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Brook Trout of the Taiga

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Brook Trout of the Taiga

Great fishing waits in front of the outpost camp along the Asheweig River. • Credit: Mike Borger

Fishing Northwestern Ontario's Hidden Gem of Brook Trout

Ontario’s Asheweig River is a large tributary of the legendary Winisk River. It flows northeasterly through hundreds of kilometres of unbroken forest before finally spilling into the Winisk. The landscape is dominated by large glacially carved lakes, an area that’s almost more water than land. It’s a wild river with a steep gradient and churning waters and its river-bred brook trout have adapted perfectly. Thick and muscular with dark backs and flaming orange bellies, they are symbolic of this rugged landscape.

trophy Brook trout grow in northern Ontario’s Asheweig River.
Trophy brook trout grow in northern Ontario’s Asheweig River.

The remote native community of Kasabonika Lake lies in the heart of this colossal watershed. Back in 2002, the Oji-Cree natives from Kasabonika built a sport fishing camp on a small widening of the river called Straight Lake, roughly 70 km east of the village. They put a handful of groups through the camp before it lay unused for years. Fast forward to July 2014, when photographer Bill Marzana and I visited the camp to promote its grand reopening.

After flying into camp in a Beaver float plane, we were in the capable hands of local native guide Leon Beardy for the next week. Upon our arrival we spent some time settling in, then Leon and I watched from the cabin porch as Bill started things off. There’s a narrow chute of swift water directly in front of the cabin, and Marzana set the hook into a beautifully coloured 3-pound male brook trout right in front of us. It was the first of many trophy brookies caught during our visit.

Leon would skillfully manoeuvre the 16-foot aluminum boat and 25-horsepower outboard through the rapids upstream and downstream from the camp. In most cases we’d beach the boat and hop out in our waders to cast from shore. We caught trout everywhere. Not only were they abundant, they hit our offerings with unabashed enthusiasm. One memorable day we fished downstream from camp below Howling Falls. We walked a trail around violent rapids to a picture-perfect pool below the falls and found brook trout heaven. For three straight hours Bill and I hooked trout after trout, several pushing five pounds.

The Asheweig is truly one of this province’s hidden gems. It’s primitive country -- grand and untamed. From a brook trout angler’s perspective, it’s paradise.

we fished the rapids upstream and downstream of the camp for trophy Brook trout on northern Ontario’s Asheweig River
We fished the rapids upstream and downstream of the camp for trophy brook trout on Northern Ontario’s Asheweig River.

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