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
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
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
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
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
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
A few words about fishing
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
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.
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."
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
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.
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.
the Grand River