Fishing Ontario with the Urban Angler

DockTalk365 Ontario

urban-angler-01When you find people with talent, you know it instantly. When I discovered UrbanAngler.net, I was immediately impressed. Not only is the site design cool, clean and modern, the writing on it is second to none. Additionally, their take on fishing urban areas represent a change of pace from the typical fishing sites. I was ecstatic when Evan and Meagan agreed to answer some questions about their site and their fishing. Keep reading to learn more about these two very talented web designers, writers and anglers.

Why was the Urban Angler started and what was its purpose?

Evan and I both come from a journalism background and were looking for a media project we could do in our spare time. We were tired of writing about things that didn’t interest us and noticed there wasn’t much available online in terms of urban fishing in Southern Ontario; most of the websites focused on the lodges in the Northern part of the province, or lake fishing which requires a boat and other expensive equipment.

A lot of the fisheries initiatives are also funded by money collected from the sale of fishing licences. We noticed the City of Toronto had developed an “Urban Fishing Strategy” with the aim of increasing interest in the sport, so we thought we had some skills that could help with the initiative.

We wanted to create something that would appeal to a younger generation, specifically those in an urban setting with less disposable income. We wanted to make fishing “cool” and break down some of the stereotypes associated with the sport. Evan and I do not look like fishermen, we’re young, urban and working class. We think that’s important. Fishing is not just for old rich guys.

How did the two of you meet? What are your respective roles for the site?

We met while we were both working in Yellowknife, N.W.T, for Northern News Services. The North is a place where people pay thousands of dollars to visit exclusive fly-in fishing lodges. It is home to huge Northern Pike and Lake Trout, and also the elusive Inconnu and Grayling. While we were there, we were lucky enough to fish Great Slave Lake, the Yellowknife River, Mackenzie River and Kakisa River – an unforgettable experience. When we decided to come back to Ontario, we drove and fished our way across Canada.

In terms of the website, Evan does a lot of the writing…and fishing. He has been doing it most of his life and has gained a lot of knowledge in that time, so he writes a lot of the river descriptions, gear recommendations and tips and tricks for catching certain species.

Meagan’s focus is editing and packaging it all to make it look good. She designed the website, takes the photos and looks after the social media accounts. She also covers fishing news and industry updates.

urban-angler-02Evan, how did you get started in fishing? What were your early influences?

I come from a Japanese-Canadian family with a passion for the sport. My Jichan, grandfather, started fishing with his brothers when they lived in Vancouver, B.C., and passed his love of angling down to his three sons after moving to Ontario. He taught me how to catch Smallmouth Bass and Perch, and how to clean them and eat them when I was as young as five. I caught some big ones when I was younger and they fascinated me with their size and underwater mystery. It was more scientific when I was a kid – the real draw was wanting to see more of them, I felt like a little zoologist.

Our family is passionate about Rainbow Trout. Every fall, the whole family went on fishing trips together to catch massive steelheads, and I always wanted to tag along. When I got a little older, my uncle Roger finally invited me to come and I caught my biggest Rainbow to date – a 12-pounder. Two of us got hooked that day. My family has tried-and-true methods of fishing and passed many of those secrets down to me and over the years I’ve developed some of my own. I had to work really hard to prove myself to my uncles – many seasons were spent standing in the freezing cold, not catching anything, paying my dues to the fish gods. My Jichan used to say, it’s called fishing – not catching.

For more info: http://www.urbanangler.net/news/fishingfamily

urban-angler-03Meagan, you just recently got started in fishing – what made you try fishing? Are you hooked for your lifetime?

If you asked me five years ago if I thought I would ever try fishing, I probably would have laughed. Before I moved to Yellowknife I had left my rural upbringing far behind and fully embraced the city life. In a way, moving North brought me back to the outdoors. But really it was meeting Evan that got me into fishing, mostly because he didn’t give me a choice!

Learning something that is challenging, is frustrating, but learning something that is challenging AND you didn’t choose for yourself is a whole other ball game. I’m a stubborn and often impatient person. Fishing requires dedication, discipline and above all, PATIENCE. Evan can stand and cast at the same spot for hours, utterly convinced something is going to happen and excited by every cast. During those first few months, I would throw down my rod and sit arms crossed on a nearby rock, watching him with irritated fascination. He would always get one … eventually.

Evan is a fantastic teacher. He is patient, meticulous and has a way of explaining things that make them easy to understand. My attitude didn’t bother him. He would help if I asked, but once I had the basic skills down, he mostly just left me to figure it out. I finally started catching fish. But it wasn’t until we got back to Ontario that I really, truly got into angling – where I considered it as something WE did, not just something Evan did and dragged me along.

I started to love being outside again, I became fascinated by the lake and the river and appreciated the spiritual aspects of fishing. It is an incredibly therapeutic pastime – and a great escape from the stress of urban life. When we’re down in the river, I forget there is a loud, bustling city all around us. I got into the gear and learned to tie my own knots, untangle my line, choose different bait, and read water – I could even take my own fish off!

A few weeks ago, I caught my first river-run steelhead and even though it was small, it felt like the ultimate culmination of this journey I’ve been on. I’m in the club.

Am I hooked for life? I think so. Fishing is something that has made Evan and I stronger as a couple and as individuals. I don’t see either of us giving it up any time soon.

urban-angler-04One of the things I love about your site is the specifics you provide on fishing your urban spots. People need to go to your site for full details, but for this interview can you give us three pieces of advice for fishing each of your featured locations.

Bronte Creek

With Bronte, you’ve got to get there the day after the rain. It’s such a small creek that if you want to have a shot, timing is everything. You can start a 24-hour clock as soon as the rain starts. Some years it’s a lot higher and you’ll be waiting for it to calm down, but for the last couple of years it’s been a low water situation almost exclusively.

You can fish at Petro Canada Park and it’s relatively easy, but it’s a long creek and it’s far down in a valley, which makes for a lot of walking, so it’s important to have waders. It’s such a small creek, the cuts, bends and holes where the fish are going to sit, will not be at the access point. There might be some there, but if you want to have a good day, you need to be able to walk around the bend.

It’s also an extremely popular location, so unless you want to be fishing shoulder to shoulder with every guy in the Golden Horseshoe, you have to learn it well enough that you have a variety of holes to choose from. You have to be able to think of another spot if your go-to is packed. It’s a lot of walking to get to know it, but you’re better off getting to know a cut far away from the car park because all those guys will spook the fish.

The Grand River

The Grand is HUGE. It’s one of the biggest rivers in Ontario and there’s fish to be had all year long – Brown Trout in Fergus and Bass in Paris, in the summer, and Steelhead in Caledonia in the fall and winter. My favourite place is Caledonia below the dam. Although less popular, below the dam has more fish and they’re usually bigger – if you can find them.

The Grand is really wide – especially in Caledonia – so you need to know how to read water, because it’s not your traditional free-stone, shoot and pool river where gushing water piles up in a deep hole. In the Grand, it’s really wide and the deep spots are not much deeper than the shallow spots, so you’re almost better going in the summer and walking it when the water is extremely low to get to know where the cuts are.

You’ll also need a spool that holds a lot of line. Because it’s so shallow, when you hook a Rainbow Trout, it will never find a spot that’s deep enough to stop and sound. They almost always jet all over the place and half the time try to make a run for the mouth. When this happens, you have to be ready to stop them or at least have enough line to go with them.

Skyway Bridge Canal

This was one of our favourite spots this summer. Evan had never fished it before, but we heard about a guy catching a huge fish down there one day in early June. Our interest was piqued so we went down to check it out. Over the course of the summer, Evan caught two large Brown Trout, two massive Chinook Salmon and a 7-pound Rainbow. Pretty good for the end of a pier in the middle of an Ontario summer!

Here it’s all about the West wind. It’s really hot fishing in May, June and July but then peters out in August as fish get ready to move into the river. If there’s a West wind, and you can see the mud line coming out from the bay, it will likely be a good fishing day. Likewise, if it’s an East wind, don’t even bother – you’ll need to go out on a boat to get anything except Carp or Sheephead.

Here you can also use a lot lighter line to catch monster fish. Evan used 6-pound test to land a 25-pound salmon! Many people go down there with 20+ pound test, but it’s not necessary and lighter line makes for an exciting fight.

Spoons make great bait here. Try experimenting with different varieties. We had luck with Krocodiles – a new favourite, and the Little Cleo.

Out of all the species which are your favourite and why?

Evan: Rainbow Trout. Hands down. It is the hardest fighting, best tasting fish in the high seas. Every year my family catches Rainbow Trout in the fall, which we serve as sashimi at Christmas. There is nothing better. I say that if they were easy to catch I would still want to fish for them, but most of the fun is the challenge. They’re really smart.

Meagan: I’m still learning and am excited by anything new that bites my line. I really enjoy casting for pan fish, they’re really cute and great for beginners. Rainbow, Brown and Brook trout are so gorgeous though, and each one is different. It’s so thrilling when you get that first glance of its colour as it’s coming in after the fight.

Evan, I read you are a fan of bottom bouncing for Rainbows. Can you describe this technique for those who may not know. What are the specifics to mastering the technique?

This is a type of river angling where you’re fishing whatever bait you’re using instead of using a float. It’s a lot like a float rod set-up, but you’re using split shot to get the bait close to the bottom and bouncing it along the cut – this takes practice and lots of trial and error to get the weight just right – every river and cut is different. Too much and your bait will snag, too little and it will drift along the surface out of sight for fish.

You can bottom bounce anything, but my family uses salmon roe exclusively in the fall.

It’s good to have a really sensitive rod so you can feel those touches along the bottom and light line is essential to have those bounces transferred back to you. Otherwise you won’t learn how to get your bait to behave correctly and it will go rushing along the surface instead.

Bottom-bouncing is my favourite way to fish, because I live to feel the bite. With a float, you don’t feel the bite, you just see your bobber go down and miss the initial hook-up.

urban-angler-05What are the plans for 2017 for the Urban Angler? What new things will we see?

This is a hard question – it seems like every day we come up with new and exciting ideas for the website. One of the things we’re focused on is expanding our coverage – there are about four spots we know really well…Look for a new page on Nottawasaga coming soon…but there are so many we don’t – the Forks of the Credit and Ganaraska River for example. Getting to know a new spot takes time, so that will be one of our goals for next year.

We’re also hoping to establish an online store where merchandise will be available and start reviewing some of the latest gear and technology available in the industry. There are also some experiments with bait we hoping to get started on.

More long-term goals include expanding our outreach and really interacting with other anglers, through interview features, similar to what you’re doing, and also contributors who write for us.

Evan is also hoping to start offering guiding services – primarily for people who have never fished before and don’t have the confidence to try it out on their own.

I told you these two are great! I can’t wait to follow and watch the success of Evan and Meagan. I am a big fan! Follow them with me by visiting UrbanAngler.net and their social media sites.

twitterinstagramfacebook