The Nottawasaga river, or the Notty as its friends call it, is a massive river that flows north into Nottawasaga Bay. The river is home to an outstanding run of steelhead, as well as salmon species in addition to its warm water fish population.
On the 6th of April, 2007, 2 men walked into the wilderness of Southern Ontario. Armed with sweet & salties, an array of flies and the will to succeed. No amount of planning could have prepared anyone for what was to come on this cold and sunny day….
So, this trip actually began about 2 weeks before Good Friday, 2007. Myself and Justin we’re experiencing a terrible case of cabin fever, which sent us out to have a look at some of the streams we’d be fishing come opening weekend.
Our drive took us up to the Nottawasaga River, a massive river that flows north from the highlands of Southern Ontario to Georgian Bay. In order to fish many of the better sections of this river, it is required that you purchase an Essa Township fishing pass. That we did, and the following weeks had us doing a little research on the stream and figuring out what to fill our fly boxes with.
With the vast majority of fisherman willing to wake up long before dawn, and drive hours to their favourite fishing holes, we decided on a different path for this adventure. On Thursday evening, we loaded up Justins van with all the gear we would need for the following day. Our plan was to get to the river sometime in the evening, take a little stroll along the river and then crash to rise before the sun the following day.
The drive was interesting, we had as much trouble finding the small dirt road that led to the river as one would have finding a needle in a haystack. But, after an hour or two of bumbling around on backroad to highway to backroad again, we found our location. The van was parked and with flashlights in hand, we set out to have a look at the river.
High and dirty! As expected of course. It was snowing, and the ground was crunchy beneath our feet. We weren’t going to see much on this night, so back to the van we headed, had a little whiskey and soon we were snoozing away with dreams of chrome and rushing water in our minds.
Morning came fast, as it was -8c and we were sleeping in very light, summer sleeping bags for some idiotic reason. Toes, fingers and noses numb from the frigid night, we rose and cranked on the heat in the van. This van is no winebago…its small, tight and uncomfortable. On the plus side, it is red and looks pretty flashy if you are the type who likes things of that sort. In a short time, we had a pot of coffee percolating on the old coleman and we we’re warmed up in no time at all.
Waders on, rods ready to go and we were off to the races! The ground was frozen with a fresh but very thin layer of snow. This would be the day!
We started by heading downstream, into an area that was heavily wooded and looked as wild as the fish we were stalking. Navigating through the bush was an interesting task, puddles were frozen making some slippery obstacles for us to maneuver around. All was quiet, aside from the light gusts of wind on the trees and birds singing above us. Terror struck us however, when we came across the tracks of what we believed to be a Lynx. This terribly dangerous and ferocious animal is rarely seen!
Soon the fear had passed us over, and we were able to continue on our steelhead mission. We began drifting single egg patterns around any sort of structure we could find. It quickly became apparent that this would probably prove to be one of the toughest trips we had ever embarked on. The air was so cold that every couple of minutes, the line guides on our rods would become caked with ice. I was continually cleaning them, when Justin came over to offer some interesting advice. He says that when the guides are covered in ice, lick them. Although I never tried this myself, many times that day I looked up or downstream to see Justin forcing his 9′ rod into his mouth. I wasn’t sure what to make of the whole situation. Nonetheless, I had one take on the egg pattern after a couple of hours of working it very hard.
The day was warming up slightly, and we decided to stop for a sweet ‘n salty bar, our only source of energy for the day, aside from the coffee we had consumed, and the near empty flask in my vest. We stopped and sat beside a number of beaver chewed trees, as Justin has a preference for sitting near beavers. As we nibbled on the bars, Justin explained the power of the sweet ‘n salty and how well suited such a tasty morsel was for fishing in this terribly cold weather.
After our short, but rewarding break, we were off again. This time we decided to toss some Scarlet Pimpernels out. These flies were tied by a fella named Phil, who can be found clambering around many Ontario streams selling his flies streamside to those lucky anglers that he stops and chats with. And chat he does! If you’d like some information on how to get in touch with him, shoot me an email and I’ll make that happen! Once again, these flies seemed to be a good choice as we both had a couple of takes, but no real hookups.
This was our turning point. It was after the noon hour now, we were chilled to the bone and had run out of sweet ‘n salties which indicated we had to leave.
We were defeated, but we had relieved our case of cabin fever for the time.
Recommended Back Road Map Book, Fly Fishing Starter Kit, Fly Tying Starter Kit
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