Reflections of Borden Lake

Chapleau Lodge is the only lodge on the lake, with a number of species: walleye, pike, whitefish, and smallmouth bass.

I sit here, looking out at the snow, fondly remembering our time at Chapleau Lodge. It’s times like this when the thermometer perpetually reads sub-zero that many (present company included) recollect the great times and warmer climes of the past fishing season.

We had a fantastic trip to Chapleau Lodge this past summer, and although weather played a major part in our adventure, we were still able to unlock the puzzle that is Borden Lake and sample some of the bounty Chapleau Lodge is becoming well-known for.

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Chapleau Lodge is both a full-service (American Plan) lodge and a housekeeping lodge as well as a drive-to destination, which makes it the perfect place for those with families or those who may be looking for an excellent fishing destination at a reasonable cost. Located a stone’s throw from Wawa, Ontario, Chapleau Lodge offers the amenities of a nearby small town for housekeeping guests.  It’s also a short drive from the International border at Sault Ste. Marie—perfect for those living south of the border who are looking for a pristine Northern Ontario fishing adventure.

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Borden Lake is large 12 miles long and over 200 feet deep in places, with a multitude of species found on both its shallow flats to the deepest holes. Spring-fed, the lake is free from outside pollution and is peppered with over 80 islands. Moreover, Chapleau Lodge is the only lodge on the lake, and the operators take great pride in managing their fishery. Adventure seekers can plan on targeting walleye, northern pike, whitefish, smallmouth bass, brook trout, and lake trout.

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We arrived at Chapleau Lodge in pursuit of the large-small bass that Borden Lake is famous for just as spring was ending, only to find that the fish had recently moved from the shallows into deeper water. After exploring deeper areas adjacent to what would have been premiere spawning flats, we determined the bass had moved into even deeper water.

Undeterred, by using our portable sonar technology, we were able to identify deep water structures that looked like they should hold fish. These consisted of expansive submerged humps that would rise to a shallow depth of 8-10 feet from as much as 80 feet. Throwing weighted leech patterns to the top of the rise, with both intermediate lines and full sinking lines, we found as soon as the flies began to sink off the high point of the structure, bass would strike them as they tumbled down the submerged cliff face. Note: without a portable sonar unit, we would never have found these structures or the fish.

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Because Borden Lake is spring-fed, the water is extremely clear. Consequently, the choice of leader and tippet material is critical—it must be heavy enough to handle big, strong fish, yet light enough to avoid spooking them. We started with a light bite-wire due to the presence of trophy pike in the lake, but as we soon learned the light wire leaders were turning the bass away, we had to pare down to a 9-foot sinking leader with 8-12 lb monofilament tippet. Although we lost some flies to pike, the change to monofilament was effective, resulting in our tying into multiple smallmouth bass, some extremely large!

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As we were fishing deep water structures, a sturdy fly rod was required to enable us to set the hook on the smallmouth bass in deeper conditions. We found that a 9-foot, fast-action rod was necessary to feel light bites and effectively set the hook. 

Chapleau Lodge has the opportunity for multi-species exploration. No matter what species you’re interested in targeting, with a little research, discussion with the lodge staff, and a great sense of adventure, you too will be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together in order to experience great success on Borden Lake. The cabins are extremely comfortable, and in the main lodge, you won’t miss any of the luxuries of home! With Borden Lake so close to the border, and major cities, it really is a slice of fishing paradise one has to experience to believe!

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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