One of the more confusing aspects of planning the trip was the lack of information available. The fishing regulations for Ontario are far more complex than those in my home state of Ohio. The last thing I wanted to do is get busted fishing for the wrong species. Unfortunately, while the Nottawasaga has an excellent smallmouth bass population, the season for them didn’t open until the week after I’d be heading back to the states, so that left only rainbows, brook trout, and pike. Given the depth and lake of wade-ability of the Nottawasaga, I decided I was going to focus on fishing for pike and maybe rent a canoe or a kayak to reach them as unlike Ohio, public access in Ontario (at least on this river) is a rarity. That was really my biggest issue even after I got there. So much great fishing water but so few places to fish as a visitor.
During the late winter and early spring I started toying around with tying different pike flies based on popular patterns in the region. I really didn’t know what I was doing other than imitating profiles and color combinations but it was fun regardless even if they didn’t work when I finally went to Canada. Leading up to the end of May, I packed up my 7 wt (heaviest I have) and all my bigger flies, poppers, and bite wires and was ready to cross the border.
Unfortunately for our beach vacation, the weather was crummy for most of the time we were there. Other than the last two days, the temps hovered in the mid-50s to low-60s with wind and rain consistently making it feel much cooler. I have zero reservations to fishing in inclement weather, but I was getting very frustrated with my search for accessible water. I had found a canoe rental who would put me near some supposedly good pike water for the entire day, but the foul weather had soured my mood and given the little time available to fish on a family vacation, I didn’t want to spend the extra money on a canoe for a full day and only get to fish it for a few hours.
After a recent day trip to the caves near Blue Mountain, we had driven over some rivers marked by signs. When we got back to the vacation house, I looked up some of the names. I wasn’t able to find any information on several of them, but I did find some information on the aptly named Pretty River; most importantly, that it had significant stretch of public access. I learned that in season, it did have a steelhead run, but that in the off seasons it did support a population of native rainbow and brook trout, although there was very little information as to where they’d be found.
Having found a prospective stream to explore, I came to the aching realization that in my plans to pursue pike, I had cleared out most of the smaller flies from my pack and replaced them with these giant monster flies for the toothy critters. Not only that, but I suspected my 10ft 7wt rod would not only be difficult to cast in tight quarters, but would make it so that all but the biggest of trout would not be able to put a bend in my rod. Just the same, it was all I had and I needed some time in the woods.
You know it’s going to be a good spot to fish when there is no parking lot and you just end up having to park on the road on the side of a mountain. As I got my gear out of the trunk, I checked the map on my phone for some guidance and found that I had zero signal (a fact my wife was pretty upset about later). Thankfully I have a very good sense of direction and frankly, I’ve never really understood how people can get lost on a river when the water’s flow gives you a consistent path to follow if you pay attention to markers.
I wandered through the underbrush until I finally emerged in a beautiful sun drenched wild meadow. The sunlight glittered off the surface of the river and while the open meadow made me doubtful of remaining unseen to any fish, I welcomed the warmth of the sun after trudging through the cool mist of the thick forest. I decided that despite not being able to hide myself, it was worth sticking around just for the opportunity to warm up and to also have a little room to cast; something I had been struggling mightily with up to that point with a 10 footer.