Our Man In Canada
November 20th, 2000

Blue Lake Country, Part 2

By Geoff Bernardo

Stillwater: equipment and techinques

Blue Lake Country In the early and late parts of the open water season I use a 5-weight to 8-weight outfit. For surface and near surface fishing a weight-forward floating line and lengthy leader (more than 9 feet) are usual. Tippet size does not need to be overly light, with 3X to 5X being the normal range. When fish are deeper, a sinking tip line, sinking shooting head or full sinking line may be necessary. A sinking tip line is most common and will generally be effective. The leader length should be shorter (5 to 8 feet). Fishing for lake trout once they have gone deep will likely require a full sinking line or a very fast-sinking shooting head.

While there are places where fishing from shore is practical, most lakes are best fished by boat, canoe, or float-tube. One effective method is to troll the flies. While this may not appeal to purists it is, nonetheless, one of the most consistent ways trout are caught on the ponds and lakes. However, my favourite method is to move to a likely fish holding structure and to cast to it. In the clear waters, it helps to be stealthy and quiet and cast to fish from as far away as possible. One of the most difficult things for most stream anglers in making the transition to stillwater fishing is to be patient enough to let the line get down to where the fish are. Most anglers start retrieving line way too soon and too quickly. Remember, you are trying to imitate insects, leeches and scuds moving through the water. They do not move like a speeding bullet! Slow and steady usually proves to be the best method. Short little strips for wooly buggers, damsels, and dragons, work best. Long pauses followed by a few short strips work well for scuds, and a steady, moderate stripping method for leeches is always productive.

Stillwaters: when to fish

The stillwater fishing in Blue Lake country tends to be unpredictable from one year to the next and from one week to the next. However, you can usually count on the following general patterns of behaviour.


Of the three species, rainbows are the most active regardless of the time of year. Rainbows can be caught right after ice-out, even while some of them are still up the tiny freshets spawning. Late spring is the best time to catch a big rainbow, as they continue to feed in the forage-rich shallower water long after it has become too warm for brookies and lake trout. Summer sees them drop deeper by day, but still rise to the surface on overcast periods and at the extremes of the day. In the Fall they're the first species to return to the shallows, where they can be caught right up to the end of the season.

Lake Trout

The best time, by far, to take lakers on flies is first thing after the ice has left. This is the only time that they are within easy striking range of fly equipment. Gradually, they move out of the shallows, and by June they've moved so deep that they're inaccessible to all but the most determined fly fishers using the heaviest of sinking lines. Unfortunately, by the time they return to shallow water, near the period of their fall spawn, the season has already closed.

Brook Trout

Brook trout are probably the most enigmatic of the three species. I gladly invite any fly fisher who believes that these are easy to catch to come here for three years in succession and hit the jackpot each time. As anyone who has ever fished for brookies in lakes knows, there is no more unpredictable fish in freshwater. Sometimes, they seem to hit everything that passes by them (all too rarely, it seems), yet at other times the lake can appear to be devoid of fish. And it's not just the mid-summer period that produces these doldrums: it can happen at any time of the year. There are just three things you can be sure of: they're more likely to be active early in the year (from ice-out to early July), they tend to become increasingly more difficult to catch through mid-summer (as they will move to depths below 20 feet and become sporadic feeders), and, finally, they become more active again at the end of summer and into early fall (as the time of their spawn approaches).


The streams and rivers of the Blue Lake area tend to be neglected by anglers in favour of the lakes, but this doesn't mean they don't offer excellent fly fishing. In fact, they offer brook and rainbow trout up to three pounds and even the occasional lake trout.

Unlike most rivers in the south, those in the Blue Lake area are mostly crystal clear with a characteristic greenish tinge. They tend to be deep-channeled and choked with shrubs and trees along their banks, which severely restricts wading and bank fishing opportunities. This means that a boat or canoe is needed to cover them thoroughly. One good thing about river fishing here–you're not likely see anybody else!

During late May and June, there are good daytime hatches of both mayflies and caddis flies, but in the summer the prime hatches occur in the evening and early morning. Because the area is largely roadless, this makes it difficult to fish the prime hatch periods due to the distance and difficulty in getting back to a camp or cabin-unless you pack your camping gear in the canoe.

The rivers and streams provide two main opportunities: excellent early season fishing for rainbows and brook trout (occasionally lake trout), and consistent stream fly fishing during the heat of summer.

The rivers here are so rarely fly fished that there are no hatch charts available. Therefore, attractor and impressionistic patterns are more useful than specific imitations. For dry fly fishing, bring Adams, Irresistibles, Humpies, Wulff's, BWOs, and hair–wing caddis in sizes #10 - #16, plus hoppers and beetles in sizes #10 - #6. For fishing wet or in the surface film bring a variety of emergers, impressionistic beadhead nymphs, soft hackled wet flies and attractor wet flies in sizes #10 - #16. A good selection of Woolly Buggers should round out your arsenal.

The Blue Lake area has been recognized and protected during the recently released proposed land use strategy known as Ontario's Living Legacy. This document, the result of more than two years of intensive public meetings and citizen input, proposes setting aside Crown lands across northern Ontario where primary resource development will be prohibited. The unique nature of the multi-species trout lakes and the high density of trophy brook trout lakes here played a key role in convincing the many Crown land users that such long-term protection was called for. Consequently, the Blue Lake area should continue to offer some of the best trout fishing in Ontario for generations to come.

Fall 2000 issue


Opportunity for Innovation
Because fly fishing has traditionally played only a minor role in the Blue Lake region, there is tremendous potential for fly fishers to experiment and explore, especially in fly tying. New patterns and techniques are being developed every year by those who are willing to do the research and use a little imagination. What is needed is a group of concerned fly fishers who are up to a challenge. This area provides a wonderful opportunity for experienced and talented fly anglers to develop some truly unique patterns and methods.

Essential Stillwater Fly Patterns

Because so many of the things which trout eat in these lakes are dark green, leggy and large, the most useful patterns are:

    Olive Woolly Bugger #2 - #6
    Hammill's Killer #2 - #6
    Edson Tiger #2 - #6
    Olive Marabou Muddler #6
    Zonker #2 - #6
    Matuka #2 - #6
    Partridge and Green #10 - #12
    Partridge and Tan #10 - #12
~ Geoff Bernardo

We thank the Canadian Fly Fisher for re-print permission!

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