Border country steelhead fishing: To Nipigon, Ontario… and beyond!

Rob DriesleinShawn Perich caught and released this steelhead from a Canadian Lake Superior tributary last week.Just returned from a whirlwind two days, from the Twin Cities to the northernmost point on Lake Superior and back again. Shawn Perich invited me up for steelheading this spring, and we planned my visit for early April. Got sidetracked with a nasty illness, but two weeks later, I called Perich from the road and declared, “I’m on my way.”

Last Wednesday evening, we fished for steelhead in the Devil Track River, just five miles up the North Shore from Grand Marais. No strikes for us, but the existence of the narrow canyon through which this river winds would amaze most Minnesotans. Its steep walls look like they belong somewhere in the northern Rockies, not five hours from my Twin Cities office. This river produced the state record steelhead for Scott Thorpe on April 27, 1980.

We awoke Thursday to fresh snow and 20-degree temperatures, and – passports in hand – immediately headed north and east to the Canada border crossing at Pigeon River. After passing through Thunder Bay, we’d eventually fish three remarkable Lake Superior tributaries, including the Gravel River on nearly the northernmost point of the big lake.

Perich played two fish, including one beauty of a rainbow to hand during the day, but the cold front moving across the region probably didn’t help the bite. My lone fish was my first coaster brook trout. The true native wasn’t big, but at least I didn’t get skunked.

Perich asked me to work on my snell-tying skills, because the dominant steelhead technique on the North Shore employs a simple yarn fly. Losing several hooks and sinkers to the rocky river bottoms, I became reasonably adept at tying yarn flies during our trip. You can learn how to tie a Lake Superior-style snelled yarn fly here.

A cold front probably didn't help the bite, but just accessing the rivers and enjoying the marvelous scenery provided ample action throughout the day.Perich battles another Canadian steelhead late in the afternoon on Thursday, April 26.The terrain across the Canadian North Shore is nothing short of amazing. The elevation on islands like St. Ignace and the Sibley Peninsula provides spectacular vistas and scenery that most people probably have no clue exists in this part of the world. My family drove around Lake Superior in the mid-1980s, but I hadn’t been back to the Canadian portion since. Amazing country.

Driving all night Thursday to return to work Friday (thank you “5-hour Energy”), the trip definitely qualified as a whirlwind. Here’s hoping I can return soon, and catch and release a steelhead or two during my next trip north of the border.

Categories: Rob Drieslein

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