I have been to remote and wild places. I have been to Labrador which is probably as remote as any place in North
America. That involved a long commercial flight and then a 100 mile float plane flight. It was a bucket list thing to do for
sure, but I was at the mercy of an outfitter, guides, a producer, and had little or no say in our day to day planning, I was
also burdened with the responsibility of filming, and due to the poor fishing conditions, the result of extreme hot
weather, I had virtually very little time to fish myself. This fact has bothered me more as the years go by then it did in
real time ,as this was on a lake that claims the title of having the largest brook trout in the world.
I have always sought wild places . I spent many years chasing whitetail deer in Ontario, that I am sure was the most
remote place on the planet that held big deer and was legal to hunt unguided for a non resident. That place was over a
thousand miles from where I live and then involved a 20 mile boat ride to the camp we used as a base. It was worth the
effort and drew me back many times and as I write this, I can look up on my wall and see the results of those
expeditions preserved as a physical reminder of my effort, and the satisfaction they still represent to me.
Fishing in a remote place creates the same stimuli for me, always trying to imagine that maybe only a handful of
anglers have been here, I find myself consciously not looking terribly hard for evidence that may indicate otherwise. A
moose track on a gravel bar in mid river has the opposite effect of a boot track, and stands as a barometer of wildness.
In Northern Ontario, it can mean wild native brook trout. If you are on certain streams that flow into Lake Superior, it
can mean coaster Brook trout.
The coaster ,if you don't already know, is a Brook trout that lives off shore in Lake Superior, and returns to certain
rivers to feed and spawn. To somewhat clarify, these fish feed heavily on smelt at river mouths in the Spring, and travel
back to flowing water in the Fall to spawn. It is not clear as to whether these spawning fish return to birth waters due to
a genetic implant like salmon.
Research indicates that unlike salmon, coasters appear to spend their big lake existence within a few miles offshore,
and may frequent river mouths to feed at any time based on available food source including hatches that would carry
spent, flies to the mouth of the big lake.
It is fair to say that most, if not all, of the rivers that flow into Lake Superior, in Fisheries Management Zone 10, from
Sault Ste. Marie, to Wawa, have brook trout throughout the upper river system. If you are not familiar with the
topography in the Algoma District, along the north shore, you would be very surprised to find the abrupt change that
lies just 10 miles north of the Michigan border. This is very rugged mountain terrain that will surprise you with the
elevation change and views of the big lake that occur so soon after crossing the border from Michigan, that you will
want to pull into one of the designated viewing areas along the highway to pause and adjust your mind. You will want to
try to slow down and take it all in. You probably will find yourself saying out loud,"I had no idea".If you are a trout nut
like me, you may become overwhelmed by the rivers you will cross as you drive north and declare to yourself, or no
one in particular, that you will fish this one day.
I have spent the last few years exploring some of the more accessible stretches of the rivers that pass under the
highway near the Lake Superior shore, and asking a lot of questions to locals to gain some Intel .
The rivers between the Soo and Wawa, all begin in higher elevations and tend to have steep gradient near the mouth
of the big lake. That means that virtually ALL have waterfalls ,gorges, and series of Rapids that can be technical to fish
to flat landers. The upper portions of rivers I refer too means limited access and 4 wheel drives on bush roads that can
be very rough and bumpy. If you do not have a need or a desire to push farther into the bush to find brook trout, if you
are content to stay within the cozy comfort of a main road and share your fishing with other, local anglers, it is still worth
the time as the fishing may still be better than you are used to experiencing.
If you fish in the U.P., you will be familiar with the type of water I refer to and have fished water with a steep gradient
liken it similar to the waters I fish in the mountains of Tennessee, except for the 'tea stain' color in much of the UP.
I realize that all anglers do not have the drive or inclination to explore wild places that might take some extra effort, and
can have an element of risk. People are different and fly fishing people tend to follow trends that satisfy their needs. I
believe some even entertain the idea of exploring new places ,yet are satisfied to do it "vicariously " through others that
are driven to fish around the next bend. I mean those less inclined to explore are still drawn to a good story told by
those that do it. As it stands I,for one, am grateful that the majority of anglers are content to share there favorite water
with like-minded folks and find happiness. By the way, I also fish the AuSable .
These rivers of the north in the Lake Superior watershed are under-fished by Michigan, standards . It is not Labrador,
though the far northern rivers above the "height of land", or the divide in the most northern portion of Ontario that
sends its waters north to James Bay, such as the Albany, River, or the Moose, River, exist in a vast road less area that
may rival Quebec, or Labrador, for remote factor and Brook Trout. This northern tier is where woodland caribou and
even polar bears roam.
At a certain age or point in ones life,value becomes more significant. All things that have meaning have a value factor.
If fishing is important to you, if it is the vehicle that takes you to a place of quiet and the peace you deserve,,and you
are of a certain age, then time has a great value. I guess I have found value in a place that is not too far from home,
not too expensive,,and has a somewhat convenient wildness, factor that puts me among moose, wolves and Brook
I love Michigan. I love northern Michigan and its wild and beautiful rivers. I also love the fact that our neighbor to the
north allows me the privilege to explore rivers that Brook trout thrive in,and experience a culture that is friendly and
If you have a desire to contact me about a fishing trip to Ontario or Michigan, or advice on rivers in Tennessee , feel
free to email me at:
The Fly Factor
remember many years ago a cousin from Missouri came for a short visit to my home here in southern Michigan .
I took him fishing to a small lake near me which in my world, is the customary thing to do. I wanted to take him to
one of my favorite lakes that though diminutive in size held good numbers of largemouth bass and very rarely was
fished by others. It always had a remote feel to it and I enjoyed paddling a canoe around it near the shore line.I
suppose it was the stand of tamarack trees that lined the east end of the lake that made it seem more wild and
remote than it actually was. Tamarack trees will do that . We had an enjoyable time and as I recall caught a few
bass. After pulling the boat up on shore and taking care of gear I said to him that the next time he visited I would
take him up north, to which he replied," this is up north".
February, 2018 Issue
Copyright 2018 James Marsh
by Mark Karaba