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Fly Fishing in Canada's Capital City

Fly Fishing in Canada's Capital City

Colin McKeown tackles the Nation’s Capital with guide Jamie Pristilli



Ottawa is well known as the capital of Canada. Situated on the banks of the mighty Ottawa River, which is also the border with the province of Quebec, the capital city has a population of just under a million people. This quaint city of popular sights and festivals is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. Yet many do not realize that the Ottawa area is also famous for fishing! Musky, bass, trout, and even giant garpike! The region is surrounded by hundreds of lakes and numerous rivers and streams, most with full public access. But how do you find the right place to go fly fishing for the species you want?

The best idea to make the most of your fishing time when visiting Ottawa is to hire a guide, and one of the best is Jamie Pistilli! Jamie owns Rising Sun Charters and can take any type of angler to the type of fishing they want. Jamie has been fishing this region his whole life and understands where the best fishing is based on season, water conditions, and species. Best of all, Jamie has his own truck and boat, so he can come pick you up and take you to the fishing you want.

Like me, Jamie has a love of catching both smallmouth bass and musky on a fly. For our first adventure, he picked me up in his truck with boat in tow and we headed to the Madawaska River to search for musky. It was early morning in July and conditions were ideal—overcast and slightly rainy. After launching in his boat, he took us to some structure and began casting large streamers.

We used nine weight rods coupled with sinktip lines. This helped us cast the large flies and get them down 4-8 feet in the water column. It did not take long before we connected with our first musky, a “small” one of 42 inches. After some time, we moved to several defined cabbage beds of long weeds and worked the edges. Surprisingly, we caught a few good-sized largemouth bass using eight inch streamers. After many casts, something you expect to do with musky, we connected with another nice fish on a weedy hump in the middle of the river. The musky was holding behind the hump, just out of the current, waiting to ambush passing baitfish. After a few minutes of jumps and runs, we boated the fish…. a nice 41-inch specimen. After that fish, we decided to go in for lunch and discuss what we would do with the rest of the day.

After a great hamburger at a local eatery, we decided to do some smallmouth bass fishing on a nearby river. We parked the truck and boat, slipped into our waders and began casting poppers along likely looking structure. Ottawa has many good walk and wade rivers available that possess good numbers of smallmouth bass. It didn’t take long before we both started connecting with smallies in the 2- to 4-pound range. Yellow poppers produced well but as the light started to fade, we had to switch to dark green or black poppers to ensure success.

As we enjoyed the evening, casting and wading, Jamie told me that many of his customers come from all over the USA and internationally. From famous hockey players to rock band members, Jamie has had the pleasure of meeting some really interesting anglers. Most had come to the Ottawa region for either business or pleasure, and were pleasantly surprised that great fishing could be had so easily. Of course, the key to success is having a competent guide like Jamie to direct you to the right waters to catch the species you want. With so much water surrounding and even running through Ottawa, finding the right location can be daunting. But that is why it is smart to hire someone like Jamie to help you make the most of your fishing time.

After it became too dark to fish, we got off the river and headed to a popular local pub that has its own brewery to enjoy a nice feed of fish & chips coupled with delicious IPA ale! If you’re coming to Ottawa, whether as a tourist or for business, I strongly recommend you contact Jamie to arrange a fishing trip. Whether for an evening or several days, Jamie can help get you to the best fishing. Fly fishing or conventional tackle, musky or trout—he can get you to some great fishing and help your time in Ottawa memorable.

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