5 Flies for Ontario’s Most Popular Species

In these northern waters live of the most revered fish anglers wish to target on fly

Ontario is blessed with seemingly countless lakes, rivers, ponds and streams. In those bodies of water live some of the most revered fish anglers wish to target on fly. The majority of which are caught and released back to be caught another day by another angler. Ontario has the space and the diversity to satisfy the most discerning angler as well as the angler who is picking up a fly rod for the first time. The populations of fish alone are awe-inspiring and rarely leave people skunked not seeing a fish in a day. Arguably, the 5 most popular game fish in Ontario are, in no particular order:

  • Smallmouth/Largemouth Bass
  • Northern Pike
  • Trout Species
  • Panfish
  • Walleye

Now, to catch these fish on a fly, obviously, there are mitigating factors that play into an angler’s success, but there are a few flies each fly fisher should have in their fly boxes to be able to successfully target these species.


Woolly Bugger

Arguably the most effective fly one can fish for multi-species is the woolly bugger – in natural colors. Woolly buggers, be they weighted or not emulate a variety of natural food sources these fish prey on. They mimic anything from a leech, a crayfish, a minnow or even a nymph. Size and color will affect their effectiveness, however having a natural (olive, brown, black rust) color will up your chances of dancing with one of Ontario’s most popular sportfish.


Clouser Minnow

When Bob Clouser tied his first Clouser Minnow, I wonder if he knew it would change the fly fishing industry the way it did. With such a simple pattern, tied in countless color combinations, in countless weights and sizes, this sub-surface fly will attract any of the gamefish listed above into eating. Fished naturally (meaning fished like the baitfish it is designed to imitate) the Clouser minnow is a deadly pattern. It is an effective pattern throughout the water column as well as fished at or near the surface or slowly presented on the bottom, it’s hard for any fish not to let one pass without a strike.



Nymphs or larval bugs are deadly for all species. Nymphs come in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes, but one thing is common between them all. They are small. They aren’t flies that a fish will hunt down, they are a fly that a fish will casually take when the opportunity presents itself. There is a cliché in fishing that big flies catch big fish, well the nymph blasts that cliché way out of the water. We’ve seen nymphs smaller than your piggy toenail catch giant sportfish in Ontario. Presentation and gear must match the fish you’re targeting, however just about anything you can imagine catching in Ontario can be caught on a nymph!



Stimulators imitate a variety of terrestrial bugs. And the fly is designed to grab a fish’s attention. They are generally bold in color and in shape.  Terrestrials are bugs that live on land and get blown into the water. They may include grasshoppers, ants, beetles etc. A simulator is meant to be fished on the surface and can be twitched or dead drifted just like a stranded and panicking natural terrestrial. Surface strikes are addictive and are the preferred method of targeting gamefish by many anglers. Size matters with these flies as well, smaller stimmys for smaller fish such as panfish and larger stimulators to grab the attention of predatory fish like bass and pike.


Bronze Goddess

This fly is deadly for multi-species as it imitates one of the most common sources for food for gamefish in fresh water. A crawfish! Generally tied in brown or rust with flash, legs and a barbell eye, this fly hops along the bottom or swims in the water column and is irresistible to many species. Again, size will dictate success with certain species. But generally, a size 4-8 will do for most. Because this fly is often fished on or near the bottom, abrasion-resistant leader and tippet material such as fluorocarbon is a great idea to help prevent knicks and eventual break-offs.


Fly fishing in fresh water in Ontario is a fun, family-friendly and accessible activity for almost anyone. The species one can target are plentiful and most see very little angling pressure. Being equipped with the right gear is essential for success which does include the flies that are tried and proven to work. Consider some or all of these flies to include in your arsenal in a variety of sizes and colors. You’ll be glad you did!

About Mark Melnyk

Currently, Mark is the host and producer of The New Fly Show. With a passion of fly fishing, the shows goal is to help both novice and veteran fly fishers everywhere by giving them a top-quality fly fishing series that will make them better anglers. 

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