Cross any bridge over the Maitland River during fishing season and you’re bound to see people in waders, fishing rod in hand, and you can sense the hope they have of catching some of the trout.
While those witnessed from the road may be experienced, there’s a small business in the county that will happily introduce aspiring anglers to the sports of fly-fishing, Spey fishing or to just head out on a sport fishing adventure. Mike Verhouf (also known as Maitland Mike) and Neil Leduc at Fly Fitters are the go-to guys for guided fishing adventures in southwestern Ontario. Based in Benmiller, where the Maitland River meanders, the duo has been in business since 2012, offering various trips, starting in April and operating into December, depending on the tour and weather.
These guides are prepared to welcome experienced and first-time anglers alike. Complete newbies can try their hand at fly-fishing before making an investment in the equipment. (Fly Fitters can provide all equipment required for your excursion.) Participants gain a better understanding of what flies to use, equipment to purchase, how to read the water and more.
“A half-day walk and wade is best to start out. It’s long enough to get a ‘good taste’ of the sport,” said Verhoef. The guided walks take place on either the Bayfield or the Maitland River and participants receive a two-hour introduction to all aspects of fly-fishing. The remaining two hours are still spent learning, but this time actually trying to catch a fish. “After that, if there is a keenness for the sport, they book another outing,” says Verhoef of typical new customers.
As for the steelhead (migratory rainbow trout) outings with Spey rods, Verhoef says these are most popular with experienced fly fishers. On one of the Drift Boat Trips, participants drift down either the Saugeen (a good fishing option for world-class smallmouth bass and Muskie, too) or Maitland Rivers through some of the best steelhead waterways in the Great Lakes vicinity in April and May and again in late fall, starting in October.
For those who want to advance their fly fishing skills and take advantage of a longer season, there’s still time. “By far the ‘Walk and Wade Tour’ option remains the most popular,” Verhoef says, “and this option is available in early fall and again in early spring. For the more advanced angler, the Maitland River offers some very good steelhead fishing through the fall right up till the end of the year, weather permitting.” www.flyfitters.ca