In the heart of the hustle and bustle of Canada’s largest metropolitan city, there sits an oasis. A place where like-minded people congregate, visit, tell stories, laugh, and reminisce. It’s a place where, upon walking in, your shoulders drop and the stresses of everyday briefly disappears. Always met with the brightest of smiles, the people who frequent this place return regularly, not just to buy what is being sold, but to be a part of a community in a city that is often chastised for a population of anonymous people.
Three and a half years ago, Rob Cesta took a leap of faith and started Drift Outfitters in the most urban place one could ever imagine. That leap of faith was a good jump for Rob as business is booming, people are buying, and the growth of fly fishing in Southern Ontario is palpable. Though the fly shop is located in downtown Toronto, if you look at a map, it’s really in the perfect location for a fly shop. Perfect because of its access to the vast population of people who call Toronto and the surrounding burbs home. Also perfect because of the access to fantastic fishing, all within an hour’s drive of the shop.
There really are fly fishing opportunities all year long in Southern Ontario and depending on what you’re looking to catch, if the species seasons are open, you can have access. Fantastic resident trout streams dissect Southern Ontario. World class lake run salmon and rainbow trout (steelhead) migrate up great lakes tributaries in the fall and are fishable from September through to May. The Toronto Islands are home to a wide variety of species such pike, bass, and a fish quickly becoming a favourite to fly anglers, carp. So, the fact that Rob has chosen Queen Street as his shop location is perfect.
Guiding anglers is a burgeoning business for knowledgeable anglers who have experienced fishing the trout streams of Southern Ontario. There are some rivers that cut through private property, and many of the guides who work with Drift have the relationships and history with land owners to get access to less pressured waters. Drifting dry flies to unsuspecting rainbow, brown, and brook trout is idyllic in many of the tributaries surrounding Drift, and they are extremely accessible. Walk and wade opportunities abound on all tributaries, as do floats in a drift boats for bigger systems.
Still water angling in Ontario is equally available, having access to five of the six Great Lakes province-wide; four of those great lakes are in Southern Ontario. So really, Drift can service any fly angler looking to fish any species, anywhere. In moving water or still.
Outside of the physical act of fly fishing, Drift Outfitters works hard to maintain their sense of community. Regular fly-tying events )often sponsored by local breweries), movie nights, film festivals, and guest speakers are all part of their presence in Ontario’s fly-fishing community. Conservation initiatives such as “Take this Bag and Stuff It” (a contest working to clean up riverbanks), work supporting the Atlantic Salmon Federation and Trout Unlimited are just a few ways Drift gives back to the waters they fish.
Drift Outfitters is not your grandfather’s fly shop. All the people who work there are vested in promotion, conservation, and furthering the position of fly fishing as a sustainable, accessible, and affordable sport in which anyone can participate. Southern Ontario, though extremely populous, has wonderful fishing opportunities even in the heart of its cities. Drift Outfitters has their finger on the pulse of all things fishy, and are doing their part to maintain the sense of community they have built! It really is a breath of fresh air amongst the concrete and cars of the city.
Photos by: Gabriel Bizeau-Regis