It's like Heaven on Earth

For trout and salmon anglers Algoma offers opportunities of unimaginable delight.

At least, that is what I was thinking the other day when I received an email message from a fishing buddy who lives in Southern Ontario and had driven the mind-numbing "freeway" route across Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota to get to a conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He wanted to know if I could suggest a "more relaxing and scenic" route home that would bring him across Northern Ontario.

Knowing how much my friend loves to wade pristine waters and fish for frenzied, chrome-sided steelhead, it took me all of ten seconds to send him a reply.

"Take the Trans Canada Highway along the picture-postcard North Shore of Lake Superior," I suggested, "and revel in the magnificent beauty of the Algoma region between Wawa and Sault Ste. Marie."

"Oh, my Lord," my friend replied a few days later. "That is heaven on earth. I wanted to stop and get out of the car every time I came around a corner and looked out on Lake Superior, or crossed another tempting trout stream. I never saw an angler during the entire drive. Now, I know why you like fishing there so much."

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Photo credit: Gord Pyzer

Fishing Tip: Always wedge your rod into the sand, a pile of rocks or a rod holder to keep as much line as possible up and out of the water, when you’re fishing spawn bags for trout and salmon roaming the wild shoreline of Lake Superior. This will keep it above any waves so your bait stays put, doesn’t drift around and you can easily detect any strikes.

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Photo credit: Gord Pyzer

My friend is right, of course, the fish-filled Algoma region of Northern Ontario that stretches across the north shore of Lake Superior and Lake Huron and up as far north as the Hudson Bay Lowlands is, indeed, "heaven on earth". And for the trout and salmon angler, it offers opportunities of unimaginable delight.

As a matter of fact, a few years ago, I penned a feature for In-Fisherman Magazine comparing the Algoma region of Ontario to northern British Columbia and Alaska. If you substitute the majestic three and four-hundred-year-old white pines for the western red cedar trees, the areas are remarkably alike.

When you’re fishing in Algoma, you’re in the centre of the world. Photo credit: Gord Pyzer

Oh, yes, and let's not forget the spectacular fishing for steelhead, speckled trout, coastal brookies, and Chinook, pink and Atlantic salmon. As far back as 1920, Ernest Hemingway said, "The best rainbow trout fishing in the world is the rapids at the Canadian Soo."

Hemingway would be shocked to cast a fly, drift a spawn sac or toss a lure to those same fish today because he'd find even more of them crowding the famous St. Marys River. And they're hanging out with their Atlantic and Pacific salmon cousins.

How cool is that?

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No wonder Ernest Hemingway called it "the best trout fishing in the world". Photo credit: Gord Pyzer

Ernest might even tweak his pronouncement if he trekked west of the city and fished one of the myriad creeks, streams and rivers that flows into Lake Superior between Sault Ste. Marie and Wawa.

Some of the rivers like the Michipicoten, Montreal, Agawa, Batchawana, Goulais and Chippewa are large, storied and a joy to fish. But I have to confess a fondness for pulling over to the side of Trans Canada and walking along the wild, wide, Lake Superior shoreline -- you can hike to the horizon in many areas -- and fishing the uncountable small and medium-size creeks, streams and rivers that you stumble upon. Some of them are so wild, so unspoiled, so pristine and so beautiful they don't even have names.

And while I love fishing for spring run steelhead, my favourite time of the year to explore Algoma's north shore is right now, as we enter the splendid months of September and October when the steelhead and salmon swarm around the river mouths.

If the tributaries are large enough, the fish will often enter the rivers, drift upstream and spread out in key areas, allowing you to pick apart the deeper holes on the outside river bends.

Indeed, you're likely to catch a big bright-as-a-nickel steelhead anywhere the current sweeps around a point and gouges out a hole. First thing in the morning and later in the afternoon -- prime times -- you may find the fish in the shallow water along the edge of the hole, but when the sun is shining strongest during the rest of the day, focus your attention on the deeper pockets.

When you find a small creek or stream that is at low water at this time of the year, however, it often blocks the fish from entering. This causes the trout and salmon to collect, congregate and mill about the mouth of the river for months -- until next spring, in fact, when the freshet finally allows them to enter -- putting them in perfect position for a well-placed cast.

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Many of the inland lakes and rivers also offer world-class fishing for speckled trout. Photo credit: Gord Pyzer

Indeed, right now, the first fish that are showing up are sleek, fit, hungry and aggressive which is why I always begin casting a smelt or cisco-coloured crankbait, or jerkbait. Many savvy trout and salmon anglers overlook these lures, but you can attract and trigger huge feisty fish with them.

Of course, a 9 to 12 feet long steelhead rod and reel spooled with fresh 8-pound test Maxima Ultragreen monofilament or Fluorocarbon line is my "old reliable". I'll typically slide on a one- to two-ounce flat, no-roll sinker before adding a small barrel swivel. Then I finish off the terminal tackle by adding a 6-foot long, 6-pound test leader tipped with either a #2, #4 or #6 fine wire Gamakatsu octopus hook.

I'll bait the hook with a small roe sack into which I've incorporated a couple of foam floaters, so my offering wafts enticingly just above the bottom, in clear view of the fish. I like to cast my bait as far out from shore as possible, given the crystal clear nature of Lake Superior's water, and then I'll carefully wedge the end of it either into a pile of rocks I've assembled close to the water's edge or, better yet, a 6-foot tall portable rod holder I've brought along for the purpose.

It is important to tighten up your line so that most of it is hanging above the water and waves, set your drag just right, and then sit back and relax while you wait for a chrome-plated steelhead to wallop your bait.

When it happens, you'll think you're in heaven, but that is just another name for Algoma Country.

Northern Ontario offers the avid fisherman a diverse array of species which include walleye, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, northern pike, muskie, brook trout, rainbow trout, lake trout, splake trout, salmon, perch and whitefish, to name a few! Pick your species, pick your experience and even pick your mode of travel!

About Gord Pyzer

Gord Pyzer is the fishing editor of Outdoor Canada magazine and field editor of In-Fisherman magazine. He is the co-host of the Real Fishing Radio Show and host of Fish Talk With The Doc.

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