Fly fishing in Ontario:
Grand River guiding, fly fishing and fly casting instruction with
Ian Colin James one of the top guides on the Grand River. Try fly
fishing for carp with "The Carpfather" the man who made
it popular in North America. Ian was the first certified
instructor and full time guide on the Grand River, and he is the
author of The Bestseller: Fumbling with a Flyrod .
He caught his first fish on a fly,
a grayling, when he was 6 years old, from the River Clyde, near
the town of Motherwell, Scotland. 48 years of fly fishing have taught
him one or two tricks, which he painlessly passes on to his clients
For 33 years, professionally, he's
been showing folk how to cast, how to find fish and how to catch
the fish they find. Several of his students have gone on to open
their own fly fishing shops and guiding services. Yup, he is that
good. He was certified as an instructor by Peter Anderson - ex World
Fly Casting Champion - on the River Spey in Scotland. Will you get
more fish if you take lessons from him, or if you use his flies?
Known for his 'No Bull' approach
to fly fishing, his quick warm wit and his down to earth teaching
methods, his instructional sessions are always entertaining. He
developed and promotes Common Sense Fly Fishing: The minimum amount
of gear . . . the maximum amount of fish. Ian calls a spade a spade,
and a strike indicator a bobber.
In 1995, he was part of the Canadian
Fly Fishing Team at the 15th World Fly Fishing Championships in
Galway, Ireland. Unfortunately, Team Canada received 'a butt kicking.'
Hey, it was a Loch Style event, and we don't do much of that kind
of fly fishing on this side of the Big Pond. That same year at the
Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championships on Loch Leven, Scotland,
a fly he created called the Dunkeld Dabbler, took the largest fish
of the event for his team mate, Tom Murray. At the 2006 Canadian
Fly Fishing Championships he coached the Les Chiens d'Eau team to
a silver medal.
Ian's flies are sold world wide
- mostly in the US, Canada and in the UK. Several of his original
patterns have found their way into publications on both sides of
the Atlantic. He is the only fly tier to receive a Design Award
from the Ontario Arts Council.
Recently, Ian became a co-host and the resident fly tying expert
on the TV Show: The New Fly Fisher. He was also featured on the
prestigious US show, Legends of Rod and Reel.
Legends of Rod and Reel
Yes, I was one of the featured fly
fishermen on the ESPN show, Legends of Rod and Reel. It was an honor
to take part in such a great series and it was a lot of fun shooting
Messages from Ian
The place to get the cheap fly lines is at flylines.ca. I grabbed a bunch of them and by the sounds of things, my clients have also purchased 'lots' of them. It's mail order only.
You can't beat $20 a line, with great service too!!
Grand River Fishing. June 16th
The river is up and it is unsafe. I just pulled the plug on my guiding for the week. If you are thinking of hitting the Grand, I'd stay away from it for at least a week.
Nymphing Rods: Cortland Competition - the cat's ass.
I'd always been a big fan of the Greys rods. Before you could purchase them in North America, I'd have friends and family pick them up for me in Glasgow and bring them over when they were here for a visit. A few years ago Greys and Hardy were purchased by Purefishing out of the US. They closed out Greys in North America and switched over some of the blanks to their Fenwick brand. Needless to say, I was pissed, and in need of some new rods.
It took a while, and I tried out a gazillion rods. Sadly, it was very much like a chapter from Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Too soft, too heavy, too flashy, too mushy, too stiffy, too costly, too 'what the hell were they thinking' ... and on and on.
Long story short. I heard Devon Olson (Team USA competition fly fishing guru) was using a Cortland Competition rod. I'd never heard of the rod, but I'd heard of Devon Olson. I've never met the man, but he's good. He uses a 10.5ft/3wt but I managed to get my paws on a Cortland Competition 10ft/3wt. It is a hell of a rod. Seriously. A hell of a rod. The bite detection is off the chart, I mean off the chart, and it's light weight - VERY light weight. You can fish with it all day and you won't feel as if you just went 12 rounds with Manny Pacquiao on your walk back to the car.
Cortland Competition rods are hard to find in Canada, but you can easily find them on line in the US for about $200. Well worth the money. Seriously, well worth the money!
I've been using it to teach both nymphing and wet fly fishing on the Grand River and my clients loved it. When I was putting the rod through its paces, I landed a 6-8lb carp and the rod did a great job. I'd not recommend that at all, but I was nymphing for redhorse and the carp was an incidental catch. My first thought was, "Eeeeek! This is not going to end well." It worked out great. I landed the fish and the rod did not go "explodie-wodie." If you are a Dr. Who fan, you'll get that.
Brass Ass - the video
Over the years I've been asked to post some videos on how to tie up some of my flies, but I never found the time. Jim Misiura has some great nuts-and-bolts, how-to fly tying videos posted on line, so I asked him if he could show folk how to tie up my Brass Ass. He did a cracking job! There are quite a few videos out there on how to tie the pattern, but Jim is the only guy who 'got the cheeks right.' He used the Hedron 3D orange holo tinsel - code 4067. Okay, we cheated on it, I sent him some. Thanks Jim!
Brass Ass Video here.
The tune up day was a blast. Great fun. I am setting up an intermediate level nymphing workshop and I am going to cover ALL the bases; Euro Nymphing, Cz Nymphing, Scottish Nymphing, Swedish Nymphing, Day Nymphing, Night Nymphing, Chinese Nymphing, Peruvian Nymphing, High Altitude Nymphing, Deepwater Nymphing, Vegan Nymphing.... I will leave no nymphing stone unturned. If you are interested, flip me an email. I'll post the date on here when I sort it out. It will be a hands-on, on the water morning class with a maximum of five people.
You will need a 3wt or a 4wt rod.
email...info on nymphing
Leaky Waders? - The Fix Is In
Eventually your waders will leak. Okay, they might not leak if you never actually wear them on the river, but for the rest of us out there, waders will leak.
Don't bin them. Take them to Natural Sports in Kitchener and ask for Steve. He did a cracking job fixing up my waders, and he is one heck of a fly fisherman too!
Scratch and Dent Fly List. March 25th. Update
A scratch list went out in mid March. The next one will be going out in two or three days.
2015 Coal Tar Classic - Last Saturday in May
We have the permits!
The location has been booked.
Mr. BBQ is on board for cooking up the Lunch Extravaganza.
The officials have officially signed up.
(The rate for bribing an official is still set at $40.)
Steve Hunt will win the event unless the 'CTC He Had An Accident Team' gets to him before the event kicks-off.
We have dropped the dress code down to business casual.
Coal Tar Classic
Scratch and Dent Fly List.
On July 1st, the new Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) became law. In order for me to comply with this, you need to ask me to be on the scratch and dent list. I started the list back in 2001 and I've only sent it out to people who have actually asked to be on the list, so I was well ahead of the curve! That said, by law, you need to let me know if you still want to stay on the list.
learn more ...
Fishing Fly & Insect Photographs - Grand River, Ontario
The majority of the insect photos on my site were taken on the Grand River. All the shots are hand held and at any point in time the creature is free to fly or crawl away when ever it wants to. I photograph the insects where I find them, nothing is staged and the images are not stacked. I photograph my fishing flies in a custom built studio, made from a 1928 Studebaker Rackside Flatbead truck. I planted a grove of bamboo around the studio to make sure I get diffused light for the shots. For all my fly and bug photography I use a Canon 30D, a Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens, a set of extension tubes and a Canon MT-24EX flash.
Okay, this is a strange one and it's a biggie. Several orders of fishing flies destined for the USA have been returned to me. I repackaged the flies using smaller containers and the flies finally made it to their destinations. As you can imagine, this is a pain in the brass ass, so I am switching everything over to smaller containers. They do not look as good as the larger boxes, but the flies will still produce fish. Everybody happy? Good.
New - Chief of Staff
Roberta Nixon from New Brunswick is my new chief of staff. In her four page resume Roberta stated, "I've always wanted to be a chief of staff but as I have no experience as a chief of staff, I would be perfect for the job." She also sent along a rather large bottle of single malt, which had absolutely nothing to do with her getting the job.
Epoxy Flies - Important Stuff
The only epoxy I use on my fishing flies - Kerry's Midge, Brass Ass, Epoxy Minnow, Ian's Parr - is Devcon 5-minute. I have never had an issue with it turning yellow. A few fly tiers have been using Devcon 5-min epoxy and they told me that after one season their epoxy finishes started to turn yellow. So, I set about doing some non scientific research at my fly tying bench. After years and years of painstaking trial and error under my fume hood, I found the answer. It's NOT the epoxy, it's the mixing tool. Some brands of wooden toothpicks will add something to the epoxy, and the contamination will make the epoxy yellow. Who knew? The flat "Touch" brand of toothpicks are by far the worst offenders. If you use plastic toothpicks to mix your Devcon 5-min epoxy, the stuff won't yellow.
New! New! Productive Guides Flies.
Looking for very productive flies? Want to catch a bunch of fish? Fed-up getting skunked? If so .... follow this link.
Bell Sympatico - (they should be called sympati-d'oh)
After about 13 years with Sympatico, I have finally had it with them. The customer service has gone down the crapper and there have been more - and more - issues with the servers being down. Oh, and they keep jacking up their prices too! I'll be switching things over to another server - my website location and my email address - in late March. I'll post updates as things progress.
Muncher Nymph fur - tying materials
John's Fly tying Materials in London, Ont., has teamed up with Superfly to
produce some of the seal's fur used in tying up the thorax for
my Muncher Nymph. The fiery brown colour is dead-on. It's by far
the best match to the colour of the original fur I brought over
from Ireland back in the early 1980s. If you want to pick
some of the fur, or the brown plastic raffia for the Muncher wingcase, please contact John directly - follow the link to his website. I do not sell fly
tying materials. I purchase 90%-95% of my fly tying materials from John. He's a great resource for hard to find items like Scottish Spotted Hyrax pelts - excellent on emergers - or Dugon Dubbing. The service is top notch.
Website: John's Fly Tying Materials.
George Daniel the back-to-back U.S National Fly Fishing Champion in 2007 and 2009 (they did not have a championship in 2008) asked me to write a quick review for his book Dynamic Nymphing. It's a cracker! The book was published in January 2012 and it's already in its second printing. If you are a fly fisherman you need to own this book. Don't wimp out and get the downloadable version. Purchase the hardcover so you can feel the pages. Go on, be one with the binding and the glossy dust jacket. You should be able to purchase the book for $30-40.
Flytyers of the World Vol #3
Flytyers of the World, Vol#3 compiled by
Steve Thornton hit the stores last year. It's a stunning publication
and I was very fortunate to be a featured in it as one of the
tyers. If you want to find out more about the book, or if you
want to purchase the book, you need to follow this link to VEM
As of October 1st, 2012 I am now tying all my flies on organic free-range hooks.
2011 Roderick Haig Brown Conservation Award
In June of 2011 I was the recipient of the Roderick Haig Brown Conservation Award from the Canadian Wildlife Federation. I had to head up to Yellowknife to pick up the award, and when I was there I had the chance to do a bit of pike fishing with Carlos Gonzalez. The fishing was unbelievable and Carlos was a fantastic guide.
Read more about Carlos here...
If you are a bit shy about sending me an e-mail or adding your
name to my scratch list, please read my privacy statement before
you start browsing through my website.
learn more ...
E-mail: No attachments please.
Just a reminder ... if you send me an e-mail with an attachment,
it will get "nuked" and I won't even know that you sent
me the e-mail. Please, do not send me any attachments. Thanks
If you send me an e-mail and I do not reply within 24 hours,
send it again as I did not receive it. I make a point in answering
all my e-mail within 24 hours.
Rick Mercer Report
Along with C. David Johnson I was on the Rick Mercer Report teaching
Rick all about fly fishing ... in only eight minutes. It was an
absolute howl. If you want to have a look at it, the segment is
posted here on the
What I said was ...
Some of you, I suspect those of you over 30 who are still living
in your mums basement eating gourmet Kraft Dinner, have been hassling
me about my comment on Lake Ontario. Let's clear this up. What
I said was, "Lake Ontario is the biggest stocked pond in
the world." If you want to take issue with that, that's your
choice. You best go now. I think your mummy is calling you to
head upstairs for your dinner, or as they say in Scotland, "Yir
tea's oot." Run along now and you may be able to catch the
Telly Tubbies, and the sun is always smiling in Telly Tubby Land.
Watch you don't get any ketchup on your Star Trek uniform.
Ecologically friendly flies
Just so you know, all my flies are tied on grain-fed, free range
hooks. I can honestly say that not one hook has been harvested
from the wild.
Did you know that used "Fumblings" are selling for $228
online at Amazon, and that last year one of the limited editions
was sold for $870 in a private deal. The seller did well on his
initial $55 investment. I had to verify that the book was one
of the limited editions. It was purchased by a book collector
in Michigan. The book was in mint condition. It was nice to see
it again after 8 years. Don't ask. I do not have any "Fumblings"
left in stock.
SCUDS. All about my scud pattern
Are you looking for a never-miss pattern you can use all year
long, even in the winter, and, one which will work when no fish
are showing? Lots of fly fishing tips on fishing scuds and lots
of insight into the life of the scud.
learn more ...
100% advertising free
It may have escaped your notice, then again maybe it did not,
this website is absolutely free from annoying advertisements.
I figure that just like fly fishing, viewing a website should
be a relaxing experience and keeping advertising from the site
does that. However, it still costs money to keep this little puppy
up-and-running, so ... if you enjoy the site, if you pick up a
few fishing tips and if you find some fish-catching pointers,
you can support the website by purchasing a few flies. Simple
as that. Similarly, sending along a bucket of fried chicken, an
envelope of unmarked bills, a bag of M and M's or a case of 15-year
old single malt would also be fine and worth while contributions.
Fly fishing in Scotland
A few thoughts from my last trip over there. Tips on accessing
rivers and tips on how to pick up the appropriate license. Well
worth a read.
I encourage you to use the images from
my website, but you need to ask before you do. Only once in 7 years
have I said, "No, you can't." Several folk have requested
higher resolution images so they could use some of the photographs
like: "Sunrise over the Detroit River" and "Morning
on the Grand River," as screen savers. No worries. Just ask
and I will try and accommodate your request.
My e-mail address:
If your e-mail system is not run though a browser you may have difficulty
contacting me by using the "contact buttons". Here is
my actual e-mail address:
This website is dedicated to Buzz and Woody,
two great goldfish.
That's it for the moment.
rover and out
Dan Berry - 1952-2015
Dan Berry, the creator of the Dan's Turkey Tail Emerger, passed away in Memphis, TN, on April 15th, he was 63. Dan grew up on the banks of the White River in Arkansas, where he became one of the best guides on the river. He developed quite a few patterns, with his Dan's Turkey Tail Emerger (DTTE) being the most famous. How good is the pattern? It's brilliant!
At some point just about every fly fisherman creates a fishing fly. But very few can compare to the Dan's Turkey Tail Emerger. It's right up there with Sawyer's Killer Bug, the Pheasant Tail Nymph, the Elk Hair Caddis and the Klinkhammer Special. Yep, the fly is that good.
I met Dan at fund-raising event for St. Judes Hospital in Cottar, AR. Straight off the bat, you had to like the guy. He called it as he saw it, he was exceedingly generous for giving you some flies, and he was always puffing on a cigar. In every sense of the word, Dan was a character and for me, a good friend. I brought the DTTE back to Canada in 2004, and within two years those in the know were thumping serious numbers of trout on the fly.
Dan developed the DTTE in 1983 to imitate as he said, "the most vulnerable part of the midge life cycle - when it is emerging." To imitate 'dark midges,' the most common midges on the water, the colours in the fly are drab.
Dan tied the original fly with a noodle (twisted, not a loop) of cream Poly Dubbing for the wing, but most tiers use a small section of cream coloured Antron, as I did.
To fish a DTTE, cast it across the river and then pull it under the surface. You do not want the fly to float on the surface. It is an emerger. It has to be under the surface. Here's one thing that makes the DTTE unique, and I have never seen this happen with any other pattern. If you cast the fly at a rising fish, quite often the fly will drift past the spot where the fish was rising and you think the fish has refused the fly. Chances are, it has not. Most of the takes my clients get, happen when the fly is a foot or two downstream of the fish. The fish will actually turn down stream and whack the fly. It's bloody awesome!
Here's Dan Berry's original dressing for the fly.
When you hook a fish on it, please just say, "Thanks Dan."
Hook: TMC100 (1Ex fine, wide gap dry fly hook)
Sizes: #18 to #22
Rib: Some old 6X tippet
Abdomen: Three turkey tail fibers tied in by the tips
Thorax: One strand of bronze peacock herl from the eye
Wing: Cream coloured Fly-Rite Poly Dubbing, twisted into a noodle - not a loop
"Ian James is a very innovative creator of flies that really
catch fish." ..‘Copper John,’
John Barr, Colorado, USA.
"Ian presented a talk "Fly Fishing Unplugged"
at the Loaves and Fishes Seminar Series sponsored by the Institute
of Ichthyology, University of Guelph, in March 2008. He was
highly entertaining - great images of really big fish, good
fishing stories and bad jokes. Enjoyed by all!" ...
Patricia Wright, Professor, Department of Integrative Biology,
U of Guelph.
Colin James clearly captivated an audience of conservationists
with his very educational and often hilarious power point
presentation at London's Western Ontario Fish and Game Protective
Association. Addressing home town and South-western Ontario
hunters and anglers with examples of his deep appreciation
and caring for both local and international riverine resources
while encouraging everyone to actively challenge wasteful
and ecologically damaging projects like London's Springbank
dam was impressive indeed. Doing it in a funny and very effective
manner was priceless."...
Felix Barbetti, Vice Chair OFAH Fisheries Advisory Committee.
is one of the best fly fishermen in the world, without question.
His patterns are irresistible to the brown trout here in Arkansas.
As the coach of the USA Youth Team I'm a bit worried about Canada
having access to Ian's flies. They are almost an unfair advantage.”...
– John Wilson,
Coach, USA Youth Fly Fishing Team, 1997-2007.
USA Fly Fishing Team Member
Links to my flies
on the Orvis website:
Orvis ... Crunchy Caddis
Orvis ... Brass Ass
Orvis ... Smack em Spey
My flies and the Orvis Company
In 2008 the good folk at Orvis picked
up a few of my fly patterns, and they have been selling "rather well." Some of
you may have fished these patterns, and if you have, I am
asking you to take a minute or two out of your busy day, or
when you are slacking off at work playing on the internet,
to post a review of the flies you have used. Note that I said,
"the flies you have used." Only review the patterns
you have fished with.
Now the Smack em Spey pattern is interesting.
If you have fished with me and we were using streamers, there
is a very good chance that you fished this pattern, but you
may not have known that at the time. If you have any doubts,
let me know and I will get it sorted out for you.
If you have fished with me on the Grand River
for brown trout or smallmouth bass, you have fished the brass
ass and the crunchy caddis. Similarly if you have been out
steelheading with me, at some point you used the crunchy caddis.
If you have been out fishing smallmouth bass, sheephead or
carp with me, then you used the crunchy caddis ... for sure
A testimonial from a Welshman from Australia to a Scot in Canada??
"Beaut day on Grand River with Ian, learnt his system of covering the whole river (very efficient & effective.) I will definitely be using it when I get back to Aussi. Improved my casting heaps and you also tie great flies. God bless yer cotton sox."...
Glyn, Snowy Mountains, Australia
... "Whether you're just starting out or already an experienced angler, time on the water with Ian will prove invaluable. He's very much like the flies he produces. You'll get doses of wit and wisdom while getting straight to the point (barbless of course). But most importantly, he'll show you how to cover water effectively and efficiently without any guess work."...
Roland Start, Toronto
... “Ian has
shown innovation, dedication, and excellence in the delivery
in this one of a kind course. This course has set the benchmark
for other similar courses due to the attention paid to environmental
concerns in addition to aspects of the sport itself. Individuals
expecting another “how to” course will be pleasantly
surprised. The Instructional Feedback Survey results for this
course are some of the highest ever obtained within my school
and are a testimony to Ian’s knowledge of the sport as
well as his delivery.”...
Dr. John Makaran, Chair, School of Applied Science and Technology,
College Teaching Award
... "The President’s Distinguished Part-Time Teacher
Award is presented to encourage and recognize excellence in
teaching and is based on student rapport and teaching ability.
I was very pleased to present this award to Ian Colin James
at the Fanshawe Employee Appreciation Event on October 19,
2010. Ian teaches The Freshwater Environment course, an Introduction
Through Fly Fishing, in the School of Applied Science and
Technology at Fanshawe College. Ian has the ability to deliver
challenging course material in an enjoyable way, and, for
that, Ian’s students consistently regard him as a great
teacher. We are pleased to have Ian on our staff." ...
Dr. Howard Rundle. President, Fanshawe College, London, Ontario
False Casting - There is hope
We've all seen them. We've seen them when we are trout fishing. We've seen them when we are carp fishing, and yes, we have seen them when we are fishing for smallmouth bass. 'The False Caster.'
And while it they may look like they have stepped out of a scene from A River Runs Through It - or they are merrily swatting away at a swarm of invisible angry bees - it's not a pretty sight. But there is hope. Therapy may never get those images out of your mind but you can help your fellow angler.
The constant "whooshing" made by a False Caster is nothing short of an environmental disaster. It will drive woodland creatures from their homes, and in a panic they head straight onto the nearest road, where we have all seen the carnage. Then again, perhaps they just wanted to end it and found sanctuary under the wheels of a speeding SUV driven by some jerk who was texting a the time of impact. We'll never know.
Can the decline in the song bird populations be traced back to an increased level of false cast whooshing on the river? I think so. How can the birds find a mate if they can't hear each other twittering away above the noise levels made by a false caster? And if anyone out there want's to give me a $5.6 million dollar grant to do the research, I'm sure I'll come up with something and probably stay just inside the budget.
When you encounter a False Caster, resist the temptation to stick forks in your eyes, or the primaeval urge to drop an engine block on the guy from the lower branches of the nearest willow tree. There is hope. Please, in the interest of helping out your fellow fly fisherman - and to preserve the dwindling populations of wildlife and song birds - engage the angler.
Gently tap him on the shoulder, flip on your cell phone and lead him through the vastness of cyberspace to my tune up page. He may not thank you at the time, he may tell you to sod-off, he may ask you to stand under a willow tree until he returns from a trip to the nearest auto wrecker, but you will have done your part. You will have given him the first step to making him a better fly fisherman and with that you can rest easy in your bed, or toddle off for a donut. Because at the end of the day it's all about the donuts, preserving wildlife and keeping the river free from the constant whooshing of the False Caster...
This is a Redhorse - they eat bugs.
Right you lot! I always get a whack-o-emails asking for nymph fishing pointers. Call it what you want - C.Z. Nymphing, Polish Nymphing, French Nymphing, Scottish Nymphing, Tibetan Nymphing, High Sticking, Low Sticking, Long Lining or Short Lining - it's all always the same thing. It's always about getting the fly down to the riverbed - where the fish hang out - and keeping in touch with the fly so that you can feel the fish take the fly. What's this got to do with redhorse? Lots!
Here in Ontario there are five different flavors of redhorse - well, six if you count their uncle Louie who makes the occasional visit from Alabama. Unlike brown trout and rainbow trout, redhorse are a native species. They have never been stocked. They are a truly wild fish and they can be super hard to catch. No easy-peasy trout hatchery pellets for these lads. They are 100% wild and they have been living off the land since the day they hatched. Above all else, they can detect a bit of fluorocarbon as soon as you take it out of the trunk of the car in the parking lot, yet alone when you drift it in front of them. And, they are super spooky.
Redhorse love to eat midges, caddis, mayflies, scuds, stoneflies, sowbugs and even small crayfish, which is kind of funny, because those are the sort of items which pop up on the menu of trout. They kicker being, redhorse are much harder to catch on a flyrod than brown trout or rainbow trout.
Redhorse have adapted for hoovering stuff off the riverbed - take a look at the mouth of the fish in the photo - but they will also whack emergers, wet flies and even... wait for it ... dry flies from the surface.
So, boys and girls, if you want to catch trout, figure out how to nymph for redhorse. Tip: Be stealthy and use small flies on 6X tippets. In the long run you will find trout are much easier to catch, if you can consistantly hook redhorse. Nuff said.