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Brace Lake Outfitters

Brace Lake Outfitters

Brace Lake Outfitters

Experience the pristine beauty of Northern Ontario where the road ends. This is where the best fishing in Ontario begins!!!

An anglers paradise in Northern Ontario

I first visited Brace Lake Outfitters two years ago while shooting a television show. At the end of the trip, I promised myself I would be back. This was my second trip to visit this amazing place and its giant pike, and I am already planning a third! Brace Lake Outfitters has the whole package: the owners, Kyle and Terri Poloski, are very welcoming, the lodging is wonderful, and the fishing is outstanding.

During my first visit, we fished for giant pike over deep weed beds. It was the heat of summer and the big fish were all gathered around main lake structure, using the weeds as ambush points to attack their favorite meal of perch. I was excited and anxious this time around because I would be visiting the lake much earlier. Hopefully, the timing would be right for some incredible ice-out pike fishing, with big mamas in shallow water. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I packed different lines from floating to fast-sinking, and a huge selection of flies, from perch patterns to 10.5" chickens.

We left Thunder Bay for Nakina in the early afternoon. Getting to Nakina from Thunder Bay is just a short four-hour drive. The route takes you along the North shore of Lake Superior and also the southeast end of Nipigon. It’s always amazing to me to see the beauty of the land, and how serene the lakes are as summer approaches. All of the trees are coming into their leaves, and the dramatic cliffs seem to crash upward from a sea of green. No matter how many times I see the landscape, it's always striking. 

The typical routine is to arrive in Nakina during the evening and overnight at Pennock's Motel, hopping on a quick flight to the lake with Nakina Air Service the following morning. When we arrived at the dock, we weighed our gear and loaded into the Otter plane to Brace lake. Nakina Air Service are wonderful folks and I’ve always been treated well. The pilots are very experienced. In fact, I had the same pilot I had on my first trip to Brace a couple of years ago! Just as before, it was smooth sailing, and I enjoyed the bird’s eye view of the wilderness beneath us during the short 20-minute flight into Brace.

As usual, I had my camera out, recording the flight and snapping photos of the breathtaking landscape below. When you take off in that plane, you enter a land like no other, leaving all roads behind. The rugged country is truly wild, unique, and beckoning! I am so proud to live in this province; the experience always reminds me how lucky I am to have been born in Northern Ontario, a land that is still very much free and pure.

We were received by friendly smiles and helping hands as we stepped off the plane. Kyle came himself to load up our gear and take it up to the cabin where we would be staying. 

The fresh air immediately caught my senses! My ears filled with the sound of... nothing. Silence, solitude, and a feeling of freedom overtook me. I love it here!

We settled into our newly built cabin and arranged our fly fishing gear. An arsenal of pike flies overtook the kitchen table. Fly rods were put together and strung. Gear bags hogged the hallway. A typical look at a fishing camp! We weren’t too concerned with putting things in order and getting unpacked. Our cabin was located within 50 feet of the dock and we needed to wet a line immediately. We threw small, weighted leech pattern flies in the water on sinking lines, and it was not even a minute before I had a nice healthy walleye on the end of the line. I had to chuckle, the fishing was so good right off the dock... it was tempting to just hang out and fish there.

Although my true quarry was monster pike, throughout the week the walleye fishing was so tremendous they almost stole the show. Walleye and the fly can be a mysterious combination. They already have a reputation of being finicky and difficult to fool, so fly fishing for them sometimes garners strange looks from my fellow fisher folks! However, these Brace Lake walleye must not see many flies, because we couldn’t keep them off. They were so aggressive at times they would even take huge patterns designed to attract pike. I loved the fact that when I put on an 8" perch pattern pike fly, I would end up with a big walleye on the end. No complaints from me!

After a fishing session at the dock, we met up at the main lodge for coffee and a delicious full breakfast. It was still morning and the trip was already off to a fantastic start.

Eventually, we left the dock and ventured out in the very unique cedar strip boats. Kyle has them made custom and flown in. They are a joy to fish from – lightweight, stable and fast on plane. All of Kyle’s boats are equipped with well-maintained Mercury 20hp four-stroke outboard engines, and he tops off the gas every morning in case his guests get a wild hair and decide to run to one of the other lakes in the chain, although there is usually no reason to. Brace Lake is full of productive bays, points, weed beds, rockpiles, flats, and almost every other structure a fishing fanatic dreams of. And more importantly, that structure is full of hungry fish.

With that in mind, we idled away from the dock and shot off to look at some river inlets at the back of shallow bays, the perfect place to start our search for big spring pike. As soon as our flies were in the water, we were into fish – first some decent 30” rockets, then some beefier fish in the mid to upper 30s, and of course more walleye. I was smiling ear to ear! We fished the day away, and without a doubt, we had put over 50 pike in the boat, along with many bonus walleye. We found the top pattern to be a bright-coloured perch pattern about 8" long. We de-barbed the hooks to make releasing the fish easier.

For the first few days, this became our routine, and it was absolutely spoiling. I knew Brace Lake was amazing to fish, but it seemed to become even better the second time around. The only thing that was missing was the big mama. We were fishing hard all day but just couldn’t seem to find those bigger girls we were here for. It was time to go back to the drawing board and re-think our plan of attack.

We were catching a ton of small aggressive fish and a fair amount of decent-sized fish in the obvious spots; creek mouths and shallow bays. We decided that the bigger fish must be nearby, but possibly holding on structure adjacent to these areas. Our plan of attack was simple. We would fish the same general areas, but target the offshore structure rather than fishing the shallows. Kyle has been guiding the lake for eight seasons and was able to point out some spots where there were deep holes, emergent weeds, underwater humps, and rock piles that have a history of harboring giants. With this new knowledge, we were ready to go battle some monsters.

Fishing the deeper structure took a bit of patience. It is easy to get carried away with fishing shallow and hooking a fish every other cast, but as Kyle pointed out: “If you’re fishing for small pike, you aren’t going to catch big pike.” So, we committed ourselves to fishing thoroughly, making countless casts with different flies and lines, from the surface to the bottom, in search of a beast.

About two hours into the fourth day, we hooked our first giant in the narrows between Brace Lake and its sister lake Meta. The fish took a walleye pattern fly, fished deep on a full sink line, and pulled the boat around trying to free itself! The exhilarating fight, and of course the release – it was all so perfect. One of my favorite moments from hooking pike in deep water is that when you are fighting the fish and finally catch your first glimpse of it, as it rises from the depths like a giant alligator. It leaves me giddy and shaking every time.

We continued on our pattern of fishing holding and feeding zones in deeper water and hooked several memorable fish. The biggest pike of the trip came in the final hours of the last evening, in low light, in the middle of a terrific rainstorm. Talk about your monster movies! One thing to remember when you head up North in search of giant pike: come prepared for all weather conditions. The photos of our pike in the rain are memorable, and that time will not soon be forgotten.

Without a doubt, the last few pike of the trip were what Brace Lake is all about…Monster Pike! The fight, the exhilaration, the vicious take of the fly, and being able to see these creatures up close next to the boat are things many fly anglers daydream about. At Brace Lake, it is a reality. Kyle told me that more than 200 pike over 40" are landed by his guests every season, and with the catch and release policy, that number is getting larger (along with the pike).

Of course, our stay wasn’t all about cedar boats and giant pike. We made it a priority to slow down, relax, and enjoy the experience. It can be easy to get so caught up in the great fishing you forget where you are. The views around Brace Lake are stunning and truly worthy of parking the boat on a remote point or island and stopping for a nice shore lunch. Some of the best moments of the trip were not related to fishing at all, like feeling the wind in my hair as we raced across the open water, or falling asleep every night to the sweet lullaby of loons. To me, that is truly synonymous with Northern Ontario lake life. Living in the moment is what it’s all about.

Brace Lake will always hold a special place in my heart, and I highly recommend this fly-in only lodge to anyone looking for a true Northern experience. Head to Brace Lake Outfitters, and experience the pike fishing adventure of a lifetime.

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