Fly fishing in Ottawa for bass was a new experience because a) I usually do not fish close to cities and b) it was a totally new target fish. Read what I learnt!
Introduction to fly fishing in Ottawa Canada
Due to research in July, I found myself in the capital of Canada: Ottawa.
Ottawa is neither widely known as the capital, nor for any remarkable fishing. However, I was amazed about the fly fishing opportunity just outside the city. Within a 15 min drive from downtown Ottawa, you can be on the flats.
The license can be easily obtained online here. Interestingly, you can chose between a sport and a conservation fishing license and the latter is cheaper, but requires the angler to put more fish back (see here).
There was serendipity involved that the brother of a friend in Toronto, of a friend, of my fishing buddy André lives in Ottawa and was willing to take me fishing. Sion and I had a blast fishing on the flats of Ottawa for bass who viciously smashed our flies.
5 Tips for Fly Fishing for Bass
1 The early bird catches the worm
Sion and I met at 6 am in front of my hostel and the fishing in the early morning hours was outstanding! Given that the summer has kicked in in Ottawa, bass prefer to be in the shallower places during the cooler hours at dusk and dawn. During the day they tend to leave the warm water and go into deeper parts of the river. In the morning, the water temperature of the Ottawa river was about 20 degrees Celsius and rose to over 24 by midday. Hence, we waded in bathing shorts and sandals – like on the flats.
2 Pocket Water
Amazed by where bass hide, I realised soon that it is not necessary to cast a fly very far. Bass are prone to hide close to structure and on small underwater hills. Sion used his Tenkara rod for the first time and outfished me at the beginning.
3 Pause while retrieving
It took me a while to figure out this woolly bugger thing. I usually only fish dries or nymphs, so streamers were another level. At the beginning, I switched between a slow and a fast retrieve but soon realised that they take the fly after a longer pause. Play with it.
4 Try a foam bug, black woolly bugger or royal coachmen wet fly
While Sion used a Royal Coachmen wet fly the entire morning, I changed from the black woolly bugger to a foam bug as soon as I saw a rising fish, and man, they smashed it! The takes were amazing and the bass give one hell of a fight. After an hour or so, I changed back to the woolly bugger but did not have that much success anymore. Probably due to the heat around midday.
5 Keep tension, strike hard and keep tension again
While Sion caught fish straight from the beginning, I struggled at first. Whereas he used his Tenkara rod, I fished a conventional fly fishing rod with reel. Perhaps it had to do with me not having enough tension with the fly and I might have just missed some takes. Furthermore, I did not set the hook strong enough, so do not trout-set the hook and keep up the tension while fishing.
Summary about bass fly fishing in Ottawa
Fly fishing in Ottawa for bass with a local was amazing and we had a blast. Double hook-ups, great advice and lots of laughs made a memorable fishing day. Moreover, I learnt how to do the lip grip without hooking myself. This fishery is just 15 min outside of downtown Ottawa and should be definitely on your to do list when you are in Ottawa. However, I recommend you to not go alone, because there are some very strong currents and drop offs you should know about.