27 Years of Grand River guiding
There are many fly fishing guides giving casting lessons and fly fishing instruction on the Grand River. I was the first full time, professional guide on the river. I began guiding on the Grand River in 1985 and I have been at it ever since. This is what I do. I don't drive a bus or operate a lathe, only to "become a guide" on weekends or whenever I can rustle up some free time.

I started fly fishing on the Grand River in 1980 the year I enrolled at the University of Guelph. This was years before the Grand River became an Ontario destination fishery. Back then, the river held a resident Rainbow Trout population with fish to 6 pounds, and was fished by a handful of fly fishermen. It was possible to spend a whole weekend on the river and not see another angler. Those days, like the Rainbow Trout are long gone.

The Grand River is a fine spot for teaching beginners how to flyfish. It has easy access, most of it is safe to wade, and it has lots of stocked Brown Trout - some of which get to be quite big. I have personaly seen Brown Trout in the 30-inch range and two which were bigger, plus I know a few other reputable guides who have seen the same. The Grand River is only an hour-and-a-bit drive from both Toronto and London, Ontario.

It's all about finding fish
Or is it? For me, guiding is much more than just finding fish, tying on the right fish-catching fly, well hopefully it's the right fish-catching fly, and pointing out where you should cast the fly. I have always believed that by the end of the day a good guide should have shown you a few fishing tricks you may not have known about and they should have measurably improved your casting skills. They should have passed on to you some of the older tried and tested fishing techniques and been able to explain to you the latest and greatest fly fishing fads. Above all, a good guide should have improved your ability to find fish by teaching you how to read the water correctly.

The Grand River is popular
Due to its popularity, fishing the Grand River on a weekend can be as much fun as pulling nails with your teeth. If you are looking for "a wee bit of seclusion" during your day on the river, try to stay well clear on a Saturday or a Sunday. Actually, watching anglers on a weekend can produce superb entertainment. Don't forget to pick up some donuts and a coffee on your way there, and make sure you take a fold out chair with you. It's all about keeping comfortable.

If you want some peace and quiet, a week day on the Grand River is a much safer bet. Or, you could look at going after another species of fish on a troutless section of the river. If you want to fish on a weekend there is a good chance I can probably find a spot which is not too busy.

It's not just cute little trout
Grand River Carp
The Grand River has some fantastic areas for fishing carp and pike. Most anglers walk right past these locations in a headlong rush to find "trouty looking" water. For much of the season it is tough to beat a Pheasant Tail Nymph or any of the Mayfly Nymph patterns you use for trout. Don't feel bad if you find a pod of carp and you can't get them to take your fly. These fish see a whack of anglers - and flies - and they are more selective than Brown Trout.

Grand River Pike.
If you are going to go after pike, a big Mickey Finn, White Zonker or a Dexter should be the only three patterns you need. Use an 8 to 10 foot leader of 20lb Fireline, and you will do just fine.

You will need: Gear and flies
From the third week of the season to the last week of the season I prefer to wet wade when fishing the Grand River. Now this method is not for everyone, however you should give it a try but pack a pair of light weight breathable waders just in case you find that wet wading is a bit chilly. Felt sole boots are handy to have as are boots with those studs in the sole which sound "crunchy" when you are walking on gravel. In the summer there can be a significant algae growth on the rocks in the Grand River, so studded boots can help you from taking a spill.

Most of the time a 4-weight rod with a floating line will do the job for you on the Grand River. There are anglers who will drop down to a 3-weight or even a 2-weight, but a 4-weight is fine.

A few words about fishing flies.
You can bring your own and try them out, or you can use the flies I have. Simple as that. If you bust off one of my flies, don't worry about it, they are disposable. In fact when I guide, I am quite happy when folk start busting flies off on the river bed as that is where fish like to hang out and feed. Don't worry about having the right fly or matching the hatch. Depending on the weather conditions, the 'hot fly' varies quite a bit. I guarantee you, the fly you will be casting is the one you need. During the season, I guide on the Grand River for well over 50 hours per week, which gives me a good idea as to what flies are required.

Grand River bugs
The Brown Drake mayfly pictured on the right is one of the many species of insects found on the Grand River. This is the right-handed Brown Drake as it is sitting on someone's right hand. Most anglers fail to realize that there are right-handed and left-handed mayflies. If you look closely at them, on the right-handed mayfly the body segments spiral from right to left; however on the left-handed mayfly, the body segments spiral from left to right. If you are tying flies for use in the Grand River, you should spiral the ribbing material clockwise on some flies and counter clockwise on some other flies to imitate these differences in the natural insects.

When fishing subsurface (i.e. "underwater"), if you are worried about being able to identify right-handed mayfly nymphs from left-handed mayfly nymphs, it's not that hard to figure out. Facing upstream, the right-handed nymphs will be on the right side of the river while the left-handed nymphs will be on the left side of the river. Nymphs which are undecided or sitting on the fence, can be found in the middle of the river. When they hatch, none of the experts are sure whether or not right-handed mayflies will breed with left-handed mayflies, or in fact if left-handed mayflies will breed with right-handed mayflies. However research from the Highland University in Scotland has proven that in Scottish mayflies are attracted to cans of tartan-coloured paint.

Note: When you hire me for a guided day on the river, you don't have to worry about stuff like this, as I will have it covered.

Brown Trout gone wild
Just when you think you have seen it all, something happens to make you say, "Wow!" Dr. Todd Duffield and several other veterinarians from the University of Guelph, plus my good self were out on the Grand River one day in May. Dr. Duffield hooked into a small stockie, pictured right, and as he was bringing it to hand, his fly rod bent to the cork. The first thing Dr. Duffield said was, "I think I just fished with bait." He was right.

The hooked fish was sending up swirls which looked like a small Honda had been dropped in the river, and as we all watched Dr. Duffield fighting the fish, the sentiment of the crowd was definitely on the side of the fish. A good 5 minutes into the scrap, we finally got a look at the fish, and, it was a monster. It was a kick in the butt shy of 10 pounds, it had "spots like golf balls" and the tail was about 12 to 18 inches wide. Actually the tail was only about 7 inches wide, but I put that in for effect.

In a heartbeat, as soon as the crowd realized how big the fish was, there was little doubt that they were all rooting for the fish. It's amazing how quickly a crowd mentality sets in. Well to cut a long story short, Dr. Duffield lost the fish after a 15 minute scrap. Sadly the stockie was "toast" and there were calls for the MNR to lay charges against the large fish because he hammered the stockie in a catch and release zone. Shows ya. For those of you who think that large Brown Trout do not have teeth, take a long look at the damage inflicted on the stockie. The fish was huge, it was in the 10 pound range, and it makes the case that catch and release sections in a watershed actually work. Who knew?

Dr. Tim Blackwell, the man who put his name onto the Blackwell's Baitfish said it best. "You know Todd ... had you been using a larger hook size like that of a Blackwell's Baitfish, I bet you would have been able to stick that fish of a life time and probably land it."

Grainy
Although the image on the right is a bit grainy, this is the last piece of photographic evidence showing Dr. Duffield fighting the monster Brown Trout on the Grand River. Note that he has the fish on the reel an essential tactic to use when playing a medium, large or extra large sized fish. As the fight was almost hand-to-fin combat with the fish keeping close, so Dr. Duffield did the right thing by raising the rod tip up as high as he could. By doing so, if the fish takes a long run, he can drop the tip to give the fish a "wee bit of slack" which keeps the fish attached to the fly, or in this case, a 7-inch stockie, during the initial 30 feet of the run.

 

Pointers for hiring Ian
I can provide all the gear for you, so all you need to do is show up, but the three items you must bring with you are:
1. Some form of eye protection. Sunglasses are fine.
2. A valid Ontario Fishing License.
3. Pack a lunch. Fishing I do, lunches I don't.

It's all about lunch
Bring your own lunch and eat it on the riverbank. I don't do lunch! The people I guide want to "learn" and they want to "fish." If you want to have a picnic with someone in the flowers and fauna on the bank ... look elsewhere. However, if you want to become a better fly fisherman, or you want to help someone become a better fly fisherman, let me give them a few pointers.

How to book a day
With the exception of falling off a log, nothing could be easier than booking a trip. All you need to do is send me an e-mail with a quick blurb to let me know when you would like to head out, and we can take it from there. If you can, please give me a few options on the date so that we can have a raincheck and a backup day built into the system.

Once we have set up a date, time and location for the trip to the river, the hard part is over with. As the day draws nearer, we will keep in touch by e-mail as conditions can vary and rivers which were fishable on Sunday, maybe up over the banks on Monday afternoon. Flexibility is the key and in southern Ontario we are lucky in that there is usually someplace which is safe to wade. I will also send you out a shot list, a very short list, of things you need to bring with you on your day out.

Two or three days before the day out, I will be in touch by phone and we will confirm the location and the start time. If the rivers are unsafe, we simply book another day.

Finally, on the day, you show up at the location and off we go. If you need gear I will have some extra stuff with me, just in case you forget something.

You should also note that in general the first two weeks of the season are a pain in the butt to fish as there can be a plethora of anglers sloshing around in the river, and the weather can be a bit on the tricky side. So, unless you absolutely must, without question have to fish during the first two weeks of the season, if I were you, I would look at picking another time slot.

On the water
Most fishermen begin around 9:00 am and finish around 4:00 pm. If you need to start later and finish up later, or start earlier and finish earlier, we can do that.

Rates: $350 to $450 per person per day.

E-mail: To the Grand River

... "The six-foot, 295-pound Scotsman is one of Canada's premier guides." ...
Gigi Suhanic, The National Post.