Ontario Trout FishingTrout Fishing Techniques
Roadside Brook Trout
As we drove along the dirt road through the heart of southwestern Ontario’s farm country, my questions for my friend Jody about our destination must have seemed endless.
“Does this creek have a name?”
“Nope. Are you kidding? It’s no wider than this truck at its widest point. In fact, you’re looking at it right now.”
As I stared out the passenger-side window of the pickup, all I could see in any direction was fields of corn nearing harvest. Then I noticed a small depression in the overgrown weeds and grasses that enveloped the 30-foot wide ditch area between the shoulder of the road and the corn field.
“You would never even know that there’s water here, let alone fish. How did you ever find this? Did your truck go into the ditch one day and suddenly you were surrounded by fish?”, I asked rhetorically.
Since I wasn’t sure what to expect, I had, as usual, brought quite a bit of gear with me, but even before I got out of the truck I knew that all I would need was my ultralight rod, a small hook and a little piece of worm.
As we stepped off the road into the waist-high grass, I could see that there really was water down below, but the two-foot wide flow hardly looked like it would hold a few minnows, never mind pan-sized brook trout.
Jody instructed me to try to feed the line down through the tangle of weeds, and let the current carry the worm under a particular mat of grass. Unfortunately, the jungle of grasses would not allow my line to do anything more than just hang into the water, so we moved “upstream” about ten feet to another likely-looking stretch.
After two or three attempts, I finally managed to guide my hook under the grass, and I felt a take almost immediately. I didn’t really set the hook, but just lifted my rod. The fish was on, but before I could lift it free of the weeds, my line got hung up and the fish came off before I could even get a look at it. I figured that since it had felt the hook, it would probably not hit again, but Jody assured me that it would, since no one ever fishes this water.
No sooner did the worm drift back under the clump of grass than I had the fish on again, but this time I held my line in my left hand, such as one would do while flippin’ for bass, to ensure there was no slack.
As I held my first ever brook trout in my hand, I was awed by the array of bright, late-summer colours on the eight-inch beauty. A couple of quick photos later and it was back under the clump of grass, maybe a little wiser for the experience.
Over the next 45 minutes or so we landed one more brookie and had two more hits. There was no question that there were more fish in there, and they were looking to bite, but the tangle of greenery made next to impossible to even get near the water, much less thread your line and hook down into it.
We decided to make use of the last hour of daylight and check out one more spot. It was a small farm about ten minutes away, where we had to wade through a herd of cattle to get to a slightly larger but much more open creek that coursed through the pasture. By the time the fish finally shut off at 9:00 p.m. and sent us packing (not to mention that it was almost pitch-dark by then), I had landed and released about 15 six- to nine-inch brook trout (since the pool was so small, Jody graciously allowed me to fish it alone), all from one little pool in a sharp bend of the creek. Almost every time, I had a fish on as soon as the worm hit the water (chumming a bit along the way didn’t hurt, but probably wasn’t necessary). The best part of all this is that it was less than ten minutes outside a major population centre in southwestern Ontario.
On the drive back home, I couldn’t help but wonder how many such honey holes I must have driven right past over the years, never knowing what I was missing, to say nothing of all those people who live so close by and have no idea that such a fishery even exists.
Exactly where we were fishing is not important; such roadside creeks and culverts exist in literally thousands of places all over southern Ontario, many very close to major cities. One need only cruise the lattice of backroads that thread through farm country to find such hidden gems.
But don’t expect to find classic babbling brooks or meandering streams at the side of the road. These waterways won’t appear to be much more than the overflow from a flooded sewer. Often the road is considerably elevated from the surrounding land, making it even more difficult to spot any water running parallel to the road.
Unfortunately, this is one type of fishing in which talking to locals and other fishermen likely won’t be of much help, as few people even notice these trickles of water, and most of those who do would likely not believe they held any fish. However, if you don’t mind people looking at you like you’re crazy, you’ve got nothing to lose. When you do find a spot, don’t forget to ask permission. You will find that most landowners in these areas are very agreeable.
Not surprisingly, if you do happen to find someone who knows of such spots, they probably won’t want to share, as they properly fear that such tiny fisheries could easily be wiped out by overfishing. The reality is that these spots can’t handle a lot of pressure, so make sure that you release more fish than you keep.
With that in mind, barbless hooks are ideal for this type of fishing, but resist the urge to use tiny hooks that can be easily swallowed. These fish aren’t shy, so don’t be afraid to use hooks that look much too big for these tiny trout. If one does happen to take the hook too deep, cut your line and leave the hook where it is, or keep the fish for the frying pan. Some of these flows are overcrowded with trout, and with food being rather limited, taking a few of these tasty critters home for the pan might actually allow some to get a little bigger.
Make no mistake, these fish are small. Their diets consist almost entirely of insects, and that won’t pack on the calories the way a high-protein minnow diet would. So if you are looking to set the new world record for speckled trout, this is not for you. But if you want lots of action, and stunningly beautiful (and tasty) fish, you don’t need to travel to some remote lake in northern Ontario, Quebec or Labrador. What you’re looking for may be practically in your own backyard.
By Don Sangster