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Tackling Algonquin's Meanest Link

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Tackling Algonquin's Meanest Link

A fine brace of brook trout caught from Ontario’s Algonquin Park. • Credit: Kevin Callan

And Catching Trout with Every Cast

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I’ve paddled and fished a lot of Algonquin. Since boyhood, I've made an annual pilgrimage, casting for brookies in the deep pools of rivers like the Nippissing and the Tim, and trolling for lakers in the depths of Merchant, Happy Isle, Burntroot and Hogan. But one place I had never cast a line or paddled a canoe in was the lower Crow River.

This legendary stretch of water, between Lake Lavielle and the Petewawa River, had been on my list every since I read the classic book “The Incomplete Angler” by John D. Robins. It tells of two anglers on a canoe/fishing trip in Algonquin in 1943, and it was the lower Crow where they caught most of their fish.

The opportunity to explore this section of waterway came this June when my regular canoemate, Andy Baxter, and I decided to take on Algonquin’s Meanest Link -- a 20 day trip that consists of 93 portages, totaling 68 km. The route is the brainchild of the staff at Algonquin Outfitters as a way to motivate their staff to get more bush time.

Algonquin's Meanest Link Map

View The Meanest Link Canoe Route in a larger map

It was an insane trip and I’m not sure why Andy and I attempted it. It may have something to do with he and I approaching the 50 year mark, and we may have used it as an excuse to spend a good amount of time in one of our favorite parks before age began to slow us down.

The most difficult section of the route was the first 4 days, paddling up the Big East River. I’ll never do that again. Our favorite, however, was the Crow River. I’d definitely do that stretch again, mainly because of the incredible brook trout fishing.

I didn’t expect the angling to equal that of Robin’s book. I’ve come to realize over the years that the fishing in the park has declined  somewhat. But there, it hadn't. Every hole held a trophy trout. During one memorable lunch stop I cast nine times from an interior campsite and caught eight brook trout, all well over two pounds. Amazing.

Brooktrout cooking over the fire in south-central Ontario’s Algonquin Park.
(Photo credit: Kevin Callan)
author ready to dine on freshly caught Brooktrout from south-central Ontario’s Algonquin Park
(Photo credit: Kevin Callan)

So why is the Crow still teeming with fish? Simple. It still holds that one thing that keeps trout populations healthy -- it’s extremely difficult to get to.

Of course, you don’t have to complete the Algonquin’s Meanest Link to fish the Crow. But you do have to paddle the interior of Algonquin for at least 5 or 6 days.

One possible put-in is at Wendigo Lake. From there you paddle down the Petawawa River where the Crow flushes down Blueberry Falls, and then paddle upstream. Or you could go with the current by starting at Lake Opeongo and portaging into Lake Lavielle -- another true Algonquin gem. Either way you’re looking at lots and lots of portaging. 

The payback, however, is dreamlike. You get to paddle a remote stretch of accessible south-central Ontario wilderness that has changed little over the years. It’s a trip made up of solitude, incredible scenery and a good chance to go back in time and hook into a trophy brook trout. You couldn’t ask for anything better.

Want to experience a trip like this? Visit Algonquin Outfitters or Go Fish in Ontario website for more packages.

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