Let’s get straight to the point when it comes to Smallmouth Bass fishing in Northern Ontario, the shoulder seasons are where it’s at. In the spring, pre-spawn bass is aggressive and eager to take; and come to the end of summer/early fall, they’re hungry and laser-focused on bulking up for the winter. All of which can result in some truly explosive takes.
That being said, the opportunity for such epic fishing can come at a price… During these transitional seasons, there is the possibility of some absolutely gnarly weather. Especially in the late summer and early fall, the probability of experiencing cold fronts, heavy rains, and blustering winds is almost inevitable. However, if you’re willing to brave something elements, your efforts will be greatly rewarded.
This was the experience had by Colin McKeown and Tim Flagler during their early fall trip to Bruce Bay Cottages and Lighthouse, located in the town of Bruce Mines, Ontario. After years of not being able to fish together, this dynamic duo finally had to chance to spend some time on the water searching for smallies on the fly. What makes this trip especially exciting, is Tim’s goal of landing a personal best smallmouth bass larger than 2lbs. Lucky for Tim, this section of the Algoma region holds smallmouth bass fishing unlike any other area in Northern Ontario. For those looking to access the incredible fishery in this area while staying close to local amenities, Bruce Bay Cottages and Lighthouse is an excellent accommodation option.
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Located a convenient forty-five-minute drive from the city of Sault Ste. Marie and the International Bridge, Bruce Bay Cottages and Lighthouse is not only ideal in terms of its location but is steeped in a rich history that transports guests back in time. Built in 1907, the McKay Lighthouse is the only drive-to housekeeping lighthouse in all of Ontario. Boasting additional 8-waterfront cabins, Bruce Bay Cottages and Lighthouse is known for its breathtaking view of Lake Huron.
For their first day of fishing, Tim and Colin wasted no time hitting the water, knowing it would take some trial and error to crack the code of what these early fall bass were keyed into at the moment, where they’d be holding and what they’d eaten. After a morning of no luck searching the shore, Colin and Tim’s hard work was finally rewarded when they spotted seagulls where smelt had been pushed above 10 feet in the water column. Tim caught their first massive smallmouth bass on a drifted and retrieved fly! After only landing a few more fish throughout the day, the boys headed in, with high hopes the weather would be better for the remainder of the week.
Unfortunately, the second day on the water brought more stormy weather. Lucky for Colin and Tim they were joined by guide and friend Adam Vallee, of Angling Algoma. Adam’s knowledge of this area was crucial to potential success on this second day, as much of the region was getting hit with heavy rain and high winds. Adam took Colin and Tim to a lake located a short drive from the town of Elliot Lake; however, despite their best efforts to avoid the weather system, conditions were tough. As any angler knows, we are all at the mercy of mother nature! Luckily, with Adam’s suggestion to switch to topwater poppers, the guys were able to land some incredible smallmouth bass!
On this trip, Colin and Tim were primarily using nine-foot, five and six-weight rods, matched with either floating line or intermediate line, depending on where they were fishing within the water column. In terms of flies, they had great success with both streamers and topwater poppers. The favourite streamers of the trip include the Bronzed Goddess and Scotty McFly. Due to the overcast conditions throughout the week, Colin and Tim found the most success with dark green poppers. Had the conditions been sunny, they would have used brighter colours, such as yellow, orange, or chartreuse.
As the week wore on, the weather began to improve, as it often does in the late summer season, and the high sun and warmer temperature (in addition to Adam’s expert guidance) allowed Colin and Tim to really experience the monster smallmouth bass success they’d hoped for this trip. Even amidst the tumultuous weather, there’s something to be said about the bond of friendship that comes from time spent together on the water…. The monster smallmouth bass is just the cherry on top.