All About Fly Fishing!

Solitude In The Middle Of Town

Imagine that you are standing in a river that both smallmouth bass and brown trout called home. Imagine that you are the only person fishing it. Imagine excellent salmon and steelhead runs. Canada's Saugeen River offers a great angling experience almost all year round.

saugeen river smallmouth bass
Nice bass caught by James Scott, Saugeen River - 2002
saugeen river walkerton ontario
Saugeen River Through Walkerton, ON

Imagine that you are standing in a river that both smallmouth bass and brown trout called home. Imagine that you you are the only person fishing it. Imagine that you have complete solitude as you watch swallows darting back and forth. Imagine the only noise you hear is the water as it passes around your waders. Now, imagine that this river is right in the middle of town!

A number of years ago, there was a write up in an Outdoor magazine that described the great fishing that could be had in a little known, small lake about an hour north west of Toronto. When the news got out, apparently all sorts of anglers travelled to this little lake and pretty much raped the fishery. In a couple of years, as a result of so many people taking so many fish without regard for the sustainability of the fishery, the lake seemed to be almost completely harvested of all the bass it had once been home to.

I am not sure who is to blame - whether it was the Ministry of Natural Resources or perhaps the anglers themselves, many of whom took everything they could from the little lake. If the Government had been monitoring the situation, perhaps they could have done something about it. Needless to say, in this case, it seemed obvious that Governments were not great at doing what they say the do.

The knowledge of this sometimes scares me when I find a great fishing location. As a writer, am I going to contribute to its downfall if lots of people decide to head on over to experience the good fishing? On the other hand, as a writer, is it not my responsibility to educate? Part of how I make my living is in fact by reporting on what I find.

It's a connundrum that I have no easy answer for. I have discovered a wonderful river, and I am very hesitant about describing my experiences on it. It is well known for it's great salmon and steelhead runs, but it hasn't had the same attention given to it for the wonderful trout and bass fly fishing that can be had along it's 120 miles (195 KM) or so of water.

I first fished the stretch of the Saugeen River in the town of Walkerton last summer.. At the time, it was only about 10 minutes from my home in Formosa. The first time, I was one of three anglers on this lovely looking holes, riffles, and runs.. where was everybody? I tied on one of Ian James' No Name Nymphs and began casting. The first few minutes produced some very aggressive smallmouth bass. Although most of the fish were small, a nice 15 incher provided some exciting minutes.

I moved downstream, casting to every likely holding spot. Eventually, I ended up several hundred yards south of a canoe launch dock. It was here that I finally met up with another angler who was using a caddis fly. He apparently had no luck as of yet, but we enjoyed some pleasant conversation about the most productive flies on the river, and other general banter as we introduced ourselves.

A few minutes later, I had another fish attack the nymph I was using. I assumed at first it was another bass, but delightedly discovered it was a pretty brown trout, about 13 inches. Several more casts into the same run produced more trout, all about the same size. Nothing huge, but certainly a lot of fun.

Finally, as dark set in, I decided it was time to leave. The Saugeen can be tricky to wade in places as there are sudden drops, even along the shoreline, and I am not comfortable wading rivers I don't know that well in the dark. But I knew I had to return to this spot.

The next week, I did return. I decided to spend the last two hours of daylight on the river. Because it was a holiday weekend, I expected to meet a few more anglers than I had the last time. When I arrived, again, there was no one else to be found. And again, the fishing was excellent as I landed several brown trout and smallmouth bass. I figured that the fishing might be slow as a thunderstorm was approaching, but the weather didn't seem to matter to the fish in the Saugeen.

At first, there was no surface activity, but the fish were hitting the nymph I had on my line. About half an hour before dusk, I noticed increased activity of fish taking tiny small white tricos off the surface. I didn't have anything that small in my fly box, but I did have a bunch of White Wulff's that my brother-in-law, Phil Hagan, had tied up for me. I tied on the Wulff, cast it out. It was one of those casts that raise your self-esteem tremendously as the fly hit exactly where I wanted, and I waited as it drifted over the spot I had seen a fish a few moments earlier. Smack! Splash! Sure enough, a pretty brown hit it hard, and fought quite well for its 14" size. I brought it in, and after a very quick photograph, the trout was happily released; I watched it swiftly swim back towards where it had been hooked.

Again, more casts with the White Wulff produced several more great trout moments. The fly was hit so many times that it began to lose it's shape and it's floatability. A few drops of Fast Cast, (which is not only a great fly line cleaner, but also a terrific fly floatant) solved that problem, and for the next half hour or so, almost every cast produced fish.

The Lightening that I had watched in the distance was getting closer as the sun fell behind the horizon. I didn't really want to find out if graphite was a good conductor and regretably decided it was time to leave. In the two hours I had fished, no one else was on the river, and I had hooked over 12 trout and 5 smallmouth bass. I'd say that almost justifies suggesting that the Saugeen should be ranked up there with other great rivers. In one way, I'm glad it hasn't had a lot of exposure. I hope I won't regret writing about it and will still be able to enjoy my solitude.

If you do decide to try out the Saugeen yourself, please remember those that will come after you.