Recently, the Canadian Fly Fishing Championships included parts of the Conestoga River in the venue for the competition next weekend.Â I’ve never fished any part of the Conestoga before, although I’ve often crossed the upper portion of the river, where it’s a mostly slow and meandering bit of water.Â In fact, if you drive along Hwy 9 from west of Arthur to east of Arthur, Ontario, you cross the Conestoga several times.
In spring, you’d think that this part of the river might be quite a productive water to fish but in summer, parts of it are all but dried up.Â The winter snow melt in the spring can bring the water levels up very high, but once the snow has all melted and the summer heat and sun emerge, it’s nothing more than a ditch, it seems.
It is suspected that at least one part of the Conestoga that will be fished next weekend during the competition will be through the village of Alan Park.Â Alan Park is about 18 miles as the crow flies southerly of Arthur, and is relatively close to St. Jacobs, heart of Mennonite country in Ontario.
As I drove out from Elora and through Elmira to meet teammates Ernie Kalwa and Arron Varga, i came across more and more horse drawn carriages – the transportation of many Mennonites in this area, driving along the highways.Â I should note that “Mennonite Country” in South-Western Ontario takes in quite a large area, and the reason St. Jacob’s is often thought of the “heart” is because of it’s well known Mennonite Farmer’s market.Â Heading north, and espectially north-west of Arthur, into Mount Forest, and beyond to Huron County, one will come across the horse drawn vehicles of the Mennonites, many of which still adhere to their old customs of wearing black suits for men and black dresses for women.
I finally found the place Ernie had arranged to meet me, and parked beside the river. After walking across an overgrown field, I came to the river and saw my teammates upstream.Â They had been fishing for about an hour and between the two of them had apparently brought a few brown trout to hand. But there had been no action for awhile.
The pool they had discovered looked quite promising and I had a lot of confidence when I first cast my fly into it. I had believed that there may be larger fish here, including smallmouth bass and pike, so I had brought along the Bloke 9′ 7 wt. rod.Â It turned out it was probably a little too heavy for what we were fishing, but the rod was still quite nice to fish with. It was the first time I had spent more than a few minutes fishing the rod.
My confidence was slowly eroded as cast after cast, trying different flies and depths were all for nought. Ernie and Arron moved on downstream to try out some other parts of the water while I continued fishing this pool.Â After awhile, a small hatch of something or other began, and I could see the swirls of small fish sipping on the surface. I tried a few different dries, floating them right over the noses of the fish that were rising – and notta.Â It was frustrating, but at the same time, I was determined to not give up – but in the end, darkness made it impossible to continue as I couldn’t even see well enough to tie on any new flies.
Just before leaving, Ernie walked on back up to where I was and reported that he had a few strikes downstream, but nothing that he could write home about.Â For the final few minutes before nightfall, we both tried enticing whatever it was that was sipping at the surface, but to no avail.
So, skunked in Mennonite Country I was.Â I think it’s only the second time this year that I’ve been skunked while fly fishing.Â But, at least I did get to spend more time with the Bloke rod, and of course in the company of a couple of other anglers who love fly fishing as well.