Located less than six hours from Detroit near Sault Ste
Marie. The Garden River offers world class fishing
Ben's Bait and
Tackle sets up a streamside camp each year. The trip coincides with the
peak of the salmon run.
2016 trip dates
leg #1 Sept 9-13th
leg #2 Sept 13-17th
leg #3 Sept 17-21st
leg 34 Sept 21-25th
leg #5 Sept 25-29th
For info on
joining us in a comfortable remote bush camp on the
exclusive Garden River First
Nation Lands click here
For information on
the Garden River First Nation lands
Daily guided Salmon, Steelhead, and trout trips in the Garden River First Nation Reserve
plus a full service bait and tackle shop with double
launch ramps into the St.Mary's River.
Ben's Bait and
61 Wigwaus Street
Garden River, Ont.
Canada P6A 7A1
Ben also holds a
Salmon Derby each summer that is very popular.
Contact him for info.
Links of interest
Sault Ste Marie
Sault Ste Marie
St Mary's Rapids
Sault Ste Marie
Garden River Ontario
Salmon Fly Fishing
Pink Salmon Fly Fishing
Garden River Canada
Chinook Salmon Fly Fishing
About the author
Don Mathews is a full
time fishing guide who travels the Great Lakes in search
of Salmon, Steelhead and Trout. He started
Service in 1997. His home waters are the world
famous "Steelhead Alley" in Ohio,
Pennsylvania, and New York.. He guides over 200
anglers each year. In 2000 he founded the
Steelhead School and
has been an instructor there since. Don is a
Hyde Boat Pro Staff member. He also offers fly
casting instruction with single and double hand rods. Don
is the travel agent and webmaster for
SteelheadSchool.com although they specialize in
fishing the Great Lakes region. Through his
extensive list of contacts. He can arrange
fishing trips to some of the most productive fisheries
in the world.
Contact Don at
The Garden River
By Don Mathews
Ontario Canada "the Crown Jewel of the Great
When it comes to
Great Lakes Salmon fishin streams the Garden River has no
equal. Sure there are lots of streams that receive good runs
of Salmon. The beauty of the Garden River is the
solitude you can find there. It lies in an area of
Ontario Canada that hasn't seen a lot of human impact.
Much of the stream flows through the Garden River First
Nation Reserve. The river flows through rugged
terrain and roads are few and far between. Access is strictly limited to band
members and guests accompanied by a sanctioned native
Ojibway guide. Only a select few non-natives are
lucky enough to fish in the reserve each year. It is a
wild and beautiful place. Much of the river is
surrounded by breath taking high rock formations.
The Ojibway Natives called the area "Ketegaunseebee" or
The Creators Garden. The Garden River is a
Mecca for wildlife. Bald Eagles are everywhere and it is
not uncommon to see Deer, Moose and Black Bear along her
banks. The Native Americans are good stewards of
their land. I feel privileged to have experienced the
Garden River. A magical feeling takes over me while I'm
The Garden River is my favorite place in the
world to fish.
The author Don Dfishinfool
Mathews with a record class 40" long Pinook salmon
caught in September 2008 on the Garden River In Ontario
Canada. Guided by Ben's Bait and Tackle
The Garden River
flows into the St. Mary's River about six miles east
of Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario Canada. Highway #17 is the main
East-West route in the area. Heck every road in
Sault Ste Marie in named Highway # 17.
Grinning..!! Leave the Soo and follow East Rt #17
When you come to a Y in the road stay to the right and
follow the signs to the Garden River. After a few
kilometers you will cross the Garden River. You are now in
in the reserve. Just downstream of this bridge is where
the Garden River dumps into the St. Mary's. This is the town of Garden
River. Approx the first 22 kilometers of the river are in
the reserve. This is the best section of stream to
fish. Fish are still fresh from the lake and full
of fight. Fishing can be great in the first rapids just
out of town and the native guides take their day
clients there as opposed to a very long bumpy truck ride
upstream. It's a sure thing that fresh fish will move
into these rapids each night of the run.
Much of the stream above the
Garden River Reserve can't
be reached by car. 4wd trucks and ATV's can navigate
some of the bush roads to access remote sections of
stream. Remember you can't drive on bush roads in the
Garden River Reserve without a native guide. There is a fairly accessible public section
of river off of Ranger Lake Road - Rt 556 it is well above the reserve
near the falls. It can be a good place to fish at times. The
problem is the fish are usually in poor shape by the time they
make it up there. Some years only small numbers of the migrating salmon make it all the way up to the falls.
Most years I find that the majority of fish stop
to spawn well before they get to the falls. Still big
numbers of fish do get up to the falls on high water
years. The public sections
close to the falls can be crowded at times. Its best to do some
walking up there. The falls stops
the fish from traveling any further upstream. The Coho
run in October can be good, up near the falls, as they
migrate the river very quickly and are in better shape when
they make it to the upper river. There are many fishing
opportunities in the area. Lot's of the small streams in the area
also receive runs of Salmon. Plus there is always the famed St.
Mary's rapids in Sault Ste Marie. It is a great place to
fish but the wading is tricky. There are many
small pristine lakes in the area that hold lake, brook
or speckled trout as well as warm water species.
big draw to the Garden River is the huge runs of Pink
Salmon it receives. The Garden's fine gravel
bottom makes for excellent spawning habitat for the
salmon. Both Chinook and Pink Salmon have
excellent natural reproduction in the Garden River
watershed. The Salmon
population in the Garden River is thriving. The Pinks in
the Garden will average 17-20" long. They are an
excellent quarry to pursue with the fly rod. While in
the river to spawn they take flies much better than the Chinook
do. Pink Salmon traditionally run every other year.
They have bigger runs on even number years in the Great
Lakes. I find that even on the so called off years there
are still more than enough pink salmon to keep anglers happy
in the Garden River.
experience the true Garden River you are going to need a
native guide. You are not permitted to enter the reserve
unless you are accompanied at all times by a sanctioned
native guide. For years I have used Ben Bellieu at
Ben's Bait and Tackle
in Garden River as my guide. I reserve Ben's services
exclusively each fall for our Salmon trip. We
reserve the same weeks each fall. Our trip coincides
with the peak of the run each year. Ben takes our group
way back in the bush to one of the most productive
sections of stream. Ben provides sturdy dry heated wall style
tents along the river. The camp is well appointed,
it has hot showers, generator station, deep freeze,
smoker for your fish and gourmet meals are served up
three times a day. Transport to the camp, access
rights, lodging, meals, and your native guides are
included in the all inclusive package price. Ben and his son (little Ben)
have spent their whole lives fishing the river and they
know the Garden better than anyone. I enjoy the time we
spend together each fall. Ben and his family are
good people and the times we have spent around the fire
at night are cherished memories to me.
Although we reserve Ben's services exclusively
during the peak of the salmon run. When he' not
guiding us Ben offers daily guided trips
in the reserve at a rate of $150 per angler. Spring
is steelhead time and you will not have to worry about
crowds while fishing with Ben. Most years there
are fishable numbers of Pink salmon in the Garden River
by early September. You will need a fishing license and your own
fishing gear. Ben has a bait and tackle shop.
Watch for his sign on Hwy #17 just East of the Garden
River bridge. He is located on the banks of the
St. Mary's. Fishing is great right in front of his
shop from boats.
Ben offers guided trips from his
boats all summer long. He has nice double launch ramps into the St.
Mary's river on his property. They have convenience store items and sell
fishing tackle and licenses. Ben rents nice boats and motors and does
guide trips fishing the St. Mary's from his boat as well. He knows
where and how to catch the fish. Usually the fishing is
good right in front of the shop. Atlantics,
Walleye, Salmon, Steelhead, Smallmouth, and maybe even a
huge sturgeon await anglers in the St.Mary's river
channel in front of Ben's shop.
Although there are a few other part time native guides
in Garden River.
I would highly recommend using Ben as your native guide.
View of St Mary's River and Bens Bait
and Tackle's boat docks
The pink Salmon
"oncorhynchus gorbuscha" were accidentally introduced to
Lake Superior in the 1950's. The population is slowly
growing and spreading across the Great Lakes. The male
Pink Salmon are easily distinguishable by a hump they
get on their back. They are nicknamed humpies. The Pink
salmon stage at the mouth of the Garden
River in August.
They will start to make their spawning run in early September.
Waves of fish will enter the stream with each rain we
get. Traditionally the run will peak in Mid
September. The hens will build a nest in the gravel and
spawn. After spawning the hen will stay and protect the
nest until she dies a few days later. Males survive
longer as they await more fresh hens to arrive but
eventually they die also. By early October most of
the Pink Salmon are dead. Rotting fish carcasses
litter the stream and provide nutrients for the young
salmon fry as they hatch.
The Pink Salmon
eggs will hatch in December and January. The young fry
stay in the stream until April or May. Then they will
migrate to the Lake. Most of the Pinks will travel thru
the St. Mary's river into Lake Superior and Huron.
Pinks are very adaptable and can eat a wide variety of
food sources. They will spend 18 months in the Lake
before returning to the stream to spawn. As adults
they will weigh between three to seven lbs and will be
18-20 inches long. The fish are like clones, they all
are very close in size. On rare occasions a fish will remain in
the lake a extra year. These fish are the trophies
and can reach 22-26 inches long. The runs are very
predictable. If you have a strong year class and
good spawning conditions this year, you can bet on
a good run two falls from now.
The Garden River
also gets a big run of Chinook Salmon "oncorhynchus
tshawytscha". The Chinook Salmon like the pinks
are a wild self sustaining population. The
implanted Pacific Chinooks or "Kings" will average 14-20 lbs on the
Garden. Some years the fish will be bigger than others.
Trophy fish to 35 lbs are taken each year. The
Chinook Salmon run is good every year on the Garden. They will follow
the Pinks and their run will peak two or three weeks
after the Pinks. The Kings will fight with the
Pinks for the prime spawning gravel . The shear
numbers of Pinks overwhelm the bigger Kings and usually
the smaller Pinks win the rights to spawn on the best
with a Garden River Hog..
heavily for prime spawning areas. Some cross
breeding between the Chinooks and Pinks occur naturally.
They call the offspring of these cross bred fish
Pinook's. The Garden River is a great place for a chance
at a Pinook for the record books. Often when sight
fishing you can
tell the Pinook's from the Chinook's by the reddish tint
they take on when in the stream. The male Pinook's
get brilliant mottled pink sides. Pinook's reach sexual
maturity but do not spawn. They follow the rest of
the fish into the river. On the spawning gravel
flats the Pinook's seem to wander around lost.
They don't seem to have much interest in spawning. They
take flies very aggressively.
Tactics for fly
fishing the Garden River include high stick nymphing and
swinging flies. Pink Salmon are aggressive and
will take a variety of patterns. Chinooks tend to
get lock jaw in the stream. I find small well presented
egg patterns are your best bet for Kings. Chuck
and Duck methods are not necessary on the Garden River.
Water depth and flow are suitable for fly fishing.
True fly fishing techniques work well. I use a 10
foot seven weight rod with 2x or 3x tippets for
traditional fly fishing. You could go lighter for
the Pinks but with Kings around, it pays to be ready.
For swinging flies on the spey rod I like 12-14 foot
eight weight rods. I outfit my spey rod with short
one or two foot sink tips I make up with Rio T-14
Tungsten material. I use a double taper fly line on my
Spey fishing the
Garden is becoming very popular. Wide shallow
gravel flats full of aggressive Pink's are prime targets
to swing flies too. I find marabou spey's, wooly
buggers and traditional hair wings all are deadly
medicine on the Pinks. Kings will occasionally
take big aggressive flies too. As a rule we do much better with
#12 and #14 egg patterns on the Kings. Most of the time
the Garden is slightly tannic but the water is still
very clear. Pastel colored Sucker Spawn, Glo Bugs and Moe
eggs are all top producers for the Chinook.
The Garden River
also gets good runs of Steelhead. The wild steelhead do
seem to run a little smaller than most Great Lakes
steelies do. They are brilliantly colored and heavily
spotted. The Garden and its feeders are
home to a resident trout population of rainbows and
brookies. Unfortunately the Salmon fry compete
heavily with the native trout. Ben tells me when he was
younger, before the Salmon, the trout fishing was
awesome. Numbers of trout are down since the Salmon have
taken over. Migrating Steelhead start to enter the
stream as early as September. Spring is prime time
to target steelhead. Often snowmelt is a problem
in the spring. Water levels
are usually too high to fish the main river.
The Gardens feeder streams often fish good in the
spring. When the Salmon run is on we do good on
steelhead by targeting them in the deep pools below the
gravel spawning flats. The trout will feed heavily
on the Salmon eggs drifting downstream. Egg
patterns are top producers
Garden River Ontario Salmon fishing
/ Ont salmon guide /
Garden River Pink
Chinook salmon /
fishing trips /
Ontario Salmon fishing
/ Ontario /
Fly Fishing /
Pink Salmon /