Fly fishing

Few things are prettier or more fun than fishing in the North

James Smedley, fishing writer and outdoorsman, talks about a life of casting and reeling in Northern Ontario

When it comes to outdoor adventures in Northern Ontario, fishing has to be one of the most popular pastimes.

You would think that everyone—absolutely everyone—likes fishing. But in the interest of honest journalism, that’s not entirely true.

James Smedley confirmed that sentiment in a recent phone interview from his home in Wawa, Ontario.

It’s where Smedley runs his freelance photography and writing business which, for the most part, extols the virtues and pleasures of fishing. He is an award-winning outdoor writer, photographer, tournament angler and is considered one of Northern Ontario’s fishing experts.

Smedley remembers taking one of his daughters on the boat for a day of fishing, and she spent most of the time quietly reading a book. At one point, he said, his daughter got up, cast a line, and brought in a really big fish.

“I was so excited,” Smedley recalled. “And we took pictures and let the fish go and I was so excited. So excited,” he said.

“I just kept fishing and was like, ‘Oh, we’ll go back to that spot and maybe we’ll catch another one.’ And she said, “Oh, no, that was fun. I’m finished. And she started reading her book again.”

So Smedley said he understands that, as popular as fishing is, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

“It’s quite difficult to convince people that they should like fishing. Okay, you know, it would be like someone telling me that if I worked on my golf swing, I would like to play more golf.”

If you’re an avid fisherman in Northern Ontario, chances are you’ve heard of Smedley, or read his stories in outdoor adventure magazines and websites, or have seen his photos of people enjoying fishing and other outdoor activities.

In a recent blog post, Smedley admitted that it was important to catch up on work around the house, as it would eventually give him more time to go fishing.

Smedley lives for fishing. Born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, he caught the virus early in life when he was seven or eight years old and his father gave him a fishing rod.

“At the Algoma Sailing Club, we sailed a lot as a family. I always had a fishing rod. Wherever we went I was fishing and I really didn’t know what I was doing. catch a fish and it was like, wow, this is so amazing.”

Smedley’s love for fishing grew. After graduating from college, he wasn’t sure what to do, but decided to try freelancing as an outdoor writer. Friends tried to warn him, he said, saying most of his articles would be rejected.

Ultimately, Smedley said his very first article was accepted by National Geographic Explorer magazine. Although he enjoyed freelancing, he took a job as a reporter for the Algoma News, a weekly newspaper in Wawa.

In his spare time, Smedley learned that the fishing in this part of the North was legendary. He also learned that his heart was not in small town reporting.

“So I quit after a year just to get back to freelancing based in Wawa, and there were a lot of opportunities,” he said.

Smedley also learned that there was a good market for outdoor photography.

“I started taking decent photos, then I was selling photos to go along with other people’s stories and making more than I was making for the stories,” he said.

“So I started to take a serious interest in photography, and honestly, that’s what kept me in business.”

But it was fishing that kept him up north all those years. He says he loves all types of fishing, summer and winter. His favorite activity is dry fly fishing for brook trout. Smedley didn’t say specifically where to go for this, but said there are perfect places where it can be done.

“There are some great places. Like, it only happens at certain times of the year. And it’s just, you know, when the stars align, it works and you have these amazing experiences, but you just can’t do it every time you want some kind of thing.”

Smedley said fly fishing is a contemplative and poetic activity. He described it in detail.

“Well, when you cast a dry fly, especially if you’re fishing in the current, it has to float with the current, that’s called a dead drift. As if your line is pulling the fly at all, the fish will not generally touch, ”he explained.

“So you have to be skilled, you have to be able to get that dead drift. And then you also see the fish get up and hit the fly. And if you get too nervous and you pull to set the hook, it will pull him away from the fish before he enters his mouth. It’s super exciting, but you have to stay calm. And deliberate. And it’s a lot of fun.

Fishing in Ontario is regulated. In most cases, unless you are a child under 18, a senior, or a Canadian Forces veteran, you will need a fishing license. You must carry ID with you when fishing. Full details are available on the Government of Ontario website.