A river flowing in between trees

Photo credit: The New Fly Fisher, Mark Melnyk

Fly Fishing Rivers of Ontario

A river flowing in between trees

Photo credit: The New Fly Fisher, Mark Melnyk

These angling opportunities span from the southern-most tip of the Detroit River in Windsor to the rarely seen tributaries of Hudson’s Bay to the north. Urban or rural, river fly angling is accessible to any angler with a fly rod. Fly fishing seasons span the entire year in many areas for specific species with legal angling for specific species, such as steelhead permitted in some areas, while other species such as smallmouth bass have set seasons as determined by the Ministry of Natural Resources. Check the fishing regulations before your trip.

Species to Catch on Fly


With the advancement of fly fishing technology today, every species of sportfish swimming in Ontario rivers can be caught on fly. Here are a few of the more popular species to catch on fly in Ontario rivers. 

  • Brook Trout: These spectacularly coloured fish are found in most rivers in Ontario, from the clean urban streams in the south to the massive watersheds of Ontario’s north. Brook trout are considered an indicator species meaning if anglers are catching this species, they are fishing in a pristine environment. Brook trout can’t tolerate pollution. They are extremely fly-friendly and can be caught and released easily.
  • Brown Trout: This species of trout was introduced to Ontario in the early 1900’s and are generally found in southern and central Ontario, with a few places on the north shore of Lake Superior where they can be angled. They are an aggressive species sought after by many fly anglers for their angry attitude and reputation to attack flies.
  • Steelhead / Lake Run Rainbow Trout: Steelhead, originally from the Pacific Ocean these fish inhabit Ontario’s Great Lakes and are a worthy adversary for fly anglers. Entering Great Lake tributaries in both the spring, to spawn and in the fall, to feed, steelhead are very much sought after by fly fishers. Some fish will remain in Ontario rivers all year allowing for additional angling opportunities for fly anglers.
  • Salmon: All species of Pacific salmon have been introduced to Ontario’s Great Lakes. They enter the tributaries of the lakes in late summer and fall to spawn. Species include Chinook, coho and pink salmon. These species are considered challenging for fly fishers since these fish are in the rivers to spawn and will rarely eat if at all.
  • Smallmouth Bass: River smallmouth are considered by fly anglers to be one of the strongest fighting fish in Ontario. They readily eat flies and generally become acrobatic when hooked. They often jump multiple times during landing. Their distribution is throughout most Ontario rivers.

South/Central Ontario Rivers for Fly Fishing

 

  • Bronte Creek: Entering Lake Ontario, between the towns of Oakville and Burlington, Bronte Creek sees a multitude of species throughout the year. Resident smallmouth bass are present as well as migratory species such as salmon, steelhead and brown trout in the fall, and another steelhead run in the spring. Bronte can be fished in certain places all season long. Learn more about the Hamilton, Halton and Brant region.
  • Grand River: The Grand River is considered a large river spanning from its headwaters at Dundalk, to its mouth at Lake Erie at the town of Dunnville. It is a multi-species river playing host to resident fish such as bass and northern pike as well as migratory species trout and salmon. With both urban and rural angling opportunities, the Grand River is one of Southern Ontario’s more popular rivers for fly fishing. Learn more about the region.
  • Credit River: The Credit, with its headwaters in the Orangeville area offers both urban and rural angling opportunities. The upper Credit, with its special regulations, is a cold water resource providing habitat to native brook trout as well as brown trout. The lower Credit sees large populations of salmon and trout, both steelhead and brown trout migrating into the river both spring and fall. The Credit River enters Lake Ontario at Port Credit. Learn more about the Greater Toronto Area.
  • Mississippi River: The Mississippi River, just west of Ottawa at Carleton Place is a world-class smallmouth bass river. With easy angler access, and being large enough to use a boat, this river produces great numbers of large bass for fly anglers. It is a tributary of the Ottawa River with its headwaters at Mississippi Lake. Learn more about the Ontario Highlands region.
  • Saugeen River: The Saugeen is a tributary entering Lake Huron at the town of Southampton. It is known as a migratory steelhead and salmon river and is famous with fly anglers. The Saugeen sees strong runs of steelhead in the spring and steelhead and salmon in the fall. It is also home to a high population of resident smallmouth bass one of the hardest fish to catch on fly, the musky. Learn more about the Bruce Grey Simcoe region.
  • Maitland River: The Maitland River flows west into Lake Huron at Goderich. It boasts excellent opportunities to fish from the bank as well as in a drift boat. The Maitland has great populations of smallmouth bass but is most famous for the big steelhead runs in the spring and the fall run of both steelhead and salmon. Learn more about the Bruce Grey Simcoe region.
  • The Bighead River: The Bighead, flowing into Georgian Bay at the town of Meaford, is a smaller migratory species river than most. It boasts strong returns of spring and fall steelhead and good runs of Chinook salmon in the fall. There arealso resident brown trout as well as a strong population of smallmouth bass. The Bighead River is very susceptible to rain events and can rise and fall very quickly. The lower section has lots of access for fly fishers. Learn more about the Bruce Grey Simcoe region.

Northern Ontario Rivers for Fly Fishing

 

  • St. Mary’s River: Located in the town of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, St. Mary’s River has easy access for fly anglers looking for multi-species spring through the beginning of winter. St. Mary’s River is the only connection between Lake Superior and Lake Huron so any migratory fish must pass through this river making it a world-class fishery. Species include all five species of Pacific salmon, Atlantic salmon, steelhead, and resident rainbow trout. Learn more about the Algoma Country region.
  • Nipigon River: Connecting Lake Nipigon to Lake Superior, Nipigon River is an amazing destination for fly anglers. With its mouth at the town of Nipigon and Red Rock, this large river sees multi-species migratory and resident fish during the season. Anglers fishing the Nipigon should hire a guide as hydroelectric dam activity can occur at any time. The Nipigon River sees strong populations of steelhead, salmon, lake trout, smallmouth bass and northern pike. What the Nipigon River is most famous for is its world-class brook trout fishery. The World Record brook trout was caught in the Nipigon River and was 14.5 lbs. Learn more about Superior Country region.
  • Albany River: The Albany River flows east from Lake St. Joseph to its mouth at James Bay at the First Nation’s community of Fort Albany. The Albany River is Ontario’s second-largest and longest river in the province. It spans nearly 1000 km and can be accessed by boat or floatplane. The three main species in the Albany for fly anglers are walleye, northern pike and brook trout. Many outfitters cater to fly anglers offering access and guide services to fish the Albany River. Learn more about the Algoma Country region.
  • Attawapiskat River: The Attawapiskat River is well known as a big northern pike and walleye river. With very little angling pressure, fly fishers can see big numbers of aggressive fish. Anglers should seek a guide on the Attawapiskat River. There are a few outfitters that fly into this remote northern Ontario system. The river is located north of the Albany watershed and is recommended for experienced adventurers. Learn more about the Algoma Country region.
  • Sutton River: With its mouth on the south shore of Hudson’s Bay in Polar Bear Provincial Park, fly anglers find themselves in the land of big brook trout on the Sutton River. This is a world-class brook trout fishery in a river that is deemed easy to navigate. Lacking any rapids or white water, the crystal-clear water of the Sutton River allows fly anglers to cast to fish they can see. This is a fly-in do-it-yourself angling opportunity, or it can be guided if anglers would like. Learn more about the Algoma Country region.
  • Winisk River: The Winisk watershed is a trophy northern pike and brook trout fishery. With a few outfitters on the river, anglers will find great success with their guide pursuing these two sportfish. Further north, the Winisk sees very little angling pressure allowing for untouched fish that may have never seen a fly. Unlike the Sutton River, the Winisk is big water with rapids and white water. Learn more about the Algoma Country region.

 

Ontario is a big province with hundreds of rivers available for fly anglers looking for multi-species. Most Ontario rivers are accessible by foot, boat, train or plane and can be found in the middle of major Ontario cities or in the absolute remote wilds of this vast land. Ontario has the space, the numbers of fish and the rivers to make it a perfect destination for fly fishers.

Last updated: April 20, 2022

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