Adventures on the Nipigon River

Anglers can target Chinook Salmon and Steelhead in this body of water—but most come for the trophy Brook Trout.

How magnificent is the Nipigon River in Northern Ontario? About as spectacular as any world-class river could be. My guide Neil Leduc from Affinity Angling shared his knowledge of the river and we had the fly fishing experience of a lifetime!

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The Nipigon River is located in the Thunder Bay district in Northwestern Ontario. It is 48km long and 50 to 200m wide and flows from Lake Nipigon to Nipigon Bay on Lake Superior in the community of Red Rock. One word for this river. Epic! Anglers can target Chinook Salmon and Steelhead in this body of water, but what most come for is the Trophy Brook Trout. How big do they get? Well, the World record was caught here in 1915 weighing a whopping 14 pounds, 8 ounces. You bet in the back of my mind there was a 15-pounder with my name on it!

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The river was about as high and fast as anyone had seen it in years. Neil asked us to bring 7 or 8 weights as the flow was high and fast and these large Brook Trout will take advantage of the swift current. These brookies are big here with 20” plus fish being the norm and there is always chatter of 25” or 26” fish being netted and even larger fish breaking the line.

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Neil Leduc has been guiding this river his whole life. He knows the river like the back of his hand. He loves to swing flies for these beauties but his passion for connecting with them is on the surface. That’s right, a 20” plus feisty Brook Trout whacking at a skated fly along the fast current on the surface. It doesn't get much better than that! On our first day we had numerous takes on the top from a well-tied surface fly from Neil. These fish are fast and we blew every opportunity this day. As the day grew on we began swinging flies much like a wet fly just underneath the surface where we had better luck in hookups and landed fish (show nice Brook Trout). Our first day was an outing to remember with numerous takes, fish landed and lots of beautiful scenery, flying overhead eagles and of course a lot of laughs.

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We stayed in the quaint Beaver Motel in the town of Nipigon. The town is the setting for the famous children's book "Paddle-to-the-Sea" by Holling C. Holling and there is a children's park that commemorates this lovely story along with a splash pad for the young ones to enjoy. There are plenty of wilderness hiking trails, as well as the Mazukama, falls trail that is breathtaking. There are “do it yourself” mining parks to stop and find your own pieces of Amethyst. Great family fun.

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We decided to head farther up the river the next day and swing some large woolly buggers, clousers and muddler patterns at these jewels. With the quick intense flow of the river we needed intermediate sinking lines to get the fly closer to the bottom. These fish were feeding in the fast water so lots of mending was needed. There is no doubt when a Nipigon River Brook Trout slams your fly. Make sure you have a good hold on your fly rod! The battles are intense and furious. If I said we landed every fish we hooked I would certainly be fibbing. My fishing partner Joe from Scientific Anglers hooked into our biggest Brookie of the trip in water that was ripping around 2 large boulders. How this fish was holding and feeding in this fast water is beyond me. Joe battled this beauty right up to the boat and broke off just at the net. Yes, this fish seems to get bigger every day I think about it, but realistically it was no shorter than 26”.

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This is why you come to the Nipigon area and fish the Nipigon River. The fish are plentiful and huge. Everything that a world-class fishery is all about: this is what memories are made of.

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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