By Conor Mihell
Fly fish all year in the rapids of St. Mary’s River.
One day, I stood beside a wild river in Northern Ontario and watched an Indigenous guide put on a fishing clinic. The young man set up near a small pool that was the only area of calm amidst a boisterous cascade. Each of his casts yielded chunky walleyes that were played with great efficiency and wordless nonchalance before being promptly released back into the river’s depths. This was a man in his element, truly at one with the natural world. His only show of emotion came when he inadvertently hooked a northern pike—and a good sized one at that—and shook his head ruefully and groaned.
This angler’s prowess was not unusual for Algoma, where catching your limit often entails nothing more than wetting a line. The fish he coaxed out of that pool had likely never seen artificial bait in their lives. What left me slack-jawed—walleyed, as it were—was the equipment this young angler used: a fly rod. With the exquisite poetry of motion of a onehanded fly cast, the man wasn’t simply overpowering nature with barbs and treble hooks. He was working in concert with the subtleties of flowing water and fish behaviour. I was struck by a sense of harmony in the man’s encounter with the wilderness. I hoped the moment would never end. Just then, he caught another walleye, dispatched it for the night’s dinner, dismantled his rod and prepared his boat to travel back upstream.
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