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Northern Gems of Nipigon

Front porch relaxation at Quebec lodge • Credit: Rebekka Redd Fly Fishing
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Northern Gems of Nipigon

Nipigon River Adventures

Adventure travel in Ontario’s true north is what Nipigon River Adventures is all about. Your adventure package includes some of the most amazing adventures such as world-class fly fishing, kayaking, hiking, sailing and more.
Starting at $325

Just East of Thunder Bay is Quebec Lodge

In this article I cover a true Northern getaway, the Quebec lodge, and the fishing opportunities that are close by on Nipigon lake and river

Located 60 miles east of Thunder Bay, off hwy 11/17,  Quebec Lodge is nestled on a gorgeous wooded hillside with a spectacular vista of the world's largest freshwater lake, Lake Superior. In all of my travels, I have found few places that rival the clean air and historical views of Northern Ontario, and this location is one that I consider a gem of the North. In addition to the breathtaking scenery, it is situated in a fisherman's paradise. Not only is the lodge located within a stone's throw of Lake Superior, but it is only a short drive to Lake Nipigon and Nipigon River, two of the most productive fisheries in the entire province of Ontario.

The Nipigon River is 48 km (30 miles) long and 165 to 656 ft wide. The river drains Lake Nipigon into Nipigon Bay in Lake Superior, dropping from an elevation of 853 feet to 600 feet, and there are three hydro dams along the river which regulate the flow of the water. Its currents are deep and swift, and are home to some monstrous, hard fighting fish. Lake Nipigon is the largest inland lake in Ontario and is more than 1800 square miles of unspoiled water with hundreds of islands, bays, and inlets just begging to be explored.

Both fisheries offer the intrepid angler endless opportunity to target multitude of fish species, bursting with  big brook trout, walleye, lake run steelhead, lake trout, chinook salmon, white fish, and of course gargantuan pike.  

Big Lake, Big Fish

My quarry for this trip was to be the goliath gator, aka Northern pike.  A seemingly deep-rooted passion for me is to chase big pike on the fly. There is something heart-pounding and thrilling about fooling a top predator like the Northern pike to take a fly. They will almost always surprise you with vicious, unexpected strikes, and their sheer speed and power.

Rebekka admires one of the countless big pike she caught on the fly on Lake Nipigon. 

Unlike many trophy pike fisheries in our province, which necessitate chartering a plane to access, Lake Nipigon is relatively easy to get to. While much of the lake is undeveloped and can only be accessed by boat, there are rough launching facilities around the lake and even many guides that you can hire to show you around.

Ray Rivard, owner/operator of Quebec Lodge, has developed relationships with several qualified guides to help his guests in their quest for pike, brook trout, lakers, walleye, and any of the species that can be found in these waters. Muzzy Odawa was my guide, a knowledgable fisherman who has a keen eye for fishing the Nipigon lake and river system. I have fished with Muzzy many times over the years and I always have a blast. His relaxed attitude and lighthearted sense of humor make spending a day on the water with him very enjoyable.

Front Porch of Quebec Lodge 

Good fishing began for us at sun up. Muzzy had his boat ready to fish for pike and he located some “honey holes” that provided outstanding fly fishing opportunities in shallow water. What I love about fishing Nipigon is that the lake's sheer size makes it easy to find your own fishing holes without anyone else around.  We idled along marshy areas in relatively shallow water and Muzzy gave the signal to begin casting. Within minutes I had already released two good mid 30” pike that fell for a big red and black streamer.  At times it seemed as if the pike were just lined up waiting their turn to eat the fly. Some even took it the moment it hit the water!

These fish fought ferociously, even the smaller ones, and it didn't take long for us to find the big mamas we were after. Throughout the day, we boated several fish from the high 30s to the mid-40s, and were they ever fat!  Muzzy mentioned that while they are finished with their spawn, the big ones were still hanging in a few shallow bays eating suckers that were spawning up the creeks. No wonder their bellies looked as if they were going to burst.

We used 9 and 10 wt rods, and some of these fish put them to a serious test. The flies we used where 8- to 12" pike flies ranging in colours; a long red and black streamer being most successful. We caught fish at a variety of different depths, and utilized floating, intermediate sinking and full 25- grain sinking lines to deliver our flies into the strike zone. I highly recommend large arbour reel that has smooth drag when fighting big fish like these pike. Although they seldom run far, their surging bursts of speed will test your equipment and your reflexes. We had one fish to the boat when it took off and snapped 45-lb leader like it was 5x tippet, and another in a similar situation that dove in the blink of an eye and wrapped the line in the trolling motor. Their aggressive and unpredictable behaviour before and after taking the fly make them one of the most fun fish I have ever pursued with a fly rod.

While we are on the subject of leaders, for the big fish we used a 7 1/2 foot tapered / steel leader set up made of 45-lb flourocarbon and an 18" wire bite section with a quick change snap. The heavy leader helps to turn over big flies and put the breaks on big fish if they are headed into a snag. We fought pike to our hearts' content until our smiles stretched across our faces. There were no "coulda, shoulda, woulda" feelings after our time fishing there. We left completely fulfilled with big pike to the boat, along with a few requisite memories of "the one that got away."

Another “Gator” on the fly from Nipigon lake 

A River of Dreams

If squaretails (Brook trout) are what you seek, may I remind you of the world record brook trout that was caught in the Nipigon river back in 1915, measuring 31.5 inches and weighing 14 lbs 8 oz, caught by Dr. J.W. Cook.  Every season, fishermen visit the river to pay homage to the standing world record and try their luck at a giant of their own.

Even if you don’t catch a 15-lb brookie, you're in for a true heaven on earth experience.  Fishing is excellent from spring and summer throughout fall. The average size of the brook trout in the river is between two and five pounds, and there are many larger fish in its deep boiling pools and eddies. Ray's guides will take you on a float through the rugged canyon and put you in the best spots where the next lunker fish may lie in wait to strike your fly.

While we enjoyed an incredible fishing experience on Nipigon, we also enjoyed true northern hospitality at Quebec Lodge. The Lodge offers comfortable and unique accommodations. The 4,000-square-foot lodge was built in 1937 as a retreat for the executives and customers of the local paper mill, and was sold after the mill closed down. Now Ray operates it as a home away from home for outdoor enthusiasts looking to experience the North. Ray made sure my stay was comfortable and accommodating. Full breakfast, packed lunch for the day of fishing,  and a delicious dinner every evening upon our return. My favourite was a fish fry of fresh caught lake trout which some of the other guests who were staying there graciously shared with the whole group.

Nipigon Lake, the river and Quebec Lodge offer fishing adventures that will echo in your memories for a lifetime. Pack your bags, leave your troubles behind and get ready to enjoy some of the best Northern Ontario fishing and hospitality.

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