35th Wffc Bih 2015

World Fly Fishing Championship 2019

Huron County Steelhead | Ontario

Huron County Steelhead | Ontario


– [Bill] Migratory rainbow
trout called steelhead are highly prized trophies. They’re beautiful and become
leaping titans when hooked. For many anglers,
steelhead fly fishing is the ultimate challenge. The Maitland River
has some of the best fly fishing in the province. I’ve traveled there many
times over the years, both in the spring
and in the fall. This week we reminisce
about the best fishing over the season I’ve had there. I’m Bill Spicer, and this is The New Fly Fisher. (soft, rhythmic guitar music) – [Narrator] The New Fly Fisher has been made possible thanks to go fish in Ontario dot com. Orvis Sporting Traditions. Scientific Anglers. Umpqua feather merchants. Superfly, fly fishing made easy. – [Bill] Ontario’s west
coast in Heron County is located along the
shores of Lake Heron. The county is a patchwork
quilt of rural Canadian towns, farm landscapes, and
parks knit together by a strong
agricultural heritage. The Maitland River is
150 kilometers in length, and empties into Lake Heron
in the town of Goderich. The Maitland has two
distinct steelhead seasons. One in the spring and
again in the fall. Listen as Fly Fitters Guide
Service owner Mike Verhoef explains the different
seasons to fish. – There’s some unique
differences between the spring steelhead
and the fall steelhead. Basically it’s the
time of the season that the fish are in the river. So in the spring,
they’re in there, they’ve spawned,
they’re done spawning, they’re building up the
energy to get back to the lake and then to live in the lake
for the rest of the summer before they return in the fall. The spring fish can
be a great fishery, but it’s a different
fishery in the sense that you’re fishing fish that
have already spawned and going back, and not
quite as fresh and powerful and silver as they
are in the fall. In the fall you have
fish that are coming into either migrate
way up the streams to get to their spawning habitat and then over winter
and hang out there and spawn very
early in the spring and then head back to the lake. Or you’re getting
a lot of steelhead that are just coming
into the system to feed and they are bright
chrome powerful fish and absolutely fantastic
sport fish on the fly. – [Bill] My first
visit to the Maitland was during season four of the
New Fly Fisher in the fall. The weather was foggy and cool, but perfect for steelheading. Persistence pays off. I was swinging the fly
in front of me here, and putting it on the dangle, and Mike says to
leave it on the dangle for a little bit,
let it just hang. And a lot of times the
fish will follow along with the fly and when
you first move it, that’s when they hit it. There he is there. Very good. Oh, yeah, nice. Got him? All right. Now that is a beautiful
fall steelhead. Beautiful fall
steelhead and he took it right in the lower jaw there. There we go, got it? Now, just– – Nice fresh, heavy, Maitland steelhead. True genetics, not a clipper. It’s been in probably
about two weeks since the last big flow we had. – [Bill] Yeah, it’s a male. Bit of a kipe in the jaw there. – Just a little bit
of a kipe starting. Got the color always starts
in the cheek patches first, nice silver color. (soft guitar music) – [Bill] When conditions
are ow and clear, you must change your tactics to increase your
hookup percentages. In season six we ran into
such tough conditions we could not use our
usual large spey flies due to the fact that the
large fly would spook the fish in the low clear water. We scaled down the
size of the flies and chose the swing nymphs. This technique was
named swimphing by Mike. – Fish. Fish, nice one. Yeah with the real
low low water, low flow, clear clear water, it’s just you know,
changing your technique to adopt to the conditions. – [Bill] It’s another
cromer it looks like. – Yeah. – Seeing a good flash
of silver there. Very nice. – We’re talking about
the switch rods before from a fishing concept,
from fighting a fish and then just enjoying
the fight of a steelhead, these 11 foot seven
weights, for example. – Oh, yeah, nothing
like a long rod. – Ideal, absolutely ideal. Takes the head shake
out of the fish. – [Bill] Now the one benefit
that people don’t realize is you can go much lighter tippets with a long rod. – [Mike] Absolutely. – [Bill] Because the rod
acts like a shock absorber. – [Mike] Yeah. We’re down to eight pound here, and a lot of people would think
well that’s not that light, but considering. – [Bill] Oh, that’s
huge for a long rod. – [Mike] Yeah, and
considering a lot of the time when we’re swinging
flies with spey rods, we’re using 12 pound,
maybe even 15 pound, for tow reasons, one for
the casting through the air but also for the initial
strike can be pretty hard. – Right, I love steelheading, I don’t know about
you Mike, but I mean, of all the fish that I’ve fished there’s just nothing like them. – No, it’s my, it’s by far my favorite, it’s my forte, I
call it my specialty when it comes to fly
fishing and guiding in this part of Ontario, and I’m very fortunate enough to be born and
raised in this area, and you know, fishing waters
like this all my life. Oh, Mr. Spicer. Mr. Spicer. Look at that. – [Bill] Look at that. – [Mike] That’s a
steelhead, folks. – [Bill] A prime example of
a steelhead from Ontario. Oh man. – [Mike] Look at
this, look at this. Oh, look at the
shoulders on that thing. (laughter) Beautiful. – [Bill] Yeah, and they’re
right in the scissors of the mouth on this side. – [Mike] Yeah, look at that. – [Bill] Right in the
scissors on the mouth. – [Mike] Beautiful,
beautiful, yeah. That’s a prime, native,
true genetics steelhead. Look at the big tail on that. Great big, I call a
wrist, huge wrist. There’s some weight
to that fish. That fish is just
pushing probably right around that
10 pound range, could even be a little bit more from how thick he is if
you look at his back. Nice colors, been
in a little bit. Oo, ooo, ooo. Oh, Mikey. Gone. Gone. (laughter) – [Bill] Originally
designed to cast on rivers where high banks
prevent a back cast, the two handed rod
has been redesigned to perform in many different
angling situations. Learning to cast
one of these rods is not as hard as it looks. Watch as Mike shows us
the two most common casts, the double spey
and the circle c. – So one of the things we
though we’d go over today was explaining a
few common terms that relate to spey casting. So one of the first ones
is understanding river left and river right and
what that means. So basically when you’re
facing downstream, river left is that
side of the river, and river right is
this side of the river. The key reason to
understand the terminology of river left and river right is to determine where
you’re gonna put your anchor or where you’re gonna
place your anchor on a cast such as a double spey
cast or a circle c cast, and more importantly, to
understand your anchor placement when it comes to an upstream
wind or a downstream wind. Now that we’ve explained
river left and river right, let’s go through
the double spey cast where we have a downstream
breeze, we’re on river right and we want our anchor
placement down below us so the wind keeps the
line away from us. So to do the double
spey one key thing is get your feet placed
in the right direction you want to cast, we’re
gonna place our anchor a rod length away on the
same angle we’re gonna cast, and we come around
on the downwind side and we do our double spey
cast out on the angle and swing it through. So of the two casts
you need to learn when you’re starting
out spey casting, first was the double spey
which we just went through, the second one is the circle c, and the reason it’s
important is it allows you to put an anchor upstream
when you’re on river right. We just demonstrated
a double spey with a downstream anchor, now we’re gonna
demonstrate a circle c with an upstream anchor in case
the wind’s blowing upstream like it is here right now. Place the anchor upstream
a rod length away there, then you come around right
into your cast downstream and cast it out. So again, the anchor
placement was right here a rod length away, to line up on the angle
you want to shoot. Show that once more. Just gonna throw it downstream
to get into position, lift, oop, sorry. Throw it downstream
to get into position, do a circle c, come around, and throw that line out on
the angle we want to swing it. – [Bill] Man oh man,
he walloped that. He just walloped it. I gotta try to keep my
line out of the water. If I allow my line
to sink in the water, it adds extra resistance. This is a really,
really good fish. He’s gone for another run, I have to let him run. I can’t follow him, so
I have to give him line. Don’t try to resist
him if he wants to run. Oh man, this is a good fish. One thing about
steelhead in the fall, they’re a whole lot stronger
than they are in the spring. A little side pressure
to get him out of, away from that rock. And he’s gonna run again. Oh man, good fish. – [Mike] Nice fish, Bill. – [Bill] Good fish. – [Mike] Keep that rod up, keep that line from
around those rocks. So Bill, what were
you exactly doing with the fly when that fish hit? – [Bill] It was on the swing. He ah, I tried dead drifting it, and then I pulled it
under for a swing, and that’s when he grabbed it and there was no doubt about it. Absolutely none. – [Mike] Okay, so I’m
gonna just guide your line, I want you to keep
pressure on it. Just like that. We got a little net here
and a big steelhead. Beautiful. – [Bill] Mikey! – [Mike] Beautiful. – [Bill] Mikey. There we go. – [Mike] Nice fish. Good work. That’s beautiful, that’s another
pushing double digits. – [Bill] Nice big buck, about 10 pounds, it’s a buck as you can tell
with the kipe in the jaw. Nice red stripe down the side. He’s been in the river
for a little while. Mike’s earlier fish were silver which means they just came in, this guy’s been
around for a while, but what a tremendous fish. (soft guitar music) – There’s a simple saying I
always use for steelheading, steelhead are quite
simple to catch, the challenge is finding
them and getting a fly in front of one of them. So when it comes to the
flow and reading a river, the biggest challenge is
how much it fluctuates. We get rains, it goes up, we have no rains, it goes down. And the river changes constantly while the flow changes
going up and down. So usually for steelhead, and that also changes
from spring to fall, whether you have moving fish, whether you have sitting fish, whether you have resting fish, but basically you’re
always looking for, I like to word it
as waist deep water, walking speed water, water that has some
structure in it to hold fish. The one I like to fish
a lot or refer to a lot is pinch points especially
when we’re going after moving fish or migrating fish. 10 percent of the water
holds 90 percent of the fish. And on a river such
as the Maitland or any of these rivers
along Ontario’s west coast, that’s a true fact. (soft guitar music) – [Bill] Fish. Oh. – [Mike] What was that? – Ah, that was steely. That was a steelhead. – That’s what I thought
when I saw it roll there. – Right in the slot. – [Mike] Yeah, right
where we just said. – Oh, that was exciting. Just come in there
and foomph, whoa. – [Mike] It just kind
of tightened up, right? – Yeah, it just tightened up. There are two set-up’s
that we use today. The first is a floating line
to a 14 foot poly-leader tapered to an eight pound
test flourocarbon tippet and to that the beadhead fly. The second set-up
is a shooting head to a 10 foot fast
sinking poly-leader with six feet of eight
pound fluorocarbon tippet and then the fly. The technique we used on
this episode is to cast across the river at about
45 degree angle downstream. Immediately mend the line, upstream if the current is fast, downstream if the
current is slow. Your fly will slowly
cross the river with your line as straight
as you can get it. Lead the fly slightly
with the rod. Then allow the line to
swing in the current until the fly has stopped
below you on the dangle. When your fly reaches
the end of it’s swing, punm the rod a few
times before recasting. If a fish has followed, this
usually entices it to hit. Then you move downstream
two and a half to three feet and cast again. Cast, swing, step
your way downstream until you’ve covered all
the water in the run. (soft guitar music) I was just swinging
the fly around and all I felt was a stop, almost like
a tightening of the line. I set the hook,
and away we went. Now this one, as you see, I was stripping in line
cause he ran towards me. Now I got him on the reel. And this feels
like a decent fish. Now he’s run way
downstream on me and I’m very, very
concerned about it. Fighting him gingerly. If he decides he wants to run, I’m letting him run, that’s important when
fighting any kind of big fish. When they decide they want
to run, you gotta let them. Don’t try to resist it. As long as you can pull
’em in, pull ’em in. But you see, feel them resist, and you can feel
’em, let ’em run. He’s coming back, he’s
cooperating with this here. Heading back this way. Very good fish. – [Mike] Just at
the head of the pool he picked that fly up, right? – [Bill] There he goes. Good fish. Nice little hen. Ready? And nicely done. All right. – Look at that nice
egg sucking leech right in the corner
of the mouth there. So that’s a fully
purple egg sucking leech with a big orange bead. And it’s tied out of
one complete feather which makes it very, you can see how it’s moving in
the water there. Just out of the mouth. I’ll simply go in
and unhook that. It’s a very nice
prime steelhead hen, pushing about five pounds maybe. Great shape. We’ll let her go
for another day. (soft guitar music) – [Bill] The flies we
used on this episode were, starting on the left, the MM Sassy Sculpin, Spey Cray, MM Barred Sculpin, and the Steelhead Muddler. When conditions were tough, we switched to natural
colored stoneflys in black and in gold. – [Mike] Okay, Bill, now
that we’re in position here you can see this deep
slotted run right here and we just want
to get across it, let that come right
down, dangle on the seam, and then we’ll go it again and I’ll just keep
moving the boat down and we’ll fish the entire run. Fish on. – [Bill] Fish on. – [Mike] Oh, that’s
a nice one, beauty. Just as it was swinging
into the seam, right? – [Bill] Oh, wow. Yeah, went right
down in the seam on the inside of the seam here. – [Mike] Beautiful. Well, I’ll tell ya, we’ve
put our time in today. – [Bill] It’s been
tough conditions. Now you have to
do certain things when you’ve got
conditions like this. – [Mike] Absolutely. – [Bill] And one of
them was you put on a sinking head on for
me here, to get down, cause you felt they were
down near the bottom. – [Mike] Yeah. Oh, look at the
colors on that, Bill. Beautiful, beautiful. I love these cradle nets. They’re such a– – Yes, all I gotta do is drag
it over top and you lift. – [Mike] Yeah, nice
way to handle the fish. If we can, bring her
head in first to it. I’m gonna stay right here. – Ready? – Good pressure, good
pressure, good pressure. – Yes sir. – Fish in the net. – [Bill] Look at, this is
the nice thing about cradles, look at this, the
control that we have, the fish is going nowhere. – [Mike] She’s
relaxed, I always find, that’s the biggest thing. People want to grab
them and squeeze them and then they want to squirm. In here, they’re nice relaxed. Now we’re gonna let
he go her right away, but she’s in great
shape, spawned out hen, just come off of
a bed somewhere. Aggressively feeding, as
we saw in the take of the- – [Bill] That’s the idea
of drop backs right here. – [Mike] Look at that. Pluck that out. Good, nice work. Beautiful. Ontario west coast gem. I like to call these egg wagons. She’s been up, done her job. – And now she’s feeding
and getting ready to go back to the lake. That’s a good fish. How big would you say that? – In prime she’s a
seven pounder in prime. Right now she’s probably
around that six. But beautiful. You hit it hard, run. Oh, gorgeous. – This is the result
of lots of hard work. We got very tough conditions, the worst thing happened to
us that could have happened, is low water and no rain. And it just makes things tough. Well, that’s the
result of working hard. We covered some water and lightened our set-up and we’re swinging perfectly, and we’ll just let
this girl go back so she can come up another day. Awesome, Bill, awesome. – Unbelievable. It’s just hard work paying off. It’s just so much
satisfaction here, it’s just great. – That’s one of the
most excited fish I’ve caught all
spring (laughing). – [Bill] Our time has
run out for today. I highly recommend you
contact Mike Verhoef at Fly Fitters Guide Service for your next steelheading trip. For more information on this
show and others in our series visit us on the net at
thenewflyfisher.com. Don’t forget to
visit us on Facebook and our new YouTube channel. From all of us here
at The New Fly Fisher, thanks for joining
us, tight lines, and we’ll see you next time. – [Narrator] The New Fly Fisher has been made possible thanks to go fish in Ontario dot com, Orvis Sporting Traditions, Scientific Anglers, Umpqua feather merchants, Superfly, fly fishing made easy. (slow, soft guitar music)

4 thoughts on “Huron County Steelhead | Ontario

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