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Esnagami Walleye on the Fly

• Credit: So Fly Crew
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Esnagami Walleye on the Fly

Walleye are Ontario’s most prized gamefish, adored by anglers around the province and beyond.



Toothy. Golden. Feisty. Mysterious. Walleye are fish wrapped in allure and charm. They’re arguably Ontario’s most prized gamefish, adored by anglers around the province and beyond. Whether you’re a gear angler or a fly flinger, you’ve likely had some spectacular moments with these flashy fish. If you love them, you get what I’m saying. If you’re ‘meh’ on these monsters, keep reading. I’m hoping this article will make you think twice about Ontario’s very own majestic walleye. And walleye on the fly? Oh, you better believe it, baby.

My favourite place to chase walleye on the fly is in Algoma Country at Esnagami Wilderness Lodge. Esnagami Lodge is aptly named because it’s on, Esnagami Lake. It’s the only lodge on the lake, and the owner Eric Lund runs and encourages a catch and release program for the fishery. When Eric bought the lodge over thirty years ago, the walleye fishing was great, but he decided to create a rewards program to encourage anglers to release reproducing fish. This rewards program made guests heroes, marking down their biggest catch, rewarding them with a trophy program t-shirt, and even entering them into winning a free trip back. It worked wonders for the fishery. It's a classic win-win situation and Eric saw the number of walleye in the lake explode.

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When I took my first trip to the lodge with the So Fly fishing podcast, Eric took us out for our first fish and intro to the lake. Within minutes, literal hordes of 14” to 20” walleye were chasing my fly as I retrieved it to the boat. I could see these golden, beautiful, northern walleyes rise from the shadows of the lake bottom to peek at my bait. I simply could not believe the amount of fish in this spot. And I asked Eric, “Is this some sort of magic walleye spot?” “Magic walleye spot?”, questioned Eric. “The whole lake is a magic walleye spot.” Eric laughed and kept fishing. Days later, I believed him, after spending hours all over this massive lake catching walleye in pretty well every spot.

THE GEAR

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You’d think you’d need deep sinking lines and heavy flies, and, it certainly helps in certain spots. Depending on the conditions and where you are on the lake, however, you can catch walleye just below the surface, and even ON the surface – more to come on that soon. Typically I would fish these walleye with a full sink line, and a skull-headed minnow. Cast out, drift, and slowly retrieve your fly, covering water as you drift and trying to pass over shoals, humps, or structures. This technique produced dozens of fish per hour. Nice fish too, 20” to 25” isn’t uncommon.

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WALLEYE ON POPPERS

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There’s a beautiful waterfall located on the lake the guides will take you on day one. The fishing at this location on this remote, fly-in-only lake is exceptional. Seriously the best fishing spot I might have ever experienced in my life. We’re talking stacks of walleye, pike (and some big boys) and even (though very rare) a lost brook trout. Brook trout can be found in the river, and in some neighbouring lakes, but they have been known to make their way to the falls from time to time.

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But we were fishing walleye and pike at the falls, as they’re in abundance. At one point, my friend and co-host Aldo pushed me to toss on a popper. I never thought it’d work, until it REEAALLLLY worked. We caught one walleye every minute on the surface. These fish weren’t tiny either – around 14” to 16” per fish. They’d jump up, smash the fly and then dive back down. It was amazing. We sat there for about an hour catching fish after fish and laughing the day away.

YOU GOTTA TRY IT

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When it comes to catching walleye, I’m a believer. And on the fly? Sign me up. They’re a beautiful fish, can be found across the province, and deserve respect. Do yourself a favour and go catch yourself one of these amazing creatures. And at least once in your life, take a trip to Esnagami Lake. Your mind will seriously explode with happiness, that is if you love catching hundreds of amazing walleye.

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