The internet is a great resource for finding out where people are fishing but it has also become the downfall of many prime fishing spots. If you are reading about a spot on the internet or in the media so are thousands of others and chances are that spot is already well known and heavily fished.
But what if you want to ‘get away from it all’? What if you don’t want to go to all the places everyone else is fishing? You could hope someone tells you, and only you, about a great spot or you could do something about it.
On top of the fly fishers best but most expensive friend the topo maps(s) two map publications that can aid you in this quest are MapArt
Publishings Manitoba Back Road Map (a standard fold out map) and Mussio Ventures: Backroad Mapbook for Southern Manitoba (spiral bound). Some other resources that can be helpful are Prairie Pathfinders: Manitoba Walks, Wayne Petty’s: Cycling Back Road Manitoba ( both out of print I think) as well as any canoeing maps and resources. Also consider Google Earth. I am only scratching the surface of this software download but I am sure it can have some use in this kind of search. These are general references and are relatively inexpensive.
My main interest is fly fishing rivers so I will concentrate on that but many of these concepts can be transferred to finding lakes, particularly helpful if you have a canoe or float tube. The advantage of finding rivers is that once you are streamside many times you can usually wade the river and/or walk the stream’s shore line. The same cannot be said for most lakes.
Why am I writing about this in a fly fishing context? Well, I think we fly fishers like our solitude in general. We can’t fly fish close together as we have 9’ foot rods and are slinging 30-80’ feet of line. As well, the path less traveled is also more likely to be the path less littered.
Ok, so you all are set to find your own piece of solitude. Where do you start? Well I will warn you that this process will involve some wandering, driving and some dead ends. Your precious fishing time may get burned up a bit, but if you find a spot or two that has decent fishing, it will make the sacrifice worthwhile.
So start with an area relatively close to you. Like I said before there may be a few dead ends and this can cut down on the overall driving time. Then find this area on one of the aforementioned back road maps. What are you looking for? You are looking for places where back roads and rivers meet. These are your access points. You are looking for places where something different happens with the river. Where the river is dammed or forked or where creeks intersect with the main river. At this point you might want to look at another resource. Topographic maps and land title maps can tell you a lot more about your destination, like if it is just a swamp or if property ownership might limit access. Topo-maps are also great for showing landmarks, buildings and potential hike in points in the form of cart tracks etc but this is for more experienced map readers and hikers. Besides, nothing beats laying your eyes on it first hand. At this point you can head off with fly gear in tow and test the waters or you could leave the gear at home and just make it a scouting mission. I would advise having a number of locations pin pointed so as to increase the chances that one or more of them are fishable and accessible (not private or treaty property). This can make a scouting day more productive.
You can increase the life of your maps by photo copying the section of the map you are using and writing notes and circling access points. Leave the originals at home and spill the coffee on the copies.
A second way of approaching this exploration (or increasing your knowledge of a spot you are zeroing in on) is to work from a species search. For example, I love fly fishing for smallmouth bass but I do not have a boat. So looking at a well known bass fishery like the
Winnipeg River may seem pointless to a boatless fly fisher. But looking at tributaries and creeks that feed that system and knowing the proclivities of bass to move into all corners of a watershed I can see many options accessible by road and more by foot.
Maybe you have found a spot, but you are wondering what fish might be in there. It is merely a process of following where the water comes from or where it is going. Barring any permanent dams, whatever is in the main body will be in the stem.
When you find these places you may find the international sign for ‘people fish here’ that is, litter and specifically fishing litter. I suggest picking it up. That way the next person who stumbles upon the place may not think it worthy of fishing or you might increase the experience for them as well as for yourself. As I try to tell people who ‘won’t clean other peoples mess’, it is harder for people to litter when there is no litter but much easier when there is.
When you find your spots fish them early in the season and often throughout the season. That way you can get a sense of whether it is a high water and/or early season spot or if it can be fished right through to the fall.
I have used these searching tactics with great success and will continue to do so. But imagine how good you will feel when you do the research and find yourself a new hot spot.