Thursday, 29 December 2016

First Year Fishing in Montreal and Surroundings Areas

This year for me was remarkable for doing what I like the most - exploring new fishing opportunities. I had a similar feeling when I was learning about Great Lakes Steelheading and mapping the rivers and creeks of Southern Ontario. "Do It Yourself" fishing in a new place almost always involves lots of energy spent for not so many fish caught. However, such an effort is rewarded with a higher level of satisfaction every time you do catch fish. Many days are not productive and I feel motivated to recycle my tactics, and search for new approaches and spots. “Do what you gotta do..." is the motto. As a matter of fact, we learn more when the fishing is challenging than when the fishing is easy. If there were always certainties in fishing, I would not be attracted to this sport.

It is important to highlight the fact that Montreal is a river island. The Saint Lawrence River and the Prairies River surround the island and offer good opportunities for cool water species such as Pike, Muskie and Smallmouth Bass. However, considering that the Bass season does not open until the middle of June in Zone 8 and 9 (which encompasses most of Montreal and surrounding areas), I decided to start my fishing exploration on the trout streams of Zone 8 close to the border with USA. I would recommend for someone who is searching for trout around Montreal to also obtain a New York fishing license from DEC fisheries. The upstate NY is just a short drive south (one and a half hour) and has plentiful of trout streams originating on the Adirondack Mountains that flow north to the Canadian border, not to mention the tributaries of the Lake Champlain. The DEC fisheries of NY have an amazing system with landowners to ensure access to prime fishing waters called Public Fishing Rights. On the Quebec side, associations of fly fishermen like TUCanada (Trout Unlimited Canada) have been putting a good effort to maintain quality trout fisheries, such as the Chateauguay River, where the focus is on wild trout and stream rehabilitation.  

A Backroad Mapbook is always a good way to start exploring
Powerscourt Bridge on the Chateauguay River
TUCanada has granted access to some pristine waters on the Canadian Side (pic by Carlos Salatti)


The zone 8 in Quebec remains open year round for trout. In May, there is also the Pike opener, which I did not explore much, but my fishing buddy Carlos Salatti, who is also in his first year here, went for these toothy creatures and found some good spots on the Saint Lawrence.

Fly Fishing for Pike in Saint Laurence River
My friend Carlos Salatti with his first Canadian Pike!

Due to its proximity to Montreal, Most of my effort in the beginning of the season was on the Chateauguay River. I fished both, the Canadian and the USA side. I have also spent some time fishing a few creeks close to the village of Chateauguay in the USA side and Huntingdon on the Quebec side, but due to the difficulty of access and fragility of these systems I prefer to do not mention any of them specifically here, for they are wild trout nurseries.

Chateauguay River tributaries
DIY Exploring a creek after the run-off (pic by Carlos Salatti)

My first impression of the Chateauguay River was that it is a very challenging river. A series of pocket water and fast runs requires heavy nymph fishing. Some runs I prefer fishing with a strike indicator while the deep pockets I prefer high sticking it. To use or not to use split shots is a personal choice but I found it very difficult to proper present a fly here in the spring without the use of a split shot. The trout here is big but sparse, mostly 12-16in, with some 18 inchers to be found, said to be a mix of a small wild population and stocked trout from NY that travels downstream (north). My first trout of the season came from the US side and it was a well-fed 17in brown caught close to the boarder. Although that trout might have been a result from the US stocks, I could not tell the difference on the fight when compared with many other wild trout that I caught. A good brown is still a good brown!

Chateauguay River Brown Trout

Chateauguay River Brown Trout
A healthy spring brown

With the levels of the river lowering after the runoff, caddis and stoneflies started to emerge and the trout got my active on the Canadian side. It is important to keep in mind that the trout here must see the fly in fast water, so as far as my limited experience on this river allow me to say, fish are not very interested in size twenty four match the hatch nymphs…I remember one day specifically in May when I found a very productive pattern that resulted in a big brown (unfortunately, not landed) and a good number of rainbows in the mix. The size of the rainbows indicated that they were over-wintered fish as opposed to recently stocks that happened in April on the USA side. There is also a good population of suckers, shiners and fallfish in the river. Even though they are not as fun to catch as trout, these fish must be respected for providing a good source of food for trout with its flesh and eggs. They also establish an interesting hierarchy on the food chain, removing small invertebrates from the bottom that trout also feed on.

Chateauguay River Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout, Chateauguay River
A healthy over-wintered rainbow!

I also visited the Ausable River early in the spring with my friend Walter Bartoletti, but the water was still very cold and we did not have much action, except for a couple of rainbows that were probably stocked in April. A trout stream takes time to learn it and, again, most of my energy on my first season in Montreal was focused on the Canadian side streams.

Fly Fishing the Ausable River in Wilmington
Nymphing the cold waters of the Ausable River (pic by Walter Bartoletti) 
Rainbow Trout Ausable River
That rainbow was probably a result of a recent DEC fisheries stock.

When the trout season finally opens in late April in Zone 9, the Diable River is still quite high from the run off, but it does not take long to get in good shape and offers some of the best dry fly action as June approaches. Although the browns here are mostly stocked, I was really impressed how these trout are surface oriented and some good fourteen inchers over-wintered' trout will rise from the bottom of fast runs to hit classic dry flies. Although big trout are hard to find here, there are reports of some eighteen inchers being sporadically. Still, considering the quality of the scenario and the abundance of trout, this is a truly blue ribbon stream. The good numbers of trout is the result of a serious effort from members of the club Les Mouchers Endiables to maintain that fishery. I have only seen similar quality of dry fly action here on the "east" in the upper Grand River in Ontario, which is, not coincidentally, managed in a similar way with special regulations.

Dry Fly FIshing on the Diable River
Connected with a Brown trout that could not resist a well presented dry fly!

Wild Brown Trout Diable River
Possibly a wild "Quebecois" brown!

Wild Brown Trout Diable River
The biggest brown of a very productive day!

Diable River, Brown Trout
The first Canadian Brown of my friend Carlos Salatti

In late May and beginning of June, I brought my switch rod to the Saint Laurence rapids hoping to find the odd big browns and rainbows that were once stocked in this area but, apparently, that fishery is long gone since there are no stocks currently in action. Even though this is a topic that deserves to be reviewed according with a few anglers that I talked to, it seems that many specialists are opposed to the stocks, claiming that it is not worthy to risk wild Salmon populations farther downstream. They are probably right. It is a fact, however, that the Saint Laurence rapids were once a corridor for migratory salmonids and, of course, I would love to have such a fishery just a few minutes from home.

Swinging Flies on the Lachine Rapids with a Spey Rod (Switch Rod)
Bombing a fly with a switch rod on the Saint Laurence
Lachine Rapids at Saint Catherine
Could the Lachine rapids still support a population of migratory trout?


If there is one thing that I like about DIY fishing is the people that I usually meet on my exploratory journeys. This is how I became friends with Walter Bartoletti who is, coincidently, also a Brazilian living in Canada! Together with Carlos Salatti, who already knew me from old reports of Steelhead fishing in Ontario, we form a group of friends who share a passion for fly-fishing and are willing to discover what our new neck of the woods has to offer. We hope to get connected with local anglers and participate in the conservation and improvement of these fisheries. Above all, we are conscious fly fishers who prioritize the well-being of each fish we catch.

With the opening of the Bass season in the middle of June and the Saint Laurence River lowering to perfect wadeable levels, some of the best time of the year to fish just a few minutes from home starts. The number of species is numerous but the main attraction is the big Smallmouth Bass that are found in shallow water after the spawning season. If there is such a thing as a “Smallmouth Bass run” that would be it. Bass here can be found just about everywhere you go this time of the year, but the really fun for me is to swing flies for them in fast water. Looking for flats bellow white water on Google maps is a good way to start. Any crayfish imitation will produce lots of Bass this time of the year. The fish will also key on minnows and leeches imitation sometimes. Additionally, this is also a perfect time to skate bulky deer hair flies for Bass while wet wading close to the banks. Sometimes, you forget that you are in the middle of a big urban center. It is like being transported to the Caribbean flats and come back home for lunchtime. The Saint Laurence is definitely a Smallmouth Bass paradise!

Bass Fishing Lachine Rapids
Wading Fishing for Bass on the Saint Lawrence River
Wet wading for Summer Bass

Surface Fly for Smallmouth Bass
Bass caught on a skater

Fly Fishing for Bass Saint Lawrence River
A feisty jumping Bass (pic by Carlos Salatti)

The Little Big Trout

One thing that I was wondering since the beginning of the season was if the Chateauguay actually has any wild trout population. I have even called DEC fisheries to know if they had any data regarding the strain of this trout. Although they do not have recent data on it, they told me that there is a small wild population of trout in the mix with the domesticated strain. Some spawning also occurs in the tributaries of this region. Every Spring DEC NY stocks browns from eight inches up to fourteen inches. So catching a trout under eight inches in the Summer became essential for me to prove that such a wild population does exists. It was during a huge White Fly hatch, right before dusk, that I caught one of the most important trout of the season: an under 8in wild brownie!

That little brown was a proof that natural spawning does occur in this system


Although the hatches in the beginning of the Summer can be really good in the evening, as the season progresses the rivers become very low. The lack of rain this year was a huge issue and I decided that the best thing to do was to leave the trout alone and enjoy the awesome Bass fishery twenty minutes from home.

Pic by Walter Bartoletti

Salatti with a hog!

Releasing a healthy Bass

This Bass made that click pawl reel sing!


With the cooler nights and the first drops of rain the local rivers started to refresh and the trout were definitely happy with that. This always remember me of a Mexican guide that used to point me bonefish feeding in the flats "Look there, Bruno, ten o'clock, happy fish, happy fish! Cast, cast!" Having said that, there is nothing like fishing for happy fish that is feeding actively. My first Grand Slam of trout came on a situation like that. No, I was not seeing them like I saw the bonefish on the flats. But they were definitely happily feeding! I imagined how good it would be if there were more restricted regulations for trout fishing in Zone 8 streams.

Trout fishing after a good rain

An early fall brown

A hungry brookie

And a nice little rainbow!

On the USA side, there is a fall run of Landlocked Salmon in the Lake Champlain tributaries. Since I have only tried this fishery a couple of times, it is still hard to me to determine its quality. Having said that, I found the Saranac River in Plattsburgh to be a good option to swing a "clean" fly under special regulations, at least that should keep most of the snaggers out of the game.

Swinging a fly in Plattsburgh

In the state of New York, the trout season closes at Oct 15th . However, most administrative regions have options to fish for trout under special regulations. This provides a good number of fishing opportunities to those disposed to cross the boarder in search for trout in beautiful fall settings.

Nymphing a creek in the Adirondacks. (pic by Walter Bartolette)

Fall brookie

As a Steelheader who used to live in Toronto, I still miss the possibility to fish for fresh lake run fish in the fall just a short drive from home. The closest Steelhead fishing options for Montrealers lies on Jefferson county in upstate New York streams. this is also a good option for late fall and the warmer days of the winter.
Fishing one of the creeks east of the Salmon River

And the famous Salmon River as well!
There are still many fishing opportunities around Montreal that I need to discover, but as they say on my work place "one thing at a time". The administrative Zone 6 in Quebec also offers many options and a few sections have a winter opening for trout, but I did not have the time to explore this zone yet. There are a whole new world to be discovery for Muskie fishing on the Saint Laurence river that I will need to figure it out. For those coming here for the first time I would recommend the service of a good guide. Although I don't personally know any guide here, I am sure that Philip Short would be the guy that would short cut your path to catch a trout around here. Additionally, even though I ahve not tried Atlantic Salmon this year, I intent to do explore this fishery next summer. What I really like about this area is the fact that you can enjoy a mix of classic "eastern" trout fishing, but also some excellent coolwater and warmwater fishing. I hope to be back here on The Fly Explorer blog with great fishing news next year. We keep in contact!

Add caption

Useful Links:
Fishing Regulations Quebec:

Trout Unlimited Canada - Quebec Chapter:

Diable River fishing association (club):

Fishing guide in Montreal:

Facebook fly fishing group Peche a La Mouche Quebec =

Public Fishing Rights New York:

Chateauguay River water level:

Diable River water level:

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Spring Steelhead - A Journey to Paradise in Northern BC - Part 1 of 3

How should I start a report about the best fishing trip of my life? What defines a fishing trip as the best? I would say it has nothing to do with the amount of fish caught. For me, it has more to do with the challenge chosen, with the learning, with the man-environment interactions and, above all, with The Reward. In spey fishing for steelhead, the number of fish caught may be the factor of lower importance. When I started my six days journey of self-guided fishing to Terrace, I just wanted to meet one goal:  to catch ONE wild Steelhead from the Skeena River system, one of the last wildlife refuges with the biggest wild Steelhead in the world.

Self-guided trips are not easy. The access points may not be what you expected and when you finally find access, you still need to find fish. The BC fishing regulations is one of Canada's most complex regs, favouring local fishermen and guides. Even for residents of other provinces of Canada (my case) who want to fish the Classified Waters,  it is necessary to pay a daily rate of C$ 20 or $ 40 (according with the Class of the river) only to have the right to fish in these waters. Still, I consider this system better than being required to pay property owners the right to fish on their land as in the case of Atlantic salmon rivers in Scotland and England, or be forced to hire a guide, as in the case of some eastern Canadian provinces while fishing for Atlantic Salmon. In British Columbia, despite the strong regulation, it is still possible to DIY without necessarily being hosted on a expensive lodge. Rivers are difficult to access, but for those venturing on trails and dirty roads, there is some good sections of water available. Some river systems such as the Kitimat River and Nass River are fully open to the public. The Kitimat broodstock Steelhead are just as good as any wild Steelhead fishery in BC and its shallows waters are easy to wade; therefore, a good option for the DIY angler.

Spring fishing in Terrace is pretty much steelhead only, with chances of catching some early Chinooks (called Springs). The spring run is considered one of the smallest, but usually produces large fish. There are also winter steelhead that remain in the rivers while the water temperature is still cold. Northern BC is one of the few places in the world with steelhead all year long. I was considering other options on the West Coast such as Olympic Peninsula in Washington, Sand River and tribs in Oregon and Vancouver Island, in BC. However, knowing that a virtual friend from the Spey Pages online community would be in Terrace as well, I decided that this would be my destination. We didn't arrange to meet anywhere specific. We just knew that we would probably meet each other somewhere there. The guy is a hardcore steelheader and a very skilled outdoorsman. In DIY fishing, the friendships that you make are just as important as the fishing.

Hitting the road in Terrace

First contact with the Skeena River

On the first day, I went looking for access points to the Kalum River, which would be the focus of my journey. It was a quite frustrating initial search. There were some pull outs but they were not as obvious as it seemed on my virtual search. My idea was to follow the creeks until the point where they flow into the Kalum, but on the first attempt I realized that it wouldn't be that easy. The idea of distance changes a bit when you are hiking alone for the first time in a land with bears, wolves, coyotes and moose. I had to confront myself with my own fear in the first day of travel! I found a small dirty road that led to a track that should give me access to the river. In the middle of the walk I hear the sound of a car coming down on this dirty backroad. As the little truck pass, I waved to the driver and I asked if it was far from the river. The guy told me he was also curious where this trail would lead as well. He noticed that I was not a local. Hence he asked "Hey, are you Bruno?" I said "Yes .. Hey, wait a minute, Speypages?! ..." We laugh a bit and celebrated the coincidence. We decided to explore that access later, because he would show me a spot where he had caught two fish earlier in the day. Good!

The first impression of the Kitsumkalum is stunning. The river has more classical steelhead structures than I have ever seen here on the Great Lakes tribs. Typical configurations run-pool-tail-run with beautiful glacial greenish waters, almost turquoise. Each run must be fished for hours, because there are not too many access. Fish it completely and fish it again, an again. DIY Spey fishing for Steelhead is a spiritual experience, an exercise in faith.

Beautiful BC

The Kitsumkalum River

This afternoon we did not catch anything. A misunderstanding of the fishing regulations led me to believe that I could not fish with my buddy on the river the next day (residents only on Sundays and he is a BC resident). As he was also not so sure, we decided that we would avoid problems and fish different rivers. I would try the Kitimat and he would dig a little more on the Kalum. Wherever we had better results, we would get together to fish the next day. The Kitimat seemed very shallow and I spent a day casting on the most promising spots and nothing, I got skunked. My partner also reported that he did not catch anything. However, he told me that the next day he would show me some secret spots and made ​​me promise not to reveal it to anybody. And that's the way that is going to be, all that I can say is follow the creeks and find out the rest for yourself. We started early, trying to be the first to present the fly to the fish. Although I didn't catch any steelhead this morning, I caught my first Dolly Varden, a beutiful resident of these waters.

The Kitimat RIver

Spey rules

Searching for access…

My First Dolly Varden could not resist an Intruder fly

We got skunked again on this morning and we moved for a very special spot on the afternoon.

Sacred waters

It did not take long and my friend caught a nice silver hen. This was the first time I was seeing a west coast steelhead! A musclebound fish, still fresh from the Pacific Ocean!

At this spot it was only this fish. We hit a pool below. Nada. My body began to ache from casting heavy sinking tips all day. Skagit rules; cast, mend, swing the fly, retrieve and cast again. Hundreds of times a day. "You must believe…" I kept repeating to myself

We moved to another spot again. This time we would try to find the access that we gave up on the first day. The spot was worth the effort of hiking on a little longer trail. After a few casts, I feel that famous 'tug' that only those who swing for Steelhead knows. The animal heads downstream on the run and all that I see is a pink flash cutting the emerald water. To my delight, this was a classic double striped Steelhead that I have always dreamed about. A colourful fish that only BC produces.

The spot worth the walk

My first BC steelie was caught on a big purple Intruder

My friend was leaving on the next day. He helped me a lot on the hunt to catch my first BC steelhead and I will be forever grateful. He would not leave back home to Prince George without seeing me to catch my first west coaster! However, before going, he wanted to catch one more fish himself as well. We decided that we would insist on this point until the end of the day. His effort and generosity was rewarded in the late afternoon, when another massive silver Steelhead almost took the rod from his hands!

End of the First Part