Our Man In Canada
January 8th, 2001

Downtown Fly Fisher, Ottawa-Hull

By Mark Anderson
Photos by Mark Krupa

Not exactly downtownóbut close!

For trout purists, the pickings are slimmer, but far from negligible. Within an hour or two from downtown Ottawa, several possibilities present themselves.

Southwest of Ottawa off Hwy. 15, the Bing Retreat is a managed fishery that, for $35 - $40 per day, delivers some of the most productive rainbow and brook trout fishing in the area. Randy Taylor, a friend of mine who also happens to be a fine lawyer and a member of the Canadian fly fishing team, races down there on summer afternoons to get a couple hours practice in at the end of a day.

Due north from there, between the towns of Ompah and Calabogie, a number of lakes have been stocked with rainbows. While the fishing tends to be slower than at the Bing, canoers and float tubers can still hook the occasional five-pound monster dragging woolly buggers through back-woods ponds like Mairs Lake.

East of Ottawa, in Quebec, the Seignorie de Kenauk has one of the most impressive and productive trout fisheries in the region. Owned by Canadian Pacific Hotels, Kenauk boasts its own hatchery, as well as a stream and a series of stocked lakes, each with its own well-appointed cabin. There, no more than an hour from downtown Ottawa, anglers can fish through a three-day weekend and never see another soul. John Huff, owner of Ottawa-based outfitter Brightwater Fly Fishing, is Kenauk's head guide, and knows the each of the lakes inside out.

As an aside, the Prime Minister's private retreat, Harrington Lake, is also reputed to be stocked with rainbows, though it's impossible to say for sure because it's closed to the public. One day, an acquaintance of mine driving by the lake and seeing fish feeding on the surface, couldn't resist the urge park his car in the bushes and take a couple furtive casts. Sure enough, in short order he had a strike, and proceeded to reel in a feisty, two-pound bass. Are there trout in Harrington Lake? Only the PM knows for sure.

It's interesting, then, that with so much quality angling to be had in and around Ottawa, many of the city's fly fishing fraternity pass up the local sport in favour of once-a-year expeditions to New Brunswick or points north, where the fish are big, the lodges Michelin-rated, and a river of money flows through them.

It's not that I have anything against such tripsóI do them myself when I can. But I don't understand people who love to fish, and then limit themselves to one or two trips per year. Not only are they missing out on some prime action close to home, by the time they actually get out on the water, at $5,000 per week, their casting skills have atrophied to the point where they spend their first day tangled in line and picking flies out of their own butts.

So the next time the fishing bug bites, go fishing on your own doorstep. Pack a rod and reel in the trunk, leave work an hour early, and discover what you once knew but have long forgotten, that you really do like fishing. All kinds of fishing. Even the urban kind.

Ottawa River a World-Class Trout Fishery?

The first attempts to stock the Ottawa River with brown trout was over twenty years ago in 1987, when the province of Quebec released 14,000 fingerlings in the rapids west of the city. This was followed by 11,000 fingerlings, 20,000 7" fish between 1990 and 1994.

While the majority of the fingerlings (2"-3") were most likely gobbled up by predators, some of them and more of the larger fish survived, as a number of browns between 16" and 24" have been caught between the Remic Rapids and the Des Chenes Rapids in the last decade.

Encouraged by this, the Champlain Run Trout Club based in Ottawa, took up the mantle in 1997 and resumed stocking with 15,000 fingerlings. Later the fingerlings were abandoned for larger fish in 1999 and 2000, with 10,000 7" fish, 500 10" fish, and 120 fish between 2 1/2 and 5 1/2 pounds.

It takes vision and dedication to take on a task of the magnitude of establishing a viable population of brown trout in a river as huge as the Ottawa, especially as the summer temperature is marginal for brown trout. However, the Champlain Club, sponsored by the Quebec Department of Natural Resources and a Gatineau, QC fly fishing clubóLes Pecheurs a la Mouche De l'Outouais, have boldly seized that vision. Moreover, it appears to be paying off, with browns being regularly caught in the rapids upstream of Ottawa-Hull, including a 5 pound specimen taken by Tony Petrelli last March.

Winter 2000 issue

Plans for 2001 include stocking 7,000 7" fish, 1000 10" fish and 100 fish between 2 and 5 pounds.

The main hotspots are in the rapids at Britannia and around the Champlain Bridge. Preferred flies are big, olive-coloured streamers and woolly buggers. For more information contact Ottawa's two fly shops, Green Drake Outfitters and Brightwater. ~ Mark Anderson

Next Time Downstream From Ottawa

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

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