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Rainy Lake Fly Fishing

• Credit: The New Fly Fisher
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Rainy Lake Fly Fishing

La Place Rendez-Vous on Rainy Lake is the perfect base for your next fishing adventure

With big water like Rainy Lake, you also have big fish. Big northern pike, musky, smallmouth bass and walleye.



He calls himself Jackfish Hammy. A bold move if you ask me. That said, if you’re going to name yourself and your business Jackfish Hammy’s Guide Service, you had better know your way around with respect to targeting Northern Pike. Well, Scott Hamilton sure knows not only northern pike but the Rainy Lake.

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If I were to describe Rainy Lake with one word it would be incredible. Rainy is a big lake, I’m talking 360 square miles of water. With big water like you have with Rainy, you also have big fish. Big Northern Pike, Musky, Smallmouth Bass and of course, Walleye. And if you’re any fish but a musky or a pike in Rainy Lake, you’d better grow up big… and do it quickly. Believe me, they do.

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We made our home base out of La Place Rendezvous, in Fort Frances Ontario. Owner Sarah Noonan, a multi-generational Fort Francisite welcomed us with open arms to her fantastic hotel/restaurant establishment. Super comfortable rooms and stunningly great food at the restaurant, we were there to fish a week based out of The Rendezvous Hotel with Scott. It was May and the ice was out unseasonably early.  We were taking a chance on venturing out on Rainy this early, but Scott was confident he knew where the fish were. And lucky for us, they were shallow.

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Smallmouth Bass pre-spawn and Northern Pike post-spawn are a blast to target on the fly in the spring. They are aggressive, have a willing propensity to chase flies and generally eat extremely violently. The key is, you have to be versatile and chase temperature looking for the warmest water you can find. Once you find that warm water, the fish will tell you how they want their flies presented. A good rule of thumb is to speed up your retrieval with the warmer temperatures and slow them down in the cooler water.

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We searched Rainy Lake for warmer water and came across a bay with average temperatures sitting in the mid-high 50s. It was perfect for post-spawn northern pike and pre-spawn smallmouth bass.

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The conditions were ideal with the wind blowing into the bay, dark bottom silt, shallow water (less than 6 feet) and high sun. The wind blows food, minnows and bugs into the shoreline, the dark bottom of the bay absorbs the suns heat and warms up the water faster than the deeper lake, and there were weeds just starting to show (oxygen).  So, all was lined up for big fish to be in the bay, hunting for food. I started casting streamers toward shore and immediately came tight with a good northern.  Coldwater fish are heaps of fun to fight on a fly rod. With increasing metabolism, they will strike violently and generally fight much stronger than summer fish. Hammy knew exactly where the Pike would be and what they would be eating.

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Later that day, we were casting to windblown secondary points and a big Pike, I mean a BIG Pike ate my fly. This fish was well over 43 inches and immediately went airborne upon my strip strike hookset. As she started to fall back down into the water, everything went into slow motion and I witnessed my barbless fly come loose from the fish’s mouth. As quickly as it happened, it was over. I was crushed in losing what would have been my biggest northern to date on the fly. This fish was huge! But that’s fishing! After overcoming my sheer devastation of losing that fish, I made a single cast toward shore and hooked a smallmouth bass on a giant pike fly that was probably pushing 6 lbs and 20 inches.  Funny how fishing works sometimes. Low lows to super-high highs!

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We fished with Hammy for a few more days and thoroughly enjoyed La Place Rendezvous. Our show is a good one and wonderfully highlights the resort and so many great fishing opportunities Rainy Lake has to offer. To see a snippet of what you can expect fishing with Hammy out of La Place Rendezvous, check this out!

Fly fishing on Rainy Lake for giants—in a word… Incredible.

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