We Call Them “Specks!”

The Guide’s Shore Lunch 3

“RD with a juicy speck from the Asheweig River”

(This article was written when I was living in Northwestern Ontario)

As a kid growing up in Ottawa, I spent some time sneaking along tiny creeks in southeastern Ontario with a pair of rubber boots, light action spinning rod and a can of worms.  I used to like the tiny red worms if I could get them after a rainstorm, but the big “dewies” worked fine too, cut in half.

The brook trout in those little creeks were fairly plentiful and fairly easy to catch… but not very big.  I mean, a good one, was about 8 inches long or so.  My grampa used to call them “candy bars.”  So, we’d go out to Lanark County and spend the morning on Long Sault Creek or Paul’s Creek, catch a few of these little candy bars, and then we’d drive home and get out the frying pan. Really good with a couple of eggs…

Flash forward to 1990 and my first season fishing in northwestern Ontario.  Late that summer, I fished the north shore of Superior for a couple of days.  I was after resident brook trout, or “specks” as I quickly found out the locals called them.  So, with my trusty old Fenwick World Class 6 weight fly rod and a box full of flies, I went into the Cypress River.  The water was low, but fishable.

After about twenty minutes I had landed three specks all about 9 – 10 inches and I was thrilled!  I thought to myself, “Man, these are good size brook trout here.”  Five minutes later I laid down a soft cast just beside an overhanging tree and began to mend.  I ended up with a good long drift and just as I was about to pick up and cast again, slurrrrrrp… a rise by something I knew was not a 9 – 10 inch fish!  Before I knew what was going on, I was holding a gorgeous, truly wild brook trout (ooops, sorry, I meant, “speck”) of about 16 inches.  That my friends is about 2 ½ – 3 pounds of ruggedtivityizationalizm!  (That is so a real word.  I invented it… look it up!)

The Guide’s Shore Lunch 1

“Come on… bite me!”

Since that day back in 1990, I have come to realize that in this part of the world, (northwestern Ontario) the specks are huge.  At least they can be… When I was a kid and you heard of someone catching a ten inch brook trout it was a big deal.  In this neck of the woods if you caught a ten inch speck and started to brag about it, you’d probably get beat up.

In pretty much most of the Thunder Bay district, and moving east and southeast all the way down to Sault Ste. Marie, you’ll run into bruiser class specks.  My personal best was a four plus pounder taken in the Asheweig River, about 400 miles north of Thunder Bay.  I was up there fly fishing in 2006 with guide Leon (Neon Leon) Beardy from Kasabonika Lake First Nation.

After flying into the community we were met by Leon and his assistant guides, Rodney Anderson (“Hot Rod” according to “the ladies”) and “Fugi” Anderson, who was, according the locals, voted by People’s Magazine the “sexiest man alive on the Kasabonika Reserve for 2004!”  Oh my…  Within an hour or so, we were loaded up into two 16 footers propelled by sturdy 15 HP outboards.  We had a four hour boat ride down the river into camp.  And, what a trip it was… the crystal clear water… the scenery… the wildlife.  Awesome.

The Guide’s Shore Lunch 4

“‘Neon’ Leon Beardy, veteran guide from the Kasabonika First Nation”

The next day we got fishing right away and “just for something to do” we hammered a bunch of walleyes that we wanted for lunch that day.  That was easy.  To prove my point, I asked my guide a standard question. “Hey, Leon, what colour jig should I use?”  And I received a standard answer.  “Doesn’t matter.”   But, it was the specks that I really wanted.  Bad.

The Ojibwe are known around the world as some of the most highly skilled woodsmen that there is, period.  And, seeing these guys bring us through, over and around the various sets of rapids was pretty damn cool.  And,rugged!  When we got to where the section of the river where the specks were hanging out, we parked the freighter canoes and began a walk and wade excursion.

First, I caught a few with my spinning rod.  Any small flashy spoons worked like magic.  Behind any rock, along any seam, at any tail out… you’d run into a speck.  Or, two.  Then it was time for the fly rod to make its appearance.  Streamers worked well, as did dry flies.  Again, I’m not trying to sound like a jerk here, but it really didn’t make a big difference what colours or patterns I used.  They all caught fish.  Streamers included the Mickey Finn, Clouser Minnow, Deceiver and of course, standards like the Muddler Minnow, Woolly Bugger and the Bunny Leech did the job.  Dry flies like the Adams, Elk Hair Caddis and Humpies worked well too.  There wasn’t even a hatch on and they were coming up for them.  Hopper patterns scored big too.

The Guide’s Shore Lunch 2

“This one nailed a humpy, # 12, dry fly”

By the end of the second day of fishing, I had landed more than twenty specks over the one pound mark, many of which were over two.  One was four plus.  And, here’s the kicker… I’m not exactly “Lee Wulff.”  I mean, I can cast and I know pretty much of what’s going on when it comes to fly fishing.  But, I’m not great at it.  Average probably, so if I can do it, you can too.  Just simple pick up and lay down casting was all I needed.  There was lots of room to cast, the water was very easy to wade and even easier to read.  It was simply a fantastic speckled trout fishery.  Still is.

I’m not one to start getting all “how-to” with my writing very often… the point of this story is not about how to catch, but where to catch these incredible fish.  Northwestern Ontario is full of them.  Here’s a short list of some of the very best rivers where you have a very good chance of nailing a truly wild speckled trout over five pounds and as big as, and “I ain’t shittin’ ya,” eight pounds!

Nipigon River, Albany River, Winisk River, Asheweig River, Sutton River, Steel River. “Get on the Goggle” as I like to say and find yourself a great speck trip for this season.  If you’d like to fish with “Neon Leon” Beardy, go to his site at http://www.asheweigriver.com

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  1. I’m still learning from you, but I’m trying to reach my goals. I absolutely enjoy reading everything that is posted on your blog.Keep the posts coming. I loved it!

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