Where did trout season go? It seems like just last week I was standing on the river with GROF Guide Nick Groves on opening day, drinking a coffee and waiting for the light. Giddy as a couple of school kids. But what an extraordinary trout season we had on the Grand River tailwater. Not since the mid 90’s have we experienced the quality of trout fishing on this system, but alas, it is winding down for another year.
We still have September and typically the river turns back on in a big way, but for now, many of us are turning our attention to steelhead. One of the best qualities, for me at least, of fly fishing in Ontario is that we seldom have the opportunity to get bored of one thing. Spring steelhead leads to trout fishing which gradually transitions into bass and then come the glamour fish.
There! I said it, in not so many words, but autumn steelhead are my favorite quarry in this province. There is something special about migratory fish that really sets them apart from our resident game. It’s academic really and easy to put your finger on, but tends to get lost on some. Steelhead are not always there. They move constantly and it’s the anglers that anticipate that movement and can consistently put themselves in front of fish that are successful on a regular basis. First time steelheaders are remiss if not with a guide or at least a mentor to get them started. These fish will let you down if your expectations are too high. My first steelhead came on the second cast of my inaugural trip over 20 years ago. I didn’t catch another for two seasons. The first being the sacrificial lamb to tempt me down the rabbit hole that is Great Lakes steelhead fishing. I didn’t give up though and like anything, with more time on the water, watching guys that knew what they were doing, reading and analyzing, I eventually got it dialed in and became more successful.
These fish are wonderful in so many ways. Their physical beauty is rivaled by few fresh water game fish and their power when hooked is extraordinary. They live in beautiful places and enter the rivers at a wonderful time of year. We are fortunate too, to have strong, self sustaining runs all over the Ontario side of the Great Lakes.
Too many anglers associate steelhead fishing with unruly crowds and combat fishing but for the more intrepid, there is an enormous amount of water all over Lake Ontario, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay that see’s virtually no pressure from angling. Off the beaten track, if you will, is always the way to go for solitude and for those willing to work just a bit, it is out there.
As we come into the steelhead season, despite the current conditions, we die-hards are thinking of little more than what the next month will bring. We watch the weather, ‘Did you see what the next few days are bringing?’ Rain and lots of it! This 2016 season has been as dry as any spring and summer that most can remember, however it looks like the weather is catching up. The forecast calls for the temperatures to come down, the steelhead will respond and by the time that the big moon in September hits, we will have fish.
Look for http://ontarioflyfishing.ca/event/advanced-steelhead-tactics/