Grand Slam noun
1: the winning of all four of the most significant championships in a particular sport in the same year –– used specifically in tennis and golf.
b: a clean sweep or total success
Fishing Grand Slam noun
1: Catching every or every notable species that lake or area is known to offer.
b: still a clean sweep or total success
A term most often used in saltwater angling, until now. I'd been searching for a challenge in the freshwater world of northwestern Ontario. Most of these sorts of goals are attainable in the north, given enough time--even landing a 50” muskie. But Troutfly Lake presented a pleasant yet unplanned challenge: a grand slam of all of its species, in just four days.
During a lunch break, over casual conversation floating between two Jon boats, we discovered that Kim Pierson, owner of Birch Bark Lodge's Troutfly Outpost, needed just one more species, a lake trout, to have caught all five species the lake and its ponds had to offer. Collectively, the next day was spent lake trout fishing to get Kim that Grand Slam. This was after she'd caught a whitefish while walleye fishing, and she was also the first person to land a fish on the trip. With two days left, we had to see this through!
So after four days of sight-fishing monster pike and walleye off the same shallow shoals, portaging, and experiencing a true natural brook trout heaven with my fly rod, we were now laker fishing with zero electronics or charts.
The first morning that we were lake trout fishing, I landed my first whitefish, and suddenly both Kim and I were in the running for a Grand Slam!
Learn the Lake
Truth be told, multi-species trips or even days are not hard to find in northwestern Ontario, but I was thrilled my first floatplane experience was somewhere so special. Seeing in person the crystal clear tropical-Esque waters I'd been mapping on satellite images took my breath away.
Flying in gives you the perfect opportunity to check out the lay of the land. Troutfly Lake will at first seem small from above, but I assure you it becomes anything but once you’re on the lake in a Jon boat with a 9.9hp exploring every nook and cranny.
One thing you’ll notice from the air is two strike zones out from shore, more so on the west side. The bottom has a gradual decline and shrinks slowly away from shore, leaving a shallow shoreline shoal for about 40 feet before reaching a depth of over 8 feet. Even when you’re on the water in a boat, you’ll be able to see this depth changes clear as day.
Fish these gradual slopes twice, once on the inside shallow, casting for pike and once on the outside line--not quite dark water, but not quite sand-coloured water--for very aggressive walleye. Considering how few people fish on the lake, the fish are not a boat or line shy, and they've got all the visuals they need in the clear water to come out of nowhere on a bait.
Highlights of Troutfly
- Very little pressure
- Brook Trout from the Albany River naturally dwell in its portage lakes
- Rocky middle lake shoals offer cruising big fish a plethora of bait
- Tributaries are abundant
- A back bay on the west side offers an excellent spawning area for all species with lots of groundwater.
- An additional lake, Red Lake is attached to Troutfly and curls back behind the outpost.
The Grand Slam Species and How to Land Them
*Authors note* Bring a fair size net, if the lake trout don’t fit in it, the pike definitely will not.
Northern Pike: Pike fishing in Troutfly was different than any other experience I had with one of my favourite toothy critters. Sometimes you see their torpedo-shaped shadows nestled on the shoals to cast at, (spoiler alert, they always eat) and sometimes they come out of what you thought was an empty space at an alarming speed.
Lures: Crankbaits, crankbaits, crankbaits. All day every day. You will not tire of them.
Walleye: Sight fishing for walleye was quite possibly one of the most unexpected joys of this trip. We had zero electronics, we were never jigging, and there was never any need. Casting or if we got lazy when the winds picked up, we’d let the wind drift us as we trolled with subsurface lures so as not to get snagged.
Depths: 5-35ft (best estimate)
Lures: We used crankbaits, soft plastics, worm rigs, and jerk baits.
Whitefish: To be honest I’m not entirely sure why these fish don’t get more attention. They fight hard, the guessing game never gets old, and they taste absolutely delicious.
Depth: 15-80 feet
Lures: Small (chunky) crankbaits or large Williamson spoons.
Lake Trout: I will never not be excited about lake trout and this trip made my angling highlight reel without a doubt. We were fishing blind, so to speak, with no electronics and no charts for depth. We hadn’t a clue where to go but we judged by the lay of the land that the southwest corner may be a good place to try. Using the hills to the south, we’d line ourselves up with the wind and drift accordingly. The doubleheader will surely stick with me.
Depth: Best guess 90-120 feet (our baits fell a long, long time) We would go to the bottom, and as we’d drift, lift up slowly, and occasionally reel up to change depth.
Lures: Jigheads with split tails, jigheads with squiggly tails, spoons, and everything else that resembled a white, silver, pink, or orange baitfish.
Brook Trout: These precious gems are every angler's favourite, even if you don’t know it yet, you love these fish. If you go far enough north in Ontario, you will bump into tributaries and lakes that have natural populations of brook trout. The Troutfly ponds are one of those places, and you do not want to miss out. In my first–– awful–– cast just to get my line out, I had a brookie on a small salmon fly. I knew right then, I was going to hike myself into the further brook trout pond.
Depth: the crystal clear waters of the brook trout pond are very deceiving, what I thought was four feet was actually closer to 15. We caught them everywhere in there!
Lures: I used flies, some woolly buggers, and a few streamers. The other ladies were using Mepps spinners and small spoons, also succeeding. Tracey with a gorgeous Brookie caught on the Brook Trout pond we portaged into
You Have What It Takes
It was our second-to-last day of the trip and both Kim and I struck lake trout, succeeding with our Grand Slam! We'd achieved a Troutfly Grand Slam. We were even on the fence about whether we should make T-shirts--and I’m leaning towards absolutely.
With the right amount of gear, (definitely bring spares, you don’t want to be on a fly-in with no fishing gear), and the right amount of time, landing all of these species is possible. Four days was all we needed, and if it weren’t for those pesky and picturesque brook trout ponds we’d likely have gotten it done in three or fewer.
You won’t regret a trip like Troutfly, whether you have a goal in mind or just want to relax in the emerald waters and enjoy the small victories that come with catching multiple species.