An outing to the Saugeen river in Ontario, Canada with the guides from Grindstone Outfitters.
The Saugeen River - Grindstone Trip
By Jeff Selser
Grindstone had one of it's Saugeen trips this last week and I made arrangements to attend as I had seen the pictures and heard the stories of other previous guests. We packed up our things and headed up to fish the Saugeen River in Ontario on Wednesday night. Our group would be staying at two different B&B's and then meeting up with John Valk from Grindstone Angling to fish the Chinooks and possibly some Steelhead in the lower sections of the river. This is a two day, two night trip Flymart Flyshop runs to this area. The Saugeen river mouth dumps into Lake Huron at the town of Southhampton. Southhampton is located on the northern Ontario side of Lake Huron and is about a 3 1/2 hour drive from the Detroit area.
The Saugeen watershed is huge with the main river winding a full 120 miles with many branches and tributaries. The water level is really low right now as it is across most of the Great Lakes Region, so we would be fishing the Denny's Damn conservation area about 1 1/2 km upstream from the mouth. This conservation area has about 1 1/2 km of shoreline that offers both prime Salmon and Steelhead fishing in season. With literally miles and miles of water to fish, the Saugeen offers river anglers a unique experience. John Valk offers affordable float trips on this water and it's many miles of lighly fished, prime Salmon and Steelhead habitat.
This area is mostly farm country and pastureland. Rolling hills present variation in the scenery during the long drive up to the area. There are many small old towns that dot this part of the country. With beautiful Victorian style homes and traditional farmhouses, just about every turn offers a wonderful view. I was amazed at the amount of flowers we had seen. It seems that the Canadians here have real soft spot for flower gardens. The whole area is immaculate and well cared for. Showing the pride these citizens and communities have for their properties and towns. I felt like we had dropped back in time, to a calmer quainter, period. This was my first time to the area and I was very pleasantly surprised.
We had divided our party into two teams and arranged for accommodations at two different traditional Bed and Breakfast Inn's for our stay. John Vincent and I had driven up together and our destination was the Gar-Ham Hall B&B, in the wonderful little town of Paisley, Ontario. Paisley would be a short drive to Southhampton and Denny's Damn in the morning. We arrived to be greeted by the owners of the B&B, John and Muriel. It was a large two-story Victorian home built in the late 1800's that had been converted into a B&B by this warm and friendly couple. We signed in and indicated that we would be waiting up for another late guest. This house was just gorgeous. Appointed with fine antiques and other period pieces, it felt like going back to grandmas, just so warm and comfortable.
We met our late arriving guests and retired to our rooms. We had made special arrangements to have breakfast served early and awoke to our alarms, ready to venture out with a great group of people to fish the area. The impressive dining area easily accommodated all the members of this team. I could detect the unmistakable smell of freshly cooked baked goods as we meandered to the dining area for our breakfast. There we met all of the team members of our outing. Greetings and conversation flowed as we were served a delicious breakfast and got to know one another. Our guides would be John Valk and Rob from Grindstone Outfitters of Ontario. They arrived just as we finished our breakfast and joined us over coffee to discuss the day's plans.
John Valk is very knowledgeable guide and knows this area like the back of his hand. John floats and wades the Saugeen, Grand, and other Ontario waters with guests from around the world. He gave us the scoop on the fishery and mentioned that while the water was low, the fish were in and active with fresh fish moving into the system..
We reviewed some pictures of fish caught the previous days by another guest and marveled at the size of some of the Salmon. A real shot at forty inch fish has a way of exiting you. Anxious to get going, we grabbed our gear and head out to the driveway to jump in our vehicles. We headed over to the other B&B to pick up the other half of the group. A short drive to the river and we split up. A two guides would accompany each team of five. Our team headed closer to Denny's Damn and got our waders on quickly once we parked.
We headed down to the river and now I got a good look at this section. Only a couple of local anglers were on the river when we arrived and there was plenty of room for all. Fast water, slow water, deeper holes all showed themselves and awaited our investigation. This area has a nice rocky bottom and reminded me of some of the rivers out west.
John Valk separated the guests and placed them at strategic spots for good drifts and swings. It did not take long for someone to hookup as Paul was on a fish in the first couple of minutes. There certainly were plenty of Salmon in the system. Fish that had just moved up the river with the dropping water temperatures from the cooler evenings. It was a bright sunny morning but that did not freak out the fish as there were multiple hookups in quick succession from agressive fish. I decided that I would focus on Steelhead, in between camera shots of smiling guests, as I have had plenty of Salmon on the end of my fly rods this year. The river is wide and open here and very suited to traditional techniques. I would be spey casting and swinging smaller Spey patterns down on the seams where faster and slower water met. Hopefully enticing a Steelhead, as I was sure that there was one or two hanging in there.
This trip had special meaning for me as I had been mourning the loss of my trusted companion and friend Markos, the day before. Markos was a very special German Shepherd dog, who was my faithful companion for 15 years and had traveled across the country with me on my journeys. His passing on the anniversary of my brother's four years ago. I guess Markos was now in my brother's care and the river was my church, helping wash away my sorrow, at both of their losses. Watching Salmon who make this journey to procreate and then become part of the very system that created them, somehow tied everything together.
Great laughs filled the river and smiles beamed as our group was having a wonderful time on the river. We broke for lunch and peeled off the layers worn this morning as the temperature had reached about 70 degrees. We were enjoying an Indian summer day on the river. We swapped stories between the groups and enjoyed our lunch. Later we headed to new locations on the river and worked a little harder for the fish, as they were not as aggressive as they had been that morning. I took the opportunity to study the riverbed, as I knew that I would be coming back this way at a later date, to work the water for Steelhead. I was not rewarded with any Steelhead but I did get into some Salmon. The Saugeen gets a good fall run and I will be calling John to book a trip or two for sure. Our day on the water ended as it had begun. Active fish nailing a well drifted presentation.
As the fishing day ended we prepared for trip into town for dinner. We met at a local restaurant and had a spectacular dinner and listened to the stories as the participants shared them. Humor was rampant and that brought lots of laughter. John Valk is a nice guy with a obvious love for this area, and I was very pleased to have made his acquaintance. No guide can guarantee you fish, but I can guarantee you can have a good time with this crew as they truly work hard to deliver a very worthwile experience and a great value to their customers.
We headed back to our respective B&B where the great conversations continued. Day two would be a repeat of the day before just at a slightly different location with the guides switched over. Awesome.
I had a wonderful time on this Grindstone outing to the Saugeen and I believe that all the participants did as well. It was very well organized and just long enough to really enjoy. Some extended their stay for the weekend and I would have liked to as well. The Saugeen is a simply a fantastic destination. There are many miles of water to fish and enjoy without some of the pressure we get back in the states. Grindstone Angling is the best way to get started enjoying this beautiful river. Canada is beautiful country and the residents are down right hospitable. I will be back to enjoy this bountiful fishery and the company it keeps. Thank you Grindstone Outfitters and all of the guests for a memorable time. Now if I can just get rid of that "aye" in my speech, I'll be back to normal.
You can reach Grindstone Angling by calling 905-689-0880. They are located at
24 Mill Street North
Gar-Ham Hall B&B
On the water
Salmon poses with John Valk and Paul
Smiles on the water
P.O. Box 442
Waterdown, Ontario, Canada LOR 2H0
Visit their new website at http://grindstoneangling.com/.
Note: You can enjoy a trip like this by calling John Valk - Grindstone Angling at 905-689-9774