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Fly Fishing the Far North

The Sutton River Trip can be booked through Hearst Air Service.

Happy anglers hoisting a Sutton River sea run brook trout. • Credit: James Smedley


I've always wondered if it would be possible to tire of catching brook trout on a fly. It's never happened and I strongly suspect it never will but, as an insatiable trout angler, it's fun trying. And if there's any place to overdose on big brookies it's the far north's Sutton River: fabled trout waters flowing 100 km from Hawley Lake north to Hudson Bay.

freighter canoe Travel along the Sutton River is by freighter canoe. (Photo credit: James Smedley)

After flying hundreds of miles north to the headwaters of the Sutton, I board a freighter canoe with Cree guide Xavier Chookomoolin and a trio of anglers from Maine for a four-hour downstream run to a shoreline base camp central to the Sutton's best water. We remain at the pine-shrouded tent camp long enough to stash our gear and rig rods before climbing back into the big wood and canvas canoe.

Sutton River can be found in Ontario's Far North

Chookomoolin lands along a grassy bank point to a series of gravel riffles emptying into darkening pools and says, "fish here". I tie on a Joe's Hopper and let it dead drift with the current. Just as it enters the darkening water at the head of a shallow pool a three-pound brook trout is airborne. I let out an involuntary yelp as it crashes down on my fly. It's several minutes before I tail the bespeckled creature and pop out the barbless hook.

brook trout fishing Two- to 5-pound brook trout are common for fly anglers in the far north’s Sutton River. (Photo credit: James Smedley)

It's the first in a procession of brazen trout that club my fly with reckless abandon and indicative of the next four days fishing this definitive trout stream. Shores of grass, sand, rock and pine funnel clear water through shallow riffles, swift runs and deep swirling pools. Legions of two to 5-pound brook trout are everywhere they should be, displaying aggression and naivety that transforms the novice fly angler to expert.

evening campfire Evening around the fire at the base camp along the far north’s Sutton River. (Photo credit: James Smedley)

As expected I never tire of catching brook trout on a fly but I do reach a level of contentment that allows me to put down my rod and relax along the riverbank without worrying about catching another fish. This is indeed a rare occurrence, a sign of true angling satisfaction, as rare and precious as the Sutton River.

For information on visiting Sutton River, please contact Hearst Air Service Limited.


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