Fly fishing for beginners in Ontario
Deciding what gear you need for fly fishing, whether you need a fly fishing vest or waders, the rivers you can fly fish in and how to cast are key things that need to be figured out. Finding out the answers to these questions is part of the learning process.
It’s often true that the best fly fisher on the river is the person with the most experience. It takes a lifetime to master (if it can ever truly be mastered) the art of fly fishing. But that’s part of the attraction, you will never stop learning. Here are some tips for beginners to learn the basics of fly fishing in Ontario.
Invest in lessons
Of course, you can attempt to learn to fly fish on your own. However, you may hook your own ear multiple times, spend hours untangling your fishing line and ultimately make a lot of avoidable mistakes.
By taking lessons, you’ll be learning from someone who knows what they’re doing and can help make you a better fly fisher in a much shorter length of time. Thankfully, Ontario has several fly fishing schools. These schools can suggest introduction fly fishing gear and most importantly, help you learn the fly fishing basics.
Grand River Troutfitters
Located in Fergus, Grand River Troutfitters have been around since 1993 sharing their passion for all things fly fishing in Ontario. They sell fly fishing gear online, but what they really specialize in is guiding and lessons. Book an on-water lesson with them and get your skills ready for a lifetime of casting.
Women in Fly Fishing
Want to get into fly fishing in an exclusively female environment? The Calm Waters Women in Fly Fishing series does exactly that. Whether you are a total beginner, or just want to hang out with like-minded women, river guide Alyx Parks will help you catch fish and sort your fly fishing gear list. From dry land casting training to line management and landing trout, she’ll help you learn techniques that will last a lifetime.
Drift Outfitters & Fly Shop
While Toronto’s Queen Street East may not seem like a fly fishing destination, Drift Outfitters and Fly Shop is just that. Stocking everything from fly fishing rods to flies, they also offer fly tying workshops, on-water lessons and equipment repair. They’ll help you find the right gear and tell you where, when and how to use it.
The Grand River Outfitters & Fly Shop
Grand River Outfitters and Fly Shop is another mainstay of Ontario fly fishing. Located in Fergus minutes from the famous Grand River, they offer everything from guiding services to fly-tying lessons and a retail shop. They’ll be able to give you great advice on the best beginner fly fishing gear.
Get a guide
The traditional way to learn to fly fish is through an ‘old guy.’ If you can find a mentor, then embrace the experience. Otherwise, you can hire a guide. Be totally upfront with them about your level of experience; they’ll know you’re not an expert once they see your first cast. Consider splitting the cost of a guide with a friend and get your own on-the-water lesson. Contact the company in advance to find a guide that can meet your needs. Reputable outfits include Fly Fitters, Grindstone Angling, Grand River Troutfitters, Calm Waters Fly Fishing, A Perfect Drift and Angling Algoma.
Join a club
One of the easiest ways to learn a new sport is by joining a club. You’ll make new friends, learn new skills and gain access to a common pool of knowledge. Ontario boasts quite a few fly fishing clubs, so find one near you and get involved.
The Scarborough Fly & Bait Casting Association
The Scarborough Fly and Bait Casting Association was formed 30 years ago and they’re still going strong. One of their goals is to help anyone, regardless of experience, to learn the angling arts. They host fly tying workshops, a bamboo fly fishing rod building workshop and have casting practices throughout the year. You can attend your first couple of meetings for free to see if it’s the right club for you and no, you don’t have to live in Scarborough to join.
The KW Flyfishers are a club based in Kitchener/Waterloo and have been around for over 30 years. With over 50 members they’re passionate about fly fishing and love to share their expertise. Whether you’re wondering if you should be buying Cabela’s fly fishing gear or supporting local retailers, they’ll have an answer in the forum. General meetings are held the first Tuesday of every month (except July and August) plus they organize fly tying events and fly fishing outings.
The Franklin Club
Located in Mount Albert, Ontario (just east of Bradford), The Franklin Club goes beyond a small group of people with a website and a monthly meeting. The Franklin Club have their own hatchery, their own lake and their own restaurant. Just over an hour from downtown Toronto, members can fish here year-round without a fishing licence in a pristine piece of wilderness similar to a northern Canadian fishing experience. The price of membership is considerably higher than many fishing clubs, but there are a lot more perks. They offer regular workshops, or you can book a lesson with a fishing pro at any time.
The Izaac Walton Fly Fishing Club
Mississauga’s Izaac Walton Fly Fishing Club has been operating since 1971 and welcomes anglers of all ages and skill levels. With special events throughout the fishing season and Zoom meetings throughout the winter months, this is a great group of friendly people that would love to get you casting with the best of them. They also have an extensive online guide for learning the fly fishing basics.
Pick a river
While there are an endless number of rivers on which you can fly fish in Ontario, there are some popular spots worth checking out when you’re getting started in the sport. These rivers are easily accessible from southern Ontario. Make sure to obey Ontario’s fishing regulations regarding time of year, catch-and-release practices and always avoid trespassing. If you’re not sure, ask a local or call the closest fly fishing retailer.
The Grand River
The Grand River flows from the Dundalk all the way down to Port Maitland on Lake Erie. The Upper Grand River is full of brown trout. It’s stocked every year with about 30,000 brown trout so it’s a great river for beginner fly fishers. Towns on the upper part of the river include Fergus and Elora, with the Grand River Outfitting and Fly Shop located right in the heart of Fergus. The Lower Grand is known for its steelhead which run up from Lake Erie and make it as far as Paris, Ontario.
The Saugeen River
Roughly one hour north of Orangeville, or two and a half hours from Toronto, the Saugeen River is a massive river system full of brown trout, brook trout and rainbow trout. This is a wide river that reaches over 15 meters wide. The lower half of the Saugeen is known for large steelhead runs, salmon, bass and muskie fishing.
The Niagara River
The Niagara River is known for steelhead, salmon, lake trout and brown trout, but it’s also a great summer destination for bass fishing. Forming a natural border between Canada and the U.S., the Niagara is a mighty river that anglers on both sides of the border frequent. Chartering a boat is one way to catch fish here, but fishing from shore is also highly rewarding. There are many places to fish from shore, one of the best known hot spots is the Whirlpool. The river is broken down into two fisheries; the Upper Niagara River (above Niagara Falls) and the Lower Niagara River (below Niagara Falls).
The Credit River
Right in the middle of Mississauga is the perfect place to learn fly fishing. The Credit River is a good spot to fly fish for its entire length. The Lower Credit River has large salmon runs with chinook, Atlantic and coho salmon filling the river. Most salmon can’t get upstream of the Streetsville dam. This section of the river also finds steelhead. The Upper Credit River is known for brown trout and brook trout.
Last updated: October 10, 2023