Wading the flats…sight casting to aggressive gar pike with bad attitudes…sound like Ontario fly fishing? It is! I was finally able to connect with Nick for a day of Gar Pike fly fishing in eastern Ontario that won’t soon be forgotten!…..
With conditions that Nick thought might be ideal, we set out to wade some of his home water for these prehistoric-looking fish. I was confident about being able to get a fly to the fish, but not sure just how difficult they would be to spot, or to hook. As it turned out, finding them was pretty easy. Nick knows this area, and these fish very well. We were pleased to find gar pike sunning themselves in very shallow water almost immediately. Being a gracious host, Nick offered me first crack at them. Rigged with 8wt. fly rods, floating lines and (me) a 0X flourocarbon level leader, I dropped the streamer within a foot of the fish. It turned slowly, but didn’t follow. I dropped the next cast a little past the fish, bringing the streamer along side the head of the fish. This was a different story… the fish began to follow the streamer and in a second, accelerated and snapped at the fly! I set the hook, could feel the line tighten and go limp immediately. The hook failed to penetrate it’s bony jaw, and the fish began to swim away. I took another cast at it, but it was gone. It didn’t take off like it was scared, just not interested in hanging around…. Nick assured me that whenever you find one, you usually find several. Within the first hundred yards of wading, we had cast to probably more than a dozen fish. I managed to hook, and land my first gar less than 30 minutes after we started~awesome! These fish are remarkable creatures, almost square in section and nice and slimy like a regular pike. Some of them came to hand easily, only to bolt on the first attempt to remove the hook from their bony snouts. Its hard to complain about a warm water fish that puts a deep bend in an 8wt. rod….the sound of a screeching reel isn’t bad either! While they didn’t ever take long runs, they were strong and fast enough to suit me just fine! I found it fascinating~the gar we fished for all behaved in one of two ways; 1.After having hit the fly (and not getting hooked) they would turn and begin swimming away for good. Any casts to a "cruising" fish was totally ignored…or..2.They would snap at the fly, but remain in the spot when after you set the hook, but didn’t hook up. Subsequent casts would be met with a hit as well. Some of these "killers" (as I called them) would hit the fly up to 6 times before they would either GET hooked, or decide something was…fishy and bugger off. I also had a few fish "snap" at the fly the second it hit the water, not unlike a trout pouncing on a dry fly.
Well…..I guess a 7" row of razor-sharp teeth coming right out of the water and literally making a "clacking" sound really bares NO resemblance to a trout, or any fish in Ontario for that matter. I don’t think I hooked any of the fish that did this, for the record. Considering the "wow" factor of this type of fishing, the access (wading shoreline) and low-tech approach makes it truly stand out as a unique and challenging facet of the sport. Although it was my first outing for gar, it has re-shaped how I view early season fishing for good! I will be back chasing gar soon, with a gaggle of polar fibre streamers!
Thanks again Nick, I’ll be pointing the Nissan east again very soon. Rob
Essential gear for this type of fishing~Gar like it hot! The fish we caught were holding in very shallow water, sunning themselves. The hot, sunny conditions we were fishing in are apparently the gar’s favorite! This type of fishing demands that you wear polarized sunglasses~if you can’t see them, you can’t fish to them. With the glare comes sunburn. Sunscreen~wear lots, apply often. Hydration~Its hot out there, and you can be away from the car for hours at a time. Bring lots to drink.
Flies~Nick and I fished similar flies at times, but often very different ones as well. The hooks I had tied my streamers on were almost always finer wire than the ones he used. I wondered if it might help the hook-up rate, but (judging by how many he hooked, and how often) I don’t think it mattered. I carried two hook hones with me, they were essential to getting my flies back in working order. Nick usually had another fish hooked in the time it took me to put a good point back on mine….guess experience counts after all!