I’ve drifted Ontario’s Maitland River twice now with fishing guide Mike Verhoef, so when he invited me to do a drift down the Saugeen yesterday, I of course jumped at the chance. There’s nothing like sliding down a river perched up on a Clackacraft, taking in the wildlife and scenery, and fishing vast stretches of water without another soul in sight.
The added bonus to yesterday’s outing was the promise of catching chunky smallmouth bass on the fly, with the chance for a muskie thrown in for good measure—two items on my piscatorial bucket list. It turns out that when the province built Denny’s Dam near the rivermouth at Southampton in the late 1960s, a population of smallmouth and muskies became trapped upstream. While a fish ladder allows salmonid species to continue their runs, the bass and muskies have stayed put—and spawned. The result is a rather unique fishery during the low-water months of the summer, when the water is too warm for trout along this particular stretch.
The best part is, though, I knew Mike would put us on the fish. He owns and operates his own fishing adventure guiding service out of Benmiller, Fly Fitters. As such, he’s intimately familiar with practically every fish-holding area on the Saugeen and Maitland. And based on our previous two outings for steelhead on the Maitland, I knew we’d have a hoot.
We set out from the town of Paisley around 10 a.m. and in short order had our first fish in the boat. In all, we drifted nine hours, covering some 11 kilometres of water as we wended our way toward Lake Huron. When we finally pulled out on the west side of the Saugeen Bluffs Conservation Area, Mike and I had recorded more than 10 fine fish and one muskie bite-off (courtesy of my line). While we fly fished most of the time, I must admit to chucking a topwater now and again to give my arm a break, resulting in my biggest fish. The highlight, though, was definitely nailing my first smallmouth on the fly. Very cool.