The Ottawa River

One of the larger rivers, and a prime destination in Eastern Ontario is the Ottawa river. A multitude of species inhabit this river, including musky, pike, smallmouth and largemouth bass, brown trout, walley, perch, carp….the list goes on. If you happen to find yourself in the eastern sections of Ontario, don’t pass up the opportunity to try fly fishing the Ottawa river.

The Ottawa River begins in Central Quebec, and flows from its source Lake Capimitchigama. It flows through to the west of Quebec where it hits the Ontario border at Lake Timiskaming. It travels along the border a little ways, until it passes through Ottawa/Gatineau and crashes over Chaudière Falls. ?The Ottawa? drains into the Lake of Two Mountains and the St. Lawrence River in Montreal. The total length of the river is 1,271 km (according to various records of the river). There are many tributaries, but some of the more major ones include:

  • Bonnechere River
  • Gatineau River
  • Mattawa River
  • Mississippi River
  • Montreal River
  • Petawawa River
  • Rideau River

Bays on the Ottawa are typically preferred by fisherman because they hold most of the warm water species during the summer and spring months (and of course by warm water fish I am referring to Bass, Pike, Gar, Muskie, Panfish, Carp and Sucker). In the winter, early spring and fall, you can find decent sized Walleye and Sauger (as well as everything else listed above). Also, it is possible to find the odd Walleye in the back bays, but you will rarely or never catch a Sauger during summer in these spots.

Pike and Gar are a very popular fish to catch on the fly in the summer on the Ottawa. Usually they are found in the shallower bays as I mentioned before. My favorite time to catch them is the summer specifically on a warm summer?s night, and I mean warm, so hot and sticky you sweat from changing flies. It is the best time for surface action, which makes it the most fun! Top water Pike action is the way to go!

Also, the Ottawa contains some nice Small and Largemouth bass. I generally follow the same conditions as I would for pike in the summer months. I usually catch my bass on surface action; however there will be times when I get them on a leach streamer.

Lastly Walleye on the fly are best caught in the spring, right after ice off. At least through my experience, this is when I have the most luck catching them. They can be located in the back bays. The reason they go for these quite back bays is because the water is cold and well oxygenated after ice off in these areas. My all time favorite bay to catch all these fish would be Shirley?s bay which is located next to the shooting ranges off Carling near Kanata, ON.



Flies I recommend using on the Ottawa include:

  • Leechie Fruit
  • Marabou Leech
  • Pike Strung Leech
  • The Rabbit Strip Leech (from Rob O’Reily on Hipwader)
  • Various Deer Hair surface bugs
  • Poppers of different shapes and sizes

The Ottawa?s water is a darker shade of green, so usually with streamers, the bigger and brighter, the better. Sometimes, if conditions are perfect for warm water fish (calm waters, warm air, bright sky with little clouds) you can choose a fly with little to no flash (like the Leachie fruit or Marabou leach) and it should produce some nice fish. I haven?t found the fish to be picky with line and leader visibility, however with changing conditions on the Ottawa, it is a gamble. Your best bet is to be prepared.

Tight Lines!!

Fly Fishing Starter Kit, Fly Tying Starter Kit, Recommended Back Road Map Book

2 Replies to “The Ottawa River”

  1. Hi! My husband is an avid fly fisher and is looking to fish small river trout not to far from where we live in the Ontario or Quebec region: we live in the Ottawa east end. I would appreciate any suggestions. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

16 − three =