Although it was originally used as a transportation corridor by the Algonquins and Ojibwas who lived in this area in the early 1600’s it wasn’t until the 17th century that it truly became an integral part of our nation’s history. Used by early explorers, missionaries and fur-traders such as Pierre-Esprit Radisson, Samuel de Champlain, Simon Fraser and Alexander Mackenzie, the French became a vital link in the voyageur’s highway which ultimately stretched some 3,000 miles connecting the Hudson Bay to the Pacific and western Arctic.
In the early 1800’s together with the Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers, the 110 kilometre French River also became part of the water highway from Montreal to Lake Superior.
By the end of the 19th century, the fur trade gave way to logging but because of the rugged nature of the Canadian Shield country surrounding this river, large parts of it remain relatively untouched and it is now a popular location for recreational canoeing, kayaking, and of course the reason we’re here, fishing.
The 110 kilometres (68 mi) long French River which flows from Lake Nipissing west to Georgian Bay was designated a Canadian Heritage River in 1986. It flows through some of the most incredible vistas imaginable from exposed rugged glaciated rock to heavily forested areas, countless islands, channels, steep-walled gorges, falls and rapids… one breath taking view after another.
ANG “My guest on this episode… or rather I should say my host, as we’re playing in his sand box today, is long-time friend Steve Niedzwecki, proprietor of Chaudière Lodge— one of my all-time favourite little slices of heaven. I have to tell you something without it sounding like a sales pitch, one of the things that both Pete and I get asked for regularly as hosts of Canada’s most watched fishing show is where would you recommend I go for my next fishing adventure and let me tell you it’s not an easy answer, for us steering you in the right direction is a huge responsibility and one that we take very seriously… the biggest problem is finding places that are consistent, consistent in the quality of fishing, consistent in excellent service, and consistent in overall experience… this is one of a handful of operations that we are always happy to recommend.”
As I mentioned at the top of the show, we are not strangers to this magnificent stretch of water and have produced several episodes from the French and Chaudière Lodge, each one memorable and unique today promises to be no different.
Although walleye and musky are by far the most popular sport fish on the river today, small mouth bass is starting to close that gap. Savvy bass anglers are finding the relatively short drive to the near north is well worth the results… 25 to 30 fish days are the norm here with the average size between 2 to 3 lbs. however more often than not you will run into days of 50 plus fish and some of the best trophy sized bronze backs north of the St Lawrence… we seen fish here in the 6 to 7 pound category. Blessed with an abundance and great variety of bass holding cover the French River is quickly becoming the topic of discussion on fish forums across the internet.
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“I’ve known Steve for some time but I’ve never had the pleasure of sharing the bow of a fishing boat with him before… now they say you never really know someone until you’ve fished with him, I’m looking forward to the experience” says Angelo.
During one portion of the show Steve totally surprises Angelo “He might know a thing or two about running a successful fishing lodge but I think he’s had one too many sips from the French River cool aide… figure 8 for bass… give your head a shake Stevee boy”. Needless to say Steve never connected!
The least sought after sport fish on the French is this episodes main target today… the Largemouth Bass.
This cousin of the smallmouth is traditionally associated with more southerly climes and is often overlooked in the more northerly reaches but make no mistake about it, old bucket mouth is alive and doing well on the French… all you have to do is find is house… and that’s where the boys head, the only problem is they don’t have a current address so they’ll be knocking on a few doors before we find where the big boy’s hiding. “I can tell by the excitement in Steve’s voice that he’s as excited as I am at the prospect of hunting for Largemouth” says Ang, “It’s probably not that often that he gets a chance to just go out and fish for fun… come to think of it neither do I.”
Fishing is a great leveller of man, and with the boys struggling trying to hook into a hungry bunch of Largemouth but constantly coming up short, no truer words have been spoken.
“I can openly say this is one of the most frustrating moments in my fishing career… neither one of us can seem to figure out what it’s going to take to get these fish properly pinned… it’s not like they’re not willing to bite”. Could this be meltdown time for Ang and Steve?
Well don’t stick a fork into these boys yet, the tides are turning. “That’s what I love about fishing, at any given time,” says Angelo. “In the blink of an eye things can change… a storm gives way to sunshine, or in our case we finally start connecting with some of these incredibly elusive French River Bucket Mouths… at least we brought some sort of sanity to an otherwise crazy situation, but this just reinforces my belief that there are areas on the French river that house Large Mouth Bass by the truck load… another reason to come back… hallelujah brother.”
THE FRENCH RIVER BASS DISCOVERY
“As we made our first few casts, we were pleasantly surprised as to what we though was a Largemouth strike (hoping it wasn’t a Pike).
Then again and again… the strikes kept coming… however the hookups did not!!! I think we missed or lost somewhere between 15-20 Bass in a row… and THAT’S the exhausting part.”
“Ultimately though, these little green monsters were fooling with the wrong pair of hombres. By dialling our Topwater presentations in, giving just the right amount of time and making that perfect cast, the fish finally started coming in the boat. It’s the perfect way to end a great day on the water”.