Beginner Bass on the Fly in Whiteshell Provincial Park

HuntFishMB Contributor – Marcel Laferriere

Living in Winnipeg, you truly can drive in just about any direction and find a body of water with fish in it. Among all these options, one of my favourites is to just hop on the TransCanada Highway by Deacon’s Corner and head east to the Whiteshell Provincial Park. Located in the Eastern Region of Manitoba, the Whiteshell Provincial Park is home to some incredible multi-species fishing. Not to mention, if you take a peek in the Master Angler record books you’ll find a hefty number of submissions every season out of the mighty Whiteshell.

My girlfriend Andrea and I headed out for a day trip with no particular plan of where we wanted to fish, just that we wanted to target smallmouth bass. You really are spoiled for choice when you’re headed east on the TransCanada and have bass on your mind. As soon as you pass the notorious Whiteshell Provincial Park sign you can just about pull into any lake and catch Master Angler smallmouth. Some of the notable smallmouth lakes include Falcon Lake, Caddy Lake, Star Lake, and it’s impossible to leave out the mighty Winnipeg River system which includes some unbelievable fishing in places such as Nutimik and Pointe du Bois.

I had two clear goals for the day; first, can I catch a smallmouth bass on a fly fishing rod and second, assuming that I can do that, can I out fish Andrea who will be using conventional tackle? I am far from an experienced fly angler, in fact, I’m the exact opposite. I know very little about fly fishing and have basically no experience, but I’ve always thought it looked interesting as it’s just another way to catch fish.

We picked a lake and pulled up to the first spot. I rigged up a lipped crank bait for Andrea in a crawfish pattern and handed her the rod. As I was rigging up the other rods, only a couple casts in, I hear “fish!”. I look up to see Andrea’s rod doubled over and a grin ear to ear. After I see a couple quick runs from the fish I know it’s a good one. After a few tense moments of fighting the fish I see that it is definitely a potential Master Angler right off the bat. In the net and quickly on the board and sure enough, an 18.25’’ Master Angler smallmouth and I haven’t even casted yet!

Once we were all rigged up I started out with a small black woolly bugger hoping to imitate a small creature or leech (and also because some quick research online told me this was a solid go-to fly). I tried it for a while without any luck while Andrea was consistently catching on both her crankbait and a small paddle tail swimbait. I tried a couple other similar flies but still couldn’t manage to get a bite. Obviously, I’m not a fly angler and my casting was far from impressive (A couple YouTube tutorials is all I had under my belt) but, I still expected to have a bite by now even with these things considered.

It wasn’t until we got to a calmer bay out of the wind before I got the idea to tie on a small little popper fly. I worked it just like a typical popper with a standard twitch, twitch, pause technique and it wasn’t long before the magic happened. In about 3 feet of water and right on top of some submerged timber, the tiny popper got inhaled as a bass exploded from the waters surface. I’ve never been so excited to get a 16’’ smallmouth in the net but after a short and quick frantic fight, Andrea scooped it up and it was all smiles. She had already caught ten plus fish so I was getting beat quite badly in the head-to-head, but that’s ok, because in my mind I had already succeeded with what I set out to do.

I only caught a few other fish on the fly that day but even after the first one, I felt like a whole new world of opportunities had been unlocked for me. Fly fishing is such an incredibly unique way to chase fish and it is so under utilized. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to try it out as I feel like I caught a bug for it now. My favourite part was the fact that I fished lakes that I have fished before and it gave me a whole new experience just because I was holding a different piece of equipment in my hand.

You don’t need to go somewhere else or spend tons of money, you can just do it at your local lake and have a whole new experience. I bought a cheap fly fishing combo from Canadian Tire and just did some googling to figure out some basic information and then I just went with it and gave it a shot and I’m so glad I did. That’s the great thing about it too, I fished in the Whiteshell for bass but it doesn’t matter what corner of the province you are in, there is a lake and a species that you can fly fish for.

After a successful day at multiple lakes in the Whiteshell Provincial Park, there’s no better way to end the day than with some ice cream from the Night Hawk Cafe in West Hawk and a beautiful Manitoba sunset. All this being just over an hour drive from Winnipeg makes it one of the best day trip fishing areas in Manitoba without a doubt. Although it took me a while to try out fly fishing, I’m so glad I finally did and I can’t wait to see what else I can catch in the future.

Visit our Smallmouth Bass page for more information about fishing for smallmouth bass in Manitoba.