The Bonus of Big Walleye

Most fly fishers don’t think of walleye and fly fishing. But in Northwestern Ontario, that's simply not the case!

Most fly fishers don't think of walleye and fly fishing. But in Northwestern Ontario, this is often a reality. Usually, walleye stay deep, normally in 25 to 35 feet of water. In NW Ontario, especially in May through early July, the walleye come up into the shallows to hunt for food because the water temperatures are generally favorable. The true factor here in locating them is the time of day.

The common name, "walleye," comes from the fact that their eyes, like those of lions, reflect white light. This "eyeshine" is the result of a light-gathering layer in the eyes called the tapetum lucidum, which allows the fish to see well in low-light conditions. This translates to mean the best time to fish for them is just before dark or just after.

Colin with a 29" walleye!

On many lakes and rivers in Northwest Ontario, huge schools of fat walleye will come up from the deep and forage on rocky flats, near points, and on submerged shoals. Usually, they can be caught in water from 6 to 14 feet deep! They love minnows and especially leeches, just like smallmouth.

The number one pattern I have used to catch walleye is the Woolhead Sculpin in either black or purple. This pattern is sold by reelflies.ca and is stock number RF4720. Why do I know this? Because I got tired of handing out all my black woolhead sculpins everywhere I have gone fishing for walleye. So I have this number written on a piece of paper in my wallet! They really work well but are usually within 1-2 feet of the bottom.

Sure, in lakes they will suspend, but when hunting they are normally hugging the bottom near the structure. I cast a full-sinking fly line, usually a 7 or 8 weight in a Type V configuration (4-5 IPS - inches per second) with a short leader to the fly. How short? I am talking 3-4 feet at most. I find a 12lb or 1x leader is best. Use one that has excellent abrasion resistance, as the leader will rub against rocks, branches, and other debris near the bottom. On the fly, I will work in fly floatant, especially into the woolhead. This makes the fly buoyant which pulls it toward the surface. With the short leader and a slow retrieve, you have a deadly means of catching walleye.

The night I used this setup was at Hawk Lake Lodge, there were three other boats nearby. All were using jigs tipped with either minnows or leeches. No one was catching fish, except me! The reason was simple – I was keeping the fly in the kill zone longer and I was going very slowly, which the conditions dictated. In fact that night I also hooked a very fat and robust smallmouth bass that came in at 20”. You can use this technique anywhere and for other species, including lake trout and brook trout. It really works well. When coming to Northwestern Ontario, do not ignore the walleye even when using a fly rod. They are abundant, massive, and a great deal of fun to catch on a fly rod.

In case you've missed any of the New Fly Fisher's TV shows, you can see many of the episodes on their website

About Colin McKeown

Colin McKeown is the producer of The New Fly Fisher Television Series, and several documentary series for the Outdoor Life Network, the Discovery Channel and the History Channel. With a passion of fly fishing, Colin's 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. Known for his keen sense of humour, Colin has two wonderful children and is married to the most understanding and patient woman in the world. 

Recommended Articles

New Restrictions on What You Can Bring into Canada

Keep up to dates with the changes.

A Guide to Sunset Country Museums

Learn while you visit!

8 facts you didn't know about moose

Just how big is a moose anyway?

Renew Your Outdoors Card, Online!

It's never been easier to buy your Ontario fishing license and Outdoors Card

White Otter Castle: The Incredible Story of the Mansion in the Middle of Nowhere

Imagine single-handedly building this massive structure in the middle of the wilderness?

Giant Pike on Ice

Tips & techniques for catching big pike through the ice.

Shed Hunting 101

How to find antlers this spring in Sunset Country 

Secluded Cottage Rentals

You won't believe what's available at some of these remote lodges!

Curious as to which fish species are in your favourite lake?

Use this interactive map to find out.

Black Spruce 101

Things You Probably Didn't Know About This Boreal Icon

A Beginner's Guide to Ice Fishing in Canada

(With a few tips for the seasoned fishermen too!)

Fabulous ice-out fishing for lake trout!

Here's what the pros use for tackle.

How many fish do you think are in the English River System?

Too many to count! Find out more about this fantastic fishery.

Ice Road Etiquette

The Do's and Don'ts of Sunset Country's Ice Roads

6 Road Trips from Minneapolis to Northwestern Ontario

From fishing and wildlife sightings to culture, good eats and of course sunsets, there’s lots to discover.

Tips from a Fishing Legend

Big Bass, Walleye, Muskie and So Much More

4 of the Best Hunting Trips in Ontario

Bear, moose, deer, and duck—check out these incredible hunting opportunities.

3 Bannock Recipes

These recipes are sure to impress on your next camping trip.

Rent an Ice Hut in Sunset Country

Make the most of winter in Northwestern Ontario with a unique ice fishing experience

5 Essential Boreal Experiences in Ontario's Sunset Country

Freshwater fishing, forest hiking, and sunset views await in this pristine paradise