As my fly line curls out over the water of the Grand River to settle gently on the surface and float enticingly through a pool edged by limestone cliffs, it’s easy to forget that I’m fishing a stone’s throw from thriving farms and culturally rich communities like Fergus and Elora. The trout waters of the Grand River are a ribbon of natural beauty in an equally wonderful rural and small town landscape.
My contemplation of this fortunate intermingling of nature and culture is cut short by the sight of a brown trout arching back into the water where my fly use to be. Hyper-focused now, I lift my rod quickly and set the hook. I’m immediately rewarded by an answering tug that is exciting, but, in its strength, also causes me to fleetingly question whether my skill and equipment will be up to the challenge. I concentrate on keeping the line tight as the trout slices back and forth through the water in head–shaking runs before sounding for the depths. Gradually I gain on the fish, playing it off the reel and after a few minutes it is brought to hand. Without taking it from the water I snap a few pictures as I admire the trout’s brown back, yellowish lower sides, and profusion of black and yellow spots along its flanks. Then I quickly retrieve my fly from the corner of the fish’s mouth and the brown trout departs with a flick of its tail.
The trout fishery on the Grand River is a tailwater fishery in that the colder water required by trout comes courtesy of the Shand Dam discharge in Bellwood Lake Conservation Area upstream of Fergus. The trout waters extend from the Shand Dam downstream to the historic West Montrose Covered Bridge. Although some natural reproduction is occurring, the brown trout populations are supplemented each year through stocking by groups like the Friends of the Grand River in co-operation with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Abundant aquatic insect life provides the trout with lot of food and the trout grow to impressive size, which is why the trout waters of the Grand are world famous and attract anglers from the U.S. and other countries.
At the end of a day of fly fishing the Grand River, the intermingling of nature and culture that is so wonderfully characteristic of this area of Southern Ontario will pay dividends in that great restaurants, pubs, and bed and breakfasts will be close at hand. Many of those establishments are housed in buildings constructed of the same limestone that harbours big brown trout in Grand style.