy populations of carp, shiners, bullhead catfish, chub, suckers, rockbass, sunfish, the occasional largemouth bass, pike in the lower stretches, and rainbow and brown trout.The Don is dead... don't you believe it!

by for now