Woodens River

Knowing a river intimately is a very large part of the joy of fly-fishing ... Roderick L. Haig-Brown

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May 1881 - The following is taken from a report on the Rivers in Nova Scotia by a Mr. Vieth. Woodens River was formerly known as Hosiers River.
At mid-day visited Hosiers River and at about one and a half miles from the tide-way saw the ladder at Hubley's mill. It appeared to be in good order, with a sufficient supply of water flowing through it. The owner of the mill is very careful regarding the sawdust and has it removed away from the water. I next visited Boutilier's mill, which is two and one half miles from Hubley's, up the stream, and saw the ladder, which is placed in the dam here. From its situation in the river both trout and gaspereaux could readily, at this place, and at the one above mentioned, ascend over the dam. Sawdust is here carted away also.
Hosier's river flows out of Trout or Hubley's Lake, into which run Five Island and several large lakes. These are all famous for their trout, and are a favourite resort of a large number, not only of Halifax sportsmen, but of those visiting the city. This stream, in affording a free passage for the fish to and from the sea, is of the utmost importance in furnishing and keeping up a regular supply for the lakes referred to.

Summer 1990 - No Mayfly for two years - Eastern Woods and Waters.
Generations of trout anglers have derived millions of hours of recreation each April and May from the granite laden lakes west of the city of Halifax, N.S.
Those days appear to be over.
Recent encroachment of housing subdivisions into the area combined with continuing air pollution from local sources, mainly power generation and automotive exhaust, appear as the most likely candidates for the apparent demise of lakes like Big Hubley, Five Island and Birch Hill.
After maybe 200,000 years of this annual miracle, the mayfly have finally stopped hatching. For the second consecutive year this awe-inspiring natural phenomenon has failed to materialize. Local anglers whose fathers and grandfathers and great grandfathers fished those lakes are devastated.

1995 - PCB's
In the back of the Nova Scotia Summary of Angling Regulations booklet there is a warning regarding PCBs in the Woodens River system. The Nova Scotia Government has spent many millions of dollars trying to clean up an old salvage yard at the head of the system. This warning applies to ten lakes all the way down to, and including, Long Lake.

2000 - Introductory and Advanced Habitat Survey of the Woodens River Watershed
A detailed report well worth reading can be found at the WRWEO website.

2001 - Special Trout Management Areas - Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries
Woodens River, Halifax County. Downstream from the outflow of Hubley Big Lake, including all lakes and tributaries. Catch and release, single hook lure or artificial fly only and the use of natural bait is prohibited.
The following lakes in Woodens watershed, Halifax County will also be catch and release only, single hook lure or artificial fly only and the use of natural bait is prohibited. Birch Hill Lake, East Duck Lake, Five Island Lake, Five Island Lake Run, Frederick Lake, Holland Marsh Lake, Hubley Big Lake, Lizard Lake and Sheldrake Lake.

Illegal fishing activities should be reported to the Department of Natural Resources at 1-800-565-2224 or the Department of Fisheries and Oceans at 1-800-565-1633, or Nova Scotia Crime Stoppers at 1-800-565-8477

January 2002 - Five Island Lake clean-up completed
After removing 6,850 tonnes of contaminated sediments containing approximately 74.2 kg of pcb's from the North Bay of Five Island Lake, the Department of Health has lifted the ban from boating and swimming. Concentration of pcb's in fish have been significantly reduced and the advisory on not eating them has NOT been lifted (although this is still a catch-and-release area).

February 2006
Trout study 2005 draft data summary by John MacMillan and Tara Crandlemere of Inland Fisheries.
Two lakes in the Woodens River watershed (Croucher and Long) and two lakes in the Tangier Grand Lake Wilderness Area (Fourth and Blue Woods) were selected for assessment through the Recreational Fishing Advisory Committee Process.
For a complete report click here for pdf file.

Hatch Chart
All of the flies in my hatch chart (apart from the Hexagenia, which is not to say that it doesn't exist there) have been encountered by me on Woodens River.

A small black parachute works well all year.
The caddis come in green and tan.
The Light Cahill and BWO work well in smaller sizes all summer to closing day.
Before switching from a dry to a wet, or nymph, try a brown or orange hackled deer hair bug. Strip, a foot at a time, if nothing happens.
It goes without saying that nymphs work well all year. My favourites happen to be the Pheasant Tail, the Casual Dress, a chocolate brown beadhead (my own design) and Jons Generic. And don't leave home without a Muddler.
All directions are viewed looking downriver. The main trail is on the right hand side.
To work this system well, and at a senior-citizens lazy pace, would take two days.
To access the top run I go in by the Saddlers Hill trail.
To access the bottom run I start at the outlet bridge in Seabright.
I willingly share this information with fisherfolk and hope that they use barbless hooks, observe the trout management regulations, and carry out anything they take in.

Map with hole locationsThe Round Hole.  This is a fairly big pond just below Long Lake. The main stream of the river runs through the left hand side. The fishing is good at the inlet and the outlet. Nymphs, Mickey Finns, Muddlers and deer hair bugs seem to work well.

The Deep Hole.  This is located halfway between the Round Hole and the bottom of the Saddlers Hill trail. It is quite hard to find this pool as the trail is well above the river. The pool is about a hundred feet long by twenty across. A log jam at the outlet forces the river to exit on the left hand side. Just about anything works here. The Klinkhamer and a gold beadhead nymph has caught some biggies.

The Shallow Hole.  This is a roundish shallow hole.It is located about five hundred feet below the bottom of the Saddlers Hill trail. A pair of rocks on the right hand side at the bottom of the pool is where the fish hang. This pool never seems to have anything over ten inches but what it lacks in size it makes up for in quantity. Muddlers work well but be prepared to get hung up now and again. The same goes for beadheads. I love working a dry fly in this pool.

Croucher's Lake (known locally as Upper Mill).  Great fishing can be obtained at the drop-off where the river enters the lake. There's room for four people to fish here. There are also two or three pools in the open areas above the lake. Every kind of fly can be used. This is the first place on the river where the fish start to feed in the spring.

Gate's Lake (known locally as Lower Mill).  I cannot remember seeing too many rises in this lake. It is the beginning of a disaster area. A logging road was built in 1994 and the road runs within ten feet of the lake. The silt barriers are pathetic.

Mollier's Run.  This is the run between Gates and Millyard Lake. A stillwater precedes this run. There are no major pools here. However, it is a great run for Muddler and Mickey Finn's. There are plenty of small, deep spots.

Millyard Lake.  Only two people can fish where the run comes into the lake. Backcasts have to be fired up the narrow opening of the river. There are some mighty big fish in this lake but a boat is needed to get to most of them. Streamers, nymphs and deer hair bugs are best.

Albert's Bridge Lake.  The only place I fish here is at the top and bottom of the short run between Millyard and Alberts Bridge. It is painful to have to beat my way across the clearcut area, I may not fish there again.

Albert's Bridge Outflow.  A stillwater precedes the next run. At the end of this stillwater is a narrow section called the Stone Bridge. One trout sits above the narrow opening. Fish can be picked off all the way down to the Mill Pond.

Mill Pond.  This is about a twenty minute trip from my house so I visit here fairly often.A great place for the kids. Wonderful fishing all year using every kind of fly.
NOT ANY MORE! October 1 1998. The clearcutters are here. Local communities mourn the destruction. See Requiem for the Mill Pond.

Mill Pond Outflow.  There's a lovely little pool below the Snowmobile bridge which ends in a disintegrated logging dam. Well sheltered from the winds. I head here and work the river below when the wind gets to strong on the Mill Pond. Some nice spots from here on down to the deep Salmon Hole. And a couple more nice spots from there to Dolly's Pond.

Dolly's Pond.  A great pond for a boat but not good for shore fishing. And then on home.

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Pat Donoghue, Canada, ©1997