In the area where I fish, migratory steelhead reign supreme as the target species. The hundreds of tributaries that flow into the mighty Lake Ontario.
The tributaries, we call them “tribs” that flow into Lake Ontario are many, all of which have a fall and spring run of migratory steelhead. This makes it easy to access as most are relatively small compared to the lager rivers Grand, Saugeen, and Nottawasaga, but don’t let these small trips fool the fish are numerous and large. Steelhead topping 20lbs have been landed and released, most are on average 6 to 10lbs, but these fish and their environment have their own challenges, gin clear water, trees, undercut banks, fishing pressure to name a few. If the run is on and you are lucky enough to find a spot by yourself, you can’t get them dialled in and make it an epic day. Most days its lots of walking, bush whacking and trekking to find a spot to fit in or un-pressured fish. The fly and gear choices are endless and majority float fish with centre pin reels, 13 to 15ft rods with roe bags and plastic worms. This is why and how I began fly fishing for steelhead some 20 years ago. The camaraderie, challenge of trying to A) get them to bite and B) land these fish in these tree root, undercut bank and log jam infested tribs. Most days the pin guys landed more fish than me, but it was more than that for me. It was a challenge on a good day, but I loved it. There came a time that only flies worked, so I made the switch flies, flies and more flies. I tied the usual patterns caddis, stones and gold ribbed hares ear nymphs, some yarn flies to represent eggs. After steelhead I still needed my fly fix, it consumed me, so I began to find other types of fish to target. A few years later, I found the carp, or maybe they found me, I already fished them euro style and derbies, or matches as they call them all over Southern Ontario, so why not. There was little to no information about carp on the fly, then I found an article in a magazine about carp on the fly, then a book. I released that the same rod, reel and line I used for steelhead was transferable to carp. They eat some of the similar insects, so I started to experiment with my go steel patterns and tied them on salt water hooks. Eureka, I found my species of choice. Fifteen years later I am obsessed with carp on the fly, bought every book, DVD, magazine with articles in it. I wanted more. The seasons for steelhead fluctuated yearly, some years the came in as early as February and spawned out by opener and then what? Not me “CARP ON” I was pumped that the early spring made the carp more active, longer time to chase before they went deep. I carried a fly rod in my car and fished every creek, trib, river and lake for theses giant fish, up to 35lbs and an average of 17 to 20lbs. How can anyone not love these beautiful fish.
Steelhead and Carp even though very different looking, often live in the same areas, eat the same food and are both amazing species that each offer a unique set of challenges to hook, battle and land. My line of flies for both species are similar and I have 15 years of testing and tweaking. I’m still testing and tweaking to bring the very best and as my skills as a tier grow and evolve, so do my flies to get these fish to eat my bug, minnow, crawfish, sculpin.
In my new series meet Carp we will discuss and tie flies that are very similar, same insect for example but tied different to meet the requirements to get the fish to bite. I am very excited to bring this series to you via YouTube and blog format. The first flies to be discuss with be the caddis nymph, steelhead style on a #12 sedge hook light olive UV dubbing, Hungarian partridge for the hackle. The carp style caddis tied on a gammy SC15, for the first time for me. I like it because it has that curved shank similar to the sedge hook, cream chenille and Cohen carp dub hackle. Experimenting again is the name of the game for me. Winter time is the time to try new patterns and update old tried and true.