From the border between Minnesota and Ontario, to Sault Ste. Marie, there are literally hundreds of gorgeous places to fish steelhead. Most fly-fishers will be attracted to the midsized and larger rivers that offer a bit more backcast room and water to work.
These north shore rivers and streams are wild, challenging, beautiful and pristine. Cedars and pine trees line many of them, while others are open and rocky. Few (outside of Thunder Bay) have more than a handful of cottages or homes on their banks. Many have limited access to the upper reaches outside of small game trails. On the most remote rivers east of the town of Nipigon, you may not see an angler for days, or at all. It is a place of wild fish and wild water.
Some of the better rivers for numbers of fish are found within the city of Thunder Bay. The McIntyre, a medium size freestone river, snakes through the center of the city and has enough greens space (public lands) to allow a lot of angler access. Several thousand steelhead run the Mac—a large number by Lake Superior standards. Easy access and numbers of fish attract anglers, however, so being alone on the river is rare. Still, there are enough riffles, pools and runs to keep most anglers busy. Above the fishway at Lakehead University the river is much more lightly fished.
The other urban streams in Thunder Bay also see large numbers of anglers, particularly the Neebing River, which is heavily fished below a weir in the center of town. The Current River, on the east side of the city, is a large, fast-moving river that has a smaller run of steelhead, but much more elbow room. Most of the fishing is done in the pockets and pools below the Boulevard Lake fishway, with the lion’s share of fish being caught at the base of the rapids near Lake Superior.
The Jackpine, Cypress and Gravel rivers, located east of Nipigon, are standout destinations. All are accessed off the highway, and the easily reached water is quite busy during the main run. However, a little exploration upstream on these classic rivers reveals a lot of unfished water. Prepare for some rough trails and uneven walking, but the reward can be worth the effort. Some anglers pack their waders and hike well upstream, then fish their way down. A scan with Google Earth reveals many of the less easily accessed pools and runs.