Our Man In Canada
September 13th, 1999

Fishing Lake Superior Streams
Recommended Rivers

By Scott E. Smith

McIntyre River

As you travel east along the north-shore from the Canada-U.S. border crossing on Highway 61, the first worthwhile tributary is the McIntyre River, situated right in the middle of the city of Thunder Bay. Primarily the McIntyre (known as The Mac by whose who know her intimately) is a spring steelhead river. The first fish encountered are right after ice-out in Mid-April. Often these are dark over-wintering males wearing a wide band of red on their sides. The run in the McIntyre is earliest along the west end of the shore and is relatively short-lived. Generally the run peaks at the end of April or the beginning of May, and only fishes well for a couple of weeks. In the years just after the stocking of the Kaministiqua River, (a major tributary flowing into Superior at Thunder Bay) with Chinook salmon, the Mac had some exciting salmon fishing during the first week of October, however this has not become an annual occurrence.

The McIntyre is a fun river to fish during the steelhead run. It is small and spirited with lots of open water for fly fishing. Hooked steelhead of any respectable size make long, exciting runs as the river's pools and runs are relatively shallow and do not provide much refuge.

McKenzie River (Lake Superior)

McKenzie River

The picturesque McKenzie is situated 30 kilometers east of the city of Thunder Bay along the Trans-Canada Highway. If you look directly below the highway bridge you will note that the McKenzie flows a staircase-like path through a rocky canyon as it tumbles down toward Superior. Numerous pickets and pools created in these rock formations provide good spawning and holding water for migratory trout and salmon. The McKenzie gets a good run of steelhead around the end of April/ beginning of May; a run of coaster brrok trout and pink salmon in late August/early September; a decent run of lake trout, coho salmon and some Chinook later in September and October. It also fishes well right up to freeze-up for fall steelhead. I have also taken some darkly coloured rainbow trout in deep pools in late June. I believe these are resident fish or, if not, at least fish that are taking a summer vacation in this charming river. Some nice brook trout are also present in decent numbers during the summer months.

Wolf River

It seems every fly-fishing mecca has a Wolf River. Our's is a lovely medium-sized, tannic-stained stream that looks a lot like an east coast salmon river. It has beautiful rust-coloured gravel throughout its length with wide sweeping bends cleared of trees on the inside track allowing a nice backcast. The Wolf is typical of streams that flow through gravel eskers in that the high water in spring clears the banks of trees and scours deep bend pools. These pools can exceed six or seven feet in depth and harbour both migratory and resident fish. The steelhead run in the spring is good but often cannot be fished effectively because of high turbid water. When the Wolf is clear and moderate in level it fishes beautifully, especially in the upper reaches of the river north of the highway. The lure of the Wolf is in its fall steelhead and salmon fishery. Beginning in late September and early October, Chinook, coho and steelhead move into the river. It is a river that fishes very well after a fall rain. During the summer some nice trout fishing (streamer and dry-fly action) can be had for respectable rainbows and brook trout right from the lake to the falls, some 8 kilometers upstream from the highway. Sadly a lot of resident fish are harvested each summer particularly those in close proximity to the highway.

Black Sturgeon River

Like the Wolf River, the Black Sturgeon flows into Black Bay on Lake Superior. The steelhead from Black Bay are large for Superior standards, and the Black Sturgeon River is the water to work if you're looking for a trophy steelhead. In the fall the Black Sturgeon is one of the best rivers for large steelhead. Catches will generally not be large in numbers, but the chance of hooking a steelhead in the eight- to ten-pound class are very good, especially in November after the Chinook have completed their spawning run. The Chinook run in October is substantial; some wide, shallow runs and riffles providing some ideal fly-fishing conditions for Chinook. The Chinook and steelhead in fall are accompanied by a small run of coaster brook trout and pink salmon. When fishing the Black Sturgeon in the fall, I prefer a swimming pattern like a Marabou Spider in Mickey Finn colours, swung systematically through pools and runs on a sink-tip line. This river is one of Superior's larger tributaries, and the wet-fly swing provides a practical method of covering a lot of water. The steelhead in the Black Sturgeon will move nicely for a seductively swung fly.

The Sturgeon also gets good spring runs of steelhead, but like all the larger tributaries, your timing must coincide with low, clear water. Also similar to the Wolf, when the Sturgeon is running high it is turbid and virtually unfishable. To be frank it can be downright dangerious if you are not careful where you wade.

During late spring and summer the Black Sturgeon fishes well for brook trout and resident rainbow (in the 20-kilometer stretch from the dam to Lake Superior). You will also encounter bass and walleye in the slower stretches of the river.

The upper reaches of the Black Sturgeon system provide some excellent brook trout habitate. There is much to be explored in this system if you can read a map and have a reliable four-wheel-drive. The Shillabeer Creek, detailed in Chapter 8 [of the book], is a fine example of the excellent resident brook trout fishing in the Black Sturgeon watershed.

Next time, more recommended rivers! ~ Scott E. Smith

Excerpt from: Ontario
Blue-Ribbon Fly Fishing Guide

Published by: Frank Amato Publications, Inc.
P.O. Box 82112, Portland Oregon 97282 Phone: 503-653-8108,
email Frank Amato Publications

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