Monthly Archives: March 2004

Fly Fishers Spring Cleaning

With trout season just around the corner for many fly fishers, what better time to have a look at your gear and prepare it for the first outing?

Caring for your rod/reel/line is not only simple, its great insurance that your gear will perform beautifully when you do get out on the water.

How many times have you threaded your rod and, after the first few casts, asked yourself why the rod/reel/line does not feel like it did when it was new? I know I have, and I consider myself pretty diligent about this kind of stuff. The answer is almost always a simple one~the rod, reel and line need some TLC.

Try to think of it this way; water (rain, river/lake water etc.) carries all kinds of dust, debris, algae and is a fact of life when you’re out fishing. When your equipment GETS wet, these substances are left behind. In the case of your fly line, algae can stick to it and drastically reduce it’s performance. This same algae and dirt ends up on the surface of your fly rod, a subject I’ll address in a little more detail. So then, where do you start? Its easy, and requires only a few basic items. Dish detergent (or mild soap), fly line dressing,Q-tips, clean~soft cotton rags or cloths.

Begin by filling the kitchen sink a few inches deep with warm water and add a bit of dish detergent. Remove the leader from your fly line and strip it from the reel into the water. I stop when I reach line near the end that appears to be clean slick.

While the line is soaking, dampen a clean rag with the same soap/water solution and begin to clean your fly rod. Take special care to clean the threaded portion of the reel seat, the reel seat itself, the guides, the entire length of the blank, ferrules etc. Set the rod aside and let it dry.

Using a dry cloth pinched around the flyline, strip the line out of the water. You can either wind it back onto the reel, or simply strip it onto a dry, clean surface.

Squeeze some fly line dressing onto a clean rag and pinch the fly line. Now, drag the fly line through the rag making sure the dressing is coating the line. If you’ve stripped it onto the counter, then simply wind it back onto the reel~through the dressing. The line should feel slick to the touch, but there should not be so much dressing on it that it leaves some on your fingers when you slide it through them as a test.

With the line back on the reel, remove the spool. Inspect it for grit, sand, dead grass etc. and remove this with a clean rag.Clean around the reel foot, and anywhere else the line rubs against on the reel. If there is a build-up of grease, do your best to remove it. It is a magnet for dirt. I find Q-tips, toothpicks, skewers good for this duty as I’m reluctant to take anything apart on a reel. It can be necessary, but avoid it when you can.

Using a rag, clean the old, dirty grease from the spindle. Using a Q-tip, remove the grease from the INSIDE of the center of the spool. It will likely be off-color like this.

Using an appropriate grease (I use a lithium-type, but when in doubt follow the manufacturers guidelines) apply it to the areas you just removed it from~SPARINGLY. A little is all that is necessary. The stuff I use is applied with a syringe, and then I spread it with a Q-tip and clean rag. Put the spool back on the reel. Attach your leader.

Back to the fly rod. Using some of the fly line dressing (sparingly) on a clean rag, polish the fly rod. Make sure to apply it in, and around all the guides and tip top, and the threads on the reel seat. You’ll be amazed at how much better your clean line will fly through a rod that’s been treated to THIS day at the spa!

By |March 28th, 2004|Terminal Tackle|0 Comments

St. Croix Legend Ultra Review

St. Croix 7’9″ Legend Ultra 3 wt.
Looking for a top of the line rod, perfect for small rivers & streams, light dry fly presentations, at a great price? Look no further!
St. Croix nailed it here.

After playing around with 9′ 4 and 5wts on the Grand, then switching to the St. Croix 7′ 9" Legend Ultra 3 wt. 3 pc. with an ultra light weight reel, WOW!
A few friends tried it out and it wasn’t easy getting it back. Everyone that tried it, fell in love with it.
It is one sweet little package. Not only does it look good, it casts like a dream. After a few roll casts in the living room, I decided to test it out on the water.
Grinning from ear to ear, I knew this was a keeper. It’s one of those rods that you don’t have to play around with long to get used to. It was perfect from the first cast.

St. Croix Legend Ultra Review

It’s a beautifully appointed rod too, with slim-profile ferrules, Fuji Alconite stripper guides, hard chrome, single-foot fly guides, REC nickel silver reel seats with bird’s-eye maple inserts.

If you treat yourself to one of these rods, do yourself a favor and spend a little extra dough on a super light weight reel. At under 2.50 OZ. you would hate to weigh this thing down with unnecessary bulk.
When the rod arrived, I had no idea that it was going to be discontinued, but you still might find one at your local fly shop. In it’s place is the 4pc. I haven’t tried the 4pc. yet, but I’d bet money it’s every bit as wonderful as the 3 pc.
If you fish it, you will want it.
I like everything about this rod, the action, fit and finish, all score a 10 in my books.
Related Link: St. Croix Fly Rods

By |March 26th, 2004|Fly Rod Reviews|0 Comments

The Hallowed Headwaters of the Humber River

The Humber River is one of four rivers beginning in the Headwaters country north-west of the city of Toronto. Along with the Credit, the Grand, and the Nottawasaga, the Humber River begins in Mono Township east of Orangeville; it then winds its way through the hills of Caledon, eventually flowing into Lake Ontario in Toronto…..

It is the only Heritage River to flow into Toronto, s well, it is the only river flowing through the western half of the GTA that begins in the treasured Oak Ridges Moraine. 35% of the land in the Humber watershed is publicly owned, giving the sport fisherman unbridled access to many unique beats for brookies, planted browns, and natural hog-sized browns.

This article intends to discuss key fishing areas, equipment and tactics, and conservation issues for the headwaters of the Humber.

Humber River Fly Fishing

Key Areas and Access Points

The headwaters of the Humber River is defined by the Humber Chapter of Trout Unlimited as that stretch of river commencing in Mono Township west of highway 9 and Airport Road, and ending in the Town of Bolton. Centreville Creek, flowing into the Humber at the Albion Hills Conservation Area, and Coffey Creek, commencing at the Glen Haffy Conservation Area, (and entering the Humber just upstream of the Albion Hills Conservation Area), are the two main tributaries of the Humber in the headwaters.

Because the Humber can be described as a small river, with a base flow of 800 litres a second upstream of Bolton, small stream fishing tactics are the norm. That is to say, the fish will bite at about anything – so matching the hatch is not too important – but the downside is they are extremely spooky. Be stealthy in your approach.

Humber River Fly Fishing

Starting at highway 9, this article will explore various access points as it flows downstream.

South of Highway 9 (Open Map)

Head west of highway 50 (#50) on highway 9 about a kilometre. Park at Emilio’s restaurant on the north side and wade downstream. This reach has good spawning ground for browns that have recently begun migrating upstream from the Palgrave Dam since the fish ladder was built three years ago. This is a hard water to fish – even through there is a fair amount of gravel, there is a good deal of debris and deadfall in the water. Try this run after a few visits to the better parts of the river…

Finnerty Sideroad (Open Map)

South of #9 is Finnerty Sideroad – go 300 metres west of #50 to the bridge and fish downstream (upstream is posted). This is the north end of the Palgrave Conservation Area; it starts in a thick cedar forest, and opens into a meadow. There is an even mix of silt and gravel runs in this reach.

This is a reach of interesting contrasts – slow and fast waters, forest and meadow, silt and gravel. The Finnerty section is a lot of fun to fish. Backcasts are easy to make in the meadows, and dapping is the only thing to do in the forest. A full day could be spent fishing the Finnerty – this should be one of your first stops on the Humber.

When you get to the deadfall downstream of the meadow, your beat is done. Siltration from the Palgrave dam makes this stretch unfishable.

The Palgrave Pond

The Palgrave Pond (or, “Swamp” as local cold-water fishers call it) is best fished only if you prefer your trout pre-cooked! It is caused by the 5 metre high dam built over 100 years ago, and even the installation of an ingenious fish ladder three years ago hasn’t done much to alleviate the elevated water temperatures. A million dollar project initiated by the citizens of Palgrave dredged the pond to about 4 metres (a canoe couldn’t paddle across it before, it was so shallow), but it is doubtful if there is much here to fish. Give it a try if you want – but bring a canoe.

Still, the fish ladder alone is worth a trip to the Humber. It is the only ladder in mainland Canada with an observation window, and if you are lucky you will see trout swimming by. The fish ladder is a text book case of citizenry compromise. While the stream fishers wanted a complete (though controlled) removal of the dam, and while the people of Palgrave wanted the pond untouched, the installation of the fish ladder has at least allowed fish to spawn upstream for the first time in over a century.

Palgrave Dam Fish Ladder – observation window bottom middle, with dam on upper left and original mill race upper right.

Patterson Reach (Open Map)

The most beautiful run of all is here. Located upstream at Patterson Sideroad and Duffy’s Lane (south and west of Palgrave) this is the most serene, surrealistic and enchanting reach in all of southern Ontario. It is heavily forested and canopied (an ultra-light rodder’s dream); there is a rudimentary path on the east side of the river. Bring your child to this section and they will be in love with the outdoors forever.

There is nothing but rock and gravel in this section; as such, it is one of the best spawning grounds of the Humber. The run ends about 1000 feet upstream from Patterson Sideroad in a large pool developed immediately downstream from a gorgeously engineered century old railroad bridge. North of the bridge is heavy siltration.

Albion Hills Conservation Area (Open Map)

Fishing areas for the Albion Hills Park can be divided into three main areas, designated here as the North end, Mid-section, and South end.

North End
Immediately south of Patterson Sideroad, Duffy’s Lane dead-ends at the northern gate of the Albion Hills Park. You can park your car outside of the north gate, and fish downstream of here. This is all park property (run by the Toronto Region Conservation Authority), and is easily accessible. Don’t fish upstream as it is posted, and, quite frankly, not worth the bother of getting the landowners’permission.

This stretch is alright, but, like the highway 9 reach, is best left for a later exploration date.

Inside the park, in the main area, are two bridges that cross over the river. If you want to make this a family outing for both the fishing and non-fishing members, this would be a good place to be. The mid section ends just south of the second bridge where Centreville Creek runs into the Humber.

South End
Drive past the chalet and try to find parking in the designated trailer park (easy to do during the week – not so easy on the weekend). Here the water flow has increased significantly with the addition of water from Centreville Creek. This stretch of the Humber more closely resembles the Credit (Greg Clark reach) even though it still hasn’t the same water flow base. There is plenty of gravel and a fair number of pools. It is fairly open with good back casting room.

Old Church Rd. and Highway 50 (Open Map)

This is a spot which should give you a couple of hours of fun. Park at the south west corner, and walk upstream to the railroad bridge (1000’). Here is a large pool, reportedly with bass. Continue downstream as it crosses under Old Church Rd., then under #50, and back again under #50, ending in a nice rock fall just downstream of the bridge.

Castlederg Reach (Open Map)

This is my favourite area. It is located on Castlederg Sideroad, just west of Duffy’s Lane. Upstream of the bridge is heavily canopied, with tight fishing. It will eventually take you to Duffy’s Lane.

South of the bridge is an excellent run. While the Humber has virtually no fishing pressure, it is here you may run into a fellow angler. Watch out for mushy up-stream wellings.

MNR has planted 40,000 five-inch browns here last fall, and expect about 10% to survive. Good luck.

Humber Grove (Open Map)

This is located south of Castlederg on Humber Station Rd. (west of Duffy’s Lane). Since Humber Station was paved last summer, parking is difficult. Still, this is a favoured spot for some. A salmon was allegedly caught there four years ago.

Conservation Issues
Last year, a TVO survey voted Caledon the ‘Greenest Town in Ontario’; on the Humber River system, this is shown by the level of interest and involvement in tree plantings, garbage clean-up, dredgings, fish ladder installations and hiking trails. The Humber Valley Trail, the Bruce Trail, and the Trans-Canada Trail, all cross this river. Biking paths, cross-country and snowshoe trails, even horse trails add to this diverse mix. The Humber River Alliance, an umbrella organization with dozens of community groups, helps the whole river system. An aggressive survey of Areas of Natural Scientific Interest (ANSI) has been developed. Legislation has been passed by Queen’s Park to prevent further and excessive development in the natural core areas of the Oak Ridges Moraine.

For the fisherman, this means an opening of opportunities along the Humber River headwaters. Dams all the way down to Lake Ontario have been notched over the last seven years, with the addition of the Palgrave fish ladder as the crowning achievement. Brown trout are making their way back upstream to the very upper reaches for the first time in a hundred years, and an optimistic introduction of Atlantic Salmon will shortly be in place. The Islington Sportsmen Club has developed a hatchery for both browns and Atlantic Salmon (Brian Vickery at

Pam Dennis of Ontario Streams conducting a redd survey – note the nest .Nov. 2003

However, negative issues abound. Upstream sediment at Palgrave Park continues to persist. Warm water temperatures from Palgrave Pond and the Centreville Creek Pond in the Albion Hills Park continue to put stress on the fish of the Humber. The McFall Dam notching in Bolton has done little to remove silt in the reaches immediately upstream of town.

Mark Heaton of MNR heading up a fish planting 2003

Humber Chapter – Trout Unlimited
Over two years ago Trout Unlimited began a Humber River chapter. It is dedicated to rehabilitating the cold water reaches of the Humber River headwaters. Along with projects such as spring garbage cleanups and tree plantings, this chapter’s goals are to bring river ponds off-line – specifically the Centreville Creek pond. This will greatly reduce water temperatures in the Albion Hills reach, and offer trout and salmon access to the spawning areas of Centreville Creek. It is a huge undertaking requiring hundreds of thousands of dollars. Fortunately, this chapter has a dedicated executive heavily weighted with keen and able biologists from MNR and TRCA, along with enthusiastic rock rollers and the odd (?) fisherman. Your assistance can be offered by clicking onto the Humber Chapter at

Humber Chapter of Trout Unlimited –Spring Cleanup (yes – that is a kitchen sink!)

Headwaters Fishing Club
For further information and education of headwaters country, consider joining the Headwaters Fishing Club. This is an organization whose value cannot be overestimated. It meets at the Mono Mills Community Centre the first and third Wednesdays of the month (but only during non-fishing months). Their lecture series and fly tying seminars are equally fascinating and enriching. (Bill MacIvor –

Casting lessons at the Headwaters Fishing Club

Fishing Tactics and Equipment
No need for anything more than hip waders for these slow waters. Wet wading is possible here as well.

Small stream tactics are a must. The fish are very spooky, so casting upstream (i.e., from downstream) is recommended. Short rods are handy in the canopies, and on windless days, ultra light rigs are given a good workout.

You needn’t bother matching the hatch on these waters, as the fish will eat anything thrown at them. Presentation is more important than imitation. Stoneflies, caddis, dragon and damselflies abound. Evenings are a good time to try mouse patterns along the undercuts and deep pools.

Unlike the over-pressured fish of the Grand and the Credit, these fish are not spoiled. Thus you needn’t downsize your flies.
When all else fails, try the ponds at Glen Haffy and Daniel’s Ark (Bolton) for rainbows. Humber Springs Trout Farm (west of Airport Rd. on the north side of highway 9) is another good pay for play series of ponds.

Ziggy Felski at the Village Shoe Repair in Bolton (17 Chapel St. – east of the downtown corners) makes excellent stone flies and mouse patterns. Also recommended are his rod building and repair skills.

Tim Horton’s – highway 9 and 50
Emilio’s – highway 9 west of 50
Wishbone – highway 50 and Castlederg Sideroad

By |March 21st, 2004|Fly Fishing Canada|0 Comments

William Joseph Coastal Review

William Joseph Coastal Vest Review
Like many fly fishers, I consider a vest to be one of the most important pcs. of equipment you take with you to the river. In the years before I believed this, I thought discomfort was just part of the game. In the Coastal, William Joseph has eclipsed the efforts of most other manufacturers and set the benchmark for fishing vest design.
The design efforts of William Joseph appear to be ground-up approach to the challenges faced by fly fishers. Even a quick look through their website reveals a refreshing attitude~and an almost unbelievable warranty,
Here’s the Skinny . . . We unconditionally warranty everything we make for life, with NO LOOPHOLES. We don’t care if you bought it at a garage sale, or who’s at fault, we will fix it for free forever, no questions. Questions? call us 801-978-2207

That kind of faith in your product warrants a close look by ANYONE considering a vest purchase! Total comfort, incredible range of adjustment makes it the right fit for an incredible variety of body types and wading scenarios, excellent workmanship, well thought-out location and angles of "tool holsters", built-in gear retractors (no more zingers….unless you LIKE zingers), hydration capabilities~will hold a 100 oz. hydration bladder….and the list goes on. They’ve now added built-in tippet dispensers as well, eliminating the need for numerous small outer pockets. The two main chest pouches hold my biggest streamer boxes, the fold-down fly pockets on the fronts of these hold a removable ripple foam pad for flies as well. The back of the vest managed to hold my digital camera, lunch and small rain poncho without the need to tether anything to the outside. I’ve worn this vest while bass fishing in the heat of the summer, under many layers while chasing steelhead in the fall, and its always been a welcome addition to the outing. The breathable fabric always dries quickly, the padded shoulder "yoke" always distributing the weight nicely. Have a look at the Coastal, and the rest of William Joseph’s line-up of "Carry Systems" before you make your next vest purchase. It is an excellent product, at a VERY fair price.

Related Link: William Joseph

By |March 10th, 2004|Fly Fishing Equipment & Gear Reviews|0 Comments

Small Stream, Fast Water Nymphing

You found a good looking run…

Some might say a run this fast can’t hold the big browns and they’ll look for something slower. Don’t! These big guys are in here, and when they hit in this fast water, you better be ready! One quick turn down stream and he will be at your feet in seconds. On small rivers, I don’t use split shot on my line. A lead wrapped nymph is usually enough weight to get it down fast. Depending on the size of nymph you are using you might have to fatten up your tippet. A large weighted nymph on a light tippet can be hazardous. Ok, you have just tied on a weighted nymph and positioned yourself downstream at a good casting distance. I say downstream, because to cast up and across on a stretch this narrow, you would be on top of the fish (high sticking). In my opinion, high sticking on small rivers is not the best way to get the big guys out of their holes. The farther away from the fish you are, the better. Hovering over a run waving your 7’6" rod around is not the way to trick them.

You should fish the tailout of this fast run before pounding the targeted areas pictured above. After fishing the tailout, take your time and cover the targeted area right across the red line pictured above. This might take 20+ drifts or so to cover this small stretch, but do cover all these areas. Casting upstream into these targeted areas in fast water is work. Once the nymph hits the water it will be coming right back at you very fast, so you must strip that excess line in quickly. Two reasons for this, one, the line will be parked around your legs if you don’t, and two, you won’t to be able to set the hook when and if you do indicate a strike. I use floating fly line, the tip acts as an indicator. As you are stripping the excess line in, you are also watching the end of your fly line. If you see it stop, bump, go back upstream!, or anything out of the ordinary, set the hook! If you don’t see your line ever hesitate or bump, you’re probably not deep enough. You want the nymph down on the bottom. Just enough weight to graze, but not drag/snag on the river bed. After fishing this section and heading up stream, try it again on the way back down. It’s had a few hours since you last tried it so it might be ready for a quick down stream attack.

With some runs you just don’t have room to cast upstream. Branches, rocks etc. in these situations, sneak around and try them from above (upstream). Using your rod tip and the current to direct the line from left to right. Start by letting out line to meet the A section, check it left and right and then move down to section B and so on…. It only takes a few minutes and can be very rewarding. Try it with streamers, wet flies and nymphs.
It works for me.

By |March 6th, 2004|Fly Fishing Applied|0 Comments